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VoIP’s Presence in the Aerospace Industry
March 22nd, 2017

VoIP’s Presence in the Aerospace Industry

Ian Linton

VoIP’s global reach and collaboration features help the aerospace industry and suppliers succeed in the increasingly cooperative business environment.

Aerospace is a global industry with manufacturing, design, sales and service operations around the world. The players range from giants like Boeing with its worldwide presence to small service firms operating at their local airfield.

Efficient communications are essential to the sector, which is characterized by high levels of collaboration and cooperation. VoIP is a proven solution in the aerospace industry, enabling all parties to communicate cost-effectively, wherever they are located.

Connecting a distributed workforce

Confirmation of VoIP’s value and relevance comes from organizations like Boeing. The company deployed a global VoIP solution to connect more than 150,000 employees in 65 countries with customers in more than 150 countries, and thousands of suppliers.

Boeing’s global presence illustrates the nature of the industry and the challenges it faces communicating with a large distributed workforce. VoIP can meet the challenges by supporting free or low-cost day-to-day communications in addition to flexible conferencing services that enable high levels of collaboration and reduce international travel costs.

Setting up a global VoIP system for all employees ensures that every location can use a consistent set of services and take advantage of features that increase efficiency and productivity, and improve customer service.

When workforces are working in different international time zones, VoIP’s Presence feature and sophisticated directory services make it easy to find out when colleagues are available for calls, saving time and reducing the number of wasted call backs.

VoIP also simplifies international communications with features like automated notifications that make it easy for executives to make company-wide announcements on policies, sales wins, organizational changes and other important news. This improves internal communications and keeps everyone in the organization up-to-date with developments.

Retaining talent

Innovation is high on the list of aerospace CEOs’ priorities, and that means recruiting and retaining top talent. However, as illustrated in an IBM report, New Strategies for Building a Smarter Workforce in Aerospace & Defense, there is an emerging talent crisis in the industry as large numbers of baby boomers approach retirement.

The report notes that millennials are reluctant to join or stay in the industry, and this is affecting companies that want to grow their business. Commentators suggest that one of the reasons for this reluctance is the industry’s work style and culture that lacks the levels of collaboration, technology, and flexibility millennials are used to.

VoIP can help overcome the problem by supporting flexible working arrangements and high levels of informal collaboration. VoIP can also integrate with internal social media channels to help create a new type of working environment where employees can find and share expertise, skills, and knowledge.

VoIP’s ability to integrate with knowledge bases and what IBM describes as “social learning tools” provides newer employees with smartphone access to the specialized knowledge of industry experts. In this way, aerospace companies aim to drive innovation by capturing the knowledge and experience of their experts and coupling it with the creativity and working style of the next generation.

Creating social team collaboration

Adopting social learning and social media channels helps teams work together more effectively. Using social channels, team members can post details of the projects they are working on and request help or support from other employees.

They can also post details of their own skills or experience. This helps employees throughout the organization find or share skills, knowledge and resources that can accelerate projects and deliver better results.

Simplifying global team collaboration

VoIP provides teams with comprehensive, easy-to-use collaboration tools that are essential to efficient project management and rapid product development. Team members can set up or join virtual meetings via audio, web or video conferencing facilities on any fixed or mobile device.

They don’t need formal meeting rooms or dedicated facilities, and they don’t even have to be in the office. With VoIP’s softphone app, they can join meetings from any location on smartphones or other mobile devices.

To improve the quality of online meetings, team members can use VoIP’s screen-sharing facilities to view and review designs, prototypes, plans, 3D models, schedules, documents and spreadsheets as if they were in the same meeting room. The ability to share and approve content improves the meeting experience, speeds up workflows and maintains project momentum.

With VoIP, teams can hold regularly scheduled meetings or get together informally for a brief update or discussion of a problem. Between meetings, they can exchange information or update members using VoIP’s messaging services, or make a quick phone call to colleagues who are available. All messages are accessible through a single, unified inbox, making it easy for team members to view, review and archive their project communications.

VoIP’s Presence feature makes it easy to find out if colleagues are available for a call — a useful feature when teams are working in different time zones.

Communicating with customers

Collaboration with customers is a characteristic of the aerospace industry. Contract negotiations for a new plane can be long and complex, and the ongoing communications between manufacturer and customer can last three years or longer, depending on the scale of the project.

VoIP’s collaboration features support detailed discussion on design, costs, schedules and other important contract elements. As with team collaboration, manufacturers’ sales teams can share content with customers to speed up approval at each stage of the negotiations or development.

VoIP also ensures that key members of the sales and development team are accessible when customers need to contact them. VoIP’s queue management features can prioritize calls from designated customers and contacts. Call forwarding features ring all desk, home and mobile phones simultaneously to ensure calls get through. But if a contact is not available on any of these phones, the call can be diverted to a nominated colleague.

VoIP automatically records all calls and messages so that sales teams can document all customer communications. This enables teams to check communications to clarify instructions or respond accurately to any queries or disputes.

Reducing business travel

VoIP’s collaboration and notification features can reduce the time and cost of business travel, and increase savings on long distance and international call charges. Sales teams can maintain regular contact with customers, busy executives can attend virtual meetings with colleagues on other sites or make broadcast announcements to employees, and project teams can meet frequently without the time and cost of travel.

This can improve productivity and efficiency, in addition to reducing costs, and it enables key employees to focus on meeting their business goals. For companies that outsource manufacturing, VoIP’s collaboration features let them share data, review performance and meet to discuss problems without delegating a manager to work on site.

Supporting mobility

Although VoIP can reduce or eliminate unnecessary business travel, many employees work away from the office or travel to meetings. Field-based employees also require access to office phone services.

VoIP provides the same set of services on mobile devices. This enables mobile employees to work with the same levels of productivity, efficiency, and availability wherever they are located. They can either use company-owned devices or their own phones and tablets if the company has a BYOD (bring your own device) policy.

Maintaining supply chain communications

Aerospace companies operate large global supply chains with formal tiered structures. OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) head the chains with Tier 1 suppliers developing and manufacturing critical assemblies and components. Tier 2 suppliers provide components and sub-assemblies, and Tier 3 and 4 suppliers are responsible for minor components, raw materials, and supplies.

OEMs aim to integrate activities at all levels of the supply chain to drive efficiencies, reduce costs and maintain on-time delivery. On-time delivery (OTD) is a key metric used to evaluate suppliers, and OEMs are introducing higher levels of collaboration to help suppliers maintain their schedules and share information on any risks of delay.

VoIP provides the communications infrastructure to support fast, secure information exchange. Suppliers can quickly notify OEMs of quality problems, design changes or breakdowns on the production line that might affect delivery. They can also hold ad-hoc conferences to discuss problems and revise schedules. Simplifying OTD notifications is important to both suppliers and OEMs, helping them to meet standards and evaluate performance.

Increasing industry cooperation

An initiative in the European aerospace industry demonstrates the growing levels of cooperation among companies in the industry. The AirSupply community cloud, set up by a group of OEMs, aims to simplify and streamline a number of key supply chain processes, including forecasting and purchase order distribution.

The community of nine companies and around 1500 suppliers uses standardized processes to collaborate and communicate. In 2015, for example, AirSupply handled around five million purchase orders.

In a separate initiative, Boeing set up a program in 2014 called Aerospace Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering. The program is used by the company to collaborate and share expertise, tools, processes and best practices with universities that can then develop courses for aerospace engineers. The aim is to accelerate innovation and share the skills needed for next-generation aerospace engineering solutions.

With growing levels of cooperation in the industry, it is essential to maintain secure, open communications. VoIP can support that process.

Maintaining security and compliance

Companies in the aerospace industry are subject to stringent regulatory compliance to ensure their products meet the highest standards of quality and safety. VoIP supports compliance by recording all communications automatically and archiving them for later reference or submission to regulators.

Security is also critical to maintain commercial confidentiality and protect customer data in line with service level agreements and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). VoIP provides strong, inherent security measures to prevent eavesdropping and loss of data. To improve security further, service providers can deliver VoIP over private networks or end-to-end private Internet circuits, avoiding the risks and threats on the public Internet.

Supporting worldwide service operations

To ensure aircraft operators can maintain their flight schedules, aerospace manufacturers set up service centers at large and small airports and airfields around the world. Service centers carry out routine service and maintenance, scheduled safety checks and emergency repairs to planes based at the airfield and to visiting aircraft.

Manufacturers need to maintain efficient communications with service centers to ensure they have the latest product and technical information and can handle requests for spares or technical support. VoIP lets service centers place orders and requests by phone, text, email, fax or instant message.

Local service engineers can access knowledge bases integrated with VoIP or discuss technical problems via web or video conference to speed up problem resolution. Manufacturers can release updated product and service notifications by automated messaging and set up virtual training sessions by video conference.

This streamlined flow of information helps service centers maintain quality service to local operators, and maintain safety in the air.

VoIP and the aerospace industry

VoIP’s global reach and collaboration features help aerospace manufacturers and suppliers succeed in the increasingly cooperative business environment. It provides efficient, low-cost communications that bring together large distributed workforces with thousands of suppliers and business partners around the world.

VoIP can replace limitations of legacy phone systems with advanced communications that can scale to meet the needs of the largest user.

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