Global Finishing Solutions had always supported the notion of remote working, but while knowledge and task workers could get by using a VPN while remote, power users found the performance of their graphics-intensive apps to be unacceptable. The engineering team’s desire to work remotely spurred the IT team to begin looking for a better solution, and that led them to Workspot cloud workstations.
A manufacturer shifts seamlessly to remote work with Workspot cloud desktops, paving the way for a more flexible work model and an expanded talent pool, especially for its CAD users.
Headquartered in Osseo, Wisconsin, Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) is a vertical manufacturer that develops high-quality paint booths and finishing environments for a wide variety of industries — including aerospace, automotive refinish and industrial businesses. GFS strives to meet the unique needs of every customer across the globe with pre-engineered and custom solutions for paint prep, application, curing and storage. The company has an extensive history of providing exceptional equipment and services — helping businesses maximize productivity, achieve flawless finishes and protect the health of their employees. GFS employs more than 300 people throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Global Finishing Solutions employs engineers, designers and manufacturing employees to create and build its products. Employees use data-heavy programs including Autodesk Inventor, AutoCAD Electrical and AutoCAD Vault. The company’s IT department has always supported remote work, mostly through a VPN. Office employees have always been able to do their job through the VPN. But for engineers and designers and anyone who deals with design files, performance problems were ever-present.
Scott Funk, IT Manager for GFS, explains: “We do everything now in 3D, and 3D CAD files are simply huge. They are large models; even smaller pieces of it are hard to manipulate when you have a 100 GB CAD file. Trying to open just that piece of it across any VPN is difficult. There are always going to be issues trying to get that amount of data through a smaller pipe.”
Finally, GFS engineers asked their manager if they could find a solution that would enable them to work remotely. So, the IT team spent some time looking into the options and, through their partners at Microsoft, Workspot came to the team’s attention. Funk had used Citrix in the past but did not want to deal with the extensive amount of infrastructure required to build and operate. He also spoke with Nutanix and Xi Frame but realized they were not going to be the solution GFS needed. So, the company started with a simple proof of concept for Workspot with five machines.
GFS started with GPU-accelerated cloud workstations, comprised of Azure NVv4 virtual machines, powered by AMD Radeon InstinctTM GPUs and 2nd Gen AMD EPYCTM processors, which are optimal for engineers and designers. They also leverage Autodesk Vault for storage in the same cloud region as the Workspot machines. Funk says, “The workstations are connected within the data center at a 40 gig-per-second back plane, so the server-to-workstation speed is not an issue. It’s been right from the get-go. We immediately heard from the team that this was working well.”
The company had run its Workspot instances for about two weeks when the COVID-19 stay-at-home order was declared. Funk was tasked with coming up with plan to enable 80% of office employees to work at home. “We were fortunate enough to be ahead of that necessity with Workspot so we could get the room we needed in the Microsoft Azure cloud. That was a Monday, and on Wednesday, we deployed 55 desktops. So, in a very short period of time, that infrastructure expanded to meet our demands.” Employees are even able to use their own devices if they wish – including Macs. Funk continued, “Workspot not only gave us the agility to scale quickly during the pandemic, but it also provides ongoing value to hire the best employees in any location, with an optimal end user experience.”
Funk reports great rapport with their Workspot customer success manager, whom he describes as very patient as he waits for Funk and his team to catch up. “I just can’t say enough about him and the whole team, really. Even now, when we have our quarterly meetings, everybody is great to work with and talk to. And they are always putting forth different ideas or changes that are coming in to help keep us in the loop of new ways to use Workspot.”
Employees have come to rely on their Workspot cloud desktops and workstations. And since they now have a reliable and successful remote model, the company is exploring long-term remote and hybrid work options. This also opens the door for expanding the talent pool, since most employees no longer must live close to a main office. Funk says, “The ultimate goal is to have the ability to tap into a workforce that we haven’t before. We want to support employees wherever they want to work.”
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