If you look across a modern factory floor, you’ll see as many glowing screens as gleaming robots. Many manufacturing systems and processes are now controlled by computers, and they’re also vital tools for the human workforce as well, as much – or even more – than their wrenches and spanners. Computers are typically used for tasks including:
- receiving production and scheduling updates
- recording problems for later resolution
- collaborating with peers
- emailing ad hoc questions and updates
- reporting safety or quality incidents.
Yet, the factory floor can be a tough environment for a standard desktop computer. Depending on the facility there might be extreme noise and light, moving metal, fatigued operators, electronic interference, and the chance of chemical spills.
These factors can make deploying virtual desktops on thin clients an appealing idea to many IT teams in manufacturing businesses. By centralizing most functionality in a central location and serving it out to local terminals, costs can be reduced without sacrificing functionality or productivity. Why? Ironically, the answer has far more to do with the hardware deployed on the shop floor than anything happening on the software side.
Desktops: Thin and Rugged
It doesn’t take that much hardware to run a virtual desktop, certainly not a high-powered desktop PC. Virtual desktops let you run ‘thin clients’ that have fewer components and are more easily ruggedized than standard workstations. When components such as spinning magnetic hard disks aren’t required, durability goes up and replacement costs go down.
Virtual Desktops: A Consistent Experience
Virtual desktops are available, with the same application software and configuration, on any thin client in the manufacturing space. This means that with a single log-in, an employee has access to their complete work computing environment at any workstation. This is especially handy for supervisors, inspectors and managers, who can continue their work as they move around the factory floor.
On the software side, replacing stand-alone workstations with virtual desktop workstations means IT has control over the configuration and installed software for every user’s environment. Applications can be fenced off from other users’ workspaces. The fact that the user environment is torn down at user log-off means that malware and attacks that depend on service persistence can’t work.
In the final analysis, the chief benefit of virtual desktops is that they allow workstations to be provided in many more locations around the factory floor than would be economically possible with more fully featured workstations.
It’s not that they’re zero cost: thin workstations must be deployed, and desktops must be served from a central location. And ruggedization, if needed, can add another layer of cost. But the initial purchase price and ongoing maintenance costs are much lower than those for traditional workstations.
Lower capex, lower opex, greater value to the organization: put them together and they’re a compelling argument for putting virtual desktops in your real factories.
InsecurityThese scams prey on people’s lack of security on their system, tricking them in to believing that Microsoft or Apple are truly popping up a browser window to inform them of an attack on their system. The victim then calls the toll-free number, where the operator continues the ruse of being from whatever official computing company you think you’re calling. Once they confirm what you feared, that you’ve been hacked, they ring you up for a bogus package of services to remove the intrusion from your system.
New Dehli RaidsWith the Indian government’s attention to this emerging fraud, sixteen fake support centers were raided in New Delhi in November 2018. Back in October, officials raided another 10 centers. Altogether, 40 people were arrested in these New Delhi raids. This appears to be where a bulk of the cell-center scams are originating from. Many of the world’s legitimate call centers do actually reside in India, making it the perfect country to hide the illegitimate ones. The NYT reports that India’s real call centers bring in about $28 million per year.
Advanced Technology DeceptionIn a scary development, not only are these call centers expanding to non-English speaking countries, but they are increasing their impersonation catalog. In July, 24 people in eight states were convicted of imitating the IRS with similar Indian call-center scams, stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from over 15,000 people over four years.
Confident Security SolutionsHaving a confident security solution is the best way to avoid these scams. While not all pop-ups can be ducked, knowing that you are completely protected through all entry points will give you a level of relief that can’t be found through any other resolution. DII President Tom Drummond has discussed why paranoia is the wrong way to go about your security. Allowing your IT Environment to be monitored by a Managed Service Provider (MSP) is another top-notch remedy. An MSP would be able to read the vitals of all your networks and individual machines, so that in case of an intrusion through a virus or malware, your MSP would quarantine and restore any infected element, but more importantly, alert you to any dangers that you should be aware of, eliminating a potential victim’s guesswork. Another important fact to remember: No official entity (corporate, government, or otherwise) will ever notify you of a virus, intrusion, or violation via pop-up while simultaneously asking for payment. This should be your number one sign that something is not right. Do not allow yourself to be preyed upon by international scammers. No matter how great the risk may seem, feel confident in the security you have set up and trust your Managed Service Provider. If you do not have an MSP, this may be the push you need to look into that avenue for your advanced protection. There is no substitute for adequate cyber-security. Being prepared is the best defense.
DII Computers isn’t like any other MSP or Hardware Provider. We care about our customers even when they’re not buying anything. Our relationships are unique from others in the IT space, and here’s why: we go beyond the transactional nature and focus on your business’s needs overall.
Your Space is Our Space
One of our oldest customers, a packaging company, had begun making changes to some of their facilities which included closing some of their warehouses. This brought the need for them to store some of their inventory elsewhere, and we volunteered to hold their inventory in our offices and ship to them as needed.
Over the next several weeks, boxes began coming in large quantities, in a variety of sizes and weights. When we started recognizing some larger 200 lb. printers entering our building, we realized our customers had bought many printers over the years but never used them. Instead, they stored them in their warehouse, seemingly with no plan to ever utilize them.
So Many Printers
Altogether we received 71 printers, many of which were not opened, and some 5 years old, in new or like-new condition. When we told our customer what we received, he laughed. We then asked him a light, but serious question: Do you want us to just sell them off for you? Answer: Yes.
We created eBay and Amazon sales accounts and began listing the products with images and descriptions. Within hours, people started clamoring for the printers. People from all over the country were messaging us asking “How many could you sell?”
Of course, with 3rd party sellers, people can be flimsy with confident buying. We ran in to some people who were super inquisitive, only to never be heard from again once transaction time came around. We also experienced some very aggressive buyers who tried to negotiate better deals. Factoring in the printer model, the quantity and the shipping, we worked with them.
“Give Us A Problem You Haven’t Been Able To Solve”
Shipping was a whole other ordeal. Some of the printers that we sold, we shipped out like we would ship out every other product would. We set it up with our carrier, dropped it off, got our tracking number, and went on our way.
However, several other printers came with obstacles. DII likes to say “Give us a problem you haven’t been able to solve.” Well we found ourselves with a few hundred pounds of our own little problem and we were able to solve it in days.
Two of our printers were huge, over 200 lbs each. They came in large boxes, designed to attach to specially made pallets from the bottom of the box. Yet, these boxes were delivered sans pallet. The bottom of the box was made to fall out so the top could be easily removed. Without the pallet, the bottom of the box would fall to the floor with the printer inside.
Now We Solve It
We looked at buying pallet banders, tensioners, even brand-new pallets to fit the box’s awkward dimensions. Believe it or not, the local Lowes and Home Depot do not offer great-solutions for self-palleting! Everything we looked at from the well-known hardware shops was going to need to be shipped to us with multiple days of waiting.
In addition to the palleting solution, we needed to find a way to actually ship such a giant box without killing the profit we were attempting to make for our client. But without knowing how we were going to stabilize the box, it was hard to figure out how we were shipping it. This would probably be a great problem to think about and solve over the span of a couple weeks.
But we were motivated to work quick for our customer, and those beasts were already sold with the buyers expecting shipping. What to do? We tackled each problem one by one. We needed to avoid the marked-up world of palleting companies. To secure a box of this size would cost over $400 before shipping ever occurred with a carrier service. So, we decided to use our own pallets. They weren’t the customized size the box would have come with, but it was a solid and reliable structure, which was our most valued quality.
The actual mobility of the printer wasn’t a problem, but it did require team work. At such a large width and weight (31.8 x 30 x 29.8 in.), it was virtually impossible for fewer 3 people working together to move the boxes around the office. We realized we wouldn’t be able to pallet the boxes inside the office, the pallets were bigger than our doorway. So, four of us, including President Tom Drummond, got our hands dirty and carried the boxes outside to place on the pallets.
Our next issue was securely fastening the box to our sturdy pallet. We purchased disposable strapping to fasten the box. We felt good about the number of straps holding the box on the pallets, but you just are never sure what could happen once a box is out of your possession and placed into the truck.
We strapped it down to the pallet, and then wrapped the entire box/wood combo with stretch wrap. The, we decided to bite the bullet and ship via UPS Freight. We could do this because of the hard work and care put in to finding the right palleting solution that was going to cut our costs as much as possible. It took 5 people and a day or two of insight into the freight world, but when we were done, we felt confident in the packing.
UPS delivered the printers within 11 hours to our happy buyers, we were able to continue to free up valuable space for new inventory, and our long-time customers were able to profit on some items hogging valuable inventory space. This success story is exemplary of DII Computers likes to approach each customer. We want to do whatever is going to help your business. We have offices in Willow Grove/Horsham as well as York, PA.