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Packaging Manufacturer and Distributor in ME (Case Study)

Dave Hodgdon, CEO of PCG, talks with John Maher about how PCG’s managed IT services helped a packaging manufacturer and distributor improve IT support and security in the midst of a 30 to 40% increase in business, a shift to a partially remote workforce, and moving into a new building.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Dave Hodgdon, CEO of PCG, a managed service IT provider with headquarters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Welcome Dave.

Dave Hodgdon: Good morning, John. How are you doing today, sir?

Case Study of a Packaging Manufacturer and Distributor in Maine

John: Good, thanks. So Dave, today, we’re looking at a case study of a packaging manufacturer and distributor in Maine. And we’ll just say that because we’re talking about their network and their security and things like that, they prefer not to be named, but they do packaging and boxes, things like that. And can you tell us a little bit more about the company, how many employees they have, that sort of thing?

Dave: Sure. We met this company about three years ago. Currently, with their industry in today’s COVID world, their business is just skyrocketing, but they have 100 plus employees out on the floor in two sites. We are supporting approximately 55 users and they’re just adding a third site where we’re working with them on a new project.

IT Challenges of a Packaging Manufacturer and Distributor

John: What are some of the issues that they were having that prompted them to reach out to you?

Dave: Again, this is a fairly new client for us. They had, like most of our clients, an existing managed service provider, and they had been with their current provider for 20 plus years. And it’s always difficult to cut ties or to make a change. It’s kind of like going through a divorce or … It’s tough. There’s a lot of moving pieces right there. We probably spoke to them in 2016, said they’re all set. 2017 they said, they’re all set. But a few years ago they took us up, “Hey, you know what? We would like to talk to you.” So we went up and gave them the free network assessment and started asking some more questions with them of what is a reason potentially to a change. But really what they’re looking for is just to get a price, to see if we were competitive or not.

Again, they said they’re all set. And then I think at the end of 2018, we got a call again, “Hey, can we talk to you guys again?” At that point, we are able to have a good dialogue and kind of figure out, here we are for our third time. We’re here to help you, like at any client, persistence pays off. If it’s not now, it’ll be down the road is constantly being there to help them. But we finally got them to talk about what are the compelling issues or why we’re here again. And they said, the response time has dramatically gone down. There has been some tech turnover. They weren’t getting the help they needed. They didn’t seem to know who was helping who, there really wasn’t a technology roadmap for what was there before. And they really wanted to own their network. So we had a couple more discussions. And then in the summer of 2019, they decided to hire PCG to be their managed service provider.

Developing an IT Strategy to Help New Clients

John: How did you assess what their issues were and where you needed be and what was the strategy that you implemented?

Dave: Their biggest concern again was with the 20 year relationship they had with their other service provider and how the change would work. How would it not affect the employees or what’s in place? The most important part of any change like this is the onboarding.

We feel our blueprint to success is second to none. We worked very hard on how that works in embracing with them and giving them a step-by-step here and how it goes through. From a pretty high level. I’ll just go through that with you, John, is that it’s all about documentation. If we didn’t have the necessary stuff, it’s very difficult to support them. So that’s the most vital component. And we spent a significant amount of time upfront before the cut-over just understanding what makes this network tick from the line of business, to the multiple buildings, to the people, to how they’re managing their data, to how they’re working remotely, how they expected to have help on help desk.

They loved having someone there when they mentioned someone to own the network. So part of this was to have a dedicated engineer onsite. They really love that. Part of our plan was to have someone there every Wednesday that would do the walkthrough and make sure everything was good. And once you get through how this onboarding blueprint works from the standpoint of the documentation, the rollout of the tools, the training of how you get your support desk, they could see that, oh, we had a process in place and they kind of embraced knowing that, all right, because if they’re not embracing the change, it makes it difficult for us to take it over. It has to come through the whole team. So we spent the time and went off and broke into groups and brought them into the room and spent about an hour with each one of them, with the groups to kind of let them know this is who we are, this is how we do business.

And we were able to have some great dialogues on to tell us, the departments had to tell us some things that are right that are wrong, that you like, that you would like to see improvements on. We took that, all that data. And after we onboarded them, we had our first VCIO meeting, John. And that was the ability for us to, we had a good understanding of their network. We heard what the users were looking for. At that point we had the necessary information to come up with a plan. It’s very difficult to have a plan until you understand everything. But that was a huge part. And after that, we’re able to kind of see where some of the gaps were. And again, we had that high level discussion with them on the IT strategy on their goals, the current issues, what’s keeping you up at night and were able to give them a roadmap, a budget, and now we’re able to help manage the network and really help them with their growth. And that was a big part of this project.

On-Site Engineers With Managed IT Service Providers

John: You mentioned that they wanted to have a dedicated engineer on site weekly. So, how does that work and what is it about that that they really love? Do they love being able to deal with the non essential things that obviously things will come up where this has to be fixed right now, but then there might be some other things where you’re having a little minor issue with this, or a little issue with that, or, hey, that can person’s computer’s running a little bit slowly, that kind of thing. Are those the types of things that they would sort of store up over the week and then when Joe comes on Wednesdays, they kind of go over their little list of minor things for them to look at. Is that the way that that works?

Dave: Yeah. You kind of hit it spot on, John and the one thing we had to kind of break them, it was kind of a habit, they got used to it that they kind of held on to the particular issue and we tried to convince them, “You don’t need to wait a week. You can have this happen now within an hour.” And it took a while, “Oh, I can wait. I can wait.”

But it took us a while to educate them on how to properly use a help desk. They did not have to wait for this person. That’s just kind of the, they got used to that regimen. So it came back to training them again. We adopted them in a 365 platform and we’re able to do teams training with them. We’re able to train them on security and the more we train them, the more their issues slowly start to go away because we’re helping them self-facilitate how they can fix some of their problems as well as not waiting for that person on site.

But I think having that onsite is a unique variable that really helps us to have the relationship, the culture, there was tremendous growth going on. And you think about a huge manufacturing facility and everything they do from all their applications to the forklifts, to the wireless, they’re running a third party application through another vendor that always had issues. They need our help with that. And just having that person on site was a huge factor for them, but they’re realizing now, John, they don’t have to wait for us to be on site and being onsite, shouldn’t just be the help desk. It’s the bigger picture where you try to convince them, it’s making the network better, planning things out, documenting better. And while we’re there on site, if it’s something quick to fix, our engineer will help them. But he says, “Hey, by the way, just submit a ticket.” So that’s come a long way over the last year.

Implementing IT Changes to Streamline Operations

John: Right. What are some of the other action items that came out of your meetings and how did you implement those?

Dave: We determined through the sites and the size of the building, you’re talking over 100,000 square feet and then some of the switches were aging and they needed improved wireless stuff in the building. They want these forklifts to be anywhere. They use the Panasonic Toughbooks on them and they scanned the pallets to do stuff and there were many dead spots. So we’re able to do a wireless assessment and put extra access points to give them the coverage they needed.

IT to Support Remote Teams

Dave:  When COVID hit, a lot of people started working remotely. Which I think is a great thing that employers are giving employees that if they can’t do something during the day, they have kids, they have family, they have their parents, you are allowing that person to work after hours or on weekends.

Expanded Help Desk Services

Dave: Our normal support is 8:00 to 5:00. So when we add the 24 by seven and that really opened the door and they could see the value of that doing that. So that was a huge thing for us to do that. When you add that 24 by seven support with PCG, you have the ability, get your requests down within a few minutes through our chat service.

Cybersecurity Reviews

Dave: As with any organization, manufacturing, security was big. And we were able to do a cyber security review to determine some of the gaps and vulnerabilities. So one of the biggest things we feel with security is training. The users, just like your kids in school, you just don’t train them once on something or educate them once, John, you need to be repetitive. So we do the training and then the buzzword they use today is what’s known as a phishing campaign.

It’s a fake simulated campaign, but after we do our security training, awareness training, we are sending out specific phishing campaigns that are trying to catch them. And why we do that is just not sending a generic, but their line of business or something that’s going on. We’re able to kind of mimic things. And now when they get caught, it’s actually giving them, we have a great video library, allows them to know what to look for, what to be doing. We’re also the turn on a multi-factor authentication within their email. That’s a big thing. So your email is not being spoofed. MFA again, stands for multi-factor authentication. And we’re able to use your phone as the device to confirm that’s me using that.

And another big thing that came out of that, John, from a security was there really were no standards for remote workforce. A lot of people are just using their home machines, they weren’t on a secure network, they’re on a shared wireless. So we came up then with a remote workforce policy.

IT Considerations in New Buildings

Dave: So those are some of the big things that we came up with that meeting. We also uncovered that through their growth, they needed a new facility. So we did a walk through on the new building. We determined because we do wiring services, we’re able to acquire the new building, but the access points needed for the forklift to get what they needed. We put the rack and patch panel and necessary switches in place, and we’re able to make that a new building ready for move-in. Probably one of our faster turnaround projects that they had to move quick. They sold one of the buildings they had owned and they had to move within a month. So that was a project that we’re happy that we turn that around.

IT Support for Growing Businesses

Dave: With the upturn of business, John, right now, since COVID hit, their business is up 30, 40%. they needed more services. They were busy. They wanted another day with us onsite. They wanted more people on support. They are hiring. So we’ve actually stepped up our game with them. They’ve probably, with us, have grown 30, 40% in two years. So it’s a great business that they’re in and we’ve been with them this whole way. As we work with them, we’ve determined when you grow this fast and you’ve got to keep training in the mind.

So training, using teams, people working remotely, their sales team, collaborating, instead of all your documents being on the local server, how to use One Drive. And when there’s so many pieces moving, we hear PCG all of our key accounts get what’s known as the client success manager. They have that person now, that’s the liaison between their staff and our team. That gives the ability to escalate tickets managed with certain oddities or IT requirements to be their vendor liaison and assist with other project management issues.

How PCG’s Managed IT Services Support Business Success

John: So you’ve obviously done a lot of work over a several years now and there’s still more work to do and things, projects that you’re working on, but what are some of the outcomes, that came out of this and where is this company, this packaging manufacturer in Maine, where are they now compared to where they were when you first started working with them?

Dave: Well, they were pretty good shape with their MSP before, but as we spoke earlier, John it is tough to make change, but they made the change and they’re seeing the light that they made the right move there, that they could see the PCG process was a little bit different. They love our VCIO IT strategy about the vision, talking to them more about just an IT planning, budgeting, and a controller loves knowing that what the budget’s going to be. And then the advisory council for my home set up. We’re having these issues with these employees, what can we do about that? After we onboarded them, we had the needed information to have those high-level discussions.

We added our cybersecurity stack to help mitigate their risks and improve their security posture. That was huge for them to do business. We’re able to help with our cyber insurance policy. Adding that 24 by seven, John, was critical to them. Having the normal 8:00-5:00 to five was good, but if people had issues after work, “I lost my connection. I can’t get to the Citrix system. I’ve lost my VPN. I need to reset my password.” If you can’t support them in those hours, that particular person couldn’t do their job. So that was a huge win for both sides there.

When we converted them to the Microsoft 365 platform, the key to all that is Microsoft is this big gorilla, John, it’s just so many things to it, but we really focused on the Teams training, how to use it, how to share files, how to do your calls with each other, how to invite people outside the organization to be part of the meeting, why you want One Drive to have your files up in the cloud. The growth there has been great. They just contacted us this past week and they’re getting another facility. So we’re going to visit them next week and we’ll do the same thing about … They know now to lean on PCG for, they’ve got a new building. We are going to help them with their internet provider. We’ll go check out the wiring. We’ll confirm that this building is ready for them. They want to be live in there on June 1st. So when this opens up that the, it will be business as usual for all their staff.

Contact PCG for Managed IT Services

John: All right, well, that’s really great information, Dave. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Dave: My pleasure, John, have a great day.

John: And for more information, visit the PCG website at pcgit.com or call (603) 431-4121.