Unified communications connecting for growth

International freight and logistics provider Freightworks is looking to expand its business in the region and around the globe, and is building out its IT infrastructure to enable growth plans

Tags: Freight works (www.freightworks.com/)LogisticsNewRAS (www.newras.com/)SiemensUnified communication
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Unified communications connecting for growth Steen Hartwig (r), managing director of Freightworks says the new solutions will help to support the company’s forward plans for expansion. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  June 9, 2013

International freight and logistics provider Freightworks is looking to expand its business in the region and around the globe, and is building out its IT infrastructure to enable growth plans. As part of the build, and to keep staff and customers connected, the company recently completed the roll out of a new unified communications system.

Good communications are essential to any business, but especially so for companies that are operating across wide geographic areas or with a mobile workforce. For international freight forwarder and logistics provider Freightworks, headquartered in Dubai, a recent IT infrastructure upgrade offered the chance to enhance its communications capabilities dramatically.

Freightworks, a joint venture between the UAE’s Emirates/DNATA and business conglomerate the Kanoo Group, has international operations in sea, air and road freight, as well as associated logistics services. During 2012, the company completed an upgrade of its IT infrastructure, including new servers, network hardware and workstations, an upgrade that the company said had been pending for some time. At the same time, Freightworks was faced with the need to upgrade its existing digital PABX and telephony systems, both hardware and software, in order to remain supported by its previous vendor.

Ahmed Niyas, information technology manager for Freightworks, said that the company was evaluating its options for the telephony upgrade, both to upgrade the existing telephone system, and to switch to IP phones. The company had not considered a full unified communications roll out Niyas, said, until a conversation with systems integration partner NewRAS, who had provided some of the network hardware in the IT upgrade. NewRAS suggested an evaluation of Siemen’s unified communications systems.

“Initially we thought unified communications would be expensive,” said Niyas, “but we had an initial presentation from Siemens, and it was eye-opening how much we could do with unified communication, it is more than just answering the phone. When we checked the prices, it was fairly competitive and it had so many features.”

Freightworks also assessed unified communications from Avaya and Cisco, but opted for the Siemens solutions.

“We decided to go with it, it was not so expensively, comparatively, to do the hardware upgrade, and we would get a new system that would benefit us a lot, and change the way we are communicating,” he said.

The company contracted NewRAS for the project, and roll out of Siemens solutions for Freightworks head office in Al Ramoul, near Dubai International Airport, and its Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZ) facility, was begun in April this year. Siemens OpenScape Office LX software, which can cater to up to 500 users was deployed at the head office, while a Siemens MX system, which can handle up to 150 users, was deployed at JAFZ.

Around 160 Siemens OpenStage IP telephones were deployed, and the company was able to run the solution on a single, pre-existing, server running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. The two offices are connected via 40MB ADSL line, using SonicWall VPN to keep costs down.

Steen Hartwig, managing director of Freightworks, explained that the unified communications project is just part of a wider upgrade to new IT systems to support the company’s operations and planned growth.

“We have been trying to catch up with the development, and that is what we have been able to do in 2012-2013,” he said. “Early last year we completely revamped our entire IT setup, which was also something that had been pending for a number of years. The communication part of what we have just done with the Siemens solution, we wanted to take that next step. We are also in the process of rolling out a brand new ERP system, throughout the organisation - hopefully by the end of the year we will be done.”

One minor issue raised as part of the evaluation was the relative newness of unified communication technology in the UAE, Hartwig said.

“When you consider brands, Siemens is very solid,” he said. “It was a point of discussion, how we would get the support, how we would get the after sales service, and so forth, but we were assured that this would take place, we knew NewRAS, the Siemens people gave us a lot of comfort, and so far there has been no regrets.”

The solutions deployed bring a range of benefits to Freightworks, the company said, through features such as presence, fax management, call management, easy to configure conference calling, integration with other communications platforms and speed of set up and delivery.

Hartwig said that the overall aim was to be better connected, and although it is too early to put figures to the gains, the company expects to see a strong return.

“It is a little bit premature to talk about dollars and cents, we have made some assumptions certainly. Being able to reach your people, whether that is sales people, key account managers, or drivers out in the field is going to be the single biggest efficiency. Some of the efficiencies can’t be measured in money terms, but when you run a business it is all about achieving these efficiencies. I believe that when we get to Q1 next year we will sit down to review the first year and see where we are at,” he said.

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