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The Right Steps: UIL’s telecom initiatives help improve business operations

December 31, 2012
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Usha International Limited (UIL), a Siddharth Shriram group company, was established in 1935. A multi-product consumer durables manufacturing, marketing and distribution company, its product portfolio includes fans, sewing machines, appliances, hoods and hobs, power products, engines, motors, pump sets, drinking water coolers and dispensers, and auto components. The company has a network of 16 offices, 33 warehouses and 60 company showrooms in 43 cities. 

UIL started modernising its communications set-up a decade ago in order to keep pace with the changing market requirements. The initiative also helped in  tackling competition.

tele.net examines the manufacturing major’s communications set-up…

Communications infrastructure

In its initial days, the company had a very limited telecom set-up, which comprised various stand-alone applications, developed in-house.

As its operations and customer base grew, the company took steps to modernise its communications network. “In 2001, UIL decided to implement centralised industry-standard solutions and shift from our legacy system,” says a senior company official. “As the first step, we implemented SAP which is still being used for all our business-critical operations.  All our offices across India are using the servers hosted at our Gurgaon data centre. Our regional offices, plants and warehouses are all connected with the central data centre over a multi-protocol label switching-based network provided by a third party.”

For last mile access, each of UIL’s offices uses different mediums. According to the official, 35 offices use 1-2 MB wireless broadband, provided by Sify Technologies,  for last mile access. The wide area network (WAN) device at these locations is provided by Cisco/Fortinet. At four locations, the company’s offices use 1 MB leased lines, provided by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, for last mile access. The WAN device used is a Cisco router. Sixty of UIL’s offices have a dial-up wireless virtual private network set-up, provided by Reliance Communications, with a data card being used as the WAN device. Twenty-two of the company’s offices use a 28 MB wireless connection in conjunction with an optic fibre network provided by Sify Technologies and Bharti Airtel. The WAN device for these offices has been provided by Fortinet.

UIL also uses the SAP ECC 6.0 enterprise application, which comes with several add-ons, including the advance planning and optimisation, business intelligence, employee self-service and dealer management system modules.

The mobility applications used by the manufacturing major include sales force automation and the business workflow solution. The software applications deployed include customer relationship management, a vendor portal, business process management, the document management system and the SMS gateway tool.

To secure its communications network, UIL uses a host of security applications and devices including a firewall in high availability mode, antivirus and antispam tools, and the gateway load balancer platform. Over 3,500 employees at various locations can access the network.

Challenges and benefits

According to the company official, UIL faced two major challenges while upgrading its telecom set-up. “The legacy system had been in place for decades. Therefore, it was challenging to introduce the new set-up, which entailed not only bringing in a new system but also changing the way the staff managed its activities. Another challenge was that the in-house teams were not well versed with the new technology. We, therefore, engaged an established player that helped us in implementing the new technology and training the personnel in an efficient manner.”

In terms of benefits, the official says, “The deployment of the new systems has enabled the integration of all data and processes, giving us a huge advantage. The other pay-offs include integration of information across our various locations and functions, a centralised view of consolidated information at any point of time, faster decision-making, easier manageability and effective utilisation of resources. By leveraging our IT and telecom network, we have been able to improve business processes.”  The new set-up has enhanced productivity by 30 per cent due to faster and secure access to enterprise systems.

Going forward, UIL plans to take the technology upgradation initiative a step ahead each year.

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