Recovering strongly from crisis through Resilience Engineering [update April 23, 2020]

Recovering strongly from crisis through Resilience Engineering [update April 23, 2020]

Dr. Alexander Stolz, Daniel Hiller, Dr. Tobias Leismann
Fraunhofer-Institut für Kurzzeitdynamik, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI

Where we stand from a resilience perspective: continuing Protect&Response in the U.S., Europe starts Recovery process

© Fraunhofer EMI

In countries like Denmark, Austria and Germany first Recovery-measures have been implemented and some easing measures for the economy have been put in place. At the same time, Germans are faced with the legal obligation to wear masks, a Protect-Measure intending to not threaten the Recovery-process. In the U.S., the situation remains extremely tense, in some metropolitan areas like New York City the health care system has reached its absolute load limits.

© Fraunhofer EMI

With the concept of Resilience Engineering in mind, how is it best possible to collect and evaluate the gathered insights and experiences of the past weeks? Beyond that we need to ask the overall question: As an organization or company, will we manage a similar crisis in the future – e.g. a second corona wave – better than today?

In order to help organizations to find a clear answer to this question we have developed the Fraunhofer Resilience Evaluator (FREE) at our institute Fraunhofer EMI. We can use this tool to assess our company’s resilience. The FREE-Tool offers:  

  • A 360-degree analysis of our overall resilience, regarding all measures before, during and after a crisis

  • The mapping of our individual company structures and -resources

  • A quantitative assessment of our strengths and weaknesses within the various resilience phases

  • A visual overview of the current status of our resilience activities, hence a well-arranged management tool for a company’s senior leadership.


With our FREE tool we support other companies and organizations to measure and optimize their resilience:

  • Contact us!

  • We will get in touch with you and provide you with a user-account for our FREE tool.

  • In a personal conversation we are delighted to go into the details about different functionalities and assessment options.

  • For a more in-depth analysis we are happy to design a joint project together with you.

Recovering strongly from crisis through Resilience Engineering [update April 3, 2020]

Dr. Alexander Stolz, Daniel Hiller, Dr. Tobias Leismann
Fraunhofer-Institut für Kurzzeitdynamik, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI

Where we stand from a resilience perspective: Recovery in China, Protect & Respond throughout the world


Whilst China is slowly loosening countermeasures, the numbers of Covid-19 infected people is exploding in many regions of the world. From a resilience perspective, just like us here in Germany many of these countries are still stuck deep in the Protect- and Response-Phase and continue to loose performance. The federal government and the Bundeslaender (states) have already agreed to keep all lockdown restrictions until after the Easter holidays. In Bavaria, even tougher restrictions are being considered at the moment.   

© Fraunhofer EMI

Response measure are taking place on many levels:  laufen auf vielen Ebenen: For instance, many companies and organizations use available production capacities to produce medical supplies. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has also started projects aiming at this mission. Concurrently, the EU ist debating Eurobonds and short-time work schemes are extended everywhere. From a resilience Engineering point of view, so called »generic capabilities« are geared towards a new mission. In other words, this means using available instruments and capabilities outside their original purpose and utilize them for response measures. The more generic capabilities we have at hand, the more agile we can execute a resilience strategy.

The political debate has started how we can get started with the recovery phase. Among many things, that includes issues around how the very restrictive measures in place can be lifted step by step. Also, what measures are most suitable in order to stimulate the economy?

What can we do now?


In addition to the more general measures we outlined in our first piece, we are now going to be more specific what we can do practically to start the recovery phase:


Strengthening resilience management in the organization

On top level, we can appoint a person to take over the resilience management responsibility across the organization. This individual coordinates all recovery measures and is part of the crisis task force on top management level. It is critical to allow this resilience manager to think beyond limits and should not be tied into the immediate crisis management battles around budgets, clients and HR.


Developing Recovery-Szenarios now

We prepare recovery measures based on clearly defined scenarios. For example: best case, lockdown ends on April 20th. Worst Case: Lockdown remains until September 2020. These scenarios should not be exclusively created within bussiness units or within the top management only. Production, sales, HR, strategy – heterogeneous teams always achieve the best results.  


Ensuring permanent monitoring

Now is also the time to assess your own resilience. Weak points become visible, ideas for improvement can be developed now. To do this in a structured way, we use our Fraunhofer Resilience Evaluator (FREE), which we have developed at Fraunhofer EMI. The user will be guided through a set of questions, which allow a 360-degree-analysis of the resilience of his organization. We offer you to conduct such an analysis for your organization via a guest login. Please get in touch with us so that we can answer your specific questions about your organization and customize the tool towards your individual needs. 


Recovering strongly from crisis through Resilience Engineering


Worldwide, universities and research institutions work vigorously to quickly develop medical solutions, novel vaccines and alternative substances to quickly confine the current covid-19 crisis. For years, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has been conducting research for applied solutions and concepts to be prepared before, during and after major crises. 


Dr. Alexander Stolz, Daniel Hiller, Dr. Tobias Leismann
Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI

The current situation

Have we reached rock bottom of this crisis already? What is the adequate reaction as humans, families or as a company to such a level of uncertainty and seeming powerlessness? In many places we hear: “no one knows what is going to happen next and no one has a plan, let’s just lock down and hold our breath”. This may be a humane reaction in face of such a powerful and complex challenge. In view of such an unprecedented disruption of all parts of life, the concept of Resilience Engineering offers a strategic approach to better plan for and do business in the forthcoming weeks so that we even come back stronger after the crisis. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft conducts research in applied resilience solutions and supports our economy and society to strengthen our overall resilience.

© Fraunhofer EMI

The concept of Resilience Engineering

Where do we stand from a resilience perspective?

The current drastic measures result in a tremendous societal performance loss. However, from our resilience engineering perspective, e.g. the seamless move into home office operations for millions of people was a reasonable and appropriate response measure in order to slow down the performance loss. As resilience researchers, we call this graceful degradation, a gently geared loss in performance.

Yet, we still keep losing performance right now. Depending on what area of society and economy we look at, the performance curve looks very different at the moment. In this current phase, successful crisis management will be strongly determined by how quickly we can slow down this trend and even reverse it. An absolute imperative is to stay above a critical threshold of functioning critical supply infrastructure by all means. But only if we keep looking at the potential consequences of decisions we take now for the next phases, are we really acting in a resilient way. 


© Fraunhofer EMI

What can we do next?

So how does resilience action and planning look like? Measures that increase our resilience include:

Protecting critical processes and functions

We need to deploy all available human and technical resources in order to keep highly critical processes and functions in our organizations alive. Also, decision making processes need to be organized well and redundant. Dependencies on others need to be assessed and crisis management plans need to be coordinated well.  

Flexible and creative deployment of available resources

In the news, we read many such examples: distilleries convert their equipment to produce disinfectants, car manufacturers are starting to use their 3D-printing devices to increase the production of ventilators. As another example of such measures, we can check and see if we can redeploy employees in our organizations to highly important crisis management tasks and projects, other than they were originally assigned to. Doing that, we already keep in mind the tasks and projects we are expecting to be urgent in the near future.  

Permanent monitoring

As dynamic as our daily situations keep changing globally, we also have to keep checking our measures in the same dynamic mode. To manage that, we need to select simple indicators that allow us to continuously monitor their effects. Daily protocols will allow us to quickly identify best practices and to have them available in the future. These routines make it also easier to identify weak points and to better protect those in the future.

Communication and decision-making

We struggle with ever new measures, changing external conditions and new tasks. A prerequisite for resilience is that we ensure a continuous, balanced level of communication among everyone in our organization and that we have all technical tools to ensure this communication at our disposal. This should not be limited to the upper management levels but across the entire organization. Social cohesion and interaction is an asset of success for the recover phase.

Thinking beyond

We need to start making detailed plans for the recover phase now. From a resilience perspective, we speak about the ‚what-if-scenarios’. It is smart to already plan out such scenarios in this current phase of the lockdown and to prepare those on a high level of detail.  Which recovery strategy is the best one? Which conditions and resources do we need to execute this or that scenario? Which measures can we already prepare now or in x-time in order to be best prepared for this scenario?

Expect the next crisis to come

Evidently, we cannot devote too many valuable resources to focus on the next potential crisis right now. What we can do though is to systematically collect and safe all data and observations related to our current crisis management decision making and our crisis assessment procedures. This will allow us to critically assess and evaluate our crisis management performance after the crisis. That ist he only way we can really learn systematically and improve our overall resilience.

The current covid-19 crisis is a disruption of global dimension. Similar disruptions will follow in the future and we have to acknowledge that in all our plans. The resilience engineering concept offers us the best approach to be well prepared for such a future.

Current solutions and projects: Scorecard to assess the resilience of critical infrastructure systems.