Conversations with Customers: Global Finishing Solutions Thinks Big with Cloud Workstations
Have you ever wondered how the airplane you’re about to enter was painted? I’ve certainly admired airline paint jobs before, especially when it’s the University of Oregon Ducks logo on the side of a plane (it’s Pacific Northwest thing!), but I’ve never really thought about how it was painted. Whether it’s a passenger plane, a military fighter plane, or even a Space-X rocket, somehow that plane needs to be painted. A whole bunch of other products, including in the aerospace, automotive refinish and industrial finishing industries, get painted too, often through one of the large-equipment paint booths that Workspot customer Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) designs and manufactures.
GFS is a progressive company. They have always supported allowing people to work remotely – a wise policy when it comes to productivity and employee satisfaction. Additionally, since they are headquartered in a small town, it’s difficult to find the personnel they need within commute distance to headquarters. Their cloud strategy for end user computing grew out of this desire to have access to a larger talent pool. The challenge was with trying to get acceptable performance from the VPN they used. For some employees it worked fine, but for engineers and designers working with huge CAD files, the performance just wasn’t good enough. This meant that engineers and designers often had to come to the office nights and weekends to work. When the engineering team pressed for remote work options, IT ramped up their search for an alternative. IT manager Scott Funk had used Citrix previously, but was concerned about the amount of infrastructure needed to run it. Cloud solutions they reviewed were not a good fit. Since they had begun migrating some of their technology to Microsoft Azure, the contacts they developed there introduced them to Workspot.
Scott, who led the overall project, first contacted a current Workspot customer and discussed their success with cloud desktops and workstations. After his initial engagement with Workspot, Scott compared the experience with the other vendors he had considered. “It just felt better engaging with Workspot,” he said. This hunch would be validated with the next step, which was running a demo on Workspot with some of their CAD files to prove that cloud workstations could work in their exact environment. From there, they were quickly up and running with five GPU cloud workstations as a more thorough test. Just as they were wrapping up this POC, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders came down. “In 24 hours or less we had 50 more cloud desktops and workstations available to us” says Funk. People went home and were immediately productive. In many cases, people took their monitors home and used whatever device they had at home. Security was fortified through the Workspot Client and using Okta MFA, alleviating any concerns.
From Workspot’s perspective this was a very smooth rollout – even with the urgency of the stay-at-home orders – due in large part to the cumulative years of experience of the GFS IT team. From the beginning, the two teams held weekly deployment meetings that went very well. The GFS team came away from those meetings with a very clear picture of what was needed as next steps. “The collaboration was outstanding” says Workspot Customer Success champion Chet Hervey. “The only small glitch I can think of is that early on in the project we realized that Autodesk Vault was in Azure East-Central and needed to be rebuilt and re-synced in Azure North Central, which added a small amount of work for GFS,” said Hervey. “We hit every milestone,” says Funk, ‘I can’t think of any way to improve Workspot’s rollout process.”
The transition from physical workstations to Workspot GPU-accelerated cloud workstations was smooth sailing all the way. With remote work already legitimized, the team was already poised to be remote full-time. Response from employees has been very positive. The entire company was very impressed with the speed at which they were able to deploy the cloud desktops and workstations and send everyone home. Beyond that, power users have provided feedback about the great performance of even the most graphics-intensive apps, such as Autodesk Inventor. The executive team found that people were more responsive and more productive at home.
“Workspot is so straightforward, there’s not much for people to learn.” says Funk. Senior designer Layona Manka says, “The transition from working at the office to working at home using Workspot has really been a wonderful experience both personally and professionally. My productivity has probably increased. Personally it’s been great because you might have an appointment, and if that takes a couple of hours I can make that up at night while the kids are asleep or on a weekend morning while they’re watching cartoons.”
Lessons learned and next steps
Workspot is unique in that we are very close to our customers, Because we invented the technology and we run the platform, we have the opportunity to deepen our partnership with customers on an ongoing basis. It’s a very high-value relationship for both parties: Our customers can influence our product roadmap as they discover new requirements for the business, and Workspot continually learns about our customers’ needs through regular, ongoing engagement, and that knowledge is invested back into the product to evolve the platform for all customers. The Global Finishing team joins Workspot for a “check-in” meeting each quarter, to learn about new features, share any concerns, and propose new features.
Between the combination of Workspot, Microsoft Teams and other solutions that are working so well, GFS is in no rush to return everyone to the office. They are considering a flexible, hybrid approach to who is in the office, when. Additionally, they now have the opportunity to bring on more engineers and draft-experts from larger cities, which also allows them to expand into new markets and pursue opportunities in distant geographies as well. “With everyone going home to work, my feeling is that people have gained a great deal of confidence through working more independently,” says Funk. “As people return to the office at least part time, there is an opportunity to change the way things are done, because we have worked in the cloud over the past year, and change will be more easily embraced.”
“The Workspot staff from beginning to end was great. They are always there for us, the response time is great and they always have the right answer.” says Funk. “I have implemented complicated VDI solutions in the past and it takes a long time. I am just amazed by the speed at which Workspot was deployed. It could not have gone any better.”
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