Suppliers, manufacturers mobilize

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast at the end of August last year, it took officials from Home Automation Inc. two weeks until they could even get to the company's building to survey the damage.
What they saw was a surprise--flood waters seeped into the building, despite it being built dock high at four feet off the ground.
"We just saw everything sloppy and soggy," said Jay McLellan, president and chief executive officer of HAI. "Every stick of wood furniture swelled so you couldn't get doors open. Mold crawled up the sheetrock three feet."
It didn't take long for company officials to mobilize and begin looking for alternative space to manufacture its home automation products and to house engineers and executives. Today, the company is operating out of three separate facilities in the New Orleans area, while its former building undergoes a renovation. And for the most part, the company's operations have returned to normal.
The industry saw little, if any, interruption in obtaining HAI products, since the company uses a network of distributors to bring its product to the installation market. Five weeks passed before HAI began once again shipping home automation products to distributors.
"Right about the time where the distributor's shelves were getting bare we were able to start shipping," said Allison Read, director of marketing at HAI.
Security product distributor ADI moved quickly after Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed its building. Within 24 hours, employees were able to enter the building and retrieve its computer equipment. It rerouted calls Memphis, Tenn., so it could continue to serve clients.
"We have a history of 24-hour turnaround on disasters like this," said Tom Polson, president of ADI.
Not only did the company work hard to get business up and running, it also helped displaced employees and their families find housing. It relocated many families to Memphis so they could continue working for the company.
Today, the security product distributor is running its New Orleans business from two portable trailers, while its building is being renovated. Polson expects to move into the facility this spring.
For CCTV Imports, the biggest challenge since Hurricane Katrina is getting a new building, which was in the process of being built before the storm hit. The facility, four times the size of its current location, was originally scheduled for completion in January, but now company officials do not expect it will be done until the end of March.
"After the hurricane, there's such a lack of workers," said Joelle McWilliams, marketing director for CCTV Imports.
Still, said McWilliams, the company was extremely fortunate to walk away from the storm nearly unscathed. Its biggest challenge was tracking down inventory that was rerouted to Houston instead of heading to its office in Covington, La.
Security product distributor Tri-Ed, in neighboring Metaire, La., also faired better than most. Despite all the rain, wind and flood waters brought by the hurricane, its building was virtually untouched.
"Outside of the phone lines being down, the building didn't take a drop of water," said Pat Comunale, chief operating officer of Tri-Ed. "The surrounding area was all under water, but our building was unscathed."