We’ve all heard the popular saying credited to John C. Maxwell, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” But our Meridian Bill Printing team members at Arista recently breathed new life into these famous words when a fire nearby brought their Winston-Salem operations to an unexpected halt. What came next was an extraordinary example of our passionate problem solvers who Put Our Member/Customers First In All We Do.
It all began around 7:00 PM/EDT on January 31st when a headline-making fire started at the Winston Wilson Company fertilizer plant, which housed 600 tons of highly flammable ammonium nitrate. The potential for an explosion was so extreme that all businesses and homes within a one-mile radius were evacuated. This included our Arista facility, which is located across the street, about 1,000 feet away. Within two hours all Arista equipment was shut down and our team was safely evacuated. The evacuation orders remained in effect for several days, and our team was not permitted to return to their building until the morning of February 4th.
On any given day our Arista operations are impressive. The team typically works six days a week to process and distribute 96 million paper billing statements each year for more than 400 organizations across the country. Our production teams and facilities in Duluth, GA and Winston-Salem, NC are intentionally redundant in case of an emergency. Now, our business continuity plan was about to be tested.
As quickly as possible, Harold Howard, organized a production shift of all Winston-Salem work to Duluth. Rob Tunney and Mike Finke assessed mail in progress, followed news briefings, and communicated updates to Arista’s customers and management team.
Key team members, including Rob and Michelle Hunter, were dispatched to Georgia where the local team rallied. Together, they worked near full capacity around the clock to absorb the workload – processing, printing, and inserting for our customers. Upon their return to Winston-Salem, the team would work another full weekend to ensure that all statements were processed according to our contracts. Mike and Duane McVannel from Xerox were two of the first to return on February 3rd at 10:30 PM/EDT. Mike opened the building, organized and prepared operations area, and began transferring work back to Winston-Salem. Duane began maintenance on all print equipment, which was needed due to the extended shutdown. The following morning, at 2:00 AM/EDT, the print equipment and building were ready for the team’s return. By February 5th, both Arista locations were fully staffed and operational.
Our Vice President of Business Operations for Arista, Leesa Wagener, had these words of gratitude to share with her team, “While our facilities were designed for business continuity, this story is truly a tribute to the people who made it all happen. It was amazing to see them in action, passionately putting our customers first and digging deep to deliver our service product. Through it all, their energy was high, and their attitude of teamwork fueled them. I could not be prouder of this remarkable team.”
Leesa, we couldn’t agree more! Thank you, TEAM ARISTA, for this incredible display of service, problem-solving, and collaboration.