Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

In Crisis, People Make the Difference

Supply chain disaster recovery

I probably answer a question about disaster recovery or emergency capabilities at least once a week. This week, we responded to a real emergency where our processes were put to the test by a historic – some would say epic – weather crisis.

The snowstorm that battered Chicago and much of the country looks to be the 3rd biggest on record for the city. According to many experts storms of this magnitude occur every twenty to thirty years. As of noon Wednesday, February 2, 2011, 20.2 inches of snow was recorded at O’Hare International Airport, putting the blizzard of 2011 ahead of the infamous storm of January 1979 that left 18.8 inches. This deluge of snow fell in less than 24 hours. 

For much of the Midwest, a state of emergency was declared and roads could not be used. Many of you may have seen the pictures of Chicago on the national news. There were 14 to 27-foot waves reported on Lake Michigan. Overall, lakeshore drive was a parking lot. Many people were stranded in their vehicles for over 12 hours.  Check out the pictures below from The Chicago Tribune.

snow storm 1

snow storm2

Upon learning of the storm here at TMC, we initiated our emergency processes. I could talk at length about our collaborative planning with customers, technical solutions, and the capabilities we’ve developed to ensure we do not experience down time or a systems outage even in the most extreme conditions. These capabilities are critical and the crisis reaffirmed the need for effective emergency response planning. Technology and systems can be tested over and over again. Improvements can be and implemented ongoing. There is no way, however, to test how your people’s resilience and commitment to this sort of event. Unfortunately, the emergency is the test of your people. I am proud to say, that on this day, when Chicago and much of the country were shut down, our people were here, ensuring a seamless delivery of services. There was not a single customer disruption.

Here is how one customer, Gretchen Donahue, Manager Inbound Transportation, Campbell Soup Company, describes the response from one of our staff members, Ginny Hall, TMC’s Strategic Account Manager. “It was exciting to see the commitment by TMC to effectively plan coverage during the recent blizzard. Before we even understood the impact of the storm to Chicago, I was contacted by Ginny Hall and told of how everyone would be available to work during the storm. It gave great piece of mind to how our transportation operations would be managed, transparent to our customers.”

Peter Zimmerman, Global Logistics Manager, North American Region, John Deere, “appreciates the thorough preparation and contingency planning” at TMC during the emergency.

Some of us spent the night in nearby hotels, others walked from homes nearby, and some took advantage of slow moving public transportation. A portion of our work force leveraged our cloud computing capabilities. I believe there is one lone example of a solitary bike rider. I know this individual and he is actually quite sane and yes, quite intelligent. In all of these cases, getting to work yesterday was not easy… I’m proud of our response, and in talking with our customers, they are too. If you have other stories or pictures from the Blizzard of 2011, please post them here. We’d love to hear about your experiences and to share them with our larger community.

- President, Managed Services
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