Computers and the Internet have fundamentally changed the way we engage with with our work. “We didn’t have the Internet when I started here, but today if we don’t have the Internet it feels like we can’t do our jobs,” said April White, Business Manager of Interstate Specialty Products (ISP). When the Sutton, MA manufacturer needed a more robust IT management partner, they found it in AKUITY. April said, “AKUITY allows us to focus on our core – growing the business – and not worry about IT. Whatever our next steps are, we know AKUITY will be there to help us.”
Founded in 1963, Interstate Specialty Products (ISP) offers custom die cutting services to produce high-performance components and gaskets for customers in a variety of industries world-wide. “We’ve had consistent growth,” said April White, Business Manager at ISP, and “year over year we’re hiring. Manufacturing in the United States is right here, in Sutton, MA.” She explained they continue to grow by, “having an excellent reputation in the industry. We are often recommended as someone you can trust as a partner.”
April oversees human resources, manages vendor relationships, assists in customer service, and leads daily operations of the front office. ISP’s Business Specialist, Jaclyn Skagerlind, focuses on sales and finance. Jaclyn said she and April manage ISP’s business using an all-inclusive ERP system, which provides processes for purchasing, real-time manufacturing data, and live financial metrics.
The ISP team manages the ERP system and more routine tasks on a daily basis, but recognize they can’t run the entire organization’s technology themselves. “The servers, the cloud, virtualization, and disaster recovery – we need help with that,” April said. ISP has outsourced these needs for several years, but April said that as ISP evolved, the need for enhanced IT support surpassed what their previous vendor could accommodate.
When on-site attention was needed, ISP’s previous vendor wouldn’t send the same technician each time. This meant problems took a while to resolve, as each new technician would have to learn the company’s infrastructure before addressing a concern. The vendor’s services also required April’s participation in every IT issue, which she said became time consuming. April noted that ISP, “bypassed them as much as possible, taking on more than we should, because we were trying to make the solution ourselves in a timely manner.”
After resolution, ISP then needed to regroup and make up for lost time. “If we had to bring machines back up, or lost anything we worked on, there would be gaps to fill. A couple hours down leads to many hours trying to recall what happened,” April said. Jaclyn added that these reoccurring issues were felt beyond productivity and efficiency: “It brings down employee morale too.” April and Jaclyn agreed that any downtime, “would snowball quickly.”
To find a better solution, the ISP team interviewed three new companies, including AKUITY. “AKUITY had a wonderful reputation,” April recalled. “Even when we were doing OK, AKUITY was always on the radar.”
The support time frame was an important concern for their next vendor to address. Should an early morning issue arise, ISP requires an immediate response due to their own clients’ needs. “We needed issues addressed at 6:15am, when we knew the machines were down,” Jaclyn said. April added that, “We needed a flexible partner, and to know we’d be important to the vendor. Other vendors we looked at had much larger clients; we didn’t feel we would have gotten the attention.”
Before making their decision final, the ISP team visited the AKUITY offices. They were impressed by what they learned, specifically with the conversation they had with the VP of Operations. Jaclyn said, “He interviewed us to make sure we were a good fit for AKUITY too, which I think is so important, because vendor relationships should be a two-way street.” After that visit, ISP chose AKUITY to manage their IT needs.
“When I look back on our growth in IT and partnering with AKUITY, it has been so positive. It’s taken so much off my plate,” April said. She felt the transition to AKUITY was, “relatively easy. All of the upfront work ISP and AKUITY did together made it go really smoothly.” Jaclyn added that, “it made us feel good that AKUITY took a deep dive and said, ‘these are the urgent things that you need to fix.’ We weren’t aware of the risks we were open to.”
IT staff consistency has been positive for the ISP team as well. April said, “It’s nice to see the same face each time, I almost feel they think of themselves as [ISP] employees now, we have this bond. We know who’s coming in.” Jaclyn agreed that, “Everyone is very happy with the change. Sometimes you change a vendor and people get frustrated, but this one is amazing. Everyone is smiling and happy, no one says, ‘ugh, the IT guy is here, something must be wrong.’ It’s ‘they’re here!’ and ‘how’s it going?’” She also noted that all employees are now empowered and confident enough to contact AKUITY for support, without having to go through April.
Jaclyn previously felt technology issues would snowball across the business. Now, she says, “The snowball is just a flurry. Not even a flurry – it’s a flake, and then it melts, and it’s gone.” She recounted the lone malfunction ISP experienced since AKUITY took over, early in the partnership. “It was resolved within 6 hours. I think we would have been down much longer if we were still with the other group.” April agreed, recalling she was out of the office the day it happened. “I was watching it on my phone, and knew within a couple emails AKUITY was on it, and it was going to be fixed. Prior to AKUITY, I probably would have come running in here to try and save the day.” With this experience, April and Jaclyn said that AKUITY had earned their trust.
“AKUITY has a huge depth of knowledge of what’s going on in our industry, and what other companies and industries are doing with IT. They work with so many different kinds of businesses, and they have such good suggestions for us. It’s really helpful,” Jaclyn said. She sees AKUITY has, “good ideas on getting clients together and collaborating. That is so different from what a lot of other groups do – it’s out of the box, and goes above and beyond for your clients to help everyone perform better.” “Knowing AKUITY works with other manufacturing companies allows us to share IT options, and our vCIO is right there to help us. We learn, share and grow, and that is really important to us,” April said.