The weather is constantly providing new issues for businesses to deal with in the UK. In July, Thorpe Park was hit by a series of power outages which left a number of visitors stranded on several rides because of the hot temperatures during the region’s heatwave. Elsewhere, more than 15 power cuts were reported in 24 hours in Cambridgeshire at the end of the month and these cuts were apparently caused by lightning strikes.
But, what effect does a power cut have on your business? With issues such as lost productivity and wasted running costs to consider, it’s crucial that business owners know how to keep their operations functioning wherever possible during power cuts. Here, with LPG gas tank suppliers, Flogas, we discuss all the necessary information.
Power shortages in the UK
Britain is used to power cuts. In 1972, the miners’ strike caused major power issues and even a state of emergency to be declared, while Storm Frank in 2015 caused the loss of power to around 40,000 properties. Considering the UK has more than 17,000km of electricity cables, there’s a great deal of maintenance to keep on top of, which means a sudden storm or unexpected heatwave can cause significant issues.
But what do they look like?
- Transient fault: lasting only a few seconds. This is a temporary fault, but power is automatically restored.
- Brownout: reduction in mains power supply that can last for a few days (e.g. lowered light levels) and cause machinery malfunction.
- Blackout: absolute power loss. As the most severe case of power outage, blackouts are often the most costly and difficult to recover from.
Between 2003 and 2012, research by Climate Central found that 80% of all power cuts in the UK were due to adverse weather conditions. Considering its unpredictability, it may be worth preparing your brand for future power cuts today.
How power cuts can affect your business
It’s clear that businesses nowadays rely heavily on power, meaning we must be prepared for any potential cuts. But how do power outages usually interrupt and harm a business?
Even if there’s only a slight delay or interruption of power, it can cause data to be lost. Lost data can be a result of a power cut. This may affect your company’s ability to achieve client deadlines on projects, if work and information is irretrievable and thus forcing your staff to start again. Blackouts and brownouts that last one or more days can mean your production lines simply cease to exist in practice. Of course, your staff are there and willing to work, which means they need paying regardless. However, your business won’t be able to create the products it needs to make a profit that day or even break-even. Similarly, if your business relies on a sales department, think of how much revenue you could lose if your team can’t contact people via phone or email to clinch new customer accounts.
For a small business, downtime can cost them in the region of £800! When Google lost their power in 2013, they experienced losses of £100,000 per minute! The reasons behind the losses vary. Not having access to electricity can mean that employees cannot communicate with customers and are therefore losing out on potential sales. For an ecommerce company, they do not have access to their website to monitor sales and client requests. There is also the risk of losing unsaved material, which can be costly to small businesses.
When IT professionals were questions, research found that nearly a quarter of them believed that a power outage can cost between £10,000 and £1 million an hour. In fact, IT downtime in the UK costs around £3.6 million and 545 productivity hours a year. To work out the average cost of downtime an hour, this is the general formula:
Employee cost per hour x fraction of employees affected by the power cut x average revenue for each hour x fraction of the revenue that was affected by the outage
Reduce losses during power cuts
Of course, every business has varying priorities. If your brand relies on computers and data — as do most in 2018 at least to some degree — install a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) for all your computers. This will let the device run via its battery and will give the staff enough time, if a blackout happens, to save crucial documents and properly shut down the computer to ensure data is not damaged and can be recovered to keep projects on track. Saving on a cloud is also a great way to keep critical files safe.
A power cut can be extremely detrimental if you use the internet at work. By setting up a MiFi — a device that can operate as a Wi-Fi hotspot — your employees’ devices can connect to an ‘ad-hoc’ network to help you stay online and working in the event of a power cut. You should also look at purchasing a surge projector to safeguard any electronic devices and machinery. Industrial generators are robust and designed to comply with legal obligations for optimum efficiency in times of need. If your brand relies on the continuous operating of equipment and machinery, it’s vital that you invest in a generator to protect from major productivity and revenue loss as a result of power outages.
Unfortunately, though, sometimes a generator isn’t enough. Put together a business continuity plan and understand what you should do in the event of a power cut. Do this by creating a team or committee that will determine the specific risks to your business — a small IT company will have different points to consider compared to a large factory — and then draw up a detailed process for mitigating these risks.