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BT Brazil’s VSAT Factory enables the rapid provision of satellite-based networks for customers on schedule and on budget
Creating thousands of satellite connections across millions of square kilometres for two large customers at much the same time presented Bruno Esteves and the BT Brazil team with a sizeable challenge.
It caused them to take inspiration from Henry Ford, the inventor of the assembly line.
Now, with the help of the BT VSAT Factory, BT customers Caixa Econômica Federal and Correios are well connected even in the most distant corners of Brazil. And BT customers in other Latin American countries could soon gain from the cost and speed advantages of the same approach.
We have set an unprecedented record at BT to meet client demands. Having started at zero we have implemented more than 6,000 VSAT sites, many of them in the most remote parts of Brazil, in just four months.”
- Bruno Esteves, Head of Project and Programme Management, BT Latin America
In mid-2011, the BT Brazil team had two major network deployment projects to tackle at the same time. Both involved the implementation of thousands of satellite connections across cities and remote locations. The first was for Caixa Econômica Federal (CAIXA), the largest public bank in Latin America. Here BT was already in the final stages of a project to connect the company's 11,000 lottery outlets and more than 5,000 bank branches to CAIXA’s data centres in Brasília.
The second project, at the planning stage, was for Empresa Brasileira de Correios e Telégrafos (Correios), the state-owned Brazilian Post Office and Telegraph Company. Worth more than R$345 million and one of BT’s biggest contracts in Latin America, this was to connect the organisation's regional and local corporate offices throughout Brazil. A total of more than 7,000 sites were to be linked, 6,750 by satellite and 325 by a land-based network.
To meet the demands of both projects with agility, flexibility and at a competitive cost, BT came up with an innovative approach. It took the assembly line concept that was the brainchild of the great industrialist Henry Ford and created the BT VSAT Factory. This new model made it possible to implement high-quality VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) connections quickly, across a wide variety of locations, even those that are so isolated that they can only be reached by raft.
The BT Brazil team began by mapping out the points of similarity between the two projects. They then created a framework that could respond efficiently and rapidly to the challenge of installing thousands of satellite connections in record time, not only for these two customers but also for any future customer with complex networking needs. This is the essence of the BT VSAT Factory and its production line approach.
The concept involves a series of micro-processes. These begin with the entry of the order data, specifying the product type, the customer and the installation location. This uses software customised by the BT team to handle the implementation of different VSAT technologies against peak demands. Ricardo Brissac, Technical Director for BT Latin America, the main person behind the idea of the BT VSAT Factory and its name, explains: “This works like any modern manufacturing line where you build the same model of car but with many different colours and variations in internal finishes.”
Overseeing the Factory’s production, project, and logistics management is a team located in the BT Operations Centre in Hortolândia, in the State of São Paulo. Here an infrastructure manager and two Network Operations Centre (NOC) supervisors work in relays to co-ordinate all necessary activities and resources. The team operates from 8.00am to 10.00pm, if necessary. Sometimes they are joined by representatives of equipment manufacturers and outsourced service companies involved.
The workflow through the BT VSAT Factory can be easily adjusted to keep pace with demand. For flexibility, BT has a strong line-up of suppliers who provide teams of people for the physical installation of the connection points in the field. Already skilled, any additional training they need takes just a few days because all the BT VSAT Factory micro-processes are clearly defined and standardised.
The BT VSAT Factory approach has had promising results. Bruno Esteves, Head of Project and Programme Management for BT Latin America, says: “We have set an unprecedented record at BT to meet client demands. Having started at zero we have implemented more than 6,000 VSAT sites, many of them in the most remote parts of Brazil, in just four months.”
Preparation has been the key. Talking specifically about the Correios project, Bruno Esteves continues: “We implemented all the processes with great care, including scenario mapping, risk analysis and data capture of the strong points and the weak points. The involvement of different sectors was fundamental to the success of the undertaking.”
This groundwork was essential for the challenging logistics of both the CAIXA and Correios projects. To produce and despatch more than 12,000 sets of equipment to locations in the most far-flung parts of Brazil involved close collaboration with each customer’s regional teams, as well as considerable effort and organisational ability of BT’s installation co-ordination teams. Planning involved a complex matrix of delivery schedules, locations, installation dates, and the scheduling of field resources.
Thiago Leite, BT’s Head of Implementation Services in Latin America, comments: “In places in the interior of Pará and Amazonas States, for example, delivery took between 30 and 40 days. To reach these isolated locations we had to charter boats or planes and some equipment even had to be transported on fishing rafts! Another major challenge was the co-ordination of field team itineraries to ensure customer expectations were met.”
Supply chain quality is another vital factor in projects of this scale. In the case of the VSAT dishes, for example, there was only one manufacturer in Brazil and production volume was not sufficient to meet BT’s demands. After negotiations with BT, the supplier opened up a special new production line to handle the order and deliver the 500 dishes that were required each week.
The benefits of the BT VSAT Factory are most visible and measurable in the increase in performance and consequent reduction of operating costs. Before, the VSAT Factory, site installations were completed at a rate of between 100 and 200 each month. Now they average 150 each day. And there’s scope for practically unlimited growth. It’s just a matter of supplying the necessary resources for what is now a well-defined, mature, and easily repeatable process.
Profitability has gained because faster delivery means improved efficiency and the opportunity for earlier billing. Service quality has improved too because the standardised and consistent processes make it easier to fulfil customer Service Level Agreements.
Ricardo Brissac concludes: “Our success in the installation of the satellite connections means we can now use the BT VSAT Factory concept to boost efficiency for delivery of other BT services.” Today it’s an essential part of BT’s everyday routine in Brazil. And Ricardo Brissac is looking into the possibility of introducing the idea into other Latin American countries, to increase collaboration between BT teams across the region and provide BT customers with an even better service.
The BT VSAT footprint in Brazil
BT’s VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) network means companies can operate virtually anywhere in Brazil, both in remote areas and in big cities, saying goodbye to unreliable and expensive terrestrial networks, while enjoying the highest levels of security and reliability. The VSAT network can also give customers peace-of-mind, providing back-up connectivity should terrestrial connections fail, keeping employees in distant locations connected to mission-critical applications. BT currently has about 27,000 VSAT satellite stations across Brazil, and plans to add 6,000 more in the near future.
Supporting local communities and economies
CAIXA, the largest public bank in Latin America, and Correios, the Brazilian Post Office and Telegraph Company, are two traditional state-owned institutions with national reach. Both have an important place at the heart of local communities and economies and enjoy an excellent reputation. Correios, as one example, is widely recognised as the best of its kind in Latin America. It also ranked 9th among the top postal services in the world’s 20 biggest economies in a survey sponsored by the World Economic Forum.
In addition to banking services, CAIXA also provides the population with a range of public services that include urban infrastructure investment and social benefit payments. It administers and operates the Brazilian federal lottery system too. Around a third of the transactions at its lottery outlets are related to routine financial services rather than gambling.
Correios has a presence in all of Brazil's 5,565 municipalities. Its huge logistics structure provides Brazilians everywhere not only with postal services but with financial services. Through a partnership with the state-owned Banco do Brasil (Bank of Brazil), it runs the Banco Postal (Postal Bank) with over 300,000 account-holders. Correios also provides small and medium-size businesses with solutions to help them export their products to any part of the world from any city in Brazil. The nationwide distribution of medical and academic books is another vital business strand.