Ampacet Corp. is the world’s leading manufacturer of resins and pigments that provide coloring for plastics. The $1 billion company provides color concentrates and complex chemical solutions known as “master batches” that are used for packaging, consumer products and industrial goods.
Ampacet’s customers include household name giants such as Dow Chemical and Procter & Gamble. There are 21 plants and 1,700 employees in 15 countries around the world, spanning North and South America, Asia, Europe and Australia.
The company’s size and geographic diversity present an ongoing challenge for its IT and telecommunications teams. In the U.S. alone there are 1,000 employees and six manufacturing sites: two in Ohio, two in Indiana, one each in Georgia and Louisiana.
The executive responsible for upgrading the telecommunication system is Nancy A. Neff, Director of Corporate Administration. She works closely with Robert Woods, the executive Vice President of Global IT.
Their challenge was to upgrade the U.S. telephone facilities from a 25-year-old system that was faltering and no longer capable of meeting the needs of the company’s operations infrastructure or its world-class customer support organization.
They set a goal to upgrade all 1,000 U.S. employees to a new VoIP system with zero downtime and minimal interruption to daily operations. “We had a very antiquated system before we went over to the ShoreTel system,” explains Neff. “They couldn’t even find parts anymore. So we were in need of a change.”
“It was a disaster that was getting worse by the day. Then we finally hit the wall toward the end of 2012. That’s when I started looking.”
After a short search, Neff and her team decided on a 100-percent ShoreTel phone system to be designed and deployed by Harbor Networks.
“One of our IT people, who is remote, is out and about going to conferences,” she recalls. “And he had heard about ShoreTel and he read some good things about them. So he mentioned them to me and I said let’s get them in here. So he went out and contacted Harbor.”
Harbor Networks impressed the Ampacet team with a presentation that focused on the value and ease of use of the ShoreTel solution. “It was unique to me,” Neff says. “Just the whole selling process and the way that Harbor presented everything to us. I was very impressed, everybody here was.”
“We looked at three other vendors,” she explains. “Then we sat down and discussed it and went through a process. It wasn’t based on costs alone, it was based on the ShoreTel product itself and what it had to offer our business.”
“The demo was nice. You could see what you were getting. But what impressed me was that it wasn’t cookie-cutter. They gave us a lot of possibilities. They learned a lot about us before they came in here and they gave us a lot of options for different features that we could implement for our business purposes with the new systems.”
“They explained all the pluses for Ampacet to put into a new system like this, and also for the company to grow into the future and to save money. And within the first three years we will have a return on investment.”
The Move to VoIP
The Ampacet team knew from the beginning that the upgrade would incorporate VoIP technology. “VoIP had already been installed in some of our other locations over in Europe. So we took a look at that and I agreed at that point.”
“In the past we had been kind of fearful of VoIP because of the clarity required and the kind of business that we have. Everybody’s phone lines of course are critical. But we have not been disappointed by the ShoreTel system. We have not had any real outages at all, of anything.”
Significantly, Ampacet also had a requirement to support an existing 4-digit dialing capability within U.S. facilities, which the ShoreTel system easily accommodated.
Data and WAN Integration
In parallel to the ShoreTel rollout, Harbor’s project management team created a state-of-the-art design for data and voice integration. Since Ampacet did not have LAN POE switches, the team proposed a network that integrated voice and data using Extreme Networks’ Power Over Ethernet (POE) switches.
Harbor Networks also procured an MPLS WAN, utilizing Windstream to facilitate voice communication between the North American sites. The Harbor team collaborated with Windstream and the existing “data only” Orange Network MPLS team to design the addressing, route determination, and route advertisements. The goal was to accommodate ShoreTel’s voice and data (ShoreTel Communicator) requirements per best practice recommendations.
The MPLS solution tied into Ampacet’s existing Cisco router network at the HQ location and enabled all of the buildings and remote sites to communicate with one other. The final design included an Extreme switch and MPLS presence at every site. For every remote location, Extreme switches and stacks constituted the complete voice and data Ethernet switching solution.
The ShoreTel solution was deployed throughout the U.S. with a staged implementation. The process began in the Tarrytown, N.Y. headquarters and then rolled out across each of the manufacturing sites. The solution leveraged the existing Internet, so all issues were reported as network issues.
“Behind the scenes, Harbor Networks was magnificent,” explains Neff. “Our Harbor Networks project manager was beyond amazing. I don’t know what we would have done without her.”
“We transitioned Tarrytown first. We did it on a Friday afternoon. The transition went better than I could ever have hoped. We were up and running on Monday morning. Come to think of it, we were actually running on Friday night. Harbor was here over the weekend and then they were here again first thing Monday morning so that when everyone came in they could handle whatever issues we had.”
“We have a call center here [in Tarrytown], so one of our biggest concerns was that we wouldn’t have any issues with customers being able to call into us during the transition. We have backup remote customer service people out in Cincinnati so they could cover for us, but there were no real issues. The cut-over went well.”
The Call Centers
Ampacet’s Call Centers have the most unique phone operations requirements in the company. The Call Centers field both sales calls and support calls with different 800 numbers. In addition, they are separated into four regions and there is a specific 800 number that the sales people use when calling into customer service.
Harbor recommended ShoreTel Communicator to fit the bill. “We didn’t provide everyone with the ShoreTel Communicator up front. But then more people wanted it, which we figured they would. But that’s worked out well for a lot of people. Now I’d say most of the people are using it,” says Neff.
“There were no other special features, but Harbor had to tweak it to fit our requirements. This is what was going on behind the scenes in the implementation. Even in the weeks following a number of things were tweaked. Today we’re able to have people here in a snowstorm work remotely and the customer doesn’t realize they’re not in Tarrytown.”
Training & Support
After each rollout, Harbor scheduled a day of training for Ampacet employees. Each session included a half hour of training followed by a half hour of questions. Special training for the call center took a full day.
Neff reports that she only contacted HarborNet support a couple of times during the first year after the rollout. “Now the network team manages internal issues with the phone system,” she says. “I get involved to a certain extent but the problems have been minimal. The one or two things that have happened have not been ShoreTel’s issue.”
“If we need them for anything we just gave them a call. They’ve all been great. As time has gone on and we call Harbor Networks support, any time we call in they’ve been very fast to respond.”
“Harbor has been wonderful to work with. Their guys are smart. Our IT people are a little more critical of our vendor’s IT teams and techs and they said to me they’ve never been this impressed with people, by their ability, their knowledge and their ability to get it done.”
“You never heard from Harbor, oh my God I don’t know if we can do this. But that’s something we’ve been hearing from our other vendors. They say we’ll do it, we’ll take care of it or we’ll find a way to take care of it. And they did. They were always very optimistic and never once made us feel like, oh my God what did we do.”
Moving Forward with Harbor
Eventually, the Ampacet IT team has been trained by Harbor so that there’s someone designated in each manufacturing office as the ShoreTel expert. And in some offices it’s the same as the network or Internet guy.
“The ShoreTel solution has been amazing for us. The thing that’s unique about is that it was not cookie cutter. They really tailored it to us and our needs. We went through a lot of changes during the implementation and they kept pace.”
“The Harbor guys are fantastic. They’re not salesy, they’re genuine. I felt that they genuinely cared. What they told us they were going to do, they did. And they did more than that. They didn’t expect some of the glitches that did come up. Just the way they handled them made me feel so comfortable. I never really worried about anything.