4-page Case Study
Posted: 11/17/2010
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Stoneridge Manufacturing Firm Sees Benefit of Communications Investment in Slower Economy

Ohio-based Stoneridge designs and produces highly engineered electrical systems and components that are used in automobiles, commercial trucks, and agricultural vehicles. The company depends on its communications solutions to bring together teams around the world to collaborate on design projects. In 2009, Stoneridge invested significantly in its communications infrastructure to provide presence, instant messaging, conferencing, and enterprise voice capabilities for its employees. In August 2010, it extended those capabilities by deploying Microsoft Lync Server 2010, taking advantage of more flexible architecture and making Lync Server an integral part of its telephony and collaboration solutions across the businesses.

Situation
Stoneridge, headquartered in Warren, Ohio, has 17 locations around the world, with 5,600 employees working in manufacturing sites and sales offices in the United States, Mexico, Sweden, Scotland, Spain, France, Germany, and China. The manufacturing firm designs and makes highly engineered electrical and electronic components, modules, and systems for the transportation industry. The organization’s products include electronic components, driver information systems, power distribution systems, and control devices that measure or activate specific functions within vehicles. These sophisticated products are used in automobiles, medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks, and agricultural vehicles.

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* Lync Server 2010 is a real strength for us. It makes up a significant portion of our communication capabilities. It’s our most critical tool. *

John Young
IT Technical Director, Stoneridge

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Stoneridge employees rely on collaboration to be productive at their jobs. “We have engineers in Canton, Massachusetts, who work regularly with engineers in Sweden to design and produce some of our products,” explains Bill Johnson, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Stoneridge. Until 2008, they relied primarily on the company’s private branch exchange (PBX) phone systems and the Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 email messaging environment. “To collaborate, the engineers in Canton had to send large engineering schematic drawings through email. Often, the files were so big that they wouldn’t go through. If an engineer in Europe had a recommendation for solving a product problem for the engineering team in Boston, the engineer had to ship those plans overnight,” Johnson adds. “Then the Boston team would review the documents, write their changes on them, and send them back to Europe. It took days for that process to happen. There was no good way to collaborate in real time.”

In December 2008, Stoneridge deployed Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to provide capabilities including conferencing, presence, instant messaging, and voice over IP (VoIP). The company was especially interested in the solution’s integrated audio-conferencing and video-conferencing features. “We had a lot of Microsoft technology already in place that we were happy with, and we had a very favorable experience with Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005,” says John Young, IT Technical Director at Stoneridge. “And when we compared the hardware costs of other solutions to the Microsoft solutions, there was no comparison. Office Communications Server 2007 was going to be much more cost-effective.”

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* We see our conference bridge costs going down rapidly because people use Lync for ad hoc meetings instead. *

John Young
IT Technical Director, Stoneridge

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In 2009, Stoneridge began implementing the enterprise voice features of Office Communications Server for employees in the United States. It integrated the solution with the existing PBX systems to reduce the initial cost of deployment, and it planned to retire the PBX systems as they started to fail. Then, in Europe, the firm integrated the voice features of Office Communications Server into its Cisco phone system. Now, when employees in the United States call the European offices through Microsoft Office Communicator, the European employees receive the call on their desk phones and computers in Communicator simultaneously. The company also deployed Exchange Server Unified Messaging so employees could manage voice mail and email either through their phones or through the Microsoft Office Outlook messaging and collaboration client. The company continued to invest in its Office Communications Server deployment, despite an extremely tough economy for the auto industry, because the solution provided clear and immediate returns on investment. “So far, we have seen a 70 percent decrease in long-distance phone costs here at our headquarters,” Johnson says. “To call a coworker in Europe, someone in this office simply clicks the person’s name in Office Communicator 2007 and has a conversation over the network. We have a plan to reduce overall IT operating expenses by $2.5 million by mid-2011—and Office Communications Server 2007 will play a major role in our efforts to achieve that level of cost savings. We anticipate that approximately $230,000 of the savings will come from decreased long-distance costs, and more than $500,000 will come from travel reductions.”

Even though Stoneridge had deployed enterprise voice at locations in the United States and Europe, it still continued to rely solely on its private-branch exchange (PBX) phone systems at many of its offices and warehouses around the world. Due to some architecture and cost constraints, it could not deploy Office Communications Server 2007 R2 as the primary phone system at many of its smaller sites. Providing a high availability solution for voice at these locations would have required a significant investment in additional network connections. The company was eager to extend enterprise voice across the business, and wanted a voice solution that could fill the gaps as its aging PBX systems started to fail. It also required the same functions that its PBX systems supplied, such as common area phones, hunt groups, and Call Park.

Solution
In August 2010, Stoneridge decided to upgrade to Microsoft Lync Server 2010, the latest version of Office Communications Server. More flexible architecture solutions in Lync Server 2010 such as virtualization, more high availability options, and the survivability branch appliance (SBA) mean that Stoneridge can make enterprise voice its primary telephony solution at the remainder of its offices because Lync Server offers low cost options for branch office deployments.

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* With Topology Builder, you don’t have to check everything. Everything is installed with the proper roles for your environment. Topology Builder makes a complex process simple. *

John Young
IT Technical Director, Stoneridge

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The company is using Hyper-V virtualization technology, a feature of the Windows Server 2008 operating system, to virtualize all of the servers in its Lync deployment. Virtualization helps to reduce hardware and operations costs and greatly improves the organizations ability to provision new servers.

The company deployed a Monitoring Server to help track IT issues. The Monitoring Server collects numerical data describing the media quality on the network and endpoints, usage information related to Voice over IP (VoIP) calls, instant messaging (IM) messages, audio and video conversations, meetings, application sharing, and file transfers, and call error and troubleshooting information for failed calls. Stoneridge can use these reports to troubleshoot issues and determine whether they are service or hardware related.

Stoneridge has deployed AudioCodes Mediant SBAs at one of its sales offices. The SBA is based on cost-effective AudioCodes media gateways hosting the Microsoft Survivable Branch Appliance software package. The SBA provides network access and a public switched telephone network (PSTN) connection in the event of WAN failure. Stoneridge plans to use SBAs at its smaller sites to provide a redundant voice connection in the case of a network outage.

The availability of enterprise voice across the business means that Stoneridge can also reduce the number of phone lines that it pays for. The firm plans to take some of the budget it has used to provide its Primary Rate Interface (PRI) service and use it to increase its IP network bandwidth for enterprise voice traffic.

The company is also currently evaluating voice hardware designed specifically for use with Lync Server to replace traditional desk phones as it moves to an enterprise voice solution. It is testing the Polycom CX600 IP, which provides access to calendar and Outlook contacts, directory search, and presence information. For common areas such as lobbies, break rooms, and smaller conference rooms, Stoneridge is piloting the Polycom CX500 IP phone, which also provides directory search, presence information, and extended conferencing capabilities. The ability for Stoneridge to provide common area phones means that even employees on the manufacturing floor will have access to enterprise voice. With the Call Park feature in Lync Server, someone can place a call on hold from one phone, and someone else can pick up a call from another location. This capability is especially useful for employees who rely on common area phones when they take calls.

Stoneridge is also taking advantage of other enhanced Lync Server features such the Response Group Service, which will help it to route calls to specific groups within the company and reduce the need for live operators. “With the Response Group Service, being an operator becomes a side job for someone, rather than a full-time role,” says Young. It will also create response groups to route internal calls as well.

Stoneridge will continue to use capabilities such as federation with vendors and partners. Employees can place calls through the Microsoft Lync client or Outlook, share a desktop, start an instant messaging session, or view presence and calendar information for any trusted organization in its network that has also enabled federation. Employees have also long relied on desktop sharing to collaborate with one another, even outside of IT, which uses desktop sharing to troubleshoot and resolve issues on employee machines. “People around here use desktop sharing at the drop of a hat to help each other create spreadsheets or Office PowerPoint presentations,” explains Young. With the whiteboarding feature, employees can have an even more interactive collaborative experience. Employees are also using social network capabilities like the Rich Contact Card, which displays employee pictures that the IT team has loaded into Active Directory and shows a contact’s manager and direct reports.

Benefits
By deploying Lync Server 2010, Stoneridge can maximize its investment in its communication infrastructure and extend enterprise voice across the business. Even during a slower economy, Stoneridge sees the business advantages for continuing to invest in communications that help the business thrive. Stoneridge is using Lync Server for all of its voice, conferencing, and instant messaging needs. “Lync Server 2010 is a real strength for us and makes up a significant portion of our communication capabilities. It’s our most critical tool,” says Young.

More Cost-Efficient Operations
Stoneridge implemented Lync Server cost effectively by deploying the voice capabilities in conjunction with existing PBX systems. “The real strength of Lync is that we don’t have to replace PBX systems where we currently aren’t paying any maintenance. We can continue to leverage those at no cost, but when they fail, we can just use Lync,” says Young. When Stoneridge does remove its PBX systems, it will see large cost savings. Johnson explains, “Because we don't have to replace PBX systems, we can redirect the savings resulting from improved IT operating efficiencies to areas directly focused on pursuing new business opportunities and improving customer support.”

As calls transition from PRI lines to its IP network, Stoneridge will use the budget it currently has allocated for providing long-distance service to provide more bandwidth, ensuring more network connections for enterprise voice calls and online meetings. It will also discontinue paying for its audio conferencing service. “We see our conference bridge costs going down rapidly because people use Lync for ad hoc meetings instead,” says Young.

Finally, by using the Response Group Service to route both external and internal calls, Stoneridge can reduce the need for operators at many of its locations.

More Flexible Architecture
The more flexible architecture of Lync Server makes it easier for Stoneridge to deploy enterprise voice across all its locations. At its larger facilities, it can deploy a high-availability configuration for Lync Server, even in a virtual environment. SBAs make it possible to offer redundant voice connections at smaller offices. “If our small branch offices were completely cut off for some reason, with the SBAs in place, they would still have the ability to make some calls, and they could still call 911,” explains Young.

Eased Deployment and Management
Stoneridge has long used virtualization in its datacenter, so it was pleased that it could deploy Lync Server 2010 in a virtual environment. “Virtualization makes the deployment much easier to manage,” says Young.

The company was also impressed with the tools available to aid deployment, including Topology Builder. “With Topology Builder, you don’t have to check everything,” explains Young. “Everything is installed with the proper roles for your environment. Topology Builder makes a complex process simple.”

The Monitoring Server is also providing immediate value for Stoneridge. “We really like the new reports. We can easily spot issues on the dashboard and then explore to see if they are networking or a device issues, so we can resolve them faster,” explains Young. “Through the usage statistics reports, we can also see how much value Lync is providing so we can report that back to the business.”

Improved User Experience
“With the new Lync client, our users have a more streamlined experience,” says Young. “They are also impressed with the voice quality.” Employees no longer have to switch between applications to join meetings or have the selection of the audio device used during conferences be disruptive. They can interact more effectively with desktop sharing enhancements like the whiteboard, which employees use to collaborate throughout projects.

While times might be tough for businesses today, Stoneridge sees its communications infrastructure as a strength that will help it in the long run. “Overall, Lync Server significantly improves our ability to communicate internally,” says Young. “Even in this economy, the business sees it as a huge value and worthy of increased investment.”

Microsoft Lync Server 2010
Microsoft Lync Server 2010 ushers in a new connected user experience that transforms every communication into an interaction that is more collaborative and engaging and that is accessible from anywhere. For IT, the benefits are equally powerful, with a highly secure and reliable communications system that works with existing tools and systems for easier management, lower cost of ownership, smoother deployment and migration, and greater choice and flexibility.

For more information about Microsoft Lync Server 2010, go to:
www.microsoft.com/lync

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Stoneridge products and services, call (330) 856-2443 or visit the website at:
www.stoneridge.com

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 5600 employees

Organization Profile

Stoneridge is a global designer and manufacturer of highly engineered electrical systems for the transportation industry. The company, based in Warren, Ohio, employs 5,600 people in 17 locations worldwide.


Business Situation

Stoneridge wanted to expand its enterprise voice solution and ensure that voice service would be available to employees as its aging private branch exchange (PBX) equipment began to expire.


Solution

Stoneridge upgraded its communications solution by deploying Microsoft Lync Server 2010 to provide a more flexible enterprisewide voice solution and help manage operational costs.


Benefits

  • More cost-efficient operations
  • More flexible architecture
  • Eased deployment and management
  • Improved user experience


Hardware
  • Polycom CX500 and CX600 IP Phones
  • AudioCodes Mediant Survivability Branch Appliance

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Services
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2010
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Enterprise Edition
  • Business Productivity - Messaging
  • Business Productivity - Voice
  • Microsoft Lync 2010

Vertical Industries
High Tech & Electronics

Country/Region
United States

Languages
English

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