Welcome to our mini-series, where we hand over to an Onecom customer to tell their story of ‘business as unusual’ during the on-going pandemic. We will hear how they adapted operational and customer service models during lockdown, whilst continuing to deliver simply brilliant customer experiences.
Our sixth success story comes from Onecom customer TMD Friction UK, part of the Nisshinbo Group company and global leaders in brake friction technology.
From passenger cars, racing cars and commercial vehicles to industrial applications, TMD Friction drive excellence through effective, reliable and safe braking solutions and are currently making brake pads and supplying key customers such as the Police, Ambulance Service, and hundreds of key workers in the UK and European markets.
'With over 135 years in the braking friction industry, we are among the world´s largest manufacturers of brake friction materials and are trusted by the biggest brands in the automotive and industrial sectors. We also cater for some of the world's most prestigious racing series, such as the 24 Heures Du Mans racing cars and other vehicles. Welcome to the world of brake friction.'
TMD Friction UK consume Mitel Cloud and MiCollab with a mixture of Fixed and Flex users, spread across their four UK office locations. We spoke to Anthony Lilley, UK IT Manager at TMD Friction UK Ltd.
“We knew social distancing was going to impact our day-to-day operations on a large scale. With 455 staff across our manufacturing sites and warehouses, it was always going to be challenging both from a cultural and practical perspective. The Government guidelines were changing regularly, and we worked hard to either be ahead in some cases or react very quickly to ensure we worked in accordance with strict but necessary government guidelines. I am proud to say that due to the agility, teamwork, and exacting protocols introduced, our Hartlepool site is being held up as a global standard in health, safety and employee well-being for the Group."
Anthony continued, "Educating employees was instrumental to success. We created educational videos on the importance of social distancing and the new standards in our factory which were well-received, allowing us to continue to operate as essential workers throughout lockdown. Although we were in the midst of getting ready to launch our technology transformation project, protecting as many people as possible was paramount to the business, so the decision was made to enforce a remote-working policy for any office-based teams, immediately. The 2-metre rule was put in place for all office locations, for any occasion where individuals needed to remain on site.”
Taking it back to 2019
TMD Friction were suffering with a 20-year old on-site telephony system, capable only of making outbound and receiving inbound calls. Each site had its own siloed phone system with no method of integration or collaboration cross-site.
In Anthony’s words, “From a technical standpoint, we were using very outdated technology.” The catalyst for change came when after another system outage, the spare part required couldn’t be sourced for over two weeks. The constant routine of the system overheating, malfunctioning and subsequent difficulty running routine maintenance meant the investment in a new, modern telephony solution was becoming increasingly essential. Then the announcement came that ISDN 30 was to go end-of-life, and the decision was made.
After Onecom’s initial approach, time was spent discussing business challenges, building an understanding of how TMD Friction operated, and openly debating the pros/cons of solutions on the market. Anthony and his stakeholders felt confident in Onecom’s ability to deliver within budget and timeline, found information was quickly accessible, and responsiveness from the team excellent. Anthony commented, “It felt like a partnership from the start. It was abundantly clear that across the wider project team Onecom understood our frustrations and immediate challenges.”
Rising to the challenge
Mitel Cloud was quickly determined as the best course of action with a 2:1 ratio of ‘Flex’ users (which includes a softphone), vs ‘Fixed’ users. Whilst Onecom and TMD Friction worked together to identify the best solution to proceed with, it wasn’t all plain sailing. Mid-way through the engagement, budgets were restructured which meant it was back to the drawing board. There was a new requirement to move from CAPEX to OPEX, a challenge which Anthony says, “Onecom and Mitel approached pragmatically and diligently.”
"There was resistance to investment in non-direct equipment from senior stakeholders at TMD, even after budget adjustments. Rather than Onecom push us to accept a compromised solution, which although met our cost goals, wouldn’t meet our full transformation ambitions, we regrouped. Collectively we were clear that if it was going to be done – it was going to be done right. The timeline became the variable in our joint efforts to get board approval.”
When crisis hit
As TMD Friction and Onecom continued holding ‘art of the possible’ sessions to keep project momentum up, the unthinkable happened and a global public health crisis hit. At a time when TMD Friction could have taken a step back, they made the bold decision to power on and invest in technology aimed at driving collaboration, operational agility, and cost efficiency.
“It was time for change, and not even a pandemic was going to stop us,” reflects Anthony. “As an automotive aftermarket business, we had been kept busy with continued European orders through the first few weeks of coronavirus, not feeling the impact heavily until late May. Due to the reduced demand, we had to use the government furlough scheme and our goal has and remains to protect the business and the people that work within it.
“Around the same time, I experienced first-hand the impact of the virus. After developing acute symptoms including severely impacted breathing, emergency services were called, however I avoided hospital. I was so unwell that I decided whilst I could not speak, to write letters to my wife and children, should the worst happen."
“I’m pleased to report I am now fully recovered and immensely grateful to our emergency services for assisting me in gaining control of my breathing and general composure. The experience made me reflect on the importance of getting a leading remote worker solution in place, to help minimise physical interactions for as many employees as possible and keep them as safe as we could.”
As May came along, it was full steam ahead, rolling out a site-by-site go live across a two-week period, all completed remotely. Anthony said, “Our Onecom engineers were brilliant – professional, responsive and above all else a real pleasure to work with. I’d say as a customer we are demanding, so the two-way dialogue made all the difference. They adopted our social distancing measures brilliantly to keep themselves and the TMD team safe.”
The Mitel Cloud solution provides the ability to use laptops and devices as softphones for a more seamless method of communicating. At the start of lockdown, manual workarounds were being made to ensure calls were able to be made and received, with many staff operating temporary numbers to remain available - not a viable option long term.
“All of the challenges disappeared as soon as new solution went live. MiCollab gave us the freedom to collaborate on the move, and the IM presence function is a whole new world for us! I’ve been overwhelmed with the positive feedback from our teams who feel closer than ever despite the remote working. It really was embraced company wide."
“For me it was the simplicity. Something which used to take hours now takes minutes, such as call routing and workflows now diverting at trunk level. There was an element of education to be done, Onecom assisted with training to include best practice guides and training ‘UC Champions.’ The material was prepared before COVID, and we simply adapted to remote user-guide sessions, creating in-house videos on simple yet necessary topics like how to enable remote working from home, collaborate with a team, even access voicemail.”
Changing cultural dynamics
When discussing with Anthony the impact on the team culturally, he said, “Cultural dynamics of the business have changed dramatically. People who we thought might be resistant to change have embraced it. We were in a state of flux and needed new ways of working. There’s now an instant level of communication, something as a business we openly admit wasn’t always a strong point. We have broken down those barriers at a time when it has the most impact, especially on mental health and well-being.
“The future of the automotive industry remains uncertain and we are taking it one day at a time, as we are still seeing the commercial impact filter down to the aftermarket. We will continue to flex the workforce as we carry out our plans to be agile in our response to market demand, particularly as European countries resume operations. If nothing else, we are a more technically agile business than we were just six months ago with the operational flexibility required to succeed.
"In the knowledge that we have stringent health and safety measures in play in our plants and warehouses, with the technology to empower our teams to work from home – we’re in no immediate rush to get back to the office. The completion of the project and direction from Onecom has been a game-changer. It sounds cheesy, but we’re now living in the art of the possible.”
As a reminder from a previous Business as Unusual story, if you, or someone you know are struggling with mental well-being, or need some additional support - the British Red Cross have a dedicated coronavirus helpline set up ready to lend a friendly ear. Access more information here.
To understand how Onecom could help your business deliver simply brilliant customer experiences and provide operational agility, chat to us today. We're proud to be supporting businesses throughout the pandemic with several free of charge remote working tools, as well as working on long-term future success roadmaps in preparation for a new way of working.