Brambles Makes Global Collaboration Easy

About Brambles

Headquartered in Sydney, Australia, Brambles is a supply-chain logistics company operating primarily through the CHEP and IFCO brands. The group specializes in the provision of pooling solutions, focused on the outsourced management of reusable pallets, crates and containers. Brambles businesses primarily serve the consumer goods, dry grocery, fresh food, retail and general manufacturing industries. The group also has specialist businesses serving the automotive manufacturing, aerospace and refining sectors.


Brambles is focused on driving collaboration and open communication across its global supply-chain equipment pooling operations in more than 50 countries. To do so, the company needed a common platform to enable its people to share information more easily, in line with its Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) program. This platform needed to support a wide range of communication modes, including video conferencing and content sharing.


Brambles chose to work with AT&T Network Integration to design, deploy and manage a global UCC video conferencing platform. The first phase of this strategy has been the installation of a video conferencing system using Brambles’ AT&T Virtual Private Network. The system integrates video communication and content sharing and provides a common, virtual meeting ground for employees. Collaboration is enhanced, while there are opportunities to reduce the cost and distractions of travel. By providing design and implementation, hosting and management, AT&T worked with Brambles’ global IT team to build a turnkey, scalable solution.

From Here to There...and Anywhere

The seeds of Brambles’ worldwide operation were planted more than a century ago. In 1875, Walter Bramble opened a butcher shop and delivery service in Newcastle, Australia, transporting meat products to the surrounding area. “Today we provide pooling solutions that help our customers and partners move goods in all parts of the world,” said Jean Holley, Group Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer.

Over the past decade, Brambles has transformed itself from a conglomerate with numerous disparate transportation businesses into a global company with a single operating focus on its supply-chain equipment pooling business. At the same time, the company has expanded, growing its crates and containers operations both organically and through acquisition while increasing the presence of its core pallets operations in emerging markets. Today, it owns and operates more than 400 million pallets, crates and containers worldwide.

Brambles is a lot more than its assets, said Holley. “We’re a solution because we don’t just rent you a high quality pallet, crate or container. We operate a network of more than 1,000 service centers around the world using sophisticated technology to manage the deployment of those assets to all of our customers so as to provide our services in the most efficient way possible – to the benefit of the whole supply chain.” To ensure the safe and timely delivery of goods, Brambles works directly with growers, manufacturers, retailers and transportation providers.

Sustainability is a key value. Brambles helps customers increase efficiency and reduce environmental impacts. “Pooling means the containers, pallets and crates are used over and over again – and we manage the inspection, repair and recycling of scrap material – so there is a green aspect to it,” said Holley. “In all our markets there is significant opportunity for our company to help businesses reduce waste in produce resulting from how the product is handled. We can make it much more economical.”

New Vision, New Strategy

With operations in more than 50 countries, Brambles needs to connect its people across time zones, geographies, cultures and technological capabilities. Teams need to work cross-geographically as well as cross-functionally. Even the executive leadership team is dispersed.

“My vision is to enable Brambles to operate as one integrated global business,” said Holley. “We want to be able to collaborate and communicate globally. We need to be able to see each other and share information. The capability to collaborate effortlessly and effectively is essential to a successful global work environment.”

Existing video conferencing equipment was outdated and rarely used, and updating it was not the right solution. “Our goal is to build collaboration capabilities,” said Holley. “We wanted our video conferencing solution to enable content sharing and leverage other platforms as well.”

Such an initiative would require significant support. The platform would need to be flexible, scalable and standardized. The global scope of the project would add complexity and logistical challenges, since Brambles must comply with each country’s individual requirements. “We’ve got to balance our local needs against our global needs,” Holley said. ”We were looking for a partner that could help us design and deliver a global solution.”

Building the Right Platform

Brambles decided to implement a robust video conferencing platform for Unified Communications and Collaboration, and chose to collaborate with AT&T Network Integration for the program. “We’re a global company, and we’re focused on solving global problems. AT&T has a tremendous amount of experience in designing global solutions,” Holley said. AT&T also brought several of its suppliers onboard to provide Brambles with the breadth of services it required.

The program was organized into four phases. “AT&T helped to design a solution that met our vision and our strategy,” said Holley. During the first phase, AT&T implemented enhanced video conferencing that uses two side-by-side monitors, advanced camera features and a controlled room set-up to provide a high quality communication experience. AT&T teamed with Brambles to conduct site surveys, install and test equipment, and implement support and logistics such as room reservation procedures.

Brambles focused the project at the top, testing the new platform and video conferencing capability at four high-profile locations in Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. These far-reaching sites have the highest volume of location-to-location communication. “Instead of approaching this as a bottom-up initiative, we implemented videoconferencing top-down,” said Holley. “From the beginning, the leadership team has been supportive and were the early adopters.”

Once the first four test sites were up and running, Phase Two expanded the solution to 13 other locations, including Singapore, Germany, South Africa, and Mexico.

Adding more sites was easy, since the platform was a turnkey solution. “The AT&T design made it easier to expand to additional locations,” said Holley. In addition, AT&T hosts and manages the solution, which runs over the highly secure and scalable AT&T Virtual Private Network. Brambles pays a monthly, usage-based fee and AT&T handles the network management, equipment provisioning in each country, site surveys and maintenance.

Meeting...with Quality

The new solution enables Brambles to connect people as well as information. “On one screen, you can see the person and on the other screen you can share content,” Holley said. “You can go to the Internet or our intranet, pull up documents or tap into your e-mail. The content is streamed to the sites that you’re talking to.” Users can make virtually real-time changes to documents as they are being shared and reviewed. “Sharing content and enabling video is a complete solution, enhancing how we communicate globally, which was our goal.”

Brambles kept the setup as simple as possible. “You walk into a video conferencing room and press two or three buttons and you’re connected,” said Holley. All users have to do is turn on the equipment. Advanced camera capabilities are automated. The Polycom Eagle Eye Director™ feature enables the camera to conduct facial and audio recognition, identifying and zooming in to focus on each speaker.

Proper technical support is paramount. Brambles has an easy one-page guide for users, as well as onsite support staff and more extensive instructions and information on the Brambles-wide intranet. In addition, AT&T experts are available to help troubleshoot and make any necessary adjustments.

Besides being easy to use and having instructions and access to immediate support when needed, the UCC video conferencing rooms at Brambles also can result in cost savings and increased meeting productivity. When held onsite in one location, executive meetings can require extensive travel, with the challenges of coordinating schedules, and travel time and costs. The platform allows Brambles to put its resources to strategic use. “We did this to increase the quality of our meetings,” said Holley. “The most important benefit is the ability to remove distance and time zone barriers as we provide global collaboration and information sharing.”

Brambles uses video conferencing both for internal meetings and for connecting with outside partners. The flexible platform supports multiple protocols, so working with other companies’ equipment is as simple as possible.

Users love it, as shown by the uptake in use. “Just yesterday I was trying to schedule a quick video conference session,” Holley said. “Everything was booked back to back-to-back for two days. One hundred percent utilization is a pleasant problem to have. I’m not running around with a technology solution saying, ‘Who can use this?’ It’s the other way around as the business is actually demanding more.”

Building an integrated company, Brambles is now in Phase Three of the program, developing and testing video conferencing for mobile devices. “We recognize that our employees are mobile, so we need to offer solutions to support our mobile culture,” Holley said. “My vision is to connect anything-to-anything, to be able to participate on mobile devices and desktops, and to connect any time, any place.”

Using desktops, laptops, tablets or smartphones, with Virtual Meeting Rooms (VMRs), users can connect their devices through a phone number or through a simple application. This opens up video conferencing to a wide range of users.

The platform will support other developments in the future, and this was a critical part of Brambles’ strategy. “It was designed up front with AT&T to interoperate as a true UCC platform,” Holley said. Phase Four will see Brambles further expanding and integrating its global communications, bringing in more capabilities. “The integration to our strategy was critical, because that’s what gives us this multi-year view. There are many new capabilities that we can introduce and implement over the next couple of years.”

With the Unified Communications and Collaboration platform, Brambles is achieving its vision. “This helps us run as an integrated company, and enables us to operate as one, both geographically and culturally,” Holley said.

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