Country or Region: United States
|"With videoconferencing and the HD cameras, customers can really see the product, so they can give us immediate go-ahead to start production."
Eric Lam, IS Manager, Evco Plastics
Evco Plastics, headquartered in DeForest, Wisconsin, is a global custom plastic injection moulder that designs and builds moulds for plastic parts. With 10 plants located in the United States, Mexico, and China, Evco needed to find a communication and collaboration solution to help its employees work better together across different time zones.
The company also required a solution that would not burden its local IT teams, who must focus on maintaining technical systems that help run production equipment. Evco decided to subscribe to Microsoft Office 365, which combines the familiar Office desktop with cloud-based communication and collaboration services. With the capabilities provided by these hosted services, the company realized it could reduce costs and help improve collaboration, in addition to reducing approval and production times to help keep customers satisfied.
Founded in 1964, Evco Plastics designs and moulds plastic parts found in anything from refrigerators to boats to large industrial machinery. The company offers multi-shot moulding, over-moulding, and insert-moulding processes, in addition to other services that include decoration and assembly. It serves a diverse market base, including medical, packaging, transportation, industrial, appliance, and consumer goods. Evco has five domestic plants in the United States, in addition to three in Mexico and two in China, and it operates 140 injection moulding presses ranging from 28 to 3,300 tons. It has 800 employees and is headquartered in DeForest, Wisconsin.
Evco has customers around the world. In creating custom moulds, the company works closely with its customers from the design phase all the way through to production. Employees are also dispersed across the company’s 10 plants. With customers and employees located in different time zones, the company relied primarily on the phone or on email to communicate.
In the design phase of a project, engineers would email designs or other project data to customers. When samples were ready for customer review, the company would send samples via overnight mail, and then wait for the samples to be returned with an approval or with further instructions. With customers and plants in different time zones, customers would sometimes grow frustrated when they could not get immediate feedback from engineers.
"Customer care is a priority for us," says Eric Lam, IS Manager at Evco Plastics. "We realized we needed a way to provide critical updates or to respond quickly when customers have questions."
Another challenge the company faced was travel. It wanted to reduce travel costs overall, but it also faced a dilemma with its plant in Juarez, Mexico. Many employees were afraid to travel to the plant because of the violent crime in that city. “We were concerned because we felt the link between our employees in the U.S. and Mexico was weakening, and we wanted to make it better again,” explains Lam. “We needed a way to create a borderless environment for employees, regardless of where they work.”
To break down communication barriers and improve collaboration, Evco tried to use Skype for conferencing and instant messaging, but it believed that solution lacked capabilities the business required, such as the ability to record and archive instant messaging sessions for legal holds and searches. It also used AT&T for web conferencing, which worked well but was expensive and did not provide an option for instant meetings.
The company considered deploying on-premises solutions for collaboration and communication, but its small IT teams focus primarily on maintenance for its current solutions and technologies that support the industrial equipment. With on-premises solutions, it would need to hire additional employees. It was also concerned about its plants in China and Mexico, where the prices for support and consulting are high.
To provide robust communication and collaboration capabilities for employees without increasing the burden on IT teams, Evco decided to explore Microsoft Office 365, which combines the familiar Office desktop with cloud-based communication and collaboration services. The company will create online accounts for 50 employees. It also plans to enable federation in the cloud so that it can communicate more easily with customers, partners, and vendors who also use Microsoft products for communication and collaboration.
Eric Lam, IS Manager, Evco Plastics
For videoconferencing, Evco will deploy high-definition (HD) cameras. "The high-resolution cameras are important for us because our plants in China and Mexico can use them to display samples for customers," explains Lam. With the HD image, the customers can review the sample in enough detail to be confident that it meets the design specifications.
For email, Evco is also currently investigating Microsoft Exchange Online. With the interoperation between Lync Online, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Microsoft Office 2010—which Evco recently deployed—employees can view presence information for colleagues and customers or start a communication session—instant messaging, audio conferencing, or videoconferencing—from any screen.
With Office 365, Evco can help bring employees and customers together in a way that helps make processes more efficient and people more productive. It can also help bring teams together, even if they are in different countries. “With the whole company on the Office 365 platform, people will have a more consistent experience, not only with the technology, but with each other,” says Lam.
Evco expects to reduce costs in several areas by using hosted services from Microsoft. It can greatly reduce international long distance costs, because employees at the Mexico and China plants can use Lync Online to communicate with team members in the United States. The company also plans to reduce travel costs because, with federation, employees can travel to customer sites less frequently and use instant messaging and conferencing instead.
They can also use videoconferencing with HD video cameras to display production samples for customers, which means Evco can reduce overnight shipping costs for transferring samples.
Speeds up Production
Evco believes that Lync Online and SharePoint Online will help it improve production uptimes. “With videoconferencing and the HD cameras, customers can really see the product, so they can give us immediate go-ahead to start production,” explains Lam. “We cannot begin to calculate how important that is to us. It gives our customers confidence in us, and it helps us differentiate ourselves.”
Improves Working Relationships
With the instant communication that Lync Online provides, Evco can help strengthen ties to employees at its plant in Mexico. “Before, people were afraid to travel down there,” says Lam. “Now with Lync Online, employees can connect with people at other plants in a way that breaks down distance barriers.”
Local employees can also collaborate more easily. “We have three buildings on our main campus,” says Lam. “Instead of picking up the phone or walking across campus, we can see immediately if someone is available and start a conversation.”
Evco also expects that communication with its federated customers and partners will strengthen relationships. “Now, a customer can see if an engineer is available to answer a question or provide an update, instead of waiting for someone to return an email or voice mail,” says Lam.
Improves Change Management Processes
With SharePoint Online, Evco will have a knowledge repository for all of its project information that it can review to help make its production processes more efficient. “Because we can capture everything, we can more easily review projects to see where we can eliminate extra steps or if we need to fill a gap,” says Lam.
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