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Unified communications (UC) may seem like something that fits more easily into a corporation’s business offices. UC evokes images of executives and employees working from cubicles or remotely from home offices, using their mobile devices to web conference or exchange instant messages.

However, UC has many uses in the manufacturing industry. Manufacturers are challenged by the need to communicate between numerous locations. Typically, a manufacturing company is made up of geographically distributed main offices, factories, warehouses, and transport vehicles.

UC allows manufacturers to leverage a suite of integrated communication tools so all these locations can stay in contact and coordinate business processes.

Here’s an overview of 4 ways UC can be used in manufacturing:

1) Supply Chain Management

supply-chain-management-firstlightOne of the trickiest aspects of manufacturing is managing the supply chain. The supply chain involves a lot of moving parts. Trucks are in transit. Inventory is being loaded into the warehouse and stacked. Orders are going out. Suppliers are shipping materials needed for production.

If all the parts in the supply chain can’t communicate with each other, demand can exceed supply. Orders may go unfilled. Production may slow down.

Harvard Business Review predicted that the supply chain as we know it will be extinct in 5 to 10 years, replaced by a fool-proof, automated process. In the meantime, UC enables workers in the warehouse, in the factory, and in transit to communicate vital, real-time information. Voice messages can be transcribed into emails. Instant messages can be sent to check on the progress of shipments.

2) Collaboration

Manufacturers maintain a competitive edge by developing new and innovative products. Collaboration between employees in different parts of the business is the key to innovation.

The research and development team has the data and technical know-how to track trends and design new products. However, customer service representatives have useful knowledge about customer preferences and purchasing histories.

With file-sharing capabilities and web conferencing, workers from across the business can share their ideas and collaborate to develop new products or business processes. Raw material shortages can be conveyed quickly to management to make alternate arrangements and to the development team for temporary product modifications. When members of a project team can share information more quickly and efficiently, new products can go to market in a timely manner.

3) Call Center Optimization

call-center-optimization-with-FirstlightAt the heart of UC is voice over internet protocol (VoIP). No part of a manufacturing company depends more on telecommunications than the call center. VoIP ensures that call center representatives have access to cost-effective, reliable, and high-quality telecommunications services.

With VoIP, customers have a great experience ordering products, asking questions, and getting support, especially when it is supported by a fiber optic network. With the right VoIP provider, the connection is clear and jitter-free. Representatives don’t need to worry about a call getting dropped or not being able to understand what the customer is saying.

When VoIP is leveraged into UC, customers have more options for reaching representatives. Multi-channel contact centers offer more options to customers, such as chat, e-mail queues, and even video. VoIP also enables the contact center to seamlessly operate with agents in different locations and time zones, while still maintaining a unified approach to serving customers.

4) Boosting Productivity

Material flow and operational problems can occur in a factory, warehouse, or supply chain, and the longer they go unnoticed and unsolved, the slower the production and distribution process becomes. Production may even come to a grinding halt if a problem is big enough.

One problem can create a domino effect. Lack of production can create disruptions, causing inventory to run out and shipping to cease.

UC provides ways for all parts of the business to send alerts when a problem emerges. Instant messaging enables these alerts and notifications to be sent instantly so the right people can be put in place to solve the problem. Warehouse workers can prepare for changes in inventory. Customer service representatives can access accurate information about the availability of products.

Creating Connections in Manufacturing

Manufacturing is becoming increasingly digitized, and robots do much of the work in factories. However, connecting the people and places that make up a manufacturing company is more important than ever. UC is the key to making and strengthening these connections.

FirstLight understands the importance of communication between research and development, supply chains, quality control, and the factory floor. Information needs to be sent quickly and reliably so real-time decisions can be made. That’s why we provide all the UC tools manufacturers need. Our UC offerings are supported by our high-speed fiber optic network to ensure the quality of your business communications. Learn more on our manufacturing solutions page.

Is every part of your manufacturing company connected? Let the experts at FirstLight make sure.