by Erica Gallagher, CTO, Paramont EO
Paramont EO deals with the aftermath of some major structural damage to their headquarters, and finds bright spots in a gloomy situation. Visit their blog post here to see even more photos and video footage of the incident.
Now normally, we like to keep a lid on things. I mean, we like a skylight just as much as the next guy, but in our warehouse, we’d prefer to let our LED high bays do the lighting. This past Memorial Day, though, Mother Nature decided to do a makeover on our Woodridge, Illinois-based headquarters.
A little before 3 p.m. – right when our pickers and packers would have been walking the aisles filling orders for the next day’s morning run—a giant section of roof crashed in on the area just behind our will call counter. Luckily for us, while Mother Nature may not take holidays, our staff was enjoying the day off and no one was hurt. On any other day, this story would be impossible to make *light* of.
We got the call from an employee who happened to be in the area and noticed water pouring out the dock doors and headed straight over to see what was going on. By the time we arrived, the fire chief (a former employee) was already on the scene. As gusting rain continued to fall, we watched as the firemen descended from the lift they used to inspect the roof to inform us that an entire section had caved in, most likely due to the massive amount of rain water that had pooled around what appeared to be a somewhat clogged drain. Since the roof of these types of buildings is what holds the walls up, the entire building complex (a block long structure with multiple tenants) was deemed unsafe and Com-Ed and Nicor quickly cut power and gas until further inspections could be completed. Our work community is a beautifully tight-knit one and employees started showing up to see the damage for themselves and to provide moral support as we looked on helplessly – but not hopelessly – together.
It was then that we realized our family (and company) pet, “Boz the Tortoise,” was inside, and we had to rescue him. We were allowed to enter for just long enough to scoop him up out of his tank and register the fact that the offices had taken a few inches of water too.
With the casualty count at zero, we turned our attention to the question, “What now?”
Well, that “digital transformation” we had been planning for got bumped to the head of the schedule!
Due to a recent move to backing up our system to the cloud and some truly amazing partners (shout out to the geniuses at #Nordops), we were able to spin up our premises-based hosted ERP system to a cloud-hosted environment, LITERALLY OVERNIGHT! We kicked off the process from the parking lot around 5 p.m. on Monday and by 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning we were operational with full VPN access to our system from both our New Lenox and Chicago branches and even for those staff members who chose to work from home. And just like that, we transformed not only into a more digital, climate-resilient, robust company, but also into a more millennial, telecommuting-friendly company as well.
From the doorway to the warehouse we could see our fully loaded trucks were unharmed and our next goal was to get them out of the building so they could head out for the early Tuesday deliveries.
Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to pull those out until 11 a.m. on Tuesday, by which time many of the customers with material on those vehicles had to cancel their orders. This was a bit heartbreaking, but understandable. Our customers have their customers and schedules they need to satisfy, too.
There was one vehicle casualty – watch as this van gets thrown back by the force of the explosive crash (video courtesy of one of our security cameras):
But our auto repair shop will have it back on the streets soon.
With the servers up and running Tuesday morning, and our Chicago and New Lenox branches handling all daily material orders, the next task was to relocate the 70 or so employees that are based out of our Woodridge hub. We spent Tuesday salvaging what we could and by Wednesday, our hospitable crew at our New Lenox location had welcomed our Switchgear and Accounting teams to their new temporary offices, while our good friends at Chicago Lightworks allowed our entire lighting department to take over their beautifully outfitted training room at their new facility in Lisle. A few people took the opportunity to drop in on our Chicago branch, and the rest got setup to work remotely from home, while the warehouse and operations team ran triage at the Woodridge warehouse.
Thanks to VOIP phones, calls were easily transferred to staff at their new locations and everyone was able to touch base with customers and vendors to assure them their orders could still be delivered and that new orders could be entered as usual. While our Woodridge building was still without power, at least we were being allowed in to verify that staged customer material was 99% unharmed (fortunately this material is kept in the opposite end of the building from where the roof collapsed), and to start to plan for what would happen next.
On Saturday, June 1, ComEd finally turned the power back on to our complex, and by evening we had created a new network to allow our computers, printers, scanners, and label makers to connect to our ERP system which was the first major step towards being able to pick and load orders for delivery from this location once again.
While property owners, managers, and engineers were on site just hours after we had arrived on Memorial Day, the real work of shoring up and restoring the building doesn’t begin until forensic experts file their reports, and insurance claims cannot be evaluated until thorough audits are completed on our inventory. It turns out the only thing there is MORE OF than the types of insurance policies one can have, is the number of hoops one must jump through in order to get claims paid.
Despite having the industry-standard, recommended amount of property, inventory insurance, vehicle, and loss of business insurance, the models used by actuaries apparently aren’t based on the magnitude of a business interruption like this. To make matters worse, claims don’t get paid out until forensics and audits are complete. But new material needs to be purchased and business expenses paid in anticipation of new orders coming in, while standing by watching our orders go to competitors with intact roofs. It’s a lousy catch-22, and not the way the insurance salespeople lead you to believe it will be as they are selling you their policies and collecting your money each month.
Thanks to the cloud, we were able to pull detailed inventory reports which handily proved the accuracy of our records, in fact our auditor suggested we go into the inventory consulting business as he had never seen such a clean audit in all his years. And so, the process of setting up a new warehouse within our warehouse could begin, but where to start? Well, at the beginning—row AB that is—since the section of the building that got damaged was the one behind our will call counter where we kept all our “A” items, high-frequency stuff, to keep it close at hand and efficient to pick. For a detailed view of what this area looked like BEFORE the storm, watch the first two minutes of our Warehouse Tour video:
For a little more detail on why we set things up the way we did, check out this blog.
While we certainly wouldn’t wish a tragedy such as this on anyone, the experience has reinforced what a devoted, bright, hard-working team we have been fortunate enough to build here at Paramont EO. We are opportunistically taking advantage of the situation to implement some new technologies that will no doubt contribute to more reliable, efficient processes and greater customer transparency and enablers such as delivery tracking, mobile ordering, and more. The Paramont EO that emerges from the rubble will be a nimble, responsive, stronger, and more efficient business. We look forward to serving you in the very near future. Come on out for a tour or give us a call to hear more about how Paramont EO is delivering Chicagoland’s electrical edge.