May 28, 2005

Business continuity

What started out 12 months ago as a risk management project has now grown into a business continuity plan. I find this topic very interesting, but not having any formal training in it I thought I had better do some reading on the subject. You could do much worse than read this book:


It has provided a framework to recognise the risks that we face as an engineering company, assess them, prioritise them and manage them so that the business recovers from just about any event. There is plenty of work still to be done, but now I know where it is all headed.

And I have found one of the authors, Afsar Syed, to be very approachable via the Sentryx website.

A necessary part of business continuity is essential data protection. The more I thought about how to ensure this, the more secure offsite data storage became an essential element of a backup regime. The service provided by Connected is fantastic. The client is light, the data transfers are incredibly efficient, and depending on what your data is worth to your business (priceless!), the pricing is very reasonable. The Connected DataProtector looked good and now that I use it, I have to say it is better than I imagined.

Posted by Jeffrey at 01:05 AM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2005


Well, the blog has been neglected somewhat due to workload and holidays. I still have plenty of projects underway and have spent considerable time developing documents on risk management, business continuity and strategic plans for our company. These are works in progress, but should be beneficial once completed. The risk management document is specifically targeted to reducing our PI premium, so will need to be done before renewal time, and I hope to have the others in place before the annual QA external audit. More posts to follow once these are complete.

On the IT side, I see that Autodesk have released 2006 versions. The life of 2005 versions was disappointingly (ridiculously, even) short, and I really wonder why they expect everyone to upgrade annually. Moving to 2005 versions has worked well for us, but we frequently run into compatibility issues with our business associates, and I don't see any compelling reason to make matters worse too soon. My own IT efforts are at present focussed on integrating InfoPath into our workflow.

Posted by Jeffrey at 05:52 PM

November 26, 2004

PI insurance woes

The Australian (and indeed the world) market has seen insurance premiums for professional indemnity policies skyrocket. At the same time, clients are demanding higher and higher cover. The question is, what can a company do to limit its exposure and reduce insurance premiums.

I don't have all the answers, but I do have one proven idea. I attended a seminar on risk at which an insurance broker spoke about the need to set your company apart from the others as being aware of the risks and proactively managing it.

The result was a whitepaper that I wrote for our company. In it, I identified the various risks that we face as a consulting firm, and then described the actions that we take internally to counter each risk. For example, a design flaw is a potential risk. We counter it by employing experienced engineers and peforming independent checks in house. Gratuitous advice given to a contractor is also a potential risk; we don't do it. The process is simple and beneficial, as it creates an awareness of the risks that we face every day.

The benefits? Well, by passing this document to our broker at renewal time, we obtained a 10% discount on our premium. Three hours work went a long way towards paying my salary for the month! And the document will definitely be revised further for next year.

Posted by Jeffrey at 12:08 PM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2004

Tilt-train over-tilts

It has been interesting to watch the aftermath of Queensland's tilt train derailment. The first reports from the black box appear to indicate that the train was travelling ~52 km/h above the recommended speed. No doubt our wise politicians will see fit to put speed cameras on the rail line, or increase the demerit points for speeding offences across the board.

What they are likely to overlook is that the recommended speed is simply the recommended speed, based solely on limiting the g-forces experienced by the passengers to acceptable comfort levels. The design speed for the track was more than likely well in excess of two times the recommended speed for the curve. If it is ultimately shown that the tilt train, with an operating top speed around 160 km/h, was definitely going to be derail if it entered a corner 52 km/h above the recommended speed, then it is a very sad day indeed for the designers.

The governing engineering principle is simply that failures should not happen suddenly or without warning. If the train really was travelling dangerously fast, then the passengers and crew should have been experiencing obvious discomfort a long time before the incident. Time will tell.

Posted by Jeffrey at 08:42 PM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2004

DWF Composer

We have now moved our CAD processes to AutoCAD 2005 and rolled out DWF Composer. This was done solely to enable round-trip drawing review and markup using the dwf format.

While DWF Composer compares favourably with Volo View as far as the features offered, it is still too soon to assess the benefits of the move to AutoCAD 2005.

On the downside, the dwf file format for markup import directly back into AutoCAD is new (v6.0), and this has meant that the dwf's can no longer be viewed on the Pocket PC platform - dwf viewers for Pocket PC are few and far between, and as far as we can determine they all require older dwf formats.

Consequently the pocket PC initiative has come to a grinding halt until someone releases a new viewer package.

Posted by Jeffrey at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2004

Woops: Paris airport collapse

Good to see the French doing their bit to support the forensic engineering industry - Paris airport terminal collapse. No doubt there are a few nervous structural engineers around today, taking a second look at their analysis of an arch. I am glad I am not in their shoes.

Posted by Jeffrey at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)