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VoIP saves company long-distance, bandwidth costs

VoIP and unified messaging have helped one automotive company cut long-distance costs and streamline communications.

Hutchinson Sealing Systems (HSS) was in a bind. The automotive sealant company was facing a massive cost savings initiative, frantically looking for ways to save a dollar here and a few more there.

The company-wide savings plan looked at every area of the business, from travel and supply costs to equipment and communications. It was penny-pinching on a grand scale, said Cedric Duclos, HSS's president and CEO of the Americas Anti-Vibration division.

"We're in the automotive industry, where every cent counts," Duclos said.

With plants all over the world, HSS was paying outrageous amounts of money for internal communications. Calls placed between plants were racking up long-distance charges -- making up nearly half of total long-distance costs -- and massive amounts of travel between facilities were hitting the company hard in the pocket.

When communications costs came onto the chopping block, Duclos said, it was a no-brainer to investigate VoIP as an opportunity for savings. HSS started by evaluating three vendors, which is company policy when projects go out to bid. At first, he said, investigating VoIP was uncharted territory.

"We had no idea of the costs or the savings [involved with a VoIP deployment]," he said.

After the evaluation process, HSS went with Siemens Communications for the upgrade and to centralize its communications resources. Duclos said the revamped system will not only save HSS money but improve collaboration.

"We needed a way to leverage the latest communications technology to improve how we do our business, as well as save money," he said.

Business continuity and quality over service were top priorities for HSS's VoIP deployment, he said. Siemens brought in its professional services organization to examine HSS's IP network and ensure that the VoIP system would meet those standards. Along with determining that the network was ready for VoIP, Duclos said, the network analysis found underutilized bandwidth, which in turn saved HSS more money.

"We can't afford to have interruptions of traffic," he said. "Our business has to be right on time."

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To deploy the VoIP system, HSS had to replace its existing infrastructure at its four U.S. facilities with Siemens HiPath 3800 communications platforms. Duclos said the company plans to install another HiPath 3800 at a facility in Mexico next year. The finished implementation will mean that all five facilities are networked, which Duclos estimated will let HSS move 50% of its voice traffic to the IP network, saving money by eliminating toll calls between the facilities.

Under its old communications system, HSS leased equipment and would have to pay a bundle every time a line needed to be added, Duclos said. And the data network wasn't being leveraged to its full potential because voice traffic had not been run on it.

Though he's still running analysis to determine the overall savings the leap to VoIP has introduced, Duclos estimated that communications costs have been reduced by about 40% to 50%.

Along with running the HiPath 3800s for VoIP, HSS also deployed a HiPath Xpressions V4.0 Unified Communications solution, which integrates with its Lotus Notes platform for unified messaging. Duclos said that offering a single view and management interface for all messages, email, mobile and fax has boosted productivity and decision speed. Unified messaging, he said, is HSS's first venture into unified communications (UC). It's not clear where HSS will take UC, he said, but the company is likely to add more integrated UC applications into the mix over time.

"We operate with a pretty lean IT structure," Duclos said. "With our new communications, we didn't buy a system, we bought a solution."

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