Today, the power of Unified Communications & Collaboration (UCC) is expanding beyond the traditional office space and into the industrial areas where the revenue generation for many enterprises actually takes place.
The employees in those areas – the production line worker, the hotel housekeeping and security staff, the short-haul truck driver, the warehouse manager, the utility linesman, and countless others – are critical parts of your enterprise, and their performance can make or break the success of your company.
These industrial employees use different devices on different networks and face far different challenges communicating than their counterparts in carpeted office spaces. Their preferred collaboration methods - radio, telephone, and even pager to resolve work tickets from dispatch or alarms from equipment – are focused on issue prevention or resolution, and optimized for their workflow and environment. The operator in the paint-spray booth at a manufacturing facility is not going to use Google Hangouts on a laptop to notify her supply team that she is out of paint. She will use a push-to-talk radio to say, “I’m out of paint at Sprayer 4.” Instant, efficient, and done on a device that is purpose-built for her needs.
The need to connect these employees “outside the four walls” has never been greater. While these workers are not a traditional unified communications focus, they benefit from streamlined collaboration with their colleagues in the same way as their office counterparts, and often pose a greater challenge. In addition to one- to-one and one-to-many communications between employees, there are also person-to-machine and application-to-person communication streams to manage. Dispatch and work ticket management applications are commonplace, and critical for business success. In rare circumstances, front line workers may even need immediate guidance from an offsite supervisor, or a manager within the office environment, and must communicate quickly across devices and technologies.
On this site, we will explain how new technologies applied to Unified Workgroup Communications carry the concept of Unified Communication and Collaboration (UCC) into the industrial space. Offerings in this new space, like Team Communications from Motorola Solutions, allow workers outside the office area to communicate instantly, without boundaries, and with added intelligence across the entire enterprise. We will also review how some emerging technologies on Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Unified Communications and Collaboration apply in the Unified Workgroup Communications space.
In the arena of Unified Communication and Collaboration (UCC), industry experts strongly recommend assembling a stable of best-in-class vendors to provide the critical elements of a UCC solution. The Gartner research provided later in this document: Hype Cycle for Unified Communications and Collaboration, 2016 helps IT leaders revisit whether well-established UCC solutions are sufficient to meet the growing imperative to engage workers. Innovations continue to emerge that challenge existing patterns for how UCC is procured, developed and consumed. The size and scope of the UCC environment make it unlikely to source the entire solution from a single mega-vendor; instead, enterprises must assemble a suite of trusted suppliers who best fit the needs of their particular business.
From Carpet to Concrete
A key employee segment often overlooked by enterprises when planning UCC strategies is, surprisingly, the team with a central role in generating revenue, driving efficiencies, and satisfying customers. Most UCC solutions providers focus on the carpeted areas of the business - the front office, the managerial suite, and the sales team. The solutions (web and videoconferencing, telephony, instant messaging, and presence) and preferred devices (desktop and laptop computers, smartphones) under discussion are appropriate to this traditional office environment.
However, once a transaction occurs - a sale is made, an order is placed, a room is reserved - the responsibility to successfully meet that commitment often shifts out of the carpeted area to the workers “on concrete” - on the shop floor, in the kitchen, or otherwise operating behind the scenes. Plant workers, delivery drivers, facilities managers, housekeeping teams, line operators, quality control technicians, security staff and other employees and partners outside of the traditional office environment ultimately own whether deliveries are made, revenue is generated, and customers are delighted.
The demands and challenges of this business-critical industrial environment are very different to those in the office area. Personnel are often in high-noise areas, or out in the elements. For durability, coverage, and audio quality, the devices used to communicate are often land mobile radios instead of smartphones. Group text messaging and one-to-many push-to-talk are optimal modes of communication. Dispatch and work order ticket management applications accessible on both radios and mobile devices are necessary to keep the entire team aligned and focused. Critical information arrives directly from the equipment, as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) provides alerts, data, and notifications to workers directly. Without a communication and collaboration strategy for these industrial employees, the enterprise is at risk of not keeping business commitments and frustrating customers.
Extending the UCC concept to these industrial spaces with Unified Workgroup Communications can ensure that industrial workers are also able to share information quickly across disparate technologies and devices. There are three key aspects of a Unified Workgroup Communication solution, such as Team Communications from Motorola Solutions - communicating instantly; without the traditional boundaries inherent in certain networks and devices; and with added intelligence through workflow and safety applications, system monitoring and IIoT.
Communicate in an Instant
When an answer is needed, an order is delayed, or a safety situation arises, nothing is faster than push-to-talk. Unified Workgroup Communications should provide the instant collaboration needed for high-performing teams. Team Communications from Motorola Solutions supports one-to-one or one-to-many collaboration across radios in challenging noise environments, and across the WAVE™ broadband push-to-talk (PTT) application on smartphones, tablets, or laptops to expand the same conversation to wherever network connectivity exists. Employees who do not use a radio can contact those who do, and vice versa, instantly.
In an emergency, priority voice and data communications guarantee that critical information is heard by all, bypassing routine conversations. When your team can reach anyone necessary to resolve critical issues – regardless of device, or physical location – deadlines are met, promises are kept, and employee satisfaction improves.
Communicate Without Boundaries
Today, choices of communications devices and networks often impose limitations on who can be quickly reached. There may also be multiple dispatch focal points, specialized to the needs of a smaller group and the network (LMR, LTE, WiFi or LAN) they use to communicate. These limitations lead to delays and frustration when the right decisions must be made faster than ever before to be safe, successful, and efficient.
The core of Unified Workgroup Communications is linking industrial staff carrying radios or other devices with the team members using smartphones, tablets, or laptops as their preferred device back at the office. Team Communications from Motorola Solutions deploys the WAVE broadband PTT application on non-radio devices, so that team members scattered across the state or even the country can communicate as quickly and easily as if they were carrying a radio, leveraging the convenience of talkgroups and priority calling. Using Unified Workgroup Communications, network, device, and geographic boundaries are overcome – your team members can connect from their preferred device to other team members, anywhere, anytime with business-critical information.
Communicate with Added Intelligence
Similar to the carpeted workspace, there are several purpose-built applications in the concrete environment to help employees be more successful, more efficient, or safer. These applications are often available for smartphone or desktop platforms, but they are also designed for use on digital mobile radios, reflecting the popularity of these devices in the industrial workspace. Work order ticket management, dispatch, and location tracking applications specialized to particular industry verticals are common, and provide optimized solutions to the unique challenges these employees face.
While technology has provided more operational visibility through SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) and IIoT, GPS location, alarms and sensors, and even video, this data is often stranded in different corners of the organization. But within these pools of information is the intelligence that separates the businesses that succeed from those that fail. A more efficient route. A root cause behind seemingly unrelated issues. A pattern of sensor trips indicating a larger issue. An inventory shortage that will impact the business. An alarm warning that someone is in the wrong place at the wrong time. By connecting every member of the group regardless of device, Unified Workgroup Communications unlocks the potential of your company’s data. The critical piece of intelligence needed to make your business safer, more successful, or more efficient can now be communicated – instantly – by the person who knows to the people who need to know.
Assure the Safety and Security of Your Staff
Keeping every member of the organization safe is the overriding responsibility of all businesses. Unified Workgroup Communications helps maintain the security of the entire team - both carpeted and concrete spaces - by enabling communication to all impacted employees. Whether the issue is an injury in the plant, a disgruntled employee growing belligerent in the HR department, or a suspicious package left in the lobby, resolving the situation quickly and safely relies upon instant, clear communications. In the event that local public safety agencies respond, the security team must be able to provide first responders with precise information about the incident and quickly direct them to the correct location.
Team Communications keeps all of your employees connected and ensures that critical emergency information is shared with everyone at the push of a button. With specialized radios for hazardous environments and Lone Worker and Man Down alerting, Motorola Solutions provides an additional level of protection for radio users in challenging circumstances.
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