Canadian Plastics

Cut lead time with web conferences

By Cindy Macdonald   



Web conferencing has arrived as a viable tool for the plastics industry. The concept of meeting in a shared Internet environment, rather than meeting in person, is filtering down from large, high-prof...

Web conferencing has arrived as a viable tool for the plastics industry. The concept of meeting in a shared Internet environment, rather than meeting in person, is filtering down from large, high-profile companies to smaller users who can also benefit from the time- and cost-saving features of web conferences. The Canadian Plastics Industry Association has even turned to net meeting technology for some training events (1).

For those who have been reluctant to sort through competing suppliers and technologies for web conferences, the task has now been simplified. Sterling Design (2), a management consulting firm located in St. Paul, MN, has an agreement to sell WebEx’s Internet conferencing and collaboration capabilities to the plastics and moldmaking industries. The benefit is twofold: Sterling knows the industry and its needs; and it has packaged the services in a way that is affordable for smaller companies.

Sterling may already be known to some Canadian processors. President Lynn Keefer has been doing work with the CPIA and some Canadian moldmakers in recent months. He gave a webcast presentation at the CPIA/CAMM moldmakers annual conference last September, and co-ordinated some webcast training seminars for CPIA’s film manufacturer’s council (PFMAC) last fall.

The technologies for web conferencing have evolved to the point where meetings for engineering changes, product development, design approvals, multi-facilities planning, quotes, etc. are easy, viable and cost effective.

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Sterling’s offering for web conferencing, powered by WebEx, includes:

interactive shared whiteboard

live audio and video telecast

interactive chat with privacy mode

shared applications or documents

shared desktops as desired

record and playback.

The conferencing service is available 24/7, is suitable for PC, Mac or Unix, and requires only a browser.

“Any programs you can run on a PC, you can share,” explains Keefer. “You could put a Pro-E drawing on-screen, and all users can view it, highlight it, and move it around. You could even give other users control of the program.”

“In many cases, moldmakers can lose two to three weeks of production time just waiting for approvals. Web conferences can speed up that process and have a direct effect on lead time,” says Keefer. WebEx’s conferencing permits digital signatures so that all parties could actually sign off on a design online.

For the plastics industry, Sterling offers three packages. (I present these not necessarily as an advocate of Sterling’s service, but as an example of the type of service that is available.)

Let’s start with the frequent user package. Clients can create and maintain their own branded conference centre at a cost of US$4000 per month with a US$2500 one-time set-up fee. This price permits 20 users at any given time.

For smaller companies, a ten-user package to hold meetings in the Sterling conference centre is US$250 per hour per user plus telephone charges.

Sterling also offers a pay-per-use package whereby you use Sterling’s conference centre. You are charged a set-up and access fee of US$200 per month plus US$0.50 per minute per user plus phone charges.

Compare that with the cost of flying or driving your employees to a customer or supplier site, accommodation, meals, time wasted in transit and lost opportunities.

Keefer plans to have a demonstration of Sterling’s web conferencing capability on the company’s web site this month.

1. www.plastics.ca

2. www.sterlingdesign.com

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Essentially, a web conference is many-to-many communication achieved through interactive teleconferencing, videoconferencing and sharing of applications. Webcasting is a one-to-many communication, where participants receive audio and video from a central source and can communicate with the central source, but not with each other.

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