CPiO has been working with ABD since 1997, evolving from supporting its five desktop PCs to now handling all desktop and server support; network infrastructure; security and software licensing.
Cross-company Communication & Collaboration Supports Driverless Innovation at ABD
Anthony Best Dynamics (ABD) is without doubt a company in the right place at the right time. As the booming automotive industry continues to build incredible intelligence into vehicles to improve safety and reduce the impact of driver error, ABD’s robotic technologies are in demand across the world.
With 95% of products exported to markets as far afield as Mexico and China, as well as Europe, the company’s advanced testing systems include robotic steering, braking and GPS, as well as the award winning Driverless Test System.
Challenge – Managing Expansion
Based in Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, ABD currently employs 60 people. Market expansion has led to the company opening a second site to support demand whilst a new, purpose built building is set to be completed within a couple of years. In addition, ABD has recently opened a support centre in Japan to enable the provision of timely customer service to clients across China, Korea and Japan.
Mat Hubbard, Technical Director at ABD, explains, “Without doubt the most important component of this business is its people – having the right people is critical to undertaking business efficiently. However, as we have grown our reliance on technology has increased and it is essential to eliminate any bottlenecks that may affect business performance.”
One of the biggest bottlenecks at the moment is space – hence the opening of the second site in Bradford on Avon and the opening of the Japanese office. One of the key requirements for these new locations was to ensure rapid and seamless access to both core systems and other staff. As Mat explains, “It is all about optimising communications and enabling people to share information – whether they are in Bradford on Avon or Japan.”
Solution – Effective, Secure and Balanced Network Infrastructure
Unlike other organisations of its size, ABD does not have a dedicated IT Manager – indeed while Mat is responsible for the provision of IT across the business, it is far from his primary role. Instead the company relies on its long term partner CPiO to undertake day to day support as well as on-going upgrades and updates and to provide strategic advice. CPiO, which is part of the Waterdale Group, has been working with ABD since 1997, evolving from supporting its five desktop PCs and Compaq server to now handling all desktop and server support; network infrastructure; security; and software licensing.
Mat says, “No business should rely on one person to undertake all IT, it is simply too important. CPiO does not just provide support – this is a very collaborative relationship that is based on sharing ideas to get the best infrastructure for ABD.”
With upwards of 80% of support calls all handed remotely by CPiO, Mat estimates he spends no more than two hours each week on IT. “The relationship with CPiO provides not only a cost benefit but a significant time benefit: my time is far better spent designing and selling products, not fixing a problem with a desktop PC,” he says.
Benefits – Fast and Secure Wireless
The relationship with CPiO has continued to evolve in line with ABD’s business growth and technology innovation. Mat says, “In the past five years the expectation of the average user has changed; people use smart phones, laptops and iPads. There is an expectation of seamless access to technology.”
Indeed, the growing reliance on laptops, especially amongst engineers and technicians, prompted ABD to improve the quality of the wireless network used at its main Bradford on Avon site. ABD wanted to provide staff with a secure, good quality and reliable data connection anywhere in the building – as well as a completely separate network that employees could access with personal devices to undertake non-work related activity.
CPiO replaced the existing piecemeal wireless access points with an end to end solution from HP that includes load balancing to ensure consistency of experience and strong access controls to deliver the required security. CPiO also advised ABD to replace its virus scanning solution which had become increasingly invasive. “When we compiled software or ran engineering products, the virus scanning was making our computers unusable. CPiO’s recommended alternative solution protects us but does not interrupt performance through constant monitoring. As a result, the compile times for our software have been reduced by a factor of three, improving productivity significantly,” he confirms.
While staff in the Japanese office use Remote Desktop Service (formerly terminal services) to securely access systems in Bradford on Avon, avoiding the problems associated with high volumes of data transfer, the company’s two UK sites have been joined together via a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN), with remote viewing software to enable staff at both sites to access files and collaborate efficiently. Mat says, “It is essential to minimise travel between the two sites. If a technician on one site needs input from an engineer we can effectively see exactly what is going on. We may even add video to that to further improve the collaborative experience.”
Conclusion – Future Proofing
CPiO has also led a recent project to virtualise servers, enabling ABD to reduce it physical servers from five to two thus releasing essential space back into the business and improving the company’s disaster recovery and business contingency provision. In addition to being able to recover from tape far more quickly should a server fail, with one server located on each site and an overnight copy of data is sent between the two servers, staff can work and avoid downtime even if there is a glitch in the VPN connection.
This productivity and collaboration is key for a company that is riding the wave of increased focus on vehicle safety and autonomy. The automotive industry is performing very well across the world – and ABD’s advanced testing technologies are in increasing demand as manufacturers look at cost effective and driverless ways of testing innovations in safety for both drivers and pedestrians. The company’s latest innovation – the extraordinary Guided Soft Target which enables companies to simulate the impact of different crashes without damaging a production vehicle – is set to drive significant additional growth. Mat concludes, “Now we need to work with CPiO to plan the communications infrastructure for the brand new building. ABD will have more people working in a bigger site; we need to not only ensure staff can communicate and collaborate effectively but also securely both internally and with global customers. CPiO’s advice, expertise and guidance will be key to getting to the right communications infrastructure in place.”