AT&T Connect Case Study

BWI Group helps improve productivity with its Virtual Private Network (Cont'd)

About BWI

BWI Facts

Business Needs

Connect globally dispersed locations for enhanced productivity

Networking Solution

Virtual Private Network links 14 major sites; AT&T Connect service provides easy multimedia conferencing

Business Value

Robust, cost-effective network supports R&D and production centers in working smoothly together

Industry Focus

High-end vehicle brake and suspension systems

Size

14 major R&D, production and sales locations in Europe, Asia, and North America

BWI is a premier chassis supplier that designs and manufactures brake and suspension systems for the global transportation market including automobiles, motorcycles and many other types of vehicles. Founded in 1927 as the spare parts division of General Motors, the organization was known as the Delphi suspension division before it was acquired through a joint venture of Shougang Corporation and Beijing Fangshan State-Owned Asset Management Co., Ltd. BWI was incorporated on November 1, 2009.

Situation

BWI customers include such prestigious brands as BMW, Rover, Porsche, Audi, General Motors and Harley-Davidson. As their supplier in the fiercely competitive global market for consumer and commercial vehicles, BWI must perform at the highest level. The company’s six factories, six R&D centers and two sales and service locations are dispersed across Europe, Asia, and North America. Rapid, robust communication among these sites is essential. In an effort to optimize its corporate voice and data network, BWI sought proposals from the leading global providers.

Solution

After a rigorous selection process, BWI chose AT&T to connect its locations through a Virtual Private Network. Today the network carries enterprise resource planning (ERP) data, engineering information and day-to-day data and voice content. AT&T Connect®, a voice, Web and video tool makes it easy to bring associates, suppliers and customers together for virtual conferences. The AT&T solution helps BWI improve productivity and, at the same time, reduce costs.

A Proud Past and a New Direction

We went through numerous rounds of screening, including on-site inspections and an initial tender process, before we eventually decided on AT&T.”

– Mr. Zhang Yong, Assistant Director/Global Service Manager, Information Technology Division, BWI Group

Its 2009 acquisition by Chinese-owned BWI Group was an important turn for Delphi Ride Dynamics and Brakes, the major brake supplier for General Motors. Since its start in the 1920s, Delphi (formerly known as Delco Chassis) helped pioneer and popularize such important innovations as the power disc brake, the air-adjustable shock absorber, and anti-lock braking for cars and motorcycles. Its advanced, highly responsive MagneRide suspension has been adopted by customers including GM and Ferrari.

In the midst of a global financial downturn, BWI invested some $100 million to acquire Delphi’s machinery and equipment, intellectual property and certain real property, and took over customer and supplier contracts as well as 3,000 workers in the U.S., Poland, China, and Europe. Today BWI Group is an international supplier headquartered in Beijing, operating manufacturing facilities in China, Poland, the United Kingdom, India, and Mexico. Its R&D centers and service centers are also dispersed across the globe, close to customers.

In the words of BWI Group, “The essential elements of the business continue with the same cutting-edge technology, management team, innovative employees and quality products. Adding BWI Group’s resources, strong interest and long term focus to the team sets the stage for carrying this proud heritage forward with future chassis products and services for our customers around the world.”

Communicating to Compete

In the hyper-competitive global automotive market, advanced suspension and braking systems like those from BWI Group give auto makers a vital competitive advantage. The way a vehicle rides and stops helps create its unique personality and plays a central role in safety. Though not as readily visible as a vehicle’s shape and interior, brake and suspension performance can be the key to making a sale.

Renowned BWI customers rely on BWI’s R&D centers to develop the advanced suspension and braking systems that will keep them competitive. BWI has responded with such advances as anti-lock brakes for motorcycles and the magnetorheological (MR) fluid shock absorber, which makes it possible to adjust suspension response while a vehicle is in motion. Few competitors are able to match such advances.

According to Mr. Zhang Yong, Assistant Director/Global Service Manager, Information Technology Division at BWI, the company is determined to become a world-leading auto parts supplier, both in terms of scale and competitiveness. To achieve that goal, said Mr. Zhang, one key is communication.

“For a company like ours which has world-wide operations, communication is paramount,” he said. “All the locations are required to maintain effective and close communication and collaboration during their daily work. Examples include the coordinated development of new products by our R&D centers and the relay of information between headquarters and the locations around the world.”

Seeking a Better Network

How does BWI use its network? Mr. Zhang provided a quick review:

“The data transmitted over our network consist mainly of three types. The first centers on production management, such as ERP applications. The second type involves engineering R&D such as CAD/CAR/PLM applications. The third type involves normal daily communication, such as e-mail/SharePoint/OCS applications. In addition, we are using VoIP technology to reduce our communications costs.”

To enable such vital functions, the BWI communications network must meet challenges in four key areas, according to Mr. Zhang. Communication must be convenient, stable, and highly secure and delivered at an acceptable cost.

This was not possible with the company’s early network architecture. “Initially we used the Internet as the means to connect our network,” said Mr. Zhang. But a more robust solution was needed. So BWI began an intensive search for a new network provider.

“We were very selective when we chose our service provider for telecommunications needs,” Mr. Zhang recalled. “We went through numerous rounds of screening, including on-site inspections and an initial tender process, before we eventually decided on AT&T.

“A main reason for our choice is the status of AT&T as a leading global telecommunications and IT services provider,” he said. “Secondly, we recognized that the AT&T network and service teams cover most of the world and so could serve all of BWI’s locations. Thirdly, AT&T does not merely provide us with lines, but also with solutions and advice to small and medium companies such as ours. We put great value in this regard.”

Improved Productivity

BWI linked its global locations through a Virtual Private Network from AT&T and added the AT&T Connect IP-based conferencing capability. The benefits were apparent right away.

“We feel that our VPN is more stable,” said Mr. Zhang. “For example, it has a lower time delay and packet loss rate. It can even distinguish class of service (CoS) and hence can carry the requirements of large locations for network quality.”

The AT&T network is also delivering the productivity gains sought by BWI. “The enhanced network has improved our productivity – that much is sure – which we attribute to our more convenient network connections,” Mr. Zhang said. “Secondly, it is able to reduce our company’s overall operating cost. Given our geographical spread, a significant portion of our IT expenditure – our infrastructural cost – is on network communications. Therefore, if we are able to lower our cost in this area, our company’s business performance will see significant improvement.”

The AT&T Connect conferencing service, which operates over the VPN, has given productivity a further boost. “Communication – telephone, e-mails and meetings – is important to multinational corporations such as ours,” Mr. Zhang explained. “Take telephone conferencing, for example. In June 2012, the total time spent on telephone conferences worldwide was 636,000 minutes. This is a significant figure for a small and medium-sized company such as ours.

“We found that AT&T Connect could satisfy our requirements with respect to telephone conferences between business departments at our locations around the world. Our workers can conveniently use various means, such as land line or mobile phones, to join in any telephone conference. They can even share files and videos in an easy manner. With full use of computer communications, we saved nearly 50 percent of our costs compared with the same period last year.

“So long as a telephone conference is initiated by BWI,” he continued, “we use AT&T Connect, whether it is a departmental conference or one with our external partners such as suppliers, customers and our service providers.”

Looking Ahead

“We feel that the solutions and services provided by AT&T meet our needs, particularly with regards to the VPN network,” Mr. Zhang said. “Then there is also AT&T Connect. We have had a stable network and a telephone conferencing system that is an excellent value for the money.”

But even a company that makes the world’s best brakes never stops its search for process improvements. BWI is looking to future enhancements.

“We hope to further optimize our global wide area network,” Mr. Zhang said. “We want to use the bandwidth in our WAN more reasonably and improve the usage of VoIP to lower our communications costs. In this regard we hope AT&T can provide BWI with technical services that are more economical and efficient, including remote access to the MPLS VPN. This will improve our productivity even as it helps us lower our IT cost.

“We feel that AT&T has been exceptional in VPN services and the AT&T Connect conferencing system. Personally, I will be very happy to recommend AT&T to multinationals that have similar needs as ours.”

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