MetalForming, Inc. (MFI), based in Georgia, distributes and services machines for the metal-roofing industry. It wanted to reduce travel for its service technicians and to create a reliable video conferencing solution for customers outside of North America. MFI used Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to create a Web-based machine installation and service solution, integrated into suppliers’ machine controls, which can be used to manage machines remotely. As a result, MFI expects its customers to save money and be more productive. Business Needs
MetalForming, Inc. (MFI) is a leading supplier of architectural sheet-metal machinery to enterprises in North America, South America, and Asia. MFI offers innovative solutions that combine high-tech machines for folding and forming metal with innovative Windows-based software.
||Using the SIP trunking and remote desktop sharing features in Office Communications Server 2007 R2, we developed a solution that turns stand-alone metal-forming machines into fully networkable, remote servicing systems.
Executive Vice President and CIO
For several years, MFI has tried to help customers reduce costs associated with machine implementations and support. “Last year, it cost about $1.5 million for our service technicians to travel to customer sites for machine service, and customers had to pay for that,” says Bill Wilkins, Executive Vice President and CIO of MFI
To solve that problem, MFI developed a Web-based machine video conferencing system to support and service North American customers. However, there were reliability and connectivity issues. Wilkins says, “We were spending too much time configuring firewalls and troubleshooting rather than helping the customer.”
MFI also needed to develop a reliable, multi-lingual video conferencing solution for overseas customers and suppliers. “Designing, supporting, or selling applications with German, Mandarin, or other language support was sometimes an insurmountable task,” says Wilkins. In late 2008, MFI decided to invest in a new unified communications solution. Solution
MFI initially evaluated solutions from Cisco, Siemens, and Avaya, but none of those vendors had the complete
package that it was looking for. MFI ultimately decided to implement a unified communications solution based on Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2.
Office Communications Server 2007 R2 includes Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking, through which telephony traffic can be passed from the enterprise network edge to a network service provider over an IP connection. This eliminates the need to deploy and maintain gateways between SIP clients and Public Switched Telephone Networks. Wilkins says, “The SIP trunking feature in Office Communications Server 2007 R2, and the cost-effectiveness of the solution, made it the right choice for us.” MFI was also interested in the solution’s integrated video capabilities and remote desktop sharing, through which users can remotely share desktops to
MFI used Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to develop OnLinkTM, an application that uses direct SIP trunking and connects to metal-folding machines to give customers voice, video, monitoring, and reporting capabilities. MFI technicians use video to view customer machines and provide instructions via video. MetalForming developed OnLinkTM, expected to be released officially in late 2010, with technology partners Level3 Communications and Georgia Tech. Benefits
With OnLinkTM, MetalForming can manage machines remotely and help customers cut costs. Customers can also fix problems faster, boost productivity, and ease training.
Provides Remote Machine Management
Now, MFI can offer completely Web-based remote management and servicing. “Using the SIP trunking and remote desktop sharing features in Office Communications Server 2007 R2, we developed a solution that turns stand-alone metal-forming machines into fully networkable, remote servicing systems,” says Wilkins. “If a customer’s part isn’t bending metal properly, we can see it on video back at the office and solve the problem quickly.”
“Many companies in the industry do remote monitoring, but nobody communicates through video online about it,” says Geoff Stone, Owner,
MetalForming, Inc. “We can offer a level of service that has never been provided by any machine tool company in the world.”
Crosses Language Barriers
MFI has developed a solution that overcomes language barriers. “With Office Communications Server 2007 R2, we are able to use built-in language packs to address language challenges,” says Wilkins. “This helps us integrate solutions with overseas suppliers and provide better support to our foreign-speaking customer base.”
Saves Customers Thousands of Dollars
MFI customers can also reduce the costs of on-site service technician visits. “We have customers in Vancouver, British Columbia, and it can cost them up to $5,000 in travel expenses for a visit from our technicians,” says Wilkins. “But with OnLinkTM, we can reduce those costs.”
Boosts Productivity and Eases Training
Companies that use OnLinkTM will also be more productive. “If someone’s machine has problems and isn’t fixed quickly, it can mean lost productivity and revenue,” Wilkins says. “A roofing contractor or metal part component shop will avoid that issue with OnLinkTM.”
The solution will also help simplify training. “With remote desktop sharing in Office Communications Server 2007 R2, we can offer more-frequent online video training, right at the machine,” says Wilkins. “It will transform how we train our customers.” This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.