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The VoIP Report

How VoIP Improves Production Management Communications
March 29th, 2017

How VoIP Improves Production Management Communications

Ian Linton

Busy production managers face many challenges and need to keep in touch with personnel in their team. VoIP can help production management communications.

Busy production managers face many challenges during the day, and they need to keep in touch with key personnel in their team. Sometimes communications are urgent when an individual is needed quickly. At other times, production managers might want to get information out to the whole team or the supply chain.

That means communications must be flexible, easy to use, and reliable. VoIP can provide a platform for all the different messages, calls, conferences, and notifications a production manager has to deal with. In the following “day in the life” scenario, we show how different communication tools provide a solution to day-to-day needs in the production department.

Problems with an outsourced partner

It’s 6 AM, early for the office, but you need to talk to the production manager at your outsourcing plant in Asia. There’s a problem with the latest delivery, and a number of products have failed quality inspection.

You can set up a conference call using VoIP’s video conferencing feature from your desktop at home. Video is important here because you want to share the images your quality manager emailed showing the surface defects. You can also send the batch numbers by instant message during the call, which gives the plant manager a chance to bring his management team into the call.

After agreeing on an action plan, you email instructions to the Asian plant and forward a copy to your own quality manager. That’s easy with VoIP’s single interface for all kinds of messages. And there’s still time for breakfast before heading for the office.

Early morning review

You’re in the office by 7:30. Not a bad time to start, but that early morning call makes the day already feel long.

First, check the overnight messages. VoIP’s unified inbox shows you’ve got emails, instant messages, texts, faxes and voicemails to check. Thank goodness you can review them all from the same interface. Before VoIP, you would be swapping devices, scribbling down notes and trying to track everything that came through since you left the office last night.

Next, a quick look at the diary for the day – Three meetings already today. Your phone system is integrated with Outlook so it’s easy to set up a new meeting about the problem in the Asian plant. You can check your team’s availability and send them invitations from the same interface. Sometimes personal productivity does matter, you remind yourself.

Checking purchase orders

Over in the sales administration department, they’re reviewing the day’s orders from customers and the distributor network. VoIP’s unified inbox helps here too because customers send their requirements in different ways.

The IT director is working on a new portal that will provide a single interface for placing orders. But, in the meantime, the team has to deal with faxes, emails, voicemails, plus a few instant messages updating an earlier order.

You know you can expect a call from the sales team soon with the day’s update. The call comes through and the team leader explains what seems like a simple request for an order update. But that order change relates to products manufactured in the Asian plant.

Alerting the warehouse

You need to talk to the warehouse manager quickly. From the latest stock report on your screen, it looks like there could be enough products to cover that order update, but you also know a delivery went out late yesterday.

You try the manager’s deskphone. No answer, just a short message saying “I’m unavailable.” Fortunately, VoIP has a call forwarding feature that rings a number of designated phones simultaneously. Just a short delay and the warehouse manager is on the line.

Despite the background noise, you can hold a reasonable conversation. The warehouse team has DECT phones running VoIP over a wireless network, and the handsets have effective noise suppression.

Problem solved—The warehouse can cover the updated order. You send an instant message to the sales team so they can confirm delivery details to the customer.

Briefing the production team

Funny how so much of your day seems to involve fighting fires. Time for a few moments of calm while you prepare for the daily briefing with the production team.

With no major issues to discuss at this stage, you set up an audio conference. That way, you won’t have to ask some of the team to leave the production line and find a video screen. One member of your management team is working from home today and another is at a production engineering show, but they won’t have to miss the meeting. All of your team has full VoIP features and services on their mobile phones and tablets, so they can join the call.

The team raised quite a few questions during the call. You didn’t take any notes, but that’s not a problem because VoIP automatically records every call, so you can review the issues for action later.

Dealing with a compliance audit

That call recording feature will be very helpful for your meeting tomorrow with the compliance officer. One of the company’s biggest customers includes stringent compliance requirements in their service level agreement. It’s coming up for the quarterly review, and the compliance officer wants to make sure everything is in order before the customer’s visit.

You can select all the relevant call recordings and messages and forward them to the compliance officer as attachments before your meeting tomorrow. That’s one less time-consuming job out of the way.

Automating supplier updates

Later that morning, you meet the sales and marketing managers to discuss forecasts for the next quarter. You need to factor their numbers into your own production plans for that period. Sales and marketing are upbeat. They’ve won some new customers and there are big orders coming through from the distributor network.

That’s going to push production levels up, so you need to alert the supply chain members and ask them to prepare schedules to meet the changes in demand. You can automate the initial message by using VoIP’s notification feature. The first message sets out the likely production requirements and asks them to join a broadcast conference call a week later when you can describe the requirements in more detail and take questions.

Meeting new production requirements

One of the inquiries that came in today was for a product the company doesn’t currently manufacture. But the potential order value is big, and you would like to find out if production is feasible.

You will need a certain type of component, and it’s possible one of your suppliers may have the capability to produce it. However, it could be a time-consuming task for you and the purchasing team to find the right supplier.

VoIP’s ability to integrate with CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems can simplify the task. You can use these systems to identify potential suppliers from a database and create a shortlist before emailing an RFQ (request for quotation). Because you can carry out all those tasks on the same device, you can complete the process quickly and efficiently.

Dealing with problems on the line

It’s lunchtime, and you take a call from a supervisor on the line. There’s an equipment breakdown that could cause a severe disruption to production. You need an engineer fast, but lunchtime is not the ideal time to find one, particularly as the production engineering team is celebrating a birthday for one of its members.

Fortunately, you can use VoIP’s Presence feature to find out if any members of the team are available. A quick video call to an engineer on duty shows where the problem has occurred and puts a recovery plan into operation. The engineer’s smartphone has a VoIP softphone app that supports video and also integrates with engineering knowledge bases to access possible fixes.

Announcing good news

After today’s series of disruptive events, it’s time for some good news. The production director calls you to say that the latest production and productivity figures have exceeded their targets. That’s worth announcing!

VoIP lets you make a broadcast announcement that is routed to individual phones and digital screens around the production area. That way, you can congratulate the whole team and no one misses out on the good news.

Preparing a presentation

It’s late afternoon and it’s relatively calm. You’ve got time to work on that presentation for the board. You’re using PowerPoint in Office 365 and you want to involve some other members of your team, but you don’t want to break from the presentation to set up a meeting.

Because VoIP can integrate with Office 365, managing both is easy. You can set up the meeting from within Office by sending invitations and emailing your draft from the application. With screen sharing and video conferencing available on any device, you can hold a quick and efficient meeting and get the input you need to complete the presentation.

Another day, another challenge

Throughout this workday scenario, VoIP has been able to keep the production manager in touch with the people that matter. There are features and services to support short messages, conferences, quick alerts and access to essential business applications.

That means the production manager can work productively and efficiently and deal with problems and opportunities as they arise. But there’s always tomorrow!

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