Video Conferencing in a Global Manufacturing Environment

Video Conferencing in a Global Manufacturing Environment

Design, sales and management in the United States, manufacturing in China, a business structure shared by many global companies. With simple products or complex products, over large production runs it takes serious coordination between the home office and the production facility to assure the results are to specification, on time and on budget. When the product is custom designed furniture for the notoriously finicky hospitality industry, there isn't much wiggle room.

From assuring the customer's expectations are fully translated into the finished product, to managing the staff, controlling materials and tracking finances between offices thousands of miles and two distinctly different cultures apart, David Benz, president of Vaughan Benz, knows that communications is everything.

Vaughan Benz, founded a quarter century ago in Los Angeles, California, runs a state-of-the-art furniture production operation in Shanghai, China. Their 20th Century management tools; e-mail, phone, fax and frequently travel, were not only costly, they were no longer up to the task of supporting a rapid growth rate.

Talking face-to-face brings important, even critical, characteristics to communications, but clearly more travel was not the answer. In addition to keeping their competitive edge, delivering high-quality furniture which consistently satisfied demanding customers, a richer communications medium would help keep the Vaughan Benz corporate culture unified and supportive. David Benz decided it was time to look at the capabilities of video conferencing and telepresence systems.

Mr. Benz explained BrightCom was chosen because they were local, offered stellar customer service and could deliver a wide range of video communication solutions. Of particular importance to Vaughan Benz were dragging and dropping files from laptops or desktops as needed, sharing data across Microsoft Office, Open Office, Adobe PDFs, as well as sharing HD images and HD video clips. Teams needed to collaboratively markup and edit documents. Further, management and control of the services had to be easy, flexible and reliable.

The Visual Collaboration System that BrightCom and Vaughan Benz have built, on a processor based infrastructure, connects equipment from many vendors and supports wireless connections. Up to 16 video broadcasts are possible, serving an unlimited number of participants. Bandwidth is adjustable in real-time and the proceedings can, of course, be recorded.

Quality of Service (QoS) is a challenge, as is ensuring usability for both the U.S. and Chinese teams. An important additional application of the video conferencing system is improved communications with customers, both during the sales process and then through the design, build and delivery of an order. One of the goals for the future evolution of the Visual Collaboration System will be to make the communications with clients even more effective.

Providing designers and production staff the capability to review the shop drawings together will also be a next step. On the manufacturing side, Vaughan Benz plans to bring the BrightCom telepresence technology to the factory floor. They have taught the closer the communication between planners and producers, the better the products and the margins.

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