The Amalgamated Sugar Company LLC


Food Manufacturing


Idaho & Oregon



The Amalgamated Sugar Company LLC, with roots reaching back
to 1898, turns beets into sweets. As one of the nation’s top sugar
producers, the company processes sugar beets into sugar products
marketed under the White Satin brand as well as under private-label
grocery brands. Since 1997, Amalgamated Sugar has been owned by
the Snake River Sugar Company, a cooperative that’s comprised of
sugar beet growers in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.    


The company is headquartered in Boise, Idaho, and has three
processing facilities in Idaho and two distribution facilities in Oregon.
While all one company, the six facilities had disparate phone systems,
some of which were 20 years old or more. Because each facility had
a different standalone voice system, it was very difficult to manage
and maintain.
Adding to the difficulty was the number of vendors involved
in servicing the six systems. Black Box had serviced the corporate
headquarters and one of the plants for many years. A second long-
time vendor serviced two other processing facilities. The remaining
two facilities were serviced by two different vendors.
A few years ago, Gene Thomas, Factory Accounting Manager
at the Nampa, ID facility, and Kerry Smedley, IS Manager at the
company’s headquarters, decided it was time to upgrade the entire
company to one system. The company was spending too much time
and money trying to maintain aging equipment.
“We were already utilizing current technology to connect our
numerous locations, so it made sense to investigate how we might
do the same thing with our voice communications,” said Mr. Thomas.
“Because the phone systems at five of the six locations were old and
obsolete, the timing was right for us to explore how this could be

The entire enterprise communications system was at the end of
its productive life cycle and needed to be replaced, except for some
select analog communications devices. The Amalgamated project
team reached out to Black Box and other vendors for potential
solutions, budgets, and implementation strategies. The team put
together a list of must-have requirements for the new VoIP system.
“We were looking for a complete VoIP system with a proven
record at a reasonable cost,” said Mr. Smedley. ”We felt like some
of the other systems we looked at were still using older technology.”
The top priorities were:
• Simplified administration and maintenance.
• Reduced expenses for MACs.
• Simplified system upgrades.

Other requirements included:
• Uniform in-house dialing.
• Enhanced system performance.
• Survivability and reliability.
• Easy expandability to new locations.
• Accommodate growth easily.
• Improve user productivity via new applications and mobility.
• Extend core features and functionality to all locations.
• Have a single source for service/troubleshooting


After a very extensive RFP and review process (and on the
recommendation of an independent consultant), Amalgamated
Sugar chose the ShoreTel™ system proposed by Black Box. ”All
through the process, we worked closely with Amalgamated’s team
to help educate them on the different technologies available so that
they did not overspend or implement something that did not meet
their needs. Ultimately, it was all about the phone system and their
enterprise network becoming one,” said Jothan Yeager, Black Box
Senior Account Manager.

Another factor in Black Box’s favor is that Black Box also
has a broad geographic footprint and has an office near every
Amalgamated Sugar site. As a result, all the service could be
coordinated through one company, but the support would
be done locally. This greatly simplifies service management. 

Because of the nature of Amalgamated Sugar’s business, timing
for the implementations was critical. They had to be coordinated
around Amalgamated Sugar’s “campaign.” That’s when the
company harvests and processes the beets. Only one month after
signing the contract, Black Box installed the corporate headquarters
and two other locations.

“We were doing back-to-back installations,” explained Josh
Iverson, Black Box Senior Account Manager. “It was a pretty tight
schedule with two installations in August, two in September, one in
October, and one in November. It was a real challenge working
around the normal day-to-day issues of beet harvest and campaign.”

To ensure the smooth implementation of all the sites, the same
Black Box team did all the programming and management. Before
the installations, the team traveled to each site to provide classroom
training to the employees. The Black Box project management team
also traveled to each site to oversee the installations. The actual
installation was done by local Black Box technicians, with excellent
assistance from Amalgamated’s Mr. Thomas, Mr. Smedley, and their
IT group.
The Black Box team also offered its assistance in helping
Amalgamated Sugar do network assessments, upgrade some
network equipment, and replace cabling as necessary. In addition
to providing the ShoreTel solution, Black Box provided PoE Ethernet
switches, UPS, and VoIP monitoring.
“The project went off perfectly,” said Mr. Iverson. ”We worked
hand in hand with Amalgamated Sugar’s IT staff, accounting
managers, corporate administrators, and local facility managers.”
“After the cutovers, Josh and I personally checked with every
employee to make sure they knew how to use the new system,”
explained Mr. Yeager. “And, I know the Amalgamated Sugar staff
really liked the security of having Black Box people on-site during
the critical cutovers.”
”There were no problems whatsoever,” Mr. Yeager continued.
“This was as perfect of an installation as you could ever hope for.”
All in all, Black Box installed approximately 426 ShoreTel VoIP
phones, plus 67 Avaya PoE Ethernet switches, 40 Eaton UPSs, and
a PathSolutions VoIP monitoring solution for up to 5000 interfaces. 


The Black Box installation team trained the Amalgamated Sugar IT
staff, the telecom manager, and various other key individuals in the
administration and management of the system, which enables
maintenance to be done from any location or at a single location.
“What could have been an extremely difficult and messy project,
turned out to be a very successful Implementation,” said Mr. Smedley.
”I’m glad we went with ShoreTel and Black Box! If we had to do it all
over, I’m confident we would make the same decision.”