Imagine today’s business and industrial world without power. No emails. No databases full of client information. Automated manufacturing lines stand eerily quiet. Productivity and profitability would quickly grind to a halt. For some industries this can too easily become a reality. Power outages are a common outcome of storms, cyclones, aging infrastructures or even human error. And the power doesn’t need to be out for days to cause an issue; even the briefest power outage can cause business disruption that take weeks, months, years even, to recover from. Especially if the business isn’t properly prepared.
It’s true that any business can be severely impacted by a power outage. But some are more vulnerable to the effects than others. Here’s a countdown of the top ten industries most impacted by a power outage:
10. Manufacturing Industries
Manufacturing companies today rely on power for fully-automated production lines. Everything from packing, filling and labeling to quality control is completed by machine. Humans have a diminishing role. It follows then that without power, production lines come to a halt. The result for any company is loss of production time. Time is money, and every minute the power is out will cost the manufacturing plant in terms of profits. For FMCGs, food and beverage companies, a power outage can also result in entire batches of products being discarded – a costly exercise. In the worse case, a power outage can cause machinery to breakdown, which might extend the profit loss for days or weeks to come.
9. Financial Corporations
Power outages cause havoc for the stock market, paralysing trading and thereby denying investors, stockbrokers and regulators the opportunity of making money…lots of money. Stocks for billions are traded every day and so even an hour without power can mean the difference between millions of profit. In fact, after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in 2012, the power companies first focused on repairing feeders distributing power to the New York Stock Exchange before any other buildings and residences in Manhattan.
8. Consulting and Information Technology (IT) Services
Consulting businesses and IT firms rely on computers, the internet and uninterrupted connectivity to provide services to clients. In consulting services firms or software development facilities, hundreds of highly-paid professionals are left stranded. Often, when the power returns, they return to crashed computer systems, lost data, and hundreds of hours’ work that needs to be redone – not to mention client relationships that need to be rebuilt.
7. Data Centres
From retail to banking, IT systems are critical to the operation of many businesses. And often behind these IT systems is a robust data centre. A data centre is a dedicated space where companies can keep and operate most of the ICT infrastructure that supports their business: servers and storage equipment that run application software and websites, processing and storage data and content, and more. That’s why if a power outage occurs, it is a disaster not only for the data centre provider but for the hundreds of clients who rely on them. In March 2013, web hosting provider DreamHost experienced a power systems failure at its data centre in Irvine, California. Even though the power outage was only a couple of minutes, it caused two days of downtime for many of the 350,000+ customers, who host 1.2 million blogs, websites and apps with DreamHost. Worse still, several critical pieces of networking hardware did not survive the power event.
6. Perishable Items
When the power to a residential fridge goes out, a household can lose hundreds of dollars of food and groceries. However, when the same occurs in pharmaceutical industries, petrochemical industries and food processing plants, the result can be several million dollars of lost stock. Some goods have extremely limited life spans without the right temperature storage conditions, and any change in these conditions can lead to damage, spoilage and contamination.
5. Control Centres
Traffic signal operations and control centres for railways and airports rely on uninterrupted power in order to do their job. A power outage can impact the transportation scheduling (resulting in delays and cancellations) but also put passengers at risk.
It goes without saying that hospitals and surgeries are severely impacted by power outages. In hospitals, especially, it can mean the difference between life and death, as patients’ lives are supported by health monitoring systems.
3. Military Operations
These days military operations rely heavily on intelligence. Therefore, a power outage can result in a loss of valuable and confidential information, while also exposing them to risk of cyber attack. Power outages can cause downtime for phones, computers, lights and critical systems.
2. Entertainment Venues
A power outage to entertainment venues can cause huge losses in revenue for the business, as well as chaos and confusion for patrons. In May 2013, gamers in a San Diego casino were stuck at their machines for more than a half hour because they had money in the machine and couldn’t retrieve it until power was restored. It has also been known to lead to security problems for staff and patrons, as thieves take advantage of the dark environment. Which leads finally to…
1. Safety and Security
Profit losses and inconvenience aside, power outages can endanger the safety of workers. Power outages can cause buildings to lock down, elevator problems, darkness, security cameras ceasing to function, dead phone lines, and many more problems that can put people at risk.
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