HOWELL, Mich. -- Nobody knows how the fire started.
Robert Brownlee, president of Magna Exteriors and Interiors Corp., got the news on his BlackBerry while traveling.
On Wednesday, March 2, a 5 p.m. blaze on an assembly line in Magna's interior trim plant here reduced a third of the factory to blackened wreckage.
All 100 employees on the afternoon shift escaped injury, but Brownlee, 58, knew he had a huge problem. The plant makes headliners, rear window trays, door panels, instrument panel skins and other products for 16 assembly plants operated by General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and Nissan.
Within 24 hours, some of those assembly plants slowed production while others shut down. Brownlee gave himself just two days to resume production at the Howell plant.
This is a story about crisis management -- how a company reacts when a disaster disrupts normal decision making. A manager has to create order out of chaos, and he has to do it right now.