Ice cream maker mixes voice, data, wireless

When the Chapman’s Ice Cream plant in Markdale, Ontario burned down a year ago, the 37-year-old firm lost its IT infrastructure and phone system.

Before the fire, Chapman’s phone system was based on Norstar equipment from Nortel Networks Corp.

Chapman’s vice-president Ashley Chapman said at the time, Chapman’s was negotiating with a new supplier, Cisco Systems Inc.

“We had pretty much got (negotiations) wrapped up,” he said. “Then we burned down.”

On Sept. 4, 2009, a fire destroyed the 85,000 square foot plant, located about 150 km northeast of Toronto.

Chapman said the company moved to temporary facilities, and managers from both Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. and Cisco worked to put in a temporary system using wireless IP phones.

“We were in emergency recovery mode,” Chapman said. “We needed something as soon as possible so we could set up a temporary office and start servicing our customers again.”

Justin Cohen, who was working for Bell at the time, brought in some unused phones. Cohen has since been hired by Chapman’s as IT director.

The company is still in temporary facilities in a former furniture factory and is using a variety of Cisco IP phones, call centre software, wireless access points, controllers and routers.

Before the fire, IT staff at Chapman’s did some benchmark testing on new telecommunications systems.

“The new Nortel system was too complicated and gave you not even near the features of the Cisco system,” he said.

Nortel is operating under bankruptcy protection and has sold off its major business units. Avaya Inc. bought the contact centre and other enterprise products from Nortel last year.

Chapman did not disclose the price of the contract with Cisco.

“It was a lot but worth every penny,” he said.

Cohen said Chapman’s is using Cisco’s wireless technology to connect phones and IT equipment without having to string new cable.

This includes the 7965 IP phone, the 7900 video phone and the Catalyst 3750-X switch, as well as Integrated Services Routers.

Cohen said Chapman’s will also use wireless technology to track bundles of ice cream cartons so they can tell whether they are in the warehouse or in the production line.

“We’re working on developing an in house an inventory and traceability solution that will involve the Cisco wireless solution and handheld mobile computing system,” Cohen said. “We are going to be individually serializing our bundles of product as they go down the line.”

But Chapman’s is not going completely wireless, Chapman said.

“We are hard wiring as much as we can because at the end of they day you’re always going to get a better system with wired,” he said.

One of the Cisco Canada employees who worked on the project was Bryan McCaffrey,
consulting systems engineer for unified communications and collaboration.

“One of the biggest trends we’ve seen is the mobility application, being able to extend services to users no matter what device they’re using,” he said.

In the case of Chapman’s, McCaffrey said, Cisco created user profiles that could be mapped to any device from which they want to make phone calls, such as soft phone software loaded on to a PC or wireless voice over IP phones.


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