The question we are often asked by clients and prospects, is how can we guarantee such a quick turnaround on equipment that has broken, stopped working or needs a replacement part. The answer is simple and evident in the photos that accompany this story; a large stock of spares.
A wander round our vast warehouse in Tamworth, with supervisor Neil Smith is like a journey back through time. This is a space Neil knows well, having curated the warehouse and all its contents for a quarter of a century, being one of the first employees of Quiss back in 1992.
Neil explained the lifecycle of one of the computers now residing in what he described as the quarantine area: “An equipment re-fresh is an integral part of a contract renewal and is the major reason we have such a large warehouse.
“Although there is often little wrong with the equipment, technology moves on and the new machines will typically be more energy efficient, faster and more reliable; just generally a bit better all round.
“The procurement team will order the new equipment following an audit by the sales team and the engineers, who will understand what the client wants to achieve and how best we can fulfil their needs.
“We’re given plenty of warning of the largest roll-outs, so we can ensure we have room for hundreds of new computers and associated equipment, from printers and monitors to televisions and servers.
“Once it’s all arrived and checked off, we get it unpacked and ready for the engineers to tailor each one by hand to ensure it is right for the client and each individual user – every item is tracked with unique codes and assigned a user.
“When the engineers have finished the build-out, we re-package everything and prepare for the roll-out, which typically with law firms will take place over a weekend to limit any disruption to their work. Not so nice for us, but good for our clients and comes with the job!
“Each roll-out requires a lot of ‘old’ equipment to be removed, which generally ends up back in the warehouse the following morning. Although users know to save everything and check they have all their files, experience has shown us there is always something forgotten.
And that is why every computer sits in our secure quarantine area for a month. In that time, ‘lost’ files can still be retrieved, but any longer and there is no way back. We take the security of our clients’ data very seriously and hard drives are destroyed, not wiped.
“A large mobile destruction unit arrives in the car park when I request it. Every single hard drive is removed from its computer and its serial number is logged. Each one is then ground into very tiny pieces, in what can only be described as a cacophony of grinding sounds and extreme violence!
“We have a certificate of destruction available for the client to guarantee the drives and the information they contain can never divulge their secrets.
“The computers without drives and all the associated equipment is then stored safely as a repository for spare parts, to cover all the thousands of machines we have in clients’ offices, factories, schools and homes.
“We have a duplicate piece of equipment or spare parts for every item being used by our clients. In an emergency, we can have a replacement on site within hours, ready for our team of field engineers to fit back into the network.
“Although we take it in turns to cover the 24/7 operation of the warehouse, in rare cases, one of the team will open up in the middle of the night to prepare parts for an engineer to collect, who can be on-site when the client opens for business. It’s all about keeping disruption to the minimum.
“Older equipment is replaced by slightly newer second-hand equipment, following rollouts, which could overfill the warehouse. Eventually when no further parts re likely to be needed, we will often refurbish the computers and distribute to charities, to ensure little viable equipment is scrapped.
“For most computers, the journey from box-fresh to quarantine, drive destruction and parts box, will typically take 3-4 years. In recent years, this has extended as clients are signing longer support contracts, but we’ll always have room to ensure no client waits too long for a vital piece of equipment or a critical spare part.
“I like to think that the warehouse and all the parts within it, from the smallest printer feed cog to huge multi-function printers, are an essential part of the unrivalled quality of service Quiss delivers to its clients.
“We’re a hidden resource, few managed IT service providers our size can match. They rely on suppliers further up the chain to hold spares, but one more link always means there’s a little more slack in the service.”
Clive Taylor, Operations Director, Quiss Technology plc