Business used to be largely conducted via fax and telephone. Admittedly, that was a couple of decades ago, but many Kiwi business owners still remember the beep of the fax machine. How technology has changed and altered the way we do business!
Billions of emails zoom around the globe every day, and for export-focused companies like Napier-based Future Products Group (FPG), face-to-face online conversations with clients and staff abroad are as commonplace as a weekly staff meeting.
FPG is a design-led manufacturer of food display units and around 50 percent of its sales come from exports. The company’s products are found in Australia, Europe, Asia and North America, and it has a factory in Shanghai, a sales office in Australia and agents in the UK and the US.
In the early 1990s, FPG expanded into Australia with its custom-made retail and food display units. But its export growth really escalated in 2005 when McDonald’s introduced its McCafé stores to the world. The multinational trialled the concept in Australasia first and FPG won the contract to supply the custom cabinetry. When customers flocked to this ‘slower’ coffeehouse-style option, McDonald’s rolled out McCafé globally and FPG reaped the benefits. Today there are at least 1,300 McCafés in operation.
The growth of its international business put pressure on FPG’s local operations. In 2007, the company opened a factory in Shanghai to produce the volumes of cabinetry its multinational clients required. The Napier shop, with its heritage in joinery and design, retains the custom business.
FPG group general manager Jared Vaughan says seamless, reliable and cost-effective communications are vital to the company’s continued success.
“For the management of our remote offices – whether they’re those we run ourselves or our agents – it’s essential that we can communicate effectively, especially when doing business in the global market is a 24-hour operation,” says Vaughan.
While technologies such as Skype have only been around a short time, it’s had a huge impact on how FPG staff in New Zealand, Australia and Asia communicate with each other.
“We used to have a proper video-conferencing system, but we ended up throwing it away because Skype is much faster and more reliable,” says Vaughan. “We do a lot of Skyping with the UK, China and Australia. It’s much easier to do things face to face, and for our clients and agent in the UK, it’s now become the preferred way of communication, along with email. In Australia and China we hook up with our staff via Skype at least twice a week.”
And naturally, this jump in Skyping to facilitate FPG’s export activity led to an increase in the company’s data usage.
TelstraClear business advisor Nigel Hulena, who manages the FPG account, noticed a trend of rising usage every three to four months – largely due to increased Skype activity – and he recently recommended an upgrade.
“We’ve built a good relationship with FPG over nearly four years,” says Hulena. “We keep a close eye on their business needs and look at the sort of offerings that will help them improve efficiency and cost savings, while lowering risk. With the upgrade we have offered FPG, we have doubled their speed [bandwidth] and nearly tripled their traffic allowance, all with a 26 percent cost saving.”
FPG uses TelstraClear’s Business Internet Access (BIA) service, which was created for business customers who are highly dependent on the internet for business success. Its benefits include better connection ratios and speeds than a high-speed connection; flexible bandwidth and traffic allowances; up to eight free IP addresses; and symmetric bandwidth (where download and upload speeds are the same).
Hulena says that in terms of quality and value for money, this is the best system for companies like FPG. The upgrade now offers FPG a 20Mbps access and 100GB of data a month, which allows good provision for future growth.
FPG has a TelstraClear Business Performance Network (BPN), which is a bundled data network service that connects the company’s Napier headquarters with its offices in Australia and its production site in China.
“We’ve been able to operate the remote office feeding off the TelstraClear service here,” says Vaughan. “It’s been extremely reliable and we’re very happy with the performance.”
If you’re exporting, you’ll need to be well connected to the globe. TelstraClear is a subsidiary of Telstra, the world’s fifth largest telecommunications company. Its network extends worldwide, which means TelstraClear can offer great leverage, particularly to companies that operate at a trans-Tasman level.
To speak to a TelstraClear business advisor, call 0508 BUSINESS (287 463)