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Our speed of communication has improved dramatically and I can ensure important messages are displayed across both buildings on the site almost instantaneously. It means that we can have our briefings by data conferencing, which adds to the flow of inteligence.
James Henrey, CEO

Abbot Diabetes – Digital Signage Case Study


Abbott Diabetes Care (ADC), based in Witney, Oxfordshire, is one of four UK locations of the world’s largest company specialising in the development and manufacturer of test strips for people suffering with diabetes.

The Witney site is based across two large buildings and is a key manufacturing site for the organisation.  It resulted from Abbott Laboratories acquiring Medisense in 1996 and Therasense  in 2004. The buildings encompass office space and training rooms as well as R&D, manufacturing and distribution areas, and produce more than 2 billion test strips a year.

Communication challenges

Twelve months ago, the HR Director identified some key communication issues at the site.  The challenge was to present the cohesive communication of important messages to multiple audiences, where there was still a residual ‘them and us’ feeling from the staff of the merged sites.  There was also a logistical issue due to the sheer size of the site in ensuring information was communicated in a timely manner – particularly important when that information related to manufacturing processes, for example. Finally, messages needed to be communicated to staff in clean production areas, where traditional methods could not be used because of the risk of contamination.

An existing screen based communication system was in place, but this was limited in its scope, unreliable and technically complex, so that only an IT expert could change information. However, the concept of using strategically placed large screens was seen as a good one, because half of the 1000 employees on the site do not have access to email.  ADC prepared a tender based around the use of this type of technology.

High level of support

The tender resulted in three quotes and ADC awarded the work to Smarter Interactive, an audio visual specialist who uses technology to help organisations achieve greater efficiency.  Smarter Interactive was chosen because of the high level of support offered, including a guaranteed 24 hour engineer on site response, as well as the quantity and quality of training supplied within the cost of the installation.

Five separate systems

The installation comprised a total of 22 plasma and LCD screens running from 9 Onelan digital signage boxes, all built into 5 separate signage systems.  The screens are installed across two canteen areas, 4 ‘break rooms’ which are small kitchen and relaxing areas throughout the site, in two reception areas, outside training rooms, in the cartoning area and in the ‘gown lock’ areas.  These areas are where the test strips are manufactured and are restricted clean areas where employees must wear gowns and hairnets.  The new system also incorporated some existing screens in corridors around the two buildings.

According to Rebecca Goody, Communication Specialist for ADC, information shown on the screen varies according to the location.  In the canteen and break rooms the system shows BBC news, as well as general announcements, staff and personal information and events that are taking place.  They have even used it to show major sporting events such as the World Cup. The scheduling facility within the system allows the information to change during the lunchtime sessions – and as ADC operate a 24/7 shift, some of these lunchtimes are in the middle of the night.

User feedback

“The focus here is on information that staff will find useful” she says.  “We used to show only company information, but soon after the system was installed, I ran some focus groups with the users.  The feedback was that they wanted the information to be more personal. The system is very easy to change and so it wasn’t a problem to make some simple changes and respond to the feedback very quickly.”

The main reception comprises a ceiling mounted 46” screen over the reception desk and a wall mounted 40” in the waiting area.  In the R&D reception, there is a 40” screen above reception.  Although in two separate buildings, all the screens show the same information about the company and its history, and key facts about diabetes.  Health and safety information is displayed and the scrolling text welcomes important visitors to the site.  The top left hand corner also shows the BBC news.

Outside each of the four Learning and Development rooms, details of the training course that will take place each day are shown.  “The ability to programme this information up to a week in advance is really useful” says Ms Goody.  “It means the details are always correct and up to date, even if the person who enters the information is away for the day.  It minimises the chance of human error as everything is updated automatically.”

Communicating to ‘clean’ areas

Information is more technical in the gown lock production areas.  Training messages, machine issues and changes to procedures are all highlighted, as well as metrics showing output levels and other relevant numeric information.  Because this area is a clean environment, Smarter Interactive had to work closely with the production team to ensure they did not contaminate any of the production batches.  The 24/7 nature of the production cycle meant that the process could not be stopped for installation.  To overcome this, 3 screens were mounted along the corridor with each running 3 consecutive layouts in a rolling cycle.

Finally, the cartoning area has a replica of the production area system, although the information is different and relates to targets for that particular facility.

Dramatic improvements

A year after the installation was completed, Ms Goody is enthusiastic about the benefits it has brought to ADC.  “Feedback from the staff is really good and visitors always comment on the professional image the screens in reception portray.  Our speed of communication has improved dramatically and I can ensure important messages are displayed across both buildings on the site almost instantaneously.  Because the screens show a combination of different media, including television footage and moving text, people are drawn to it. Plus the system is extremely flexible and easy to use.”

Ms Goody often gets requests from staff in areas where there are currently no screens, asking when they will be included.  Although there are no firm plans to expand at the moment, she feels that in time the company may expand the digital signage system still further.   In the meantime, there is still plenty of scope for new developments with the existing system.  “I am learning all the time about new features – for example, Smarter Interactive has given me a training session on using Flash animation which I will be integrating into some of the screens to give even more impact.”

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