How VoIP Influences Manufacturing in 11 Ways
Manufacturing is a key industry in the US and to stay competitive changes need to be made. Learn how VoIP influences manufacturing and is creating change.
Manufacturing is one of the key industries in the US, employing more than 12 million people per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. With President-elect Trump’s commitment to restore and grow the country’s manufacturing base, that figure could increase.
But to remain competitive in global markets that are characterized by low-cost production areas and demanding customers, US manufacturers must continue to focus on productivity, quality and efficiency throughout their operations.
Two factors critical to success are coming together to give manufacturers the ability to improve efficiency and respond quickly to problems and opportunities. The first is access to vast amounts of market and production information via the Internet of Things (IoT). The second factor is the ability to share that information securely throughout businesses and their supply chains via advanced communications solutions like Voice over IP ().
How VoIP influences manufacturing
Closing the information gap
Production planners, purchasing executives, marketing managers and other executives spend much of their time trying to fill information gaps. What’s the real status of production or demand? How soon will that specific product be ready for delivery? When do we need the next delivery of components? The IoT is helping to fill those information gaps by feeding back data from hundreds or thousands of sensors on production lines, stockrooms or warehouse shelves.
Real-time information that answers these questions helps make planning more accurate and supports faster delivery and enhanced customer service. Data like this from the IoT can also help reduce costs and increase profitability.
Working back from the market, data on retailers’ and distributors’ sales and stock levels or information from devices like vending machines or equipment in the field alert manufacturers to changes in demand. That can help them adjust and align production levels to avoid shortfalls or over-stocking, both of which can affect revenue, costs, and profitability.
However, the vast amount of information available from the IoT has little value until a manufacturer can use it to take action. Large-scale data storage and management techniques coupled with sophisticated analytics and reporting tools help businesses identify information that requires a response.
Whether a sudden surge in demand, notification of a breakdown on a critical part of the production line, stock running low on a vending machine in a busy shopping mall, or a delay in delivery to a major customer – real-time IoT alerts like these help a manufacturer make informed decisions and respond effectively to problems or opportunities.
And to ensure this information reaches the right people, manufacturers can use VoIP to support communications with employees, suppliers, and business partners, whether they’re on the shop floor or warehouse, in a busy office, on the road, or based on a remote site.
For example, a video conference on a mobile device between production engineers and workers on the line can pinpoint a reported problem and get production running smoothly again.
A quick message over VoIP to a cell phone can re-route a delivery driver to cover an urgent out-of-stock situation or dispatch a service engineer to a customer site where a critical piece of equipment has transmitted an IoT fault report. A mass notification to all members of the supply chain can put essential changes to production schedules into action with minimal delay to deal with a surge in demand.
Driving manufacturing communications
The combination of the IoT and VoIP promises many important benefits for manufacturing, but VoIP is also an essential component of the routine communications that drive manufacturing efficiency.
VoIP has important advantages over fixed line legacy telephone systems. It gives manufacturers the reach they need to communicate cost-effectively with suppliers, customers, outsourced partners and other company sites located anywhere in the world.
Collaboration tools are an integral part of VoIP, which makes it easy for individuals and teams to work together with colleagues, customers or external parties without special facilities. VoIP services are available on mobile devices in addition to desktop phones, which means they are suitable for any employee, even if they’re working in the field or away from their desks.
VoIP has a wide range of features that help employees remain in contact and improve productivity and efficiency. Many of these features support applications and use cases that are specific to the manufacturing sector.
Connect on the production line
Employees on the production line need to remain in contact with supervisors and colleagues in departments that need up-to-date status information. Many members of a production line team are mobile and work in a noisy environment.
VoIP works equally well on their desktops or mobile devices, and they can switch seamlessly during a call if they have to move to a new location.
VoIP also works with DECT phones that support communications over a wireless network. DECT phones are available with high levels of protection for difficult environments and noise suppression features that help employees hear and be heard on noisy production lines.
The same noisy conditions make it difficult to hear production line announcements. VoIP can solve that problem by delivering notifications through strategically placed speakers around the plant.
Managers and supervisors can create notifications about production changes, emergency procedures or company news, and broadcast them to all areas of the plant or specific areas of the production line.
Improving warehouse efficiency
Supervisors and workers in the warehouse face similar challenges compared to their production line colleagues if they are working in a busy warehouse or on a noisy loading bay.
VoIP lets them take calls on mobile, DECT or desk phones, and they can set preferences that allow calls to ring simultaneously on a number of different designated devices. That helps them remain in contact and deal with any urgent issues.
VoIP also supports a specific warehouse application for managing the picking process. The app converts text information to voice communications that workers can use to find the right location and follow instructions for quantities, packing and dispatch. Workers can then transmit fulfillment details to update an inventory system in real time, improving speed and accuracy.
Streamlining supply chain communications
Manufacturers rely on secure, efficient communications between all members of their supply chain to control costs and ensure they can respond rapidly to changes in business conditions.
By deploying VoIP services throughout the supply chain, manufacturers can ensure consistent communication standards. Members can hold regular meetings via video or WEB conferencing to review production issues or update schedules.
They can also exchange information through different channels, including text, email, instant messaging or chat, making it easy to transmit order details or production reports without making phone calls. This helps coordinate activities so that manufacturers can meet critical delivery dates and avoid overstocking or out-of-stock situations.
Security is important in supply chain communications and VoIP can add an additional layer of protection by routing communications over private Internet circuits.
Manufacturers may work with outsourcing partners to handle some or all of their production. In some cases, they use a partner’s facilities to increase or supplement their own capacity or take on complex production tasks that their own lines cannot handle. Other manufacturers may outsource production to low-cost providers to reduce costs and maintain a competitive advantage.
While controlling outsourcing operations is an essential task, few manufacturers have the resources to base a resident manager on-site. VoIP provides the communications tools to support effective remote management through regular updates by messaging services and virtual meetings to review performance or discuss production or quality issues.
Simplifying order processing
A consistent flow of information through the company is vital to manufacturing success, and the process begins with customer orders. With VoIP, customers can place orders through a number of different channels, including WEB, email, messaging and voicemail.
VoIP provides a single unified inbox for all incoming messages so that order processing and customer service teams can access and archive them through a single consistent interface.
They can then transmit order details to other departments through the same range of channels to update stock levels, production and delivery schedules, and sales and marketing forecasts. This level of control over incoming orders helps increase the accuracy and speed of order processing and improves productivity.
VoIP’s flexible contact center solutions make it easy to handle sales or service inquiries from any part of the country or from export territories by offering callers the equivalent of a local service. By providing customers with virtual or toll-free numbers, manufacturers can reduce callers’ costs and increase inquiries.
With virtual numbers, customers or prospects dial a local number and pay local rates, but the call is forwarded seamlessly to the manufacturer’s contact center.
VoIP contact centers can handle incoming inquiries through a range of channels, including mobile and self-service, giving customers more choice and greater convenience.
Sophisticated call management techniques allow contact centers to set business rules or other guidelines to prioritize calls from major customers or route calls to appropriate product or territory specialists.
VoIP also supports virtual contact centers, which manufacturers can use to handle overflow calls or inquiries from national or international customers outside of normal business hours.
Manufacturers with a widespread customer base rely on distributors and retailers to market their goods to customers that their direct sales team cannot reach. To help their channel partners provide consistent, quality service, manufacturers must provide regular updates on products, market opportunities, delivery, or service issues.
VoIP supports low-cost calls over the Internet to any location, reducing the cost of regular communications. And distributors can use VoIP’s messaging services to place orders or communicate stock and sales updates through the most convenient channels.
VoIP’s video conferencing capability makes it easy to set up regular business meetings or training sessions without incurring the time or cost of travel.
Keeping manufacturing communications lean
VoIP makes an important contribution to many different tasks and processes that are essential to the productivity, efficiency, competitiveness, and profitability of the manufacturing sector.
With affordable solutions available from the cloud, VoIP can help any size of business improve performance through advanced communication and collaboration.