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UC pays off for Fluor, NHL hockey team

Engineering giant Fluor and Buffalo Sabres note savings, operational efficiencies

By , Network World
June 18, 2010 09:53 AM ET

Network World - They weren't specifically looking to implement a unified communications infrastructure, but pressing telecom needs took Fluor Corp. and the Buffalo Sabres there anyway.

Unified communications, collaboration can help save cash

Both had been customers of Fujitsu, which exited the U.S. PBX business in 2001. That forced Fluor's hand to not only work with another vendor but also find one that could allow the far-flung company to set up and tear down ad hoc systems for project teams on a moment's notice.

"We're in constant greenfield/mobilization deployments," says Gary Rogerson, voice architect for enterprise voice services at the $22 billion global engineering, procurement, construction and maintenance services company. "We constantly bring out new systems and bring them back and do it over again, every three months to two years."

Fluor has been working with Avaya since 2006 and to date has invested $10 million to $12 million in its UC infrastructure. They have about 15,000 mostly IP telephones over 30 systems, and have recently implemented Avaya Aura Session Manager to connect several locations via Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunks.  

Avaya Aura Session Manager is an IP-based, core routing engine that enables centralized installation and distribution of communications applications to branch, field, remote offices and teleworkers, eliminating the need to install applications at every location. This is key for Fluor as it establishes and then decommissions communications systems at construction sites on the fly.

"Our focus is so much on rapid mobilization and de-mobilization of project sites," Rogerson says. The sites generally support five to 500 users, from two months to two years, and oftentimes with very little notice. "We've had some FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] work that's come up with [Hurricane] Katrina, where I got called on the weekend and we had to have a PBX up and working with 1,200 handsets within four days."

Trying to do this for a project site of 150 people with a digital TDM PBX would cost $120,000 to $135,000 vs. $18,000 to $20,000 for an IP PBX, handsets and applications, Rogerson says. (See related story, "Unified communications saves Canadian school district $200k/year".)

Even though this kind of flexibility and cost savings at the job site was the main catalyst for going with an IP-based UC system, Fluor implemented it companywide as well, at its Irving, Texas, headquarters and 135 offices worldwide. One of the applications running on top of the infrastructure is ABST's Call Express unified messaging package, a Web-based application that connects the voice mail systems of Fluor's 45,000 employees.

With Call Express, users go to one URL and type in the same login used for phone access to get a Webmail interface that shows all of their fax and voice messages, Rogerson says. They also get notifications, with a URL, of those messages sent to their e-mail. (Fluor's legal department won't allow WAV file attachments in e-mails that actually play back the message on a user's computer, Rogerson says.)

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