Flexibility key to a/v communication systems
New headquarters for International Truck features messaging system, computer training rooms, & conference center.
We all know what a headache moving day can be. It's hard enough to coordinate moving a single
household, but imagine moving the world headquarters of a multimillion dollar corporation.
That task is now complete for International Truck and Engine Corporation, where a number of
operations have been brought together under one roof in Warrenville, Illinois.
International Truck and Engine is the operating company of Navistar International
Corporation (NYSE: NAV), which had sales and revenues of $6.7 billion in 2001. The company
is a leading producer of mid-range diesel engines, medium and heavy trucks, severe service
vehicles, and parts and service sold under the International® brand. The company also is a
private label designer and manufacturer of diesel engines for the pickup truck, van and SUV
Any move can have its downsides, but Director of Corporate Facilities Darlene Edwards saw
the move as a real opportunity. Looking carefully to the future, she led the design of a
state-of-the-art conference center that can go global if necessary, and an internal messaging
system that keeps the channels of communication open to company employees. "Business needs
change constantly," says Edwards, "and it's not cost effective if you don't design flexibility
into your systems." Flexibility was certainly the watchword for the company's new a/v systems.
Internal messaging-an entertaining eyecatcher
One of the challenges Edwards faced at the new headquarters was getting general company
information out to 1,200 employees in a way that would not be ignored. Telephone, voicemail
and e-mail are great for one-to-one communications, but group broadcasts are often deleted
rapidly in the day-to-day glut of information.
Today any International employee who steps into any hallway or visits the various snack areas
will find monitors displaying internal information. It may be something as simple as the daily
special at the company café or news on a local convention, but it's the kind of informational
tidbit that every employee will find himself looking for some time during the day. "They had
six floors of people and needed a way to get messages out that were global in nature," says
United Visual's Bill Mullin. "But they didn't want to have people going to a website, using
e-mail, or tying up network bandwidth for video broadcasts." The messaging system fit the bill.
The new system, using components and software from TargetVision, uses a PC-based server but
converts the signals to analog video. That way they can be carried to standard monitors using
low-cost co-ax cable. Edwards chose to place a TV monitor at each end of the hallway on every
floor, one near every snack area, in the reception area and the main conference area. "We can
use it to welcome suppliers or to post company stock quotes. It's very popular when the stocks
are up!" says Edwards.
Cher Olchawa has the job of programming the system on a daily basis. "It is so much fun.
I just wish I had more time to sit and play with it. You almost want to come in on a
Saturday and work uninterrupted!" Olchawa says she hopes to schedule an intensive two-day
training session with TargetVision this summer. Though she says "I only know about a third of
what it can do for me," she has been using the system effectively based on introductory
training from Bill Mullin. She does the work right at her own PC, then sends the information
to another machine that broadcasts it throughout the system.
Olchawa recently attended a users' forum in San Antonio where she got plenty of new ideas
for the messaging system. "Some people there had had the system for five years, some for just
five weeks, but it was great to talk to all of them about how they use it," she says. "I had
been updating the stock quotes every morning, but I found out the system can be programmed to
update them three times a day automatically. One thing I'd like to do is put a monitor in the
breakrooms at our plants. Then employees could use the system to watch mandatory safety videos
while they take their break." Olchawa says several firms use their systems to help with
community service projects. A Florida company raises money for United Way by letting local
businesses run ads on the system. They also post information about local schools and government
that employees might be interested in. She says "if there's a major news event we can even
turn on CNN so everyone can watch."
New conference center more than meets the eye
Of course, the communications needs of a company like International Truck goes far beyond
a simple messaging system, and so the new building includes a conference center with a
multipurpose room and a training room.
At first glace, the multipurpose room seems simple enough, but it's capable of far more than you might think. Two LCD projectors hang from the ceiling, one facing the front and one the back right side. Staff can configure the center as a single large conference room or divide it into two, and of course they set up furniture to fit with the day's meetings. A small closet to the side holds an equipment rack that can feed signals from CDs, VCRs, DVD players and other systems to the projectors on command. Computer interfaces are built into the floor and the walls, for use by anyone making a presentation.
A few steps down the hall is a dedicated computer training room. A nice feature of this room is a
Classnet switching system, which allows the instructor to switch the monitor display from her own
or any student computer to the LCD projector, to her own display or to any or all of the other
students'. IT Learning Center Manager Glenna Eorgoff says the Classnet is especially useful when
"a student does something creative, either creatively right or creatively wrong. Quite often that's
an opportunity to work through a problem. Now instead of asking 20 people to gather around Joe's
computer, we can just switch it to the big screen."
"One major criteria I had when I designed this building was maximum flexibility," says Edwards.
There are 60 smaller conference rooms at the Warrenville facility, each wired for computers and
a/v, but the main conference center is the most adaptable. Because these rooms are so versatile,
they are used for a wide variety of activities, from daylong lifestyle meetings to luncheons and
training, even blood drives.
Handheld Crestron control panels offer easy-to-understande a/v operations. By touching the
icons on the remote, presenters can control the projector, video source, lights and sound levels.
"In one of our previous locations we had a little audio control booth near the conference area
where I had to put an operator during meetings. Now my employees don't have to sit through a
seven or eight hour meeting to keep an eye on things."
International Truck and Engine and United Visual have been doing business for a long time.
Both sides are very comfortable with the relationship. Edwards says "they did come in and do a
run through," but there wasn't a lot of need for training on this straightforward system. "The
nice thing," she continues, "is that they continue to tweak the system until they get it right."
The center and the messaging system will continue to be tested as the company continues to
grow. Edwards expects the flexibility she insisted on will be more and more valuable. But then
what would you expect from a company whose motto is "The brilliance of common sense"?