I expect there to be more chaotic stories out there but here's mine anyway. We overcame the issues as a result of a culture that responded with a challenge: "How do we get out this with no effect on our customers?" other businesses would have just called the customers to explain why the problem had delayed their deliveries.
We were the service leaders in our industry, next day and same day delivery guaranteed for office supplies in SE England. The warehouse had a large roof designed so that rain water drained through large cast iron downspouts (more than 1 foot diameter) that were inside the building (bad idea!). After an exceptional storm water backed up onto the roof faster than the capacity of the pipes could drain it. As a result of the pressure in the pipe a seal broke on a downspout connection and the water burst through.
The break occurred in the dispatch office of the warehouse directly next to the document printers and network connections. When I got there the office door was choke point with 2 feet of water inside spilling out of the door and then spreading out onto the warehouse floor. From there it went across the packing area and loading docks where hundreds of customer orders were being staged ready for delivery tomorrow. Many were on pallets and were above the level of water many others were not. The dispatch office was a complete mess - no printers, no network, no computers working. Hundreds of customer orders would need repicking and this posed lots of questions:
- How do we identify the damaged orders?
- Do we repick damaged items only or all of the order.
- How do we produce delivery documentation and labels?
- How do we get the area cleaned up so we can actually begin work again?
Fortunatley we were a business with a very high service ethic. We got the warehouse management team together and it took about 10 minutes to come up with a plan:
1) Ask the currently on site second shift to work overtime.
2) Get pizza in so we can feed eveyone who stays.
3) Get on the phones to bring 3rd shift in early for overtime.
4) Get on the phone to see if any 1st shift people can be brought back in.
5) Get the admin staff and end of day returning drivers to help too.
6) Get IT to repurpose printers in areas that still have network connectivity.
7) Divide and conquer - get teams working on identifying which orders needed rework.
In some ways we were lucky:
- We had redundant printers but only because we used the same type for different jobs in different areas.
- We had a lot of staff who lived locally and were loyal.
But in life I find that you make your own luck. We had built a culture that actually cared about quality and servcie provided to customers.
We repicked everything and the service levels next day were in fact better than average.