October 31, 2007

Playing games at Intel

By DC Velocity Staff

Intel Corp., one of the world's largest electronic-chip makers, pays its employees to play games—war games, that is. The company regularly conducts tabletop exercises in which supply chain managers respond to theoretical scenarios such as the loss of logistics staff in Asia to a fast-moving disease like bird flu, or a key distribution center's being knocked out by a flood. As is true in military exercises, the scenarios continuously change to reflect decisions made by participants.

For Intel, business continuity is a critical concern, said Genevieve Sutton, business continuity program manager in the company's Customer Fulfillment, Planning, and Logistics Group. Sutton was addressing an educational seminar at the CSCMP conference. The top priorities in an emergency are to protect employees, protect assets, and minimize impact on customers, in that order, she explained. For that reason, Sutton's group conducts annual risk assessments of 12 business areas that include reviews of changes to core functions, systems, and processes; existing risks; and existing and emerging internal and external threats.

In addition to identifying potential risks and developing plans to address them, Sutton's organization conducts both scheduled and surprise drills. The purpose, she said, is to validate that the plans in place are adequate; verify that they are practical, functional, and complete; and identify gaps and omissions. The drills involve Intel's facilities and suppliers worldwide. In fact, the company's contracts include language that requires suppliers (including providers of logistics services) to participate in disaster planning exercises—and to revise their operations based on the results of the drills.