When I was maybe 2 years old, my mother lost track of me in a Toys-R-Us store. After a dozen stressful minutes, she finally found me – holding a Fisher-Price airplane. And so began my love affair with airplanes and aviation. So as I looked through the break-out schedule while attending NVIDIA’s GPU conference two weeks ago in San Jose, California, Gulfstream Aero’s session on transforming manufacturing and field service with desktop virtualization caught my eye. It didn’t disappoint.

There are 2 reasons why I liked this session so much and why I think it’s worth sharing with you:

  1. It’s a nice example of technology that makes the work easier for employees, and helps them improve the customer experience directly.
  2. It’s also an example of how a technology that’s not necessarily a money saver (in this case, VDI) shines when it enables workers do something that would be difficult or impossible any other way.

3D design software takes a lot of computing horsepower…
Advanced engineering applications like CATIA make 3D design and engineering possible. Gulfstream uses it because it lets engineers working with complex designs like an aircraft, see their work in a very life-like way. They can immediately see how changes in the design will impact other elements like wiring, hydraulics, and the structural integrity of the airframe. But for all of its design power, CATIA requires a lot of computing horsepower because it processes so much data each time a user manipulates the 3D models on the screen.

…which usually confines it to engineers using big PC workstations.
This thirst for computing muscle usually confines 3D design software to big PC workstations sitting under engineers’ desks. Other employees who might benefit from being able to view and manipulate the designs, such as workers on the manufacturing floor or fixing aircraft in the field, usually have only 2D drawings and manuals, which could be several revisions behind the current design state. According to Gulfstream, the result can be errors during manufacture, more difficulty diagnosing problems, and more downtime and expense for field repairs.

Desktop virtualization technology can extend the reach of 3D design software…
By applying desktop virtualization technology – specifically server-hosted virtual desktops (Citrix XenDesktop) using shared NVIDIA GRID GPUs, Gulfstream was able to expand the benefits of CATIA directly to durable solid-state thin clients on the manufacturing floor, and to iPads in the hands of the field service techs. Voila! The heavy-duty rendering work that manipulating the CATIA models requires happens in the datacenter instead of on the device, effectively giving manufacturing workers and field techs the same quality of information and detail that the aircraft’s designers have. The result for Gulfstream is higher manufacturing quality, fewer defects, and faster field repairs.

…enabling manufacturing workers and field techs to work smarter and faster.
To help you visualize what this means, field techs can now disassemble a highly accurate 3D model of the aircraft on their iPad before they disassemble anything on the actual aircraft, giving them a much better picture of what to expect and how to perform the work faster, without accidentally damaging other components. They can also see any additional parts they will need to complete the work and order them up front, further reducing the chances of delay.

The result is higher quality and a better customer experience
The link to better customer experience in this example is direct. Higher manufacturing quality means fewer unscheduled service stops. Faster field repairs mean that customers, who may be temporarily stranded thousands of miles from home, can be on their way sooner saving the cost and frustration of further disruptions.

Use customer experience opportunities to prioritize desktop virtualization investments
What it means for Technology Management professionals is that focusing on applying desktop virtualization technologies to achieve customer experience outcomes that would be difficult or impossible any other way, is a wiser strategy than trying to shave costs alone.