Manufacturing today involves dealing with a diverse and dispersed workforce. Whether decision-makers are within the production plant or part of an external international supply chain network, the power of communications and collaboration is vital to the timely supply of goods and services.

A recent survey conducted by Vanson Bourne, on behalf of StarLeaf, asked manufacturers where the majority of their colleagues that they most frequently interact with are based, and 48% reported that they were located in a different office, in either the same country or overseas. There are typically numerous stakeholders operating through the entire production cycle and, therefore, reliable video conferencing solutions can significantly improve communications with employees, suppliers, and customers.

The changing demands of modern manufacturing

Manufacturers are familiar with working to tight deadlines and responding quickly to customer requests. However, traditional ways of communicating, through emails or voice calls alone, are no longer sufficient to address the challenges of today’s fast-moving manufacturing. The ‘always-on economy’ has dramatically transformed work patterns with office-based staff who are constantly in dialogue with on-site operations managers and suppliers through the supply chain. However, with growing pressures to meet production schedules, the requirement for intuitive collaboration solutions is greater than ever to remain competitive. Streamlining production is vital to ensure finished products are delivered on time and to specification.

StarLeaf’s survey reveals that for 62% of manufacturers, improving productivity is the key driver for implementing video conferencing technology. However, many businesses in the sector still view technology as a barrier to communications due to reliability issues, rather than as a platform to help their employees communicate more effectively. The survey also identified a range of issues that staff in manufacturing organisations face when participating in video conference calls. The top three include poor audio quality; call or video failure; being unable to start the call. These issues hinder collaboration across global manufacturing and have an impact on productivity levels.

In addition, many manufacturers are struggling to keep up with digital transformation initiatives due to outdated IT systems. According to the StarLeaf survey, only 4% of respondents report that they have never had a video meeting start late because of a technical issue in the meeting room.

Where communicating with customers and partners, who themselves use a variety of video conferencing systems, the manufacturer’s collaboration platforms must operate seamlessly with any third-party meeting systems. Also, there should not be the need to immediately ‘rip and replace’ old equipment when deploying a new service, which would increase the cost and complexity of deployment. By moving to suitable cloud-based solutions, manufacturers have the freedom to utilise existing equipment while enjoying the full benefits of a modern solution to achieve a secure collaboration environment.

Secure video conferencing

Manufacturing organisations are a prime target for hackers. Research from trade body Make UK has shown that nearly half of UK manufacturers have been hit by a cybersecurity incident. Threats can range from stealing a company’s intellectual property, crippling industry machinery or even industrial espionage.

In November 2018, Tenable, the Cyber Exposure company, announced that its research team had discovered a serious vulnerability in a desktop conferencing application from a US based video communications company that allowed a remote attacker or rogue meeting attendee to hijack screen controls, impersonate meeting attendees via chat messages, and kick attendees out of meetings.

As with all of the services they use, manufacturing businesses should engage only with communication vendors that treat security as a priority. For example, they should make sure that their providers are developing their solutions in-house and fully own their technology architecture and data centres to reliably deliver a secure service. Furthermore, a manufacturer must make sure that their chosen provider allows them to choose the data jurisdiction and where their service is located. This is critical to know that their data remains in their control and cannot be accessed by third-parties due to where the data is hosted.

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Manufacturing companies rely on their employees to work efficiently and deliver the highest standards in products and services. From the shop floor to the boardroom, being able to meet in an instant is a necessity for a fast-paced industry with global operations and stakeholders located across multiple production sites. Intuitive cloud-based video conferencing and meeting room systems help staff to communicate reliably, efficiently, and easily whilst remaining securely at the forefront of manufacturing.