At the distribution warehouse of the apparel company Cutter & Buck, wireless sewing machine robots embroider logos and patterns onto jackets and shirts. These sewing robots work up to 20 hours each day, downloading the logos from a server over the wireless network, auto feeding the color, and then stitching the patterns. Spread across the 350 square foot warehouse, the robots are too far from a switch to be wired in.
Cutter & Buck started using this system three years ago with a legacy wireless network deployed at the distribution warehouse in Renton, Washington, as well as at corporate headquarters in Seattle and at the New York showroom.
“The wireless was a pain to manage,” said Dean Dunlop, Cutter & Buck’s Network Analyst. “The VPNs always had a problem, and it was generally for the most important people like the CEO or CFO. The helpdesk was getting hammered. It was hard just to keep the system up and running. We were always doing upgrades, and at least once a month we were driving down to the distribution center, about an hour away from our headquarters, to fix the access points there or manage the updates.”
Frustrated with the complex and time-consuming solution, Dunlop wanted an alternative solution that was easy to deploy and manage. “I didn’t want our help desk guys supporting the wireless all the time. They have a lot of other things to do,” he said. “But when the wireless goes down, it’s always an emergency.”
Dunlop also wanted a better system for guest access. “We had a shared username and password for all the guests,” Dunlop explained. “Once people knew it, they could go downstairs from our corporate office and sit in Starbucks and use the wireless all the time. We had bandwidth issues on our guest network even when we had nobody in the building.”
Dunlop learned about Meraki’s cloud-based solution from Softchoice Corporation, a Meraki partner. “We saw the demo, and our reaction was ‘holy smokes, that is so cool, we’d love to try it.’ And I’m so glad we did.” Deployment took about four hours, compared to the 20 days Dunlop remembers spending configuring the original solution. He plans to deploy two more Meraki APs at the new showroom in New York, which will be completely wireless for aesthetic reasons.
Before Meraki, Cutter & Buck managed a series of complex, somewhat separate wireless networks spread out across multiple sites. The networks relied on a series of VPN connections to ensure proper access back to internal resources at corporate headquarters, while providing appropriate levels of wireless security. Using Lobby Ambassador, Meraki’s built-in guest management system, Cutter & Buck’s receptionists now create temporary customized guest user IDs and passwords. Additionally, Meraki now helps to filter and shape content on the trusted side to comply with corporate policy, while being a bit more lenient with wireless guest traffic for visitors’ and employees’ personal devices.
Dunlop taught Cutter & Buck’s receptionists how to create temporary customized guest user IDs and passwords. “It’s so easy, they love it,” he said. “Not dealing with guest access anymore took a lot of weight off the helpdesk and my team.”
Dunlop delivers enthusiastic praise for Meraki. First, he appreciates the lack of on-site controller, noting the $7,000 he spent on each of his original WAP controllers. Second, he loves that maintenance and support are included in the Meraki product.
I pulled out the last legacy AP the other day, and it feels awesome. We’re 100% pleased with Meraki. Everything it’s supposed to do, it does.Dean Dunlop, Network Analyst
“The Meraki help desk is awesome,” Dunlop said. “They really know what they’re doing, so I don’t have to talk to three tiers of support. I’m on the phone five minutes, I get my answer, and I’m good to go. With the other guys I used to be on the phone for two hours.”
While Dunlop’s total cost of ownership is far lower with Meraki than it was with his original solution, he says Meraki’s ease of use is an even greater benefit. “Easy’s not even the right word — it’s just a great experience,” he said. “Our philosophy is, we should build it once and let it run. We don’t have to manage it. It emails us if there’s a problem. And our employees and guests love it — it just works.”
Dunlop says he just wishes he’d started with Meraki three years ago. “I pulled out the last legacy AP the other day, and it feels awesome,” he said. “We’re 100% pleased with Meraki. Everything it’s supposed to do, it does.”
“Easy’s not even the right word — it’s just a great experience. We don’t have to manage it. And our employees and guests love it. It just works.”