Steel company eliminates long distance in VoIP project

A Canadian manufacturer of steel supports is using voice over Internet Protocol to build a communications bridge between its branch offices.

Maritime Steel and Foundries Ltd. said it has completed the rollout of its second 3Com NBX 100 phone system in about two years. Both systems replace legacy PBX installations that, over time, were costing the company too much in terms of adding phone lines and maintenance costs, according to its manager of information systems, Sean Green.

The latest installation, for example, which took place at the manufacturer’s New Glasgow, N.S.-based foundry, replaces a PBX that was costing between $500 to $600 a month, Green said.

“”The thing took up about the space of a whole entire wall,”” he said. “”It was so big. It took a lot of lines — we were paying about $40 per line at about 14 or 15 (lines) coming in.””

The New Glasgow facility is located about 170 km from the site of the first NBX installation, Maritime Steel’s structural division, which creates steel for bridges around the world. Using the product’s Virtual Tie Line, Green said he has integrated the sites, eliminating long distance costs. Even regular phone calls are run over the system.

Green admitted that Maritime is among the few Canadian enterprises to embrace voice over IP wholeheartedly.

“”Not many people have gone the distance with these types of systems yet,”” he said. “”I’m not sure if they just don’t trust the technology, or if the technology is that much more expensive than the traditional type systems.””

Jerry Gushue, 3Com’s regional account manager for Atlantic Canada, said the initial reservations disappear pretty quickly.

“”Once the client has made the leap of faith from traditional PBX into the NBX solution, they’re finding what we say is the strength of the product, which is ease of management and ongoing support reduction cost,”” he said. “”The opportunity I see is taking that business model and extending it forward into other locations.””

Maritime Steel has a corporate office about 1,000 yards away from the Dartmouth steel division. Green said he used a Lucent wireless bridge to tie the two locations together. There are now 10 phone systems connecting to the NBX system.

“”My president is in New Glasgow and my CEO and my controller are all in Dartmouth,”” he said. “”If they want to have a conference call they pick up their set, they conference in whatever parties they want to, and it’s all done through the voice-over IP.””

Although Green said the 3Com products were slightly more expensive than some of its competitors, the technology allows administrators more flexibility down the road. Where adding new lines used to be expensive and required help from a phone service company located two hours away, Green said he can now set up a new employee with a phone in five minutes, as long as the room has a CAT 5 cable.

Gushue said Maritime Steel has adopted a strategy others will follow.

“”They’ll start with branch offices first and then roll it up into the corporate head office,”” he said. “”The other (client) opportunities I’m working on use the same approach.””

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