It’s essential to take steps to prevent equipment breakdowns and downtime before getting back to work. And don’t forget cyber security when restarting your business.

Today’s business environment is increasingly unpredictable. At a moment’s notice, we must adjust, or even shut down equipment and operations to respond to changing demands.

Now, as states around the country continue to ease restrictions over the COVID-19 virus, more businesses are preparing to restart or expand their activities.

You may be focused on keeping your employees and customers safe. Implementing new procedures and carefully cleaning surfaces. Perhaps you are operating with a reduced staff and continue to have employees working from home.

Don’t forget your equipment. You can’t run your business without it. Many businesses had to shut down or scale back operations because of the pandemic. And it’s essential that you take steps to prevent breakdowns and downtime before getting back to work.

Here are some things to consider.

Start Up Equipment Carefully

Did you shut down your equipment properly? In facilities where HVAC systems were laid up or not operating to requirements, heat, humidity and moisture may have impaired your equipment, stored parts, supplies and perishable goods.

Air conditioning failures account for thousands of equipment breakdowns in smaller businesses and they often occur when the system is started up.

It’s critical to have professional trained HVAC personnel prepare your equipment for service. They will clean and inspect parts including motors, compressors, fans and controls to help keep your AC equipment running efficiently and reduce energy costs.

The start-up period is important for many other types of equipment, including machinery, boilers, exhaust and ventilation, and hot and cold-water systems.

When water systems have been isolated and not drained correctly, there is a potential for bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease to grow.

IoT Solutions Monitor Conditions

Many companies furloughed employees and others won’t or can’t return. Make sure you have enough trained, experienced employees to properly restart and operate key equipment.

Unstaffed facilities or those running with a reduced workforce can pose a higher risk of exposure to equipment breakdowns. In response, many businesses are turning to new technologies and the Internet of Things to help keep their buildings operational.

Sensors can monitor critical equipment and property conditions remotely and give overburdened staff much needed extra time to perform their new responsibilities and manage increased workloads.

Your equipment insurer or other service provider can send real-time alerts when conditions are detected with equipment and property. That can include water leaks, hot or cold temperatures, high humidity, frozen pipes, or refrigeration failures.

One example: a toilet can overflow for hours overnight, weekends, or during a shutdown without anyone noticing, possibly leading to tens of thousands of dollars in water damage.

Data Systems are Critical

Don’t neglect cyber security when restarting or ramping up your business.

It’s a concern for small and mid-sized enterprises, which might have reduced IT security staff and resources, and are pressured to resume or expand operations.

Maybe some employees were working remotely, perhaps using their own mobile devices without proper safeguards. Or regular security updates weren’t being made while your facility was shut down.

As many workers return to the office and other business locations, cyber security experts warn that companies may find malware on their systems or experience a cyber-attack.

It’s important to revisit your cyber security, especially if your company has integrated new technologies like virtual meeting apps into your systems.

Security Starts with Employees

Do applications require updating? Install patches and software updates. If you haven’t done so already, adopt multifactor authentication for all employees with remote access to your system and to sensitive or personally identifying data.

Workers returning to the office may be overwhelmed by accumulated emails and let their guard down about cyber security. Remind them to be wary of phishing schemes, phony emails and opening attachments from unfamiliar sources.

Any temporarily reassigned IT security personnel should be returned to security duties. Have user passwords expired and need to be reset? It’s never too late to adopt a password policy. Passwords should be long, complex and not easily guessed.

In addition to antivirus protection, consider using behavior-based detection solutions to analyze and prevent suspicious activities in your system before they are executed.

What’s Ahead?

Operating schedules and routines are at the heart of your business. The changes and challenges caused by the coronavirus can have unplanned and unintended consequences when that routine is disrupted by an equipment breakdown.

Phased re-openings and restrictions could make it difficult to get parts and service. It may take longer for contractors to respond and make repairs. When parts and contractors are available, businesses will compete for service and drive up costs.

Your business can’t afford an equipment breakdown.

Pay attention to your equipment when restarting operations. Make service arrangements with repair contractors in advance to minimize business interruption and make sure your employees know what to do and who to call should your equipment fail.

William P. Murphy is a vice president with HSB, which provides a range of specialty insurance products and related services. He is the global product owner for HSB’s commercial and personal lines equipment breakdown products.

Cyber security stock photo by enzozo/Shutterstock