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Cargill links global commodities buying.


We can make an impact on the bottom line," says Reuben Lantto, director of international telecommunications for Cargill. That kind of positive attitude makes the folks in the boardroom sit up and take notice.

Lantto's latest innovation is a global multipoint-to-multipoint network linking satellite and fiber, and integrating voice and data between Minnieapolis headquarters and Switzerland.

"We've saved over a half million dollars after our first year with the system," Lantto says. That's double what he had projected. Cargill employees dial anywhere in the world by punching 8 and a regular seven-digit number.

No more 9 plus 1 plus 011 plus country code plus city code plus local phone number.

The latest project came about when Cargill ran out of data capacity to Europe.

"We had two AVDs [alternate voice/data circuits] to Geneva, but we were doubling our cost every time we expanded," he says.

With 800 locations in 55 countries, potential expense loomed large. Cargill's 53,700 employees include 32,700 at 400 U.S. sites. This privately held company buys and sells grains, coffee, cocoa, tallow, rubber, wool, cotton, sugar, molasses, fertilizer, and petroleum products.

Oil seed is processed in Australia, Belgium, and Spain. Orange juice is handled in Argentina and Chile. Thailand processes tapioca, etc.

For some time, Minneapolis hosted a shared hub for Overseas Telecommunications Inc. OTI, based in Alexandria, Va., provides digital private line international service to over 25 nations using satellite and transoceanic fiber optic cable.

One ot OTI's 14 earth stations is at Cargill in Minneapolis. OLI and Cargill have separate POPs, however, for redundancy.

In 1988, to fight the high cost of public-switched services on the overseas calls, Lantto integrated voice and data on a 128-kb/s line between Mineapolis and Geneva. The idea caught on; service expanded to London.

Another Cargill service provider, Republic Telcom, approached Lantto and some others at a users group meeting. Would Cargill be interested in linking its point-to-point muxes into a multipoint packet-switched network?

Lanto said yes.

Now offices in Minneapolis, Geneva, London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Zurich are linked through RNET, each point-to-point mux upgraded to a network node.

Selling The Project

Cargill is geographically managed. Lantto had to convince each office to participate.

"I sold it to London, then we traveled to the rest of the European branches and presented the idea to each."

The RNET packet switch was isntalled in Geneva despite its high telecomm costs.

"As Willie Sutton said about robbing banks, 'That's where the money is.' We put it in Geneva because that's where the call volume is."

Today, the European offices all are linked to Geneva with 64-kb/s lines. Six voice and 19.2-kb/s data channels reach every office. Geneva is linked to Minneapolis with 16 voice channels on 128-kb/s service.

"Don't go into shock when you see the cost," Lantto advises. "Trade the risks and the costs off against the benefits."

In his case, the risks were doubled; RNET technology was yet unproven. But he is pleased with its performance and vendor service.

Infotron 990 and 992 muxes serve the data channel. "We have both async and bisync SDLC (synchronous data link control)," he says.

The async network handles Ricoh 2100 Group III fax network traffic.

Expansion of the OTI satellite network is planned. Lantto plans for earth stations in Sao Paulo, Buenas Aires, and Mexico City.

This will complement the GTE domestic network.

Crying Need

Volume of business is his determining factor in locating earth stations. Brazil, for instance, has 5000 employees at 40 sites, trading in orange juice, coffee, cocoa, and grain.

"Two years or less is my goal for a payback period," Lantto says.

Since it takes about six months to firm up facilities, hardware, and licenses, he actually looks for an 18-month operating payback period.

"All of them clearly meet that," he says.

He is migrating the European links to fiber. A single satellite hop is acceptable for voice traffic, but two hops means too much degradation.

Lines from Singapore or Hong Kong to Europe come through Minneapolis. "It costs $5000 a month for four hours traffic daily from Singapore to London alone."

The RNET may be the site of the next change. Right now Lantto must decide whether to upgrade the Geneva unit from eight ports to 16, or to put a second eight-port unit elsewhere in Europe.

He sees is as a tradeoff between the security of a backup in case of failure and his ability to gain efficiencies from a centralized office.

Meanwhile, he is building on his goal to get Cargil into an all-digital environment. The RNET and satellite networks have him well prepared for Europe 1992, he says. With Cargill opening offices in Eastern European countries, his recent moves have him well positioned.

Still, occassional surprises creep in.

The Phillips PBXs in Amsterdam and the Jistel units in Paris were difficult to connect to the RNET because they are two-rather than four-sire connections. Signaling can't be passed as rapidly through the Phillips and Jistel units and signaling converters were required. Northern SL-1s were no problem.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Harler, Curt
Publication:Communications News
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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