Crisis management is an often overlooked area in manufacturing, that is, until disaster actually strikes. A crisis is defined by Bernstein Crisis Management as any situation that is threatening or could threaten to harm people or property, seriously interrupt business, damage reputation and/or negatively impact share value. It results in lost time, reputation and product damage. The dreaded recall often follows certain types of crisis. Manufacturing companies can minimize the results through simple team work.

Developing a plan for a crisis is an important first step to minimizing the damage. Plans include more than drills. Teams must be created to handle different facets of the crisis. Schedules are used to coordinate the effort. Communications must be established in order to get information sent out as soon as possible. Establish these things before the crisis to have a blueprint to follow when things are chaotic.

Companies need more than one team to coordinate the crisis response effort. Some companies have tiers: crisis management team, crisis communication team and a crisis action team.

The Crisis Management Team

The managers disseminate the information needed for access and task completion. They also have the contact information that is used to notify the proper agencies and to get the crisis effort moving. They essentially give the orders.

The Crisis Communication Team

The communications team handles public relations, the news, internet, and print media. They also ensure that employee’s families, product-users and other affected parties are properly notified of the crisis. The communications team may work with a manager to communicate with shareholders as well, distributing the information needed during and after the crisis.

The Crisis Action Team

The action team is “on the ground” or “in the trenches” putting the crisis plan in action. They are the people pulling products from the shelves, evacuating the building, or rebuilding after a natural disaster. This team is often the largest and may consist of members outside of the company, depending on the crisis.

A company may designate teams according to a particular crisis as well: people for natural disasters, product failures, financial crises, etc. Each team is trained and well versed in handling their particular crisis.

In manufacturing, crisis are often serious, expensive, and involving many people. Daimler Chrysler’s financial failure, BP’s billion dollar oil leak and Hurricane Katrina are just a few disasters that have rocked the industry. Out of them came a lesson to companies large and small: Always be prepared during a crisis.