General Earthquake Update... and a Thank You!

February 2011, Warren Matthews

Summary

It is now 6 days since the earthquake hit us here in Christchurch.  We cannot believe the expressions of support and concern that we have received from customers throughout the world.  It has been really heart-warming and all our staff is very grateful.

It is now 6 days since the earthquake hit us here in Christchurch.  We cannot believe the expressions of support and concern that we have received from customers throughout the world.  It has been really heart-warming and all our staff is very grateful.

Sadly David, one of our IT staff still has his wife missing in a collapsed building.  All our thoughts are with him at this moment.

Today was the start of the serious clean up.  We began the day optimistically expecting power and water to be on at the office because Kane was there last night and power, water, internet and phones were all up and running…but, alas when all our staff arrived this morning... the power was down.  Apparently there are multiple breaks in the underground lines and it will take significant time to repair...

We also had a structural engineer inspect the three buildings that we have.  The factory and the offices/warehouse were pronounced structurally sound although there has been substantial damage to the factory, primarily the floors.  Sadly, our new office/warehouse premises which we have been working on for the last four months and due to move into on the 1st April are suspect and will require further assessment from the engineers…but, there is a real risk that it may have to be demolished.  The ground actually parted under this building and moved south by about 400mm.  The engineer said that he has never seen anything like it in his life.

It was critical that we were able to resume shipping today and begin communicating with our customers.  We were able to borrow a generator which could run our shrink wrapping machine in the despatch area and charge the batteries on the electric forklift…but, the power was insufficient to run the servers.

Fortunately we have an IT manager who has lots of ingenuity, he was able to dismantle the servers from the office and set them up at another location, and feed the data to customer service staff, whom we had spread out at different points of the city, where there is power and internet. 

This was a complicated process made more so due to the FDA prior notification documentation for which we had to write some special software but that was resolved by this afternoon.

All the documentation for each order is now being printed out at a different location and being shuttled back and forth to the offices/warehouse for processing and shipping.

The bottom line is that we were able to despatch product today and have now shipped out all orders that were due to go out last Tuesday when the quake struck.  We are hoping that we will be able to ship out 2 days lots of orders each day (For example, tomorrow we would hope to process and ship orders received last Weds and Thursday…and so on).  By the end of this week we are optimistic that we will have caught up on the backlog.

Once again I apologise for the delay.  

As I mentioned earlier it has been really heartening to receive all the messages of support and pleasing to see that the number of orders that have been cancelled as a result of the delay has been minimal. It is times like this that we really need to try to maintain our sales as the recovery process is being expensive and shipping product out is the lifeblood that we need to work our way through this difficult time.

Tomorrow (1st March), Chris, our IT manager will set up our phone system, so calls can be diverted to our customer service staff scattered throughout the city.  Some of them will end up with our after hour’s service who may be of limited help. Best solution is to email us direct or use our Liveperson system.   We are getting on top of the backlog of emails, so the delay should not be long.  We really appreciate your understanding.

I will continue to give updates on this blog every couple of days.

Some more comments about the earthquake.

Some people have wondered why there has been so much devastation for such as relatively small earthquake.  It is not due to the poor construction of the buildings many of which have withstood earthquakes for the last 160 years...

The problem was that the quake was centred almost under our factory and offices, but more importantly is was very shallow…just 5kms deep.  But, even more importantly it was the ‘normal’ type of earthquake.  Most quakes go up and down or in waves.  For example the one in Sept was heard before it actually hit.  It sounded like a train coming.  But, this one had zero warning and was much more violent and was a sideways movement rather than up and down.  If you can imagine a train hitting a building at high speed and within a fraction of a second having another one hitting from the other side and another one hitting from the original direction immediately after, then it will give you an idea of what it was like.  Extremely violent!

However, we are started on the road to recovery and as I mentioned earlier our inventory is quite substantial and undamaged and I am confident that we can get back into production before we run out of stock. We will not let down any of our customers... Once again thank you so much for your support!

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