It was like history is repeating itself on that Sunday night October 21st, when a fire broke out in the production hall of Floralife, a division of Smithers Oasis Belgium. Vice President Floralife/Grower Global Operations and Corporate Research Jim Daly, in Ohio, United States was hoping it was just a kitchen fire, when he heard the news. Unfortunately, it turned out to be much worse. Three quarters of the building had to be declared a complete loss.
“The first thing that pops into your mind is if all workers are OK. The good news was that the fire happened at night, so none of our workers got hurt. The second thing I was concerned with is how we can still serve our customers. The next day we immediately had a team together to work on a plan of action. Our head of corporate technology started the insurance paperwork, our sales director focused on what impact the fire had on our customers and our operations manager started to increase production at other manufacturing locations around the globe to fill the gap.”
Extra shifts at other production locations
At the burned down factory both liquid and powder postharvest products were made. Most of the machines were destroyed. Since the fire, the bulk packaging and sachets of powder and liquids are now manufactured in four other locations. Jim: “We created extra shifts there to make products to insure supplies to our customers. So, with extra production we could meet the demand. At first, our customers noticed that our orders were delayed. However, within a month the production was up and running. And with time, we are getting closer to reaching full capacity again.
This was not the first time that the Floralife Belgian production facility was struck by a fire. “Because we had gone through this before, we had proper measures in place that allowed us to recover faster. Unfortunately, we were ready for this”, said Jim. We have already moved to a new location in Opglabbeek, Belgium which is a twenty-minute drive from the old facility. “We want to continue producing in Belgium, not only because Europe is an important market for us, but also so that our workers can keep their jobs.” At the new facility, fire protection is of utmost importance. “It was a painful experience to go through, but we learned from it which is what matters. The new machines will be installed in the next 2 to 4 months and the production will be fully restored then. In the end, we are ending up stronger with better equipment, more capacity and more robust fire protection plans.”