Katrina's Call to Serve

Oct. 1, 2005
One of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States is bringing out the best in its citizens—and the automation industry is no exception.

It seems fitting as we close out this issue on “Automation Services” to take a quick look at how the automation suppliers have come to the service and support of their manufacturing customers in the Gulf coast who were impacted by Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in late August.

Metairie, La., is located about halfway between the New Orleans airport and the French Quarter. Situated at only two feet above sea level, the city was home to a service center for Emerson Process Management. Within 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina hit the area, Emerson personnel moved the support server in Metairie to quarters in Baton Rouge, La.

Said Bill Robertson, director of worldwide services, based in Austin, “Moving equipment to Baton Rouge required personnel to make emergency trips into Metairie. Our people have gone above and beyond in their commitment to our customers.” Robertson, who estimates that the area impacted by Hurricane Katrina comprises about 10 percent of Emerson’s installed base in the United States, told of one employee in New Orleans who has toiled for 28 straight days performing field service work, despite tough living circumstances for him and his family, who were still without power nearly a month after the hurricane.

Emerson’s disaster recovery team began preparation in advance of Katrina striking, and has now assisted hundreds of customers. The company transferred 100 support experts from other regions to the area, purchased several trailers for work sites and secure accommodations, and sourced cell phones to provide customers with baseline communications.

Emerson is just one of many examples of automation suppliers ready to do “whatever it takes” to serve their hurricane-stricken customers. Siemens AG was the first company to contact Automation World with its plan for relief. Various Siemens divisions have sent generators, water clarification trailers, medical imaging equipment and IP phones, and have airlifted engineers to the area for rebuilding efforts. Siemens Energy & Automation distributors and channel partners in the area can call 770-751-2000 for information on a Siemens cash flow relief program.

ABB has implemented several initiatives and is mobilizing logistics to get parts, products and personnel into the Gulf coast area. ABB customers should call 877-511-4222, where ABB Help Desk employees will direct them to the appropriate ABB function or contact for assistance.

Other major suppliers, including GE, Invensys/ Wonderware, Omron and Rockwell Automation, have programs in place to assist hurricane victims. Please contact the local support organizations, or visit Editor In Chief Gary Mintchell’s blog at www.automationworld.com for more information.

Responding to Rita

As I write this, the Gulf coast braces for the next storm—Hurricane Rita, expected to make landfall on Sept. 24. Honeywell Process Solutions has a SWAT team in place to respond to the needs of customers impacted by Hurricane Rita, as it did for Hurricane Katrina. Honeywell customers in need of assistance can call the Honeywell Solutions Support Center at 877-466-3993. In a recent memo to HPS employees, President Jack Bolick said, “Despite the personal impact the storm has had on their lives, many HPS employees are putting the needs of our customers over their own needs. I am humbled by the dedication of our employees.”

Emerson’s Robertson was preparing for Hurricane Rita, which he estimates could impact an area comprising 20 percent to 25 percent of Emerson’s installed base. He and his family would welcome 18 friends from the Houston area, who would ride out the storm at his home in Austin.

The automation industry can be proud of this level of support—both personally and professionally—that serves others in this devastating hurricane season.

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