Technology-Business Alignment Pays Off in Efficient Collaboration

Like other types of companies, manufacturers strive to align technology investments with business goals. That?s not always easy with shifting market conditions and tight IT spending, but those companies that manage to accomplish alignment generally see benefits.

Federal Heath, an Oceanside, Calif., company that manufactures custom signs for corporate customers, relies heavily on collaboration among its employees. The company has four manufacturing plants and about 20 offices with project managers, designers and salespeople located throughout the United States.

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?Since we have a decentralized work force, it?s critical for us to have our teams collaborate on projects in a cost-effective manner,? says Greg Katsaros, IT manager. ?Many of the graphic files that we work with are very large, but they need to be shared with different locations.?

To meet the need for easy collaboration, the IT department developed the Customer Status System (CSS), a project management system that allows salespeople, project managers, designers and estimators, manufacturing plants and customers to exchange information internally over a corporate network or externally over the Web.

Helping to enable CSS is a WAN from Sprint, which is augmented with a variety of appliances from Riverbed Technology that ensure network optimization. The devices enable the network to provide the file transfer and effective communication the company needs, Katsaros says.

?In the past, users would store data on their own PCs, local servers and data center servers, and then e-mail the same file to many recipients within our company,? Katsaros says. With the CSS application, ?our users now have a structured application to store critical information regarding each customer order?including all files that pertain to the order?in a centralized system.?

Federal Heath has eliminated many redundant copies and versions of the same file throughout the network. Information is delivered quickly, making teams more productive. ?This has made us a more efficient organization, resulting in [enhanced] service to our customers,? Katsaros says.