Friday, September 6, 2013
Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Tyler Carr, Production Manager at Leon Speakers. The company is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan and specializes in high-performance, on-wall loudspeakers. Find more info about Chromebooks and see what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.
Fifteen years ago, a few art and music graduates from the University of Michigan founded Leon Speakers because of their passion for art and audio, technology and design. Leon Speakers now has roughly 40 employees and we meticulously handcraft a full range of high-fidelity, elegant loudspeakers.
We devote the majority of our time to building great audio experiences, and so we have spent less time optimizing our processes. Although we had developed a custom software platform to manage orders, we were still using paper notes and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets for much of our information exchange. Our production technicians on the floor created manual checklists to track projects and, at night, I’d print out dozens of updated lists for the next day’s tasks. Even though we were able to produce custom speakers for hundreds of customers at breakneck speeds, for a cutting-edge audio company, our processes were pretty laborious and inefficient. And, as a rapidly growing company (it's our third year on the Inc. 500|5000 List), I knew we had to transform our approach to the manufacturing process.
We decided to make a leap into the future, rather than taking a few small steps. Our requirements were specialized. We’re an assembly manufacturing shop – there is a lot of wood being cut and dust everywhere – and we have skilled craftsmen who may not have a lot of computer training. We knew that from a productivity standpoint, Google Apps would fit our needs. We would no longer have to pay constant licensing costs and wait for upgrades. Instead, we would get continual innovation and have virtually no upkeep. Google Drive would also be a great way to store and share our large 3D design files, which we typically create in CAD programs like SolidWorks. Plus, I could put the entire build schedule on a shared spreadsheet that could be updated in real time by all of my employees.
Then came the question of devices. We looked at Panasonic Toughbooks and several other hardware options, but couldn’t justify the upfront costs and ongoing maintenance expense. Then we found Chromebooks. They were the perfect way for us to inexpensively deploy fast and easy-to-use laptops on the floor. We bought dozens of Chromebooks for our employees to share. It was a third of what we would pay for buying everyone an individual laptop due to the easy sharability factor.
The startup, resume and processing speed of Chromebooks has been phenomenal. It’s very easy for technicians to view their tasks and get their jobs done faster by accessing their lists and tasks in Google Drive. The Chromebook Management Console allows us to push out our corporate websites and apps to the Chromebook app launcher, making it a no-brainer for anyone on staff to pull up job-relevant information. Not to mention the savings in paper and printing costs: everything is now virtual, and if I need to change something based on a customer request, it’s as easy as hitting Enter.
As a production manager, I don't want to spend my time managing IT. Because Google Apps and Chromebooks are so easy to manage, I can spend less time as an IT administrator and more time doing what I love.