Shinola is a design and manufacturing company that needed the most efficient solution to streamline its processes and reduce manufacturing costs to gain a competitive advantage. In April 2012, three Shinola employees began using tablets running the Windows 8 Pro operating system. The company plans to use the tablets for shipping and receiving, inventory control, point-of-sales discussions, and monitoring plant security cameras. Shinola benefits from an intuitive interface, robust functionality, and near-seamless mobility.
Shinola is a design and manufacturing company with operations in Detroit, Michigan. When it launched, the production plant had only walls. Now the business is filled with machinery and operational facilities, and it also has offices in Dallas, Texas. “Shinola is an American-based brand that produces watches, leather goods, commuter bicycles, journals, and shoe polish,” says Tara Cyphers, Marketing Lead at Shinola. “Our mission is to bring back manufacturing to the United States in a profitable manner, starting with watches. The watch industry hasn’t been active in this country for decades. Now with our watch manufacturing facility in Detroit, we are very optimistic as to what is to come.”
Most of the 30 Shinola employees work on product assembly, so only a handful of workers need computers. The company supports three desktop computers and one portable computer running the Windows 7 operating system. In addition, it has 10 thin-client terminals that connect to Windows Server 2008 R2. Shinola employees prepare and manage production orders by using Microsoft Access 2010 database software. The company tracks inventory with Microsoft Excel 2010 spreadsheet software. The plant’s security system uses card readers that are programmed through Windows.
The company needed an advanced technology solution that would address its main business challenges—mobility, gaining a competitive edge, and point-of-sale presentations. In particular, Shinola needed a portable device that it could use to demonstrate its product line to potential buyers. “We imagine a computer on which we can flip through the inventory easily,” says Andy Olsen, Planning Manager at Shinola. “It has to be a tangible experience that would allow us to show buyers a selection of products to choose from. We want to be able to connect to our business, our people, and our customers at any time and from any location.”
In April 2012, Shinola worked with eMazzanti Technologies, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, to begin using two tablets running a prerelease version of the Windows 8 Pro operating system. Olivier De Boel, Plant Manager at Shinola, has a tablet at the Detroit plant, while Olsen and the company’s IT professional use the other tablet at the Dallas office. Windows 8 Pro features a Start screen with customizable tiles that update in real time. “The Start screen is really clean,” says De Boel. “You can start any window, any application, or any executable.”
As workers move between locations, Windows 8 Pro automatically and seamlessly connects to an available wireless network through Domain Join, a feature that helps connect devices to business networks. “With Windows 8 Pro, I can connect to the plant cameras and view the business activity from anywhere,” says De Boel. “I use that functionality from home all the time.”The company’s IT provider, eMazzanti Technologies, is establishing a foundation for point-of-sale transactions that uses the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system to manage an infrastructure based on Windows 8 Pro. “Security tools such as BitLocker are built into Windows 8 Pro,” says Jennifer Mazzanti, President of eMazzanti Technologies. “That’s just the beginning of improvements. The way the software is packaged, it’s very easy to install and support.”
The manufacturing company tablets running Windows 8 Pro have built-in cameras, which De Boel uses to send photographs of product components to suppliers of watch components. He can also use Windows 8 Pro to connect an external drive to the tablet USB port to play videos or present a slide show. “We plan to use the tablet to train assembly line employees,” says De Boel. “Workers can attend trainings from their work benches, and we don’t have to put all these memory-intensive files on the tablet itself.”
Shinola has realized mobility efficiencies with his tablet. For example, the company has contractors continuously evolving its production facilities, and De Boel came across an electrician one afternoon who needed card key access. Because he was using a tablet running Windows 8 Pro, De Boel was able to run security software. Says De Boel, “I keyed his card code right from my tablet. I didn’t have to go to the other side of the building—which would have taken me 10 minutes. I did it in one minute.”
As a small manufacturing company, Shinola is poised to take advantage of the advanced technology available with a tablet running Windows 8 Pro. “Windows 8 integrates seamlessly into our infrastructure,” says Olsen. “It has the power and familiarity of a Windows desktop and support for enterprise-level capabilities, which gives us a competitive advantage as a startup.”Improved Mobility
Shinola plans to enhance training and sales engagements by using Windows 8 Pro on tablets. The ease of mobility with the tablet makes it possible for employees to attend to business from wherever they’re located. De Boel reports that he uses his tablet for work about 60 percent of the time. “Mobility is a great feature because we can access whatever we need from anywhere,” says De Boel. “We can use the full functionality of our Microsoft productivity tools anytime. Also, I can access any available Wi-Fi hot spot.”
Because of the speed of Windows 8, the ease of operation, and the mobility available with a tablet, Shinola benefits from increased efficiencies. “Windows 8 Pro is just faster than the previous operating systems,” says De Boel. “If you add up the minutes that we save by doing anything we need to do wherever we are, and avoiding traveling back and forth to our workstations, it adds up to a 30 percent increase in productivity.”
The Windows 8 Pro interface is so intuitive that employees did not require any training; they started using the tablet and figured it out. They can access their favorite or most frequently used applications seamlessly. “Windows 8 is new and it’s cool and it’s fun,” says Olsen. ”The touch and feel of it is wonderful. It has more capabilities than I’ve ever seen on a tablet.”