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Michelle Pluskota

Vice President, Business Services, Big South Region at Comcast Business

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Manufacturers connect people, locations to boost performance

March 27, 2015

The most successful manufacturing companies over the years have been those that have enthusiastically embraced change and technology. The transition to a lean manufacturing model within the past few decades is driving higher profitability by giving organizations a real-time glimpse into production, supply, warehousing and delivery.

The most successful manufacturing companies over the years have been those that have enthusiastically embraced change and technology. The transition to a lean manufacturing model within the past few decades is driving higher profitability by giving organizations a real-time glimpse into production, supply, warehousing and delivery.

Today’s most advanced data networks, known as Metro Ethernet which offer speeds up to 10 GbE, give manufacturers efficient and cost-effective options for refining the just-in-time model by connecting multiple facilities within a metropolitan area or region, or even across the entire United States.

Small companies, like a tool-and-dye firm with only two shops in Southeastern Michigan, and large companies, like a tier 2 automotive supplier with hundreds of locations across the country, are leveraging Metro Ethernet technology. With it, they are connecting all their facilities, increasing significantly the ability to run their businesses more efficiently as integrated operations.

In addition to improving their just-in-time manufacturing operations, savvy manufacturers are capitalizing on the advanced capabilities of Metro Ethernet to smooth their mergers and acquisitions and to bring colleagues together.

Just-in-time manufacturing

Most manufacturers today use just-in-time manufacturing to produce products with as little resource waste as possible and in time to meet the customer’s deadline. The most advanced data networks help them achieve this goal by making it possible for them to monitor in real time the work being done on all their manufacturing lines.

Such live monitoring and real-time status reports enable the company to carefully oversee the manufacturing process of all its lines across the country. With this oversight, the company can make sure it never falls short of producing the quantity of products (whether they’re small widgets, large valves, or door handles for cars) specified in the customer order and never misses the date when the customer expects the products delivered.

Mergers and acquisitions

Mergers and acquisitions are prevalent within the manufacturing industry. Many small manufacturers did not come though the Great Recession strong enough to survive alone and so have merged to form better positioned companies or have been acquired by larger corporations to create greater opportunities for the companies involved.

Now, these united companies are connecting their new facilities to Metro Ethernet networks and are using this technology to better integrate the operations of their new facilities with those of the ongoing parts of the business. With this technology, they are able to extend to these facilities their standardized operating procedures and processes for finance, and other key functions needed for business continuity. They are, for example, now using one centralized HR model across the entire company, giving all facilities the ability to conduct the new-employee hiring process and annual review the same way, no matter where the employees or HR managers are located.

Furthermore, the high-speed connection serves, in effect, as an extended company intranet so they are able to implement the same “look and feel” of all their internal communications and branding, helping facilities hundreds of miles apart share the same corporate culture, a key element in implementing a successful merger or acquisition.

Bringing colleagues together

With the network already in place, manufacturing companies are also leveraging their connected data networks for new business practices that save time and resources in other ways, too. They are, for example, bringing colleagues from across the country together in key business meetings via videoconferencing. Since it’s not realistic – from a resource standpoint – for any company to always hold meetings in person, videoconferencing is becoming a big part of how more are conducting business. And it is turning them into truly connected companies with the ability to hold meetings any time, any place.

With much of the feeling of a face-to-face meeting, a videoconference is far superior to the conference call because it enables participants to see each other and feel more engaged. And it offers these advantages without all the expense and time needed for everyone to travel to a meeting.

Manufacturers across the country are gaining benefits like these from connected networks. They are finding new opportunities to stay on top of their business operations, to share best practices with all their facilities, and to bring their people together in new ways – opportunities that lead to better results.

This article originally appeared on Crain’s Detroit Business.

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