COVID-19 has become a health crisis of unimaginable proportion – it’s become almost impossible – both for individuals and enterprises – to decide ‘What next?’.
As business leaders engage in scenario planning to make sense of the economic impact and figure out the recovery process, one thing is for sure: we’re gearing up for a ‘New Normal’.
Business leaders have a ton for questions. How do we stabilize our business? How do we manage an all-Digital workforce? How do we adjust our costs? What is our near-term strategy? How do we ensure the efficiency of operations, in its current ‘new normal’ state? What about ensuring quality and compliance, while some of my processes have changed? The most difficult question of all and one that probably has no answer: When is this going to end?
The purpose of this blog is certainly not offering a solution to all these questions.
But, as ComplianceQuest, we’re well-positioned to help you with one of these.
And that question is: How do I ensure Continuity of my firm’s Quality and Compliance Processes and maintain my state of Compliance despite a change to the workforce dynamics?
No doubt, disasters are hard. But Quality Management cannot be compromised
Before we get into answering the aforementioned question, let us take a brief look at the impact major disasters have had on businesses and the economy.
Disaster strikes and always without warning. It has often been in the form of nature’s fury that disrupts lives, no doubt, but it always has an economic impact too. For instance, in the year 2019, 409 natural catastrophe events resulted in economic losses of US$232 billion globally.
But this time, for the first time since the dawn of the digital age, the world is seeing a global lockdown of such magnitude. This time, of course, is very different. Both digital and physical infrastructure are intact. A deadly virus has largely crippled the movement of people and also has created economic destruction worldwide.
COVID-19 has proved to surpass most natural disasters any region may have ever seen. While technology is enabling work to continue in some form in some industries, businesses are gearing up for the ‘New Normal’.
McKinsey estimates a 40 to 50 percent reduction in discretionary spending, which would possibly impact GDP by 10 percent. The second-and third-order effects have not been factored in and could have a significant impact.
All the classic symptoms of a severe unplanned disaster can be seen. And the worst is that there is no clarity on when this pandemic will end and how businesses will resume at full swing.
And, of course, there is the healthcare, life sciences, biotech and medical device sectors that are fighting a lone battle with the virus, to curtail its spread, discover new solutions and vaccines, and build testing kits and other medical devices to tackle the deadly spread.
This sector, more than any of the others, cannot afford any disruptions or quality gaps.
Five quality management related challenges for most enterprises
3.1 Supply Chain
In the case of such wide-spread disasters, the supply chain is affected due to disruption in manufacturing capacity, demand issues, cash flow challenges, transportation and logistics. In the case of COVID-19, there’s the added challenge of not being able to operate with the best hands on deck. Employees are not able to come into work thanks to lockdowns and social distancing norms. A broken supply chain is affecting almost every sector from CPG and food supply companies to life sciences, healthcare, biotech and pharmaceuticals.
3.2 Communication & Collaboration
Typically, during natural disasters, the communication infrastructure may get hit with cables being uprooted and networks going down. However, the current scenario is unprecedented; While the infrastructure itself may be standing unharmed, the people manning the technology may not be operating at full efficiency. Authorizations for remote working, setting up suitable authentications and cybersecurity may be a challenge, impacting productivity.
Also, most enterprises are not yet optimally designed for remote work, even as simple as having secure devices to work from, reliable internet connections or the workers even having a workspace to work from, etc. and thus remote working presents a serious problem.
3.3 Personnel Challenges & Need for Automation
A pandemic of this kind certainly demands a health-first approach. Yes, the economy and business will suffer, but those can recover. One cannot take chances when it comes to personal health and the spreading of the virus.
Businesses need to re-align and speed their digital transformation efforts, driving more automation into key processes. While AI and automation will not stop the spread of the virus, emerging technology especially cloud-based software and automation-centric tools will come in handy and support initiatives such as Social distancing. Also, with the widespread adoption of video technologies, it is being shown that activities once thought not conducive to doing business with is now acceptance and becoming the norm. Have screaming children in the background, which was considered unprofessional, is now considered Ok as everyone adjusts to new normal for how work gets one. We see that more and more businesses will shift to the new model of working and thus needing more and more technologies that are 100% cloud-based and not dependent on archaic on-premise architecture.
3.4 Equipment Maintenance & Failure
During a pandemic, periodic audits and maintenance activity of equipment may suffer. The lockdown some countries are facing could be for as long as six months, during which time people will not be visiting the factories. This can cause the machines and equipment to underperform and lead to other unforeseen problems. The second and third-order effects are difficult to fathom with the current data, but one thing is for sure – business leaders need to chart out a game plan for indirect challenges.
Remote audits, predictive maintenance, and IoT-based monitoring are much needed. If your enterprise is already setup to embrace some of these Industry 4.0 solutions, it’ll be a simpler process to manage equipment in your firm’s manufacturing supply chain.
3.5 Impact from a Slowdown
These are times of uncertainty. In Europe and the United States and the world over, there has been a massive decline in economic activity. The loss of income in one quarter is expected to be more than during the Great Depression, adjusted for timelines.
Resilience, cash management for liquidity and solvency will become top priorities. Businesses that survive this stage will have to prepare themselves to meet the requirements of the upward swing of the economy after this phase passes. But in the meantime, they have to be able to retain and serve existing businesses, maybe even carry them along by helping them survive and grow over time.
Quality Management, a key lever of your Business Continuity Strategy
Based on our interaction with numerous clients and the experience of implementing the ComplianceQuest EQMS in a wide range of sectors including manufacturing, pharma and biotech, medical devices, automotive, aerospace and CPG sectors, we believe the first step to Business Continuity Management (BCM) is to build stability.
By stability, we mean the following:
- Clarity of all quality management processes, including new ones
- Redesigned SOPs for quality management
- Clarity of goals for team members
- Collaboration among teams
- Document Management framework
- Supplier quality strategy
- Customer complaints management
This stability can truly be achieved with the right quality processes. If your QMS is not geared up for this new approach, there’ll be all kinds of long-term and short-term mishaps, including ones involving customers. It can be detrimental to your brand.
Once your ‘New Process’ is set, the immediate next step is to document your ‘New Quality Process’ and Expectations.
At ComplianceQuest, we offer a modern, next-generation, real cloud-based EQMS that can deliver the following solutions of critical importance:
- Risk Management,
- Change Management,
- Incident Management,
- Document Management,
- Supplier Quality Evaluation,
- Audit Management, including data capture from Remote Audits, and
Each of these solutions can integrate with the rest of your ERP and CRM systems if needed and can be scaled up or down depending on your current need. Additionally, as a product built for the cloud from the ground-up, we’re highly secure and flexible, with secure platform access available anytime, anywhere.
For a more detailed perspective on the topic of business continuity, download our Whitepaper titled Beyond COVID-19: How an EQMS can help drive Business Continuity, as we gear up for a ‘New Normal’ here.
ComplianceQuest’s next-generation EQMS will certainly make your quality management process more efficient. Visit www.compliancequest.com for a demo.