A company CEO talks candidly about the impact and challenges experienced during and after a cyber attack. Key “take-aways” are the significant “down time” and the challenges of getting back to normal.
James Wellbeloved and Royal Canin were badly affected by a cyber attack which led to stock shortages and delays in production, but production is now back at full capacity, although some customers are still experiencing delays.
The cyber attack on June 27 targeted business and governments around the world including banks and airports.
James Wellbeloved says its teams have caught up with all orders but that it is ‘still seeing low stock levels on some SKUs’.
At the time of writing, the factory was about to switch from manual back to automatic, and together with a focus of key SKUs will ‘start to resolve current problems’.
General manager Nick Hastilow said when the attack hit, everything had to be shut down. “One minute everything was normal, and the next minute everything had to be shut down in an attempt to stop the virus spreading. I mean, literally everything – from the laptops our teams in the field work on, to the computers and phones we use in the office to process orders from customers, right up to production – which came to a complete halt with the current batch of product in the pipeline.
“OK, so we all thought: it’s a bit of a glitch, it will all be cleared up quite quickly, because that’s what happens – you get a technical problem, call someone in and yes, it’s a little inconvenient but eventually you get through it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite like that.”
The James Wellbeloved production facility in Castle Cary, Somerset, has three production lines producing 180 SKUs of dry dog and cat food for the UK and Ireland.
Nick said: “So, it’s a big, automated business which is heavily reliant on technology. Can you imagine trying to run a business from an iPhone which has no WiFi, very limited connectivity, and then add to that the fact that your production has come to a complete standstill?”
For the first five days, staff could not perform their roles, and despite massive investment in tech support, there was a limit as to how much could be done – only so many experts can work on any one server at one time.
A technology-reliant business cannot just switch back to pen-and-paper methods – not when you take 800-plus orders every day; and product quality and food safety for the cats and dogs the brand feeds is critical, as is business safety for pet trade partners.
Nick said: “Traceability, food quality and food safety are absolute essentials for our business. These are not things which can just be replicated with a manual process.
“The other issue for us is that because we use no artificial preservatives our products have a relatively short shelf-life – hence we don’t hold stock in reserve, because we want a short manufacture-sale cycle in order to deliver the best possible product.
“It’s also really important for our customers that any transactions with us are safe and protected – so those 800-plus pet trade customers per day need to be protected from any other potential cyber fraud.”
Sales director Simon Nagle said the sales team went out to customers wherever they could to deliver products themselves, having driven to the warehouse and done things manually.
“For the first five days, we had almost 270 colleagues around the UK and Ireland, as well as in the factory and office, who couldn’t do any of their normal roles. So they just got on with what they could – which included deep cleaning the factory and the offices and using their personal phones to keep customers up to date as much as possible. The whole team has been amazing, fuelled on team spirit and chocolate!”
Within 10 days, some production had resumed.
Ripples still spreading
“The scale of this event is enormous,” said Nick. “It’s easy for people to think ‘oh, that was last month it must all be over by now’, but it was a global event and the ripples are still spreading.
“It’s not a question of just switching everything back on and away we go, there are huge technical and technological issues to address before we get production back to where it was pre-June 27. Servers need to be rebuilt, historical data put back on the system and files restored.
“For James Wellbeloved, this came on top of a period where we were having supply issues, so I really want to thank all our customers for their patience and support.
“For the next couple of months we are focusing on building stocks of the most popular products across a range of pack sizes, with the aim of making sure we can get as much through to the trade as we possibly can to avoid gaps on shelves. We will continue to work through the issues, and ensure that we provide our partners with the high quality products and services they expect from James Wellbeloved – and once again, we thank you all for your support.”
Royal Canin: production in France is back to full capacity
Royal Canin was also affected by the cyber attack, but had the added complexity of longer lead times as product comes in from manufacturing sites in continental Europe.
The good news, said Royal Canin UK and Ireland general manager Jakub Kolesa, is that production sites in France are now back producing the full portfolio and running at full capacity, which ‘will ease the situation considerably by mid-September’.
He said: “We do understand that Royal Canin customers are still being affected by delays in receiving product, and stock shortages remain significant at this stage. However, we want to assure all our customers that we are pulling out all the stops to bring service levels back up, and to address customer questions and queries as quickly as possible.”
Staffing levels in its Customer Care Team have been ‘significantly increased’ as a result.
He added: “Where there are stock issues with a particular product, business managers and the team at the office can provide retailers with daily updated recommendations on the best suitable alternatives so that we can make sure that we are continuing to give the best to the cats and dogs we feed, even in very difficult circumstances