17 Jan PDS discovers golden opportunity in 323 dumpsters’ worth of trash
Who would have thought that there could be a business opportunity in helping IT administrators unpack cardboard boxes?
Strange as it may seem, the opportunity does exist, and Craig Schiefelbein and his colleagues at Paragon Development Systems (PDS) are taking advantage of it. The PDS team has developed an unusual service that makes it easier for hospitals and large corporations to deploy new computers and recycle legacy machines.
Instead of ordering standard computer equipment packaged in cardboard boxes that need to be unpacked and recycled, the company offers an alternative: Allow PDS to receive the machines, remove them from their shipping containers, and load them onto mobile carts. Once the carts have been filled with equipment, they are shrink-wrapped, loaded onto delivery trucks, and wheeled to the desired location.
“We have a patent on shipping technology on mobile carts,” Schiefelbein told me during a visit to his company’s Oconomowoc headquarters.
As I walked through the PDS warehouse, I saw row after row of servers, keyboards and monitors packed on wheeled metal carts. Each fully stocked cart was shrink-wrapped and shock-mounted for the trip to a hospital or large corporation.
Schiefelbein and his colleagues enjoy the challenge of finding new business opportunities in the arduous and thankless tasks that drive IT professionals to distraction.
“We do the work that nobody wants to deal with,” Schiefelbein said.
What’s Causing Your Headache?
It appears that the key to discovering new business opportunities is listening to customer complaints.
In a large organization, equipment purchases can generate large quantities of garbage and other logistical headaches. The simple process of replacing outdated computers can be an extremely cumbersome task, when you multiply that task by hundreds of employee workstations.
Most people do not care what happens to the obsolete machines that are carted off their desks, or what happens to the piles of cardboard that were used to ship their computers from the factory. But PDS noticed that their target customers, those overstressed and under-appreciated IT administrators, care very much about these things, since they are the ones responsible for unpacking the cargo and taking out the trash.
Schiefelbein and his colleagues noticed that if someone could prevent an IT administrator from having to deal with hundreds of dumpsters’ worth of garbage and recyclable materials, the IT administrator might be willing to pay something for this service.
As we walked around PDS‘s clean, well-lit facility, Schiefelbein told me that last year, his company saved the Mayo Clinic from having to deal with 323 dumpsters’ worth of materials. This means that instead of spending a great deal of time hauling out the trash, or searching for new homes for old computers, the IT administrators could spend their time figuring out how to meet their users’ immediate computer needs.
Instead of figuring out how to recycle old computers, IT administrators can send their “legacy” machines back to PDS on the same wheeled carts that the new machines rolled in on.
It took years to identify this particular business opportunity. When Schiefelbein and his partners co-founded PDS back in 1986, their goal was to sell computer memory chips wholesale. But the team didn’t stick with its original mission for very long. After experimenting with selling computer components, the PDS team decided to build and sell PCs.
The Y2K hullabaloo was good for PDS and other companies that sold computers. But at the end of 1999, the demand for PCs went way down. So PDS reinvented itself yet again.
Today, the company is on its seventh business model. Fortunately, the current business model looks like a winner. Last spring, PDS won the “Top Overall System Builder” and “Community Service” awards from NASBA, the association of channel resellers, during the Gartner System Builder Summit/VARVision, conference and trade show – beating out nearly 250 leading computer manufacturers, resellers, and IT solutions providers in the process.
Teresa Esser is a contributing columnist for the Wisconsin Technology Network and author of the book, The Venture Café. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.