Glass Manufacturer Improves Efficiency with Unified Communications

Accura Glass Bending adds robust communications network for improved productivity and employee safety

December 20 , 2011

Related Tags: Unified Communications, Manufacturing, Canada

Challenge

Accura Glass Bending has been in business for more than 12 years, supplying unique glass products in a variety of complex shapes. Its services include top-end intricate printing using high-resolution photography, logos, and patterns applicable to large and small glass surfaces. Accura Glass is also known for its custom laminating and coloured glass applications that are tailored specifically to clients’ needs. Initially consisting of only two employees with a shop of just under 2000 square feet, the company now boasts a staff of 20, encompassing nearly 22,000 square feet.

Because Accura’s clients have very specific requirements, they demand a high level of service with no compromise, so it is imperative Accura deliver top-quality products on time, every time. To help ensure this, the proper business tools need to be in place. At the same time, Accura is committed to growing its business and is constantly looking for solutions that can meet the day’s challenges while anticipating future needs.

As the company grew, it began to face certain technological challenges that put a strain on its business plan. First and foremost, the company lacked a single, cohesive communications network. As Accura purchased new desktop computers, the company connected the computers to a very basic hub-based network solution. Eventually, however, Accura found itself with a number of desktop computers operating independently of each other, without a proper information-sharing platform. As a result, employees had difficulty easily accessing and sharing important customer information.

The addition of a new network-based, direct-to-glass printer pushed the makeshift network to its limits, while exhausting much of the business’ bandwidth. This situation hampered employee productivity and threatened Accura’s ability to deliver products on time. More importantly, the network limitations made it difficult for Accura to pursue its overall business growth strategy.

“It became obvious, if Accura was to continue to grow and remain competitive, we needed to rethink our strategy regarding our technology tools,” says Alisar Medinski, office manager of Accura Glass. “Technology has always been a component of our business strategy. However, as a small business, there is a tendency to focus on more immediate concerns such as customer demands. After close examination we realized that, in order to fully meet our customers’ needs, we needed to upgrade our business tools and business technologies, especially those we use on a daily basis.”

Solution

After exploring several options to solve Accura’s data network, storage and voice requirements, Accura chose the Cisco® Unified Communications 560 for small and medium businesses, because it offered a simple, affordable and easy-to-manage solution. The Cisco solution also offered a host of additional options such as unified messaging, bilingual automated attendant, wireless capabilities, and video. In addition, Accura wanted a technology solution that was simple to maintain and manage and was scalable to help the business take on new challenges as its needs evolved.

Together with a Cisco Certified Partner, Accura mapped out its specific business goals. The first priority was setting up one network to connect all the shop’s computers and to make sure a reliable backup system was in place. The Cisco Ethernet switching family designed specifically for small and medium businesses provided a single, easy-to-manage, high-performance network for Accura’s multiple computers. The addition of the Cisco Smart Storage network solution simplified access and secured Accura’s vital customer data while also offering on-premises fully automated redundancy for a complete, flexible data protection and disaster recovery solution.

During the discovery process, Accura expressed the desire to replace its existing phone system for one that offers more mobility and messaging options such as single number reach, which allows employees to answer business calls from a number of devices including cell phones. The flexibility of the Cisco Unified Communications 560 made it simple to add Cisco Unified IP Phone units to the network, easily granting Accura the capabilities it requires on one network with a single management interface.

Cisco also installed two Cisco Wireless Access Points to provide secure data, guest, and multimedia wireless access throughout the shop. Accura also added a Cisco Unified Wireless IP Phone to allow employees to roam freely throughout the premises without missing important calls.

As part of its overall strategy, Accura was eager to improve not only employee productivity, but also employee safety. With the wireless access points in place, Accura quickly and easily leveraged the Cisco technology by installing the Cisco Wireless Video Surveillance and Monitoring solution. Accura installed nine Cisco Video Surveillance Cameras throughout the shop in key areas. Tying back to the network, the Smart Storage data solution in place also serves as an easy way to store footage onto hard drives, while the Cisco Video Monitoring Software allows for easy online surveillance from any offsite computer.

Results

With a stable business-grade network now in place, Accura began to see positive results immediately. Employees are now able to share drives between computers and easily access files from any desktop without compromise. Equally important, a reliable back-up system, which immediately saves all information, is in place.

“It may seem like a minor issue, but we save a lot of important customer information, and it’s crucial the data is secure and protected,” says Medinski. “Having a secure network that is easily accessible from any computer, and more importantly, that is stable and reliable, is a tremendous benefit to us.”

The improved network has increased employee productivity, because staff can now access files from any computer throughout the expansive shop without the delay and inconvenience of having to travel to a specific terminal.

With the new Cisco phones in place, Accura staff and customers are benefiting from a more stable and reliable communications solution as well as advanced mobility and messaging features. In addition, Medinski has set up a Cisco IP phone at home. With the phone’s built-in VPN technology, the remote extension is automatically connected and secured while using a home Wi-Fi connection. Medinski’s remote phone serves as an extension of the business network, giving her the flexibility to work from home more often.

The new Cisco network has also allowed Accura to incorporate new cost-saving solutions such as session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking. SIP trunking can co-exist or replace traditional phone lines while offering voice communications over an internet subscription as opposed to a local public switched telephone network (PSTN). As a result, the company has seen its long-distance bills drop by almost 50 percent. More importantly, it now has the option to add further lines for a fraction of the cost.

The addition of the Cisco video surveillance solution has improved employee safety. “Employees are more aware of their surroundings and more conscious about wearing proper protective gloves and eyewear,” says Medinski. “We’ve also noticed a huge improvement in how much more responsibly our employees are handling our delicate inventory.”

In addition, the ability to video monitor the premises remotely has also proven to be a useful feature. “It’s not uncommon for me to get a call from my security company in the middle of the night, informing me that one of the motion alarms has been set off,” says Medinski. “Before, I had to physically travel to the shop to investigate, which was quite inconvenient as I live quite a distance away from our facility. With the wireless Cisco cameras, I can just turn on my home computer, access the surveillance program, and see if there truly is a problem. It’s a tremendous saver in time, cost, and convenience.”

Medinski continues to be impressed with the overall experience and the simplicity of managing the network. She has found the solution to be very self-explanatory and user-friendly, and has been able to manage settings quickly and easily without any formal training.

Next Steps

Accura Glass continues to expand its business at a steady pace and is quite confident the scalability and flexibility of the Cisco Unified Communications 560 solution will evolve to meet future business needs.

“Ultimately what impressed me the most was the solution seemed like it was tailor-made for our business,” says Medinski. “The fact we were able to create this solution using only one solution, one network, and one vendor, simplified things tremendously and allowed us to concentrate more on the business and not worry about the technology.”

For More Information

For more about Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series for Small Business, visit: http://www.cisco.com/web/CA/smb/products/index.html.

To find out more about Accura Glass Bending Inc., visit: http://www.accuraglass.com/.