Sierra Pacific Industries


With dozens of locations and nearly 2 million acres of timberland, SPI faced some significant communication challenges. Seamless collaboration was crucial for maximizing productivity, maintaining an outstanding customer experience and ensuring safety during an emergency. However, their disparate and antiquated Avaya and Nortel PBX systems made communications difficult and severely constrained.

Callers at many locations were left listening to static while on hold or being transferred to the intended party. Employees often didn’t have the right tools – conference calling, voice mail, instant messaging, mobility and more – to collaborate effectively. Hardware maintenance and repairs were becoming increasingly difficult, with SPI relying solely on aftermarket parts and third-party technicians.

And, critically, their legacy systems lacked the security required of an enterprise, leaving them exposed to hackers and fraud. When one Nortel system was hacked remotely, the cost of the resulting toll fraud was initially invoiced at over $400,000 and ultimately settled for under $200,000.

Needless to say, managing this antiquated, disparate communications environment was becoming an increasing drain on resources and creating an unacceptable amount of risk. “Every location had their own phone system, and managing that system was a pain,” says SPI Telecommunications Manager Jim Coyer. “The existing system was becoming increasingly obsolete, so we were looking for a solution that could go the distance.”


Jim and his team began searching for an upgrade, but they were disappointed with the options offered by Avaya, NEC and 3com. In addition, Cisco was too expensive considering the lack of capabilities offered by their system and too complex, requiring greater support from outside the company. Fortunately, Jim discovered that ShoreTel – now owned by Mitel – had a robust, cost-effective system meeting all of SPI’s requirements and easily managed with in-house resources.

Ultimately, SPI deployed MiVoice Connect, an on-site unified communications and business phone system that features CRM and business process integrations, productivity apps, superior sound quality and easy instant messaging and conferencing.

SPI Senior Network Engineer Chris Gumm remarked on why Mitel won, stating, “It was ease of installation, centralized management and the functionality of the handset. Another strong consideration was the interoperability between the PC client and the handset itself.”

With the amount of locations and employees making a complete shutdown impossible, installation began with a pilot system that operated both the legacy and Mitel systems in tandem. This provided an opportunity for users to transition at their own pace and experience the quality of the new technology.

“That ultimately made the decision,” Chris says. “When the users saw they could have all these features they didn’t have, they were saying ‘Let’s move to this now.’”

SPI worked with Gaynor Telesystems on subsequent deployments, relying on them for expert support during the transition. The two companies have worked together for over 30 years and still meet once every six months to discuss communications trends, Mitel product developments and more.

“As soon as we had Gaynor, things moved along a lot better,” comments Chris, emphasizing Gaynor’s dependability. “They’re good to work with.”


With consistent Mitel technology throughout its many locations, SPI’s IT team can now manage all communications equipment faster and more easily, freeing up valuable time to focus on other initiatives. Plus, the improved security capabilities protect SPI from future hacking attempts and provide peace of mind. In addition to all these benefits, Chris Gumm appreciates the customizability and plethora of features available.

“With the ShoreTel [Mitel] system, I’m not stuck in a box,” Chris says. “I have options.”

Employees now enjoy ready access to conference calling and instant messaging and easily transfer calls to their mobile phones, increasing internal collaboration and productivity. On top of that, the new solutions’ heightened scalability allows them to facilitate SPI’s growth as the organization adds new locations.

With SIP capability, they can easily provide phone service to smaller locations with limited access to conventional phone services. And, with company-wide control of audio content while callers are on hold and being transferred, callers are no longer confused by static or periods of no audio at all.

In addition, when disaster strikes, SPI’s new solutions rise to the occasion. When wildfires began sweeping through California in early 2018, both office and field employees relied on their Mitel technology to send urgent updates and communicate seamlessly.

Maureen Gaynor, owner of Gaynor Telesystems, says, “Communicating both timely and accurately to everybody out there working on their land is extremely important, for safety but also for liability.”

“The system keeps fires from breaking out,” stresses Chris, adding that SPI also relies on MiVoice Connect to inform employees when it is safe to run equipment.

Moving forward, SPI is better able to expand to new locations, build its customer base and protect its investments—no matter what life throws its way.

Download: Sierra Pacific Industries Case Study

When the users saw they could have all these features they didn’t have, they were saying ‘Let’s move to this now.’
— Chris Gumm, Senior Network Engineer