The 1st of the month started off with a bang for MBS, literally! Hundreds of MBS employees suddenly found themselves in the dark when a city-owned electrical transformer blew, leaving the entire warehouse and much of the executive offices without power.
With flames shooting 8-10 feet above the transformer, the MBS team along with the Columbia Fire Department responded quickly to extinguish the fire at around 3:30pm local time. But, they weren’t out of the woods yet.
In order to facilitate routing around the charred transformer, so it could be serviced later in the evening, MBS had to change the way power is provided to the data center.
“The data center stores information vital to our bookstore customers, hosts our own websites, as well as many other sites that are all visible to the external world; if the data center goes down, so do they,” explained Tim Myers, director of computer and network services at MBS. “So, we knew the situation was critical and we had to work quickly.”
When electric power ceases, the data center converts to a battery power supply set to last for 18 minutes. Because they were working with a finite power source, the MBS team worked efficiently to create a plan of attack that would ensure the center’s security.
“We explained the data center situation with on-site resources and decided to switch the data center’s main line to a nearby transformer. Each person was staged in their position before we made the transfer to streamline the process as much as possible,” Myers added.
As a result of their hard work, the data center was seamlessly switched to an alternate electric power source in only 9 minutes.
“The data was completely unaffected, and all sites remained live for the duration of the incident,” said Myers.
Further demonstrating their commitment to customer service, MBS ensured that all orders were taken care of, despite the extenuating circumstances. Although second shift was sent home due to the power outage, a small staff in Swing Shipping stayed on filling and shipping as many orders as possible in the dark.
"We have a commitment to our customers, so we knew we had to get the work done no matter the circumstances," said David Huggler, swing operations manager, and one of the four employees who stayed on to complete the day's work. "There were a bunch of orders in play, so we set up a few flashlights and did everything possible to get the orders out the door by 7pm, when freight comes."
In fact, “all but a handful of orders made it out the door on time,” regardless of the unusual situation, according to Mark Pulliam, vice president of distribution.
Because the City of Columbia maintained two spare transformers, MBS was able to replace theirs as quickly as possible. A local supply company also stayed open late to provide all the necessary materials, allowing the new transformer to be installed and reenergized by 10:30pm. The warehouse and data center were restored to their normal lineup, with generator backup, by 10:40pm.
After a 7 hour ordeal, MBS was completely up and running just in time for the night shift to start, a true testimonial to their loyalty to customers’ needs.
“We had a great turnaround time. It’s quite an accomplishment to go from burning to back in business in just one working shift,” said Myers. “The City of Columbia Power and Light, as well as Coastal Electric, should be commended for their quick response and role in the process,” Myers added.
If you have any questions or concerns, please talk with your MBS Representative or send us a message through the 'Contact Us' section of Foreword Online.