Kaman's IT Infrastructure Keeps Customers First
We depend on AT&T for many things. No matter where we go or what our technology needs are in this area, they seem to have a solution."
Ron Galla, Senior Vice President and CIO, Kaman Corporation
Integrate hundreds of local offices to help ensure reliable, dependable customer service
Virtual private network links offices with centralized data servers while VoIP solution allows for flexible call distribution; redundant fiber optic ring links data centers
Scalable network with security features enables Kaman to optimize business operations, provide a local presence for customers and ensure high levels of customer service
Aerospace manufacturing and industrial distribution
$1.5 billion in sales across two segments, comprised of seven divisions
Connecticut-based Kaman Corporation operates through two segments: Kaman Aerospace Group, a global leader in the commercial and military aviation industry, and Kaman Industrial Technologies (KIT), a leading industrial distributor in North America. KIT serves more than 50,000 customers in industries ranging from mining to pharmaceuticals, providing product selection, sales and systems consulting.
Kaman Industrial Technologies had grown to operate more than 200 customer service centers and five distribution centers across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, but these locations operated in relative isolation. If local customer service agents were busy or cut off by weather and unable to take calls, phones could ring unanswered. There was no way for other offices to help balance the workload. In addition, the company’s data network was complex, and they were previously unable to prioritize between business-critical applications, and less important uses, such as Internet-surfing. With growth and acquisitions on the agenda, KIT needed an updated network, and a new way to excel in customer service.
An AT&T Virtual Private Network now links the company’s locations with a highly secure and flexible data network. Thanks to an enterprise class contact center solution, voice calls are processed and directed over the VPN by an IP-enabled, telecommunications solution by Avaya. Customers still dial local numbers that can also be routed to a wider geography during busy times and unexpected situations, improving customer service. Finally, Kaman has reinforced the heart of its system with highly secure, duplicated data centers, connected via an AT&T Ultravailable® Network Service fiber optic ring.
Innovation from the Very Start
In 1945, founder Charles H. Kaman based his new business on two key elements: innovation and local support. When he started Kaman Aircraft, his office was located in his mother’s garage; his investors were two friends. From this simple foundation, Kaman began his pioneering advancements in helicopter design. Kaman Corporation has since grown to become a leader in both aerospace and in the distribution of industrial parts and supplies. And the company remains dedicated to those founding values.
MPLS created a completely different architecture for the routing of traffic over the network. It greatly simplified what we had to do from a router management perspective."
Ron Galla, Senior Vice President and CIO, Kaman Corporation
For Kaman Corp's industrial distribution business, Kaman Industrial Technologies, the top priority is customer service. From bearings and belts to fluid power and motion control, KIT offers more than four million products essential to keeping factories running smoothly. But KIT goes beyond providing a catalog of parts and pieces, by engaging with customers to help improve their productivity and profitability. Consulting services help customers optimize their production facilities and processes. The company helps design, engineer and repair a range of manufacturing systems. "We'll come into your manufacturing facility and find ways for you to save money through implementing the products that we distribute," said Ron Galla, Senior Vice President and CIO.
While Kaman Corporation is headquartered in Bloomfield, Connecticut, local offices and distribution centers across North America and Mexico help KIT maintain close personal relationships with its customers. The company plans to add more sites in the future. "We've had a number of acquisitions in the past few years and we have more in the pipeline," Galla explained.
Rethinking Customer Service
While local presence was important, it wasn't a total solution. Kaman's legacy network could cause IT operating inefficiencies. Network management was laborious and bandwidth usage was not optimized. More importantly, the company's arrangement could potentially leave some customer calls unanswered.
"Every location was an island in terms of voice communication," said Galla. Because the 200 branches operated with isolated phone systems, a customer's service experience hinged on the availability of their local office. Weather-related outages, agent training sessions or just the inevitable busy day could leave a customer's call unanswered. Without robust inter-branch communication, agents available at other offices were unable to help.
This was much more than a mere inconvenience for customers. In this business, service means survival. "There are two competitors that are bigger than us, and they also have branches in the same places we do," said Galla. "That's one of the things that makes it so important that we can answer the phone when customers call. If they don't get an answer they'll just call the other guy."
As Kaman Industrial Technologies planned for future acquisitions, the company decided it needed a new service model to better meet business needs and keep customer service first. "KIT was looking to create a customer service organization which would no longer be defined by individual branches," said John Walshaw, Manager of Telecommunications. "At the same time, it was very important that the customer didn't lose that sense of familiarity with who answers the phone."
Setting a New Foundation
Kaman called on AT&T to upgrade its data network infrastructure. "We depend on AT&T for many things," said Galla. "No matter where we go or what our technology needs are in this area, they seem to have a solution." AT&T achieves its breadth of service in part through relationships with outside vendors. The Kaman improvements required AT&T to fit together a series of solutions.
Kaman installed an AT&T VPN to integrate all company locations in one converged voice and data network, establishing consistency company-wide. With the ubiquitous network, even smaller offices in remote areas of the country are easily connected. Based on Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology, the VPN enables Kaman to manage network traffic based on class-of-service rules, to prioritize delay-sensitive network traffic and ensure best service. "It's important that somebody surfing the Internet doesn't prevent someone from running an Office application or an ERP application" Galla said.
Today all locations for both Kaman subsidiaries connect over the VPN to redundant data centers in Bloomfield. Network management is easier. "MPLS created a completely different architecture for the routing of traffic over the network," said Galla. "It greatly simplified what we had to do from a router management perspective."
That traffic also includes Kaman's voice requirements. AT&T Contact Center Solutions architected an IP-based Avaya solution creating an enterprise class contact center and chose Carousel Industries to deploy it. The contact center solution allowed for consolidation of applications to be shared across all branch locations. It replaced hundreds of different technologies with one unified IP-based telecommunications infrastructure to route voice traffic over the VPN network.
"There's no longer a hard divide between the voice side and the data side," Walshaw said. "It's one infrastructure." The new system has lowered long-distance calling costs and significantly reduced local office hardware expenses. Smaller branch offices require only an IP phone. Larger locations with 10 or more people house minimal Avaya gateway equipment.
The AT&T VPN with IP telephony enabled Kaman to create the business solution it had been looking for—an enterprise class contact center. With voice communication running on the data network, KIT could use network-based applications to direct calls through the system. It is now implementing AT&T IP Flexible Reach, a Voice over IP (VoIP) product, utilizing Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). With it, the company maintains local phone numbers but creates a centralized routing hub in their private data center cloud. Instead of maintaining many, separate on-site phone line services, incoming calls route directly to Kaman’s data-centers that house the virtual contact centers, with the additional benefit that these points of entry are significantly more stable by design. Call treatment, including agent selection and queuing, remain the same. The calls are extended to agents over the AT&T VPN.
The system automatically and intelligently routes each call to the best location, whether that is the local office originally dialed or another office in the region. The virtual contact center works through a pre-determined hierarchy of geographically defined routing sequences, grouping KIT's 200 offices into 13 regions. It can group agents by expertise as well. "Without any interaction or manual changes, the contact center moves calls through the hierarchy to always reach a qualified customer service representative," said Walshaw. "We have removed the physical constraints of geography, enabling us to define a business process that meets our customers’ needs," he added.
IP Flexible Reach helps Kaman provide uninterrupted customer service with operational efficiency. The solution decreases wait times for customers and eliminates backed-up phone lines. "It enables employees to apply their time far more effectively while alleviating the stress that they had experienced when faced with the heavy call volumes of the past," Walshaw said. A scalable system, MPLS allocates bandwidth as it is needed, so the network can easily keep up with fluctuations in call volume without affecting access to the company's business applications.
Almost as soon as it was installed, KIT's new system was put to the test. In August Hurricane Irene swept up the U.S. East Coast, leaving nine KIT branch offices in the Northeast without power for days. The virtual contact center rerouted 1,350 calls per day—calls that would have otherwise gone unanswered. "As a result of this new phone system, customers have the ability to never get a busy signal," said Galla.
The solution's success is being noticed. In 2011, the company was included in the InformationWeek 500, an annual list of companies using IT technology in innovative ways, for its IP-based virtual call center business model.
Security... and Growth
As is true with most companies, Kaman has its share of security concerns. "Another huge benefit of the MPLS network is the fact that we were able to implement AT&T Network-Based Firewall," said Galla. The fully-managed solution sits in the AT&T network and helps to control employee access to the Internet while preventing unauthorized access into Kaman's network infrastructure. Before the VPN, all Internet connections would have to go through Bloomfield and back out to the user's site. "With Network-Based Firewall, users can go directly to the Internet saving bandwidth in the process," he added.
With core data and voice functions dependent on Kaman's Connecticut data center, the company needed to further ensure the system's security. Kaman increased redundancy by building a duplicated data center called "The Bunker" and connected it through the AT&T Ultravailable® Network Service (UVN). This managed network features dual fiber optic pathways. "Both of our data centers are connected on the AT&T Ultravailable ring," explained Galla. "We also have two AT&T points of presence on that same ring in the event that AT&T should have a site disaster."
No sooner was the new facility completed than Mother Nature put it to the test. This time it was a late October snow storm that took out electricity throughout the state for several days, including Kaman's Bloomfield headquarters. Kaman's data centers remained in business, powered by generators and connected to the AT&T Ultravailable network. "It was like a perfect storm that tested all of our recently deployed technology," said Galla. "There were many local businesses that also had power, thanks to their generators, but no connectivity with their providers," Walshaw recalled. "We had connectivity with AT&T."
Kaman's updated network infrastructure enables the company to grow with confidence. The solution creates a simple blueprint for connecting new locations. "There are a lot of things you have to do to integrate a new business," said Galla. "As a result of all of that we’ve done, putting in the network and the phone system is probably the easiest part of it." The company also has the flexibility to experiment with other service models, like home-based agents. And, using the AT&T global network, Kaman can take the solution worldwide. "It's all a possibility," Walshaw said.