Manufacturing relies on efficiency more so than any other industry. Being able to decrease the cost of goods sold by just one or two cents per unit can translate into a significant increase in profits. Many companies have begun outsourcing their manufacturing overseas for lower labor costs; however as products become increasingly complex and technical, a brighter and more technically sophisticated workforce is needed. As a result, the United States is starting to expand in manufacturing jobs. In fact, Apple recently announced that it plans to start manufacturing some of their Mac computers in the US.

Video conferencing and unified communications solutions can help US manufacturers drive efficiencies and remain competitive with global competitors. Here are just a few examples:

Hiring the Right People:
In a recent HBR article, Scott Erker states that manufacturing profits come from a company’s ability to “make the best use of technology to flexibly create high-quality products with continual process improvements and few accidents.” Therefore, US manufacturers need to hire “technically sophisticated, adaptable, engaged workers who are self-motivated to learn.”

Video conferencing allows hiring managers to screen applicants in a more effective manner, especially those located in different cities or even states. Conducting the first interview over video allows hiring managers to distinguish facial expressions and other non-verbal clues which can help determine whether or not the applicant will be a fit for the company.

Employee Training & Development:
Using complex machinery and technical equipment requires a significant amount of training for the most efficient and effective results. Video conferencing and unified communication tools can be used to enhance employee training and development. Streaming video can provide a consistent experience for training sessions, policy updates and other company messages while reaching multiple employees simultaneously.

Coordinate with Suppliers:
A key to efficient manufacturing is to build in redundancy for raw materials and source components from multiple suppliers in multiple geographic locations. Maintaining quality and consistency can be challenging and requires consistent communication with suppliers. Video conferencing solutions can be used to coordinate with suppliers, verify product quality and negotiate contracts without the added expense and hassle of business travel.

Green Initiatives:
Manufacturing places a significant strain on environmental resources due to the high consumption of energy and other natural resources needed to operate manufacturing equipment. Video conferencing solutions can help minimize a company’s carbon footprint by reducing airline and automobile travel to the plant without sacrificing face-to-face meetings.

Additional Resources:
Manufacturers Stay Ahead of the Competition with Video Conferencing

Telemedicine continues to be one of the most exciting advancements in the delivery of healthcare today. The benefits are significant and legislation throughout the United States is being passed to provide parity between a telemedicine visit and a live, in-person doctor visit. At a high level, telemedicine is about extending the reach of healthcare and providing care to those who may not have access to specialists and other needed experts.

Within telemedicine there are a number of very specific applications that are finding their place in hospitals throughout the country and the world. Telestroke is the application of telemedicine technology for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke victims.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 795,000 people in the United States have strokes and 130,000 of those stroke victims lose their lives. One of the greatest allies to a stroke victim is time. The sooner a patient is able to be seen and diagnosed by a doctor, the higher likelihood of a positive outcome. Many of the treatment options available today are highly effective but require a rapid diagnosis.

Of the many treatments out there, two are particularly time sensitive. Thrombolytic drugs dissolve the clots that block the flow of blood to the brain. These drugs need to be given as quickly as possible. Another option is tPA which is an enzyme that can help dissolve blot clots as well. It is found naturally in the body and if given within three hours of stroke symptom onset, it has a high success rate ofpreventing the stroke from occurring. This, however, is highly dependent upon the recognition of early stroke signs and symptoms.

The application of telemedicine to stroke, or telestroke, is usually deployed in a hub and spoke model. Hospitals with stroke/neurology services serve as the hub and allow connections from outlying or rural hospitals, known as spokes. Many of these rural hospitals simply do not have access to neurology and stroke specialists so these hubs can assist with timely diagnosis and treatment.

The technology of telemedicine allows neurologists to remotely examine patients when they are admitted to an emergency room or the hospitals. These doctors can review CT scans and other diagnostic tests quickly and make real-time decisions on initial treatment.

Beyond the obvious benefits to the patient, there are several other key advantages to telestroke including:

  • Reduced Costs: For hospitals who have established a comprehensive stroke care center, the investment is significant. This prevents smaller hospitals from implementing these critical programs. With a telestroke program in place, patient care is not sacrificed when budgets are not available.
  • Fewer Transfers: When facilities are lacking the specialists needed to care for strokes, it can become necessary to transfer those patients to larger, more distant facilities who offer a stroke center. The cost of these transfers is incredibly high, both for the patient and the medical facility. With remote specialists on hand, patients can stay in one facility, get the care they need, reduce the risk of their condition worsening, and ultimately save the system money.
  • Training: When local doctors get exposed to stroke specialists they are able to get real-world training on key stroke indicators and how to rapidly respond to them. This type of training can make the difference between a full recovery and a life of stroke complications.

The application of video conferencing and telemedicine technology to healthcare is truly exciting. As facilities continue to bring this technology on board, patients will be the ultimate beneficiaries. The highest level of healthcare diagnosis and treatment should not be reserved for those who live in proximity to major medical centers. Telemedicine technology has the potential to reduce or eliminate both geographic and financial barriers that can prevent access to high quality healthcare for everyone.

Last week Nintendo released the Wii U, the successor to the revolutionary Wii game console. The newest addition supports point-to-point video conferencing capabilities powered by Vidyo technology. Ofer Shapiro, Vidyo CEO, discussed bringing video conferencing to the masses along with the benefits of the Nintendo partnership. However, there have been several comments around whether or not this was the right decision for Vidyo and what this means for the ubiquity of video.

Is deploying a business solution to the masses through a video game going to dilute the brand? You most likely wouldn’t conduct business video call in your living room and you certainly wouldn’t put a video game console in the boardroom.

If that’s the case, won’t this partnership hurt Vidyo more than it helps?

The short answer is no because it opens up a significant realm of possibilities to connect businesses to consumers. Take telehealth for instance; have you ever woken up in the morning with a slight pain in your side and immediately thought what if I have appendicitis? Don’t you wish you could quickly ask a healthcare professional if there’s anything to be concerned about instead of Googling your symptoms and ending up with appendicitis or an abdominal tumor?

Many health insurance companies currently offer 24 hour medical hotlines with access to medical professionals. Unfortunately, without being able to visually see the patient they can only offer limited advice. By connecting over video, the healthcare professionals can more accurately provide advice on certain medical conditions.

For example, Max twists his ankle playing outside and instead of going to the hospital his parents connect over video to a healthcare professional. The doctor asks Max to move his foot and rate the pain, along with a series of other tests, and determines he has just twisted his ankle. The doctor then recommends icing and wrapping Max’s ankle and taking Tylenol as needed for pain. Alternatively, the doctor could decide it might be a more serious issue and Max should go to the hospital for x-rays.

Other possibilities include tutoring sessions where students can connect over video for help with their math homework, instructor led workout classes, or even customer support. Think of the dad trying to build his child’s bicycle and having a couple “extra” pieces. He can easily call in via video, show the support agent the piece and find out where exactly it goes.

Up until this point consumer based, living room video conferencing systems have failed to catch on due to several factors including price and utility. The Wii, however, is a game platform that just happens to have video functionality. This could lead to explosive usage and the endless possibilities noted above.

Of course, interoperability presents a major challenge at the moment. There’s a slight possibility that putting the Wii in offices across the country may lead to a minor decrease in productivity. If Vidyo develops a business or desktop video client that interoperates with Wii the lines between consumer and business video will blur significantly and put us one step closer to true video ubiquity.

Distance learning programs are rapidly increasing in popularity as colleges and universities try to reach a wider array of students. Potential students scattered around the globe generally select a school that is geographically continent because they cannot relocate simply to attend school. Additionally, part-time graduate students find it difficult to attend class on a weekly basis due to work commitments, child care coordination, and the plethora of other things that come up in their busy lives.

Unfortunately, even though distance learning programs are growing in popularity, many continue to lack the interactive experience that facilitates true learning. For example, two years ago I took an accounting class online to fulfill one of the requirements for my MBA. The class consisted of self-paced video tutorials, online message boards where we were required to discuss current events related to accounting and an online chat room where we could ask our professor questions about our homework assignments in real time.

The video tutorials were essentially PowerPoint slides with sound clips; however, I found myself having to replay sections three or four times because my mind would start wandering to other things. It is extremely difficult to focus on a static slide with a voice over because there is nothing to grab your attention. In a traditional classroom, you are able to see the professor’s facial expressions and movements around the classroom which helps focus your attention on what the professor is saying.

Furthermore, trying to ask and answer questions over chat was quite frustrating, especially for a math based class. It is extremely hard to articulate a mathematical process without a visual representation of the steps and the numbers. Often times it would take twenty to thirty minutes just to get one difficult question answered because the professor was having difficulty understand exactly what question I was asking.

At the end of the class, I was very disappointed in the experience as I felt I did not learn as much as I could have. Face-to-face interaction is a critical component of the learning experience and therefore needs to be integrated into distance learning programs before these programs can truly rival traditional classroom-based programs.

The good news is video conferencing solutions can help bridge this gap by creating a virtual classroom. With cloud-based meeting rooms, a professor can simulate a traditional classroom environment with lectures and interactive discussions. Students only need a webcam to join and can connect to the classroom with Skype, Google Video Chat or even their browser!

The professor can then easily present a topic, call on raised hands to answer questions and even see when students are not paying attention. After the lecture, the professor can facilitate an interactive discussion among students since they are able to see the professor as well as other students simultaneously.

Integrating video conferencing solutions into the curriculum can not only help address many of the distance learning challenges but allow colleges and universities to find a renewed efficiency and effectiveness within their operations.

Stay tuned for more ways to integrate video into educational programs!

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Video conferencing uses span across nearly every industry and profession. When it comes to staying connected with both internal and external contacts, there is no better way to maintain communication and provide the highest level of customer service. When it comes to sales, utilizing every avenue available to differentiate oneself is critical to closing that next big sale. Previously we have discussed the merits of video conferencing as a tool for sales professionals who work directly with customers. But another key area to apply the power of video is the internal management of sales within any organization.

Sales managers across a variety of industries struggle with similar challenges; including managing a team of sales professionals, providing timely and accurate forecast data to upper management, as well as being able to mentor and contribute to each rep’s success. Let’s look at how video can be used in these key areas.

Forecasting

One of the most challenging aspects of managing a sales team and sales effort is receiving accurate forecast data from the sales team as well as reporting the most accurate forecast to upper management. Video conferencing provides a far better way to work with remote reps on this critical business area. In many organizations, reps provide their forecasts electronically through a CRM or other tool.

These numbers may be discussed via a phone call with a manager before submittal but sometimes they only live electronically. Even in those situations where a manager and rep discuss the numbers, it can be hard to read the sales rep’s demeanor and overall confidence in the numbers. When these forecast calls are elevated to video, non-verbal cues can help the manager quickly ascertain if the forecast is based on solid information or purely on conjecture. Armed with that “truth” the manager will be able to provide forecasts that are based on reality.

Internal Teams

Another challenge a sales rep must overcome is the need to rely on different teams within an organization to provide the products and services they are tasked to sell. Especially in a technical sale, sales reps are required to call upon engineers and other subject matter experts to help explain products and services, define pricing and scopes of work, as well as give the customer more in-depth technical presentations. In many cases, these subject matter experts must be flown to different locations (thus increasing the cost of sales). With video, sales can easily communicate internally with the SMEs on what they need to move the sale forward and can also bring a customer into a video meeting to help sell the value of the organization’s technical expertise.

Sales Training

How does an organization keep its sales team updated on the latest product and service developments without taking the team away from the business of selling? Video conferencing can provide a way to do short, specific training sessions with sales reps, no matter where they are located. Instead of requiring the team to come into one location for an extended period of trainings and updates, information can be disseminated in smaller sessions, more frequently. Even better, a sales rep would only have to take an hour or two out of their schedule and they can return to selling as soon as possible.

Video conferencing has the power to transform a sales team into an incredibly efficient and profitable machine. When sales is more prepared, better connected, and held even more accountable, the results can only increase an organization’s bottom line!