Disaster Preparedness in the Electronics Supply Chain

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It’s currently the peak of hurricane season in Houston, TX – home of Smith’s global headquarters – and the surrounding region. With Hurricane Laura expected to make landfall tonight, Smith will rely on our dynamic business continuity practices to keep our facilities and operations moving through any natural disaster or emergency.

As we continue to navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Smith has had the opportunity to implement and utilize new procedures and resources for disaster preparedness, which positions us better than ever for hurricanes and other emergency situations. In particular, Smith has ramped up our work-from-home capabilities, allowing the majority of employees to seamlessly continue their duties remotely.

“When COVID-19 began to spread worldwide earlier this year, Smith launched its work-from-home process for many of our employees at our 16 global offices,” said Phyllis Tsu, Chief Information Officer at Smith. “Our IT department has been constantly adjusting and improving our infrastructure, system security, and remote connection process to better accommodate the nature of remote work.”

Additionally, our Operations team has been working a split schedule since March, demonstrating Smith’s ability to utilize smaller work groups while maintaining continuity of our business operations.

“The pandemic has pushed us to develop and refine many new and flexible solutions to keep Smith running smoothly,” said Matt Hartzell, Chief Administrative Officer at Smith. “We are more prepared than ever to face the challenges associated with natural disasters and other emergencies.”

This week also marks the third anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, which dropped more than 50 inches of rainfall over parts of Texas and caused an estimated $125 billion in damage, making it the wettest Atlantic hurricane on record and second-most costly storm, adjusted for inflation, to date. Despite the havoc wreaked across the area, Smith’s operations were largely unaffected and saw no disruption in service during or after the event, thanks to the constant communication relayed across the company.

“Interdepartmental communication was instrumental to maintaining business continuity during Harvey,” said Art Figueroa, Smith’s Vice President of Operations and Quality, NA & EU. “Each department knew their role and was able to effectively execute their duties so we could provide top-notch service and support to our customers without interruption.”

Though most would regard such efficient implementation to be a success, Smith used the experience as an opportunity to further improve our processes so that we can be even better prepared for the next situation.

To minimize the impact of any potential disruption, Smith has put contingency plans in place with relocation sites established so that we can continue to receive, inspect, test, package, and ship components if our Houston distribution center ever becomes damaged or otherwise nonfunctional in the wake of a disaster. We have also prepared emergency IT kits so that other departments can be relocated, if necessary. Additionally, emergency supply kits – containing items such as batteries, flashlights, cots, blankets, water, and MREs – are on-site at each Houston-based facility in the event that employees cannot safely evacuate during a disaster.

While hurricanes are one of the greatest (and most frequent) natural disaster concerns for the Houston area, Smith also has plans in place to respond proactively to a range of other possible scenarios. From fires and earthquakes to sinkholes and terrorism threats, Smith is prepared to handle any natural or manmade disaster while safeguarding employees’ wellbeing and keeping business running efficiently and with minimal interruption.

“Our business is built on speed,” said Figueroa. “We have to be mindful of any potential disruptions and take those scenarios into account and not let them interrupt our operations.”

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