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An operational disruption (also colloquially known as 'breakdown', English interruption of operation ) is understood to mean unexpected events that affect the planned production process or business process and hinder or even prevent the planned workflow .


Running a business can involve a variety of dangers. These are summarized as operational risk. The operational risk is the risk that a company cannot provide its products and services , or cannot provide them in good time, or only incorrectly, for operational, technical, economic or legal reasons. The operational disruptions associated with operational risk are always unplanned events in which the work process is disrupted or interrupted for operational reasons. Operational disruptions are understood as an impairment of the whole and functional processes. Here, the deal right with issues of liability when occurring malfunctions and Business Administration with issues of process organization for the prevention of malfunctions. In credit and insurance , business disruptions are viewed as an operational risk .


Mine explosion at the Belva Mine, Kentucky / USA (September 1946)
Explosion in the gas factory in Leerdam / Netherlands (November 1959)
Explosion in the powder factory Muiden / Netherlands (December 1972)

In general, a distinction can be made between exogenous (external environmental conditions ) and endogenous (internal) causes in the event of operational disruptions :

Frequently occurring causes of malfunctions are the failure of machines , a reduction in work performance or a decline in production quality. Explosions , fires or the emission of pollutants can occur in companies that are particularly prone to danger . These include operational disruptions with significant consequences in the form of environmental damage such as the chemical accident in Bitterfeld in July 1968, the major fire in October 1977 at Ford Germany , which destroyed around 75% of the central Ford spare parts warehouse in Cologne-Merkenich , and the explosion near the Rheinische Olefin works in January 1985 in Wesseling , the chemical accident at Schweizerhalle in November 1986 or the accident at BASF in Ludwigshafen in 2016 , which led to the shutdown of at least 20 plants in October 2016 .

Corporate research

The Operations Research has very early dealing with malfunctions, focusing on three sub-areas:

  • The reliability theory deals with the failure behavior of complex systems, which are composed of several complementary or substitutional elements, and tries to determine the probability distribution of the failure events. Reliability is the condition of technical systems to meet the planned requirements.
  • The maintenance theory examines the options, the default behavior of a system through preventive maintenance - and maintenance measures to positively influence and develop conditions for the planning of maintenance to the functioning of systems recover.
  • The queuing theory as a working area of the probability theory is used to record the congestion problems caused by disturbances. It is assumed that machine failures can be recorded and forecast using statistical distributions .

However, there is no closed theory of operational disruptions.

Companies with complex production processes ( automobile manufacturers ), sectors prone to hazards ( chemical industry , nuclear power plants ), companies with long production times ( construction ) or high vertical integration ( mechanical engineering ) are particularly susceptible to operational disruptions . The operational disruption turns into a business interruption due to interruptions in the production process and resulting damage. A business interruption is the "unplanned, accidental and temporary decline in the performance or the degree of efficiency of operational factors - in relation to the target performance or the target degree of effectiveness with regard to the corporate objective - which leads to the process of operational performance and / or recovery that would have been designed to cover non-recoverable costs and profit ”. From the point of view of business administration, the risk of a business interruption is to be described as the possible negative effects of a business interruption on the operational process of service creation and / or utilization, the scope of which is reflected in revenue reductions and cost increases.

Legal issues

Operational disruptions play a legal role, particularly when it comes to damage claims and labor law .

civil right

A deliberate disruption of operational processes, for example through a not only short-term blockade of the use of construction machines by a demonstration, can be a violation of the rights to the established and exercised commercial enterprise and oblige to compensation ( § 823 Paragraph 1 BGB ).

Employment Law

In principle, the employer bears the risk of loss of work due to an operational disruption ( operational risk theory ). If the employee cannot work due to operational disruptions , he can still demand the agreed remuneration in accordance with Section 615 of the German Civil Code (BGB) without being obliged to perform the work subsequently. This distribution of risk can be waived, but not with a form employment contract.

Special laws

The Railway Construction and Operating Regulations (EBO) prohibit in § 64 EBO the preparation of travel obstacles or the implementation of other operations disruptive or endangering activities. Two special laws speak of "intended operation" as the ideal case. Section 2 No. 3 of the Hazardous Incident Ordinance defines an incident as the disruption of normal operation in which one or more hazardous substances are involved. According to Section 6 of the Environmental Liability Act (UmweltHG), proper operation exists if the special operating obligations have been complied with and there is no disruption to operation.

Prevention of operational disruptions

Operational disruptions usually lead to additional costs ( failure costs , repairs , compensation for customers) and / or reductions in revenue due to lost business and thus to a loss of profit . That is why the focus is on avoiding operational disruptions through incident management as part of prevention . For this purpose, existing weak points are to be identified and eliminated through weak point analyzes. Appropriate scheduling ensures smooth workflows . The health and safety management can the OSH improve personnel can in-house training as part of human resource development are sensitized to the detection of risks. Technical controls and regular maintenance can prevent malfunctions and restore or maintain operational safety . For its part, operational continuity management ensures that business interruptions caused by disruptions are avoided as far as possible. Business interruption insurance protects against the risk of business interruption .

Web links

Wiktionary: operational disruption  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Helmut Kollerer, The business management problem of business interruptions , 1978, p. 34
  2. Klaus-Peter Kistner, Operational disruptions in assembly lines , ZOR 17, 1973, p. 18
  3. K.-W. Gaede / DB Pressmar / Ch. Snow white / K.-P. Schuster / O. Seifert (Ed.), Lectures of the 8th DGOR Annual Conference , 1979, p. 143 ff.
  4. Gunter Bürk, Statistical Laws of Downtime in Manufacturing Machines , in: Karl F. Bussmann / Peter Mertens, Operations Research and Data Processing in Maintenance Planning, 1968, p. 17 ff.
  5. Uwe Stamer / Thomas Trautmann, The concept of business interruption , in: Zeitschrift für Versicherungswesen, 1984, p. 312
  6. Fred Wagner (ed.), Gabler Versicherungslexikon , 2011, p. 107
  7. BGH, judgment of November 4, 1997, Az .: VI ZR 348/96
  8. Federal Labor Court, judgment of July 9, 2008 File number: 5 AZR 810/07; BAG, judgment of March 9, 1983, Az .: 4 AZR 301/80
  9. ^ BAG, judgment of September 5, 2002, 8 AZR 702/01
  10. ^ BAG, judgment of July 9, 2008, 5 AZR 810/07