Because Taste Matters
Microsoft Lync® improves communications and efficiency for Litehouse Foods®, Inc.
Litehouse Foods, Inc. is an award-winning innovator in refrigerated salad dressings, dips, cheese, and herbs, employing 650 people throughout the nation. The Litehouse brand began over 50 years ago in Hope, Idaho, as a family-owned restaurant created by two brothers, Doug & Edward Hawkins. Customers loved the restaurant’s blue cheese dressing and would come in with empty jars to get them filled. Since that time, Litehouse has become the leader in refrigerated salad dressings, veggie dips, sauces, instantly fresh herbs, blue cheese, caramel dips, fruit dips, glazes and fresh pressed apple cider, manufacturing these delicious products at its three U.S. facilities based in Michigan, Utah, and Idaho. Litehouse has been an employee-owned company since 2006, and each one of the employee owners is proud to carry on the high standards of quality and innovation, living up to the slogan… Because Taste Matters.
Core to the success of the brand is the company’s commitment to shared success and its role as a strong and active member of its communities. The continued growth of Litehouse has included the purchase of manufacturing facilities and the expansion of products to include an organic line of products, which is out-performing forecasted sales.
- Cerium delivered Microsoft Lync® Server 2013 with Enterprise Voice, and AudioCodes® gateways to provide the connectivity from the carrier.
- Cerium also deployed Polycom® VVX phones and Plantronics® headsets. Approximately 98% of the company is utilizing softphones with wired and wireless Plantronics headsets.
Among the benefits most noted by Lyle and employees of Litehouse are the following:
- Management control client (Lyle notes that the Control Client is easy to use and doesn’t require any backtracking through the system to start new tasks, which he noted was problematic in other systems he evaluated)
- Conferencing (multi-party audio, video and, web conferencing with collaboration for internal employees as well as interaction with external partners)
- Improved efficiency and quieter office environment through the use of presence. Lyle confessed that his team expected complications with their Lync deployment based on industry feedback.
Litehouse was looking for a unified communications (UC) platform to replace their aging and disparate PBX systems, which were operating across multiple sites and requiring multiple vendors for maintenance. The company also needed a solution to alleviate complications with its conferencing system. Lyle Beck, Technology Manager for Litehouse, explains, “We had three different platforms we struggled with continually. We were trying to make our video conferencing work in conjunction with GoToMeeting and an audio bridge service for our teleconferencing needs. It was very difficult and frustrating to get them all to work together.”
With the purchase of a new corporate office in Sandpoint, Idaho in 2014, it was the perfect time to incorporate new technology. Litehouse considered and tested multiple platforms; however, the Microsoft Lync platform offered superior performance over competitive products. The Litehouse team valued the Lync management interface and Litehouse had existing Microsoft licensing to leverage.
Rob Husted, Cerium’s Microsoft Solutions Architect and Microsoft Practice Lead, was engaged early in the process. “Microsoft recognized that Lync had the potential to change the way Litehouse communicated, both internally and externally. They needed a partner that could develop a roadmap to migrate off of their legacy telephony platforms and execute on a plan to deploy unified communications. Microsoft connected us with Litehouse to continue the conversation around Lync,” said Rob.
Cerium is not your typical Microsoft partner. Our unique focus on unified communications in the Pacific Northwest earned us Managed Partner status with Microsoft, putting us in the top 0.5% of all Microsoft Partners worldwide. Managed Partner status is not a distinction easily won, and arrives only via direct-invitation from Microsoft. Since our inception in October of 2000, Cerium has maintained an evolutionary ecosystem of Microsoft services. It’s a requirement in today’s communications industry—a communications integrator must speak the language and life of Microsoft to be an effective and successful partner. With Microsoft as our “Thought Partner,” Cerium offers an organic and fluid focus on solutions pertaining to critical Microsoft certifications and partner statuses.
In that vein, Cerium engaged in a lengthy, consultative discovery and design process with Litehouse, which spanned months. It was a collaborative effort, which resulted in a solution with immediate success and financial savings for Litehouse and enthusiastic adoption from staff members. Cerium delivered Microsoft Lync Server 2013 with Enterprise Voice, and AudioCodes gateways to provide the connectivity from the carrier.
Cerium also deployed Polycom VVX phones and Plantronics headsets. Approximately 98% of the company is utilizing softphones with wired and wireless Plantronics headsets.
To enable the end goal of establishing the Lync environment at the new HQ, Cerium worked with Litehouse with modified schedules and shifting priorities. “We shifted priority from our existing facility to focus on our newly acquired property in Sandpoint, ID for the Corporate HQ. We had to rewire and set up with Lync devices. This was all net new with no existing PBX or phone system in the building,” said Lyle.
When we started our implementation, Litehouse had immediate plans to move its headquarters and data center to the new location. However, that work had not yet begun, so Lync was deployed at their existing datacenter. The goal was to have Lync services up and running at the new location, so when users relocated they would go through adoption training and start using the new system. The relocation process was complex and the Litehouse team had to manage temporary WAN services through their network provider to connect the two locations. This service was not as reliable as they had hoped and they experienced more than occasional network outages. Since the datacenter had not been moved yet, all Lync services were provided remotely over this connection and that meant Lync was disconnecting frequently.
In response to this challenge, Cerium and Litehouse worked together to deploy both Lync and PSTN services temporarily at the new location. This reduced the dependency on the temporary WAN link and allowed for calls to be answered when the link dropped. When the new data center was ready, Cerium assisted with the relocation of the Lync Pool and decommissioning of the temporary Lync server. As Lync is rolled out to the remaining facilities, Cerium will implement a failover site, and support Lite- house with an upgrade to their Exchange environment.
Michael Smith, Cerium Project Manager, said the Lync deployment went smoothly. “Lyle and his team were always responsive to requests for information. Their team was very knowledgeable and understood the integration requirements. They worked very hard to ensure that all of the customer prerequisites and related changes to the data and voice network were being completed in a timely manner, in an effort to ensure project implementation success.”
The Lync deployment replaced all three previous conferencing platforms. Litehouse now has an easy-to-use platform that provides video, audio, and web conferencing in one solution. “This has made collaboration between our four locations so much easier! We’ve saved thousands in costs by not needing the old conferencing services any longer. We have seven conference rooms at the new HQ, and they are always booked. Now that we have Lync, and once we deploy to the other sites, people can sit at their desk for video and audio conferences,” said Lyle. He went on to explain that once the corporate office began using Lync—particularly the marketing department—they had many people on the sales team and at their remote sites asking for Lync as well. The Litehouse teams saw its value and the need to be able to communicate more efficiently, so there was a natural evolution of Lync rolling out in remote locations before anticipated.
“We were glad to implement this streamlined method of communication.”
Litehouse’s System Administrator was experienced in many Lync deployments from his past.
“He was really impressed with this. He’d never seen a Lync implementation go so well. We were all really pleased.”
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Effective communication is the essential element found in all successful business relationships. Employee productivity and customer satisfaction can rise and fall based on this key element. Cerium is in the business of taking basic business communication to new levels of collaboration with our industry-leading solutions designed to keep workers and customers engaged. So, we understand the importance of effective communication.