Using Zoom to Improve Work-Life Balance and Meeting Efficiency in Sekisui Chemical
Sekisui Chemical provides products and services in housing and social infrastructure and chemical solutions has used Zoom company-wide.
SEKISUI CHEMICAL CO., LTD.
Location: Osaka, Japan
Industries: Housing, Environmental
Products, and Chemical
Challenges: Company-wide unification of
tools, interoperability with in-house
groupware, wide range of supported OS,
technical support for integration with an
Solutions: Zoom Meetings, Zoom Webinars, Zoom Rooms
Business Benefits: Deployment as a common platform for the entire company, expansion of remote work and contribution to work-life balance through intuitive operability and voice quality, streamlining of meetings, and contribution to marketing through webinars.
By using Zoom, we are now able to check the rules and regulations with the design staff at the client's office in real-time. This saves us a lot of time, and our clients love it because they can get advice right away.
Kazuya HaraGeneral Manager of Information System Group, Digital Transformation Promotion Department
Sekisui Chemical was founded in 1947 and has provided products and services in residential and social infrastructure creation and chemical solutions. Sekisui Chemical operates its business through three main divisional companies; the Housing Company, Urban Infrastructure and Environmental Products Company, and the High Peformance Plastics Company, as well as its medical business and corporate headquarters.
In 2018, the High Performance Plastics Company, which accounts for more than 70% of global sales within the company, suggested using Zoom and other cloud services to strengthen international communication further. As a result of internal discussions, the High Performance Plastics Company began using Zoom in November.
Then, in early 2020, as the number of users expanded, Sekisui began to consider deploying Zoom company-wide. “At that point, employees who wanted to use it raised their hands and applied to the High Performance Plastics Company to use it,” said Naohiro Tani, Information System Group, Digital Transformation Promotion Department, Sekisui
“However, in April of the same year, due to Covid-19 and the first declaration of a state of emergency, the use of web conferencing rapidly expanded, and individual Zoom contracts began to sprout up in each organization and group company. On the other hand, the intra-teleconferencing systems we had been using until then were mainly stationary devices in the conference rooms. Hence, their use started to decrease,” Tani recalled.
Light, easy, and instant
Sekisui Chemical was initially considering the company-wide deployment of web conferencing tools to improve global communication and as part of its measures to reform the way people work, but the Covid-19 pandemic changed the focus to examining them as essential tools for telecommuting. With this, the priority was to make the tool as user-friendly as possible.
“There are many members in our group companies who are not IT-savvy, so we thought it would be difficult to use something that requires application procedures and settings,” Tani said.
“The intra-TV conference room that we had been using before the pandemic was set up by the administrator, and users could go to that room and use it at the touch of a button. But when it comes to telecommuting, employees have to set it up by themselves. When this happens, it is important that the tools are easy and intuitive to use. Although PCs are standardized, it is expected that tools that require a lot of machine power may not run smoothly on older models. It was important for us to make it light, easy, and quick to use,” said Kazuya Hara, General Manager of Information System Group, Digital Transformation Promotion Department. Also, compatibility with groupware was important.
“We are using a communication platform called Smile, which can handle all of our E-mail, scheduling, chatting, and document management. Other companies provide web conferencing and communication tools as a set, and they are designed to coexist. Still, we had unified the communication tool part with Smile, so we needed a tool to fill the web conferencing part.”
In addition, one of the critical requirements was interoperability, and it was essential to support not only PCs but also iOS and Android smartphones. The company provides iPads to executives and outside directors. In addition, the sales staff of the Housing Company, which is responsible for BtoC business, cannot take their computers with them because they handle personal information, so they use tablets with tight security to prevent them from carrying data around. All these employees needed to be able to use the tool without any problems.
Regarding the security of Zoom, Tani said, “There was a time when the media reported strongly about the vulnerability of Zoom, and many of our group companies and business partners voiced concerns about the use of Zoom. However, we didn’t believe the reports and decided that there was no problem with Zoom’s corporate policy of prioritizing security at the time, so we continued to use it. We also shared information within our company that the use of Zoom was essential and that the reported incidents of security issues were due in large part to user usage and corporate control and operation issues.”
Hara said, “At the time, Zoom announced its management policy that it would prioritize security over enhancing features. This attitude is essential because convenience and safety are always in conflict. I think it is very commendable that they have declared that they will allocate resources to security.“
As a result of the study, the company deployed licenses for 27,000 Zoom Meetings and Zoom Webinars for the entire company in April 2021 and began a phased deployment.
Tools to accelerate sales and marketing
Sekisui introduced the Zoom platform which has enterprise-grade features that support complex corporate infrastructures and authentication infrastructure. “Even though it is within the scope of our license agreement, the Zoom technical and support team has been very generous with their suggestions and support to help us utilize these features. In addition, the purchase of the software is not the end of the story. We need to build a Zoom environment (sub-accounts) for each level of the authentication infrastructure we have and integrate and link the Zoom environment with the authentication infrastructure we plan to integrate in the future. That’s where Zoom’s SEs come in, and they’re working on the roadmap for the switchover with a complete system in place, which is very helpful,” said Tani.
Since its company-wide introduction, Zoom has been used as the “cornerstone of daily operations” for telecommuting. Zoom is frequently used at the corporate level for the recruitment of human resources and internal ESG-related seminars. The Plastics Company (Urban Infrastructure and Environmental Products Company / High-Performance Plastics Company) also uses Zoom for webinars. “Zoom is contributing to the expansion of our sales and marketing. strategies, such as attracting customers from the Web,” said Hara.
In the past, the sales staff of the Housing Company would visit the customer to discuss the floor plan and interior/exterior design, and then return to the office to discuss with the design staff whether the design was feasible and whether it complied with the regulations. Hara says, “by using Zoom, we are now able to check the rules and regulations with the design staff at the client’s office in real-time. This saves us a lot of time, and our clients love it because they can get advice right away.”
In addition, all employees are prohibited from coming to office in principle in the areas where a state of emergency has been declared due to the Covid-19. Hara says, “We are preparing an environment that allows telecommuting from various aspects as not to disrupt the work, and we are using Zoom as one of the most effective means of doing so.” Tani says, “Compared to other conference systems, Zoom has by far the best communication quality. Compared to other systems, Zoom’s communication quality is overwhelmingly better, not only in terms of the amount of communication but also in terms of sound quality and other aspects of voice quality.”
“As we expand the use of the system within the company, we are facing issues such as how to control the security settings and functional restrictions for each department and group and how to solve the operational complexity of charging each company according to the amount of usage. Also, in the future, when we reach the ‘new normal phase, telecommuting won’t be zero, but it won’t be as common as it is now, so we honestly don’t know how much the Zoom usage rate will fluctuate. We also have to figure out how to use cameras, microphones, speakers, etc. when we hold hybrid meetings,” said Hara.
At Sekisui Chemical, Zoom is also making a significant contribution to improving the work-life balance and expanding remote work. Hara says, “Each employee has a completely different working environment, and telecommuting allows employees to take time to raise children or care for family members and maintain a good work-life balance. In addition, I expect that the way meetings are held will change in the future. Meetings, where people report, will not be held in a conference room but rather in a web conference, maximizing individual productivity. Of course, there are some meetings where teams need to get together and talk it out, so those meetings will be held in real life. By using tools like Zoom, I hope we can solve the age-old problem of improving white-collar production.”