Durham University is a member of the Russell Group and global centre of academic and research excellence, boasting a top 100 ranking in the world, and a top 10 ranking in the UK. With 26 departments across four faculties, over 4,000 staff teach a broad range of courses to around 18,000 students. As Senior Manager for Technical Delivery, Peter Chrichard’s responsibilities include overseeing building and onboarding for devices and hardware.
With over 25 years’ experience of working with universities, Stone Group has a dedicated higher education team fully aware of the challenges within the sector. Stone hold’s first ranked supplier status on Lot 1 and 3 of the National Desktop & Notebook Agreement (NDNA), and Durham University has been a valued customer for several years.
Collaboration with Stone
The IT estate at Durham University is made up of a range of Lenovo equipment. From laptops to PCs, Lenovo’s professional technologies allow the University to ensure all staff are connected, with smart, versatile, and reliable devices that maximise productivity and optimise collaboration.
As part of the contract, Stone Group provide Durham with two onsite engineers, who process, deliver and install all the hardware as it arrives onto site. They are also responsible for hardware upgrades and fixes of anything hardware related from cable management to replacing a suite of PCs in a teaching lab, to help reduce the burden on the university’s IT teams.
Stone also takes care of their IT Asset Disposal (ITAD) requirements, responsibly disposing of the kit they no longer use. Pete said: “Prior to Stone looking after our recycling, we worked with various other suppliers, which cost us a great deal of money. When we started working with Stone, the recycling was part of our contract, and is totally free.”
Stone Group has an award-winning, WEEE compliant recycling facility that guarantees end-of-life IT assets are recycled securely, and with the good of the environment in mind. Stone wipe all data-bearing equipment via a data-erasure process that matches the same standards as the MOD, to ensure customers are protected against data breaches and provide peace of mind it is in compliance with GDPR. In addition, Stone Group offer rebates for equipment that can be recycled and re-used – this means the client can use that income on any new project. In Durham’s case, this money went towards paying for one of the on-site Stone engineers.
“Stone Group had a three-year contract with us for hardware supply. We were delighted with their service and so were pleased when, after due process, Stone won another contract to supply the University for a further four years.”
Peter Chrichard– Senior Manager for Technical Delivery
We have a unique relationship with Stone and see them as a partner rather than a provider
With the advent of COVID-19, the previously smooth-running processes within the university had to be reinvented. As the pandemic evolved, by March, Durham had no option other than to close its doors to their normal way of operation. Students were sent home, and staff were asked to work remotely, leaving just a small percentage of key workers on site. However, University business still had to continue. This presented a logistical nightmare, as around 80% of support and teaching staff did not have a laptop.
‘While we encouraged people to use their personal hardware if possible, we also needed to get a huge amount of kit out to our staff in their homes,” said Pete. “We needed a lot of new equipment, and to date, have been able to purchase an additional 1,500 laptops from Stone. We talk to them on a daily basis so that we can get a feel for the supply chain, which remains in a state of uncertainty.”
As a leading technology supplier with strong partnerships and significant accreditations, Stone Group’s longevity and reputation has been able to help clients such as Durham University access the equipment it needs during the coronavirus crisis. However, even with the new laptops the University needed more.
“We have had to be flexible and adapt accordingly to get what is available through their distribution network and Stone has not let us down.”
Peter Chrichard– Senior Manager for Technical Delivery
Stone’s on site team prepared thousands of devices
Pete wanted to collect all spare laptops from across the University, not only to equip the army of home workers, but so they were prepared when the University could eventually re-open. Stone’s on- site engineers emptied all the laptop lockers – which are in classrooms for staff and students to use – processed them to make sure they were fit for purpose, and then delivered them to a central service desk. They also looked at what could be repurposed in the recycling stock, reviewing all the hardware, and removing any items that had reached end-of-life. Working quickly to support the university, in just two weeks, the engineers from Stone prepped between five and six thousand devices.
Pete said: “Stone’s on-site engineers were worth their weight in gold during this process, and played a significant part in getting kit out to staff who were working remotely.”
The next major challenge was figuring out how the university were going to get kit out to staff who were based across all areas of the UK and beyond. To simplify this, Stone set up a dedicated bonded storage area within their own manufacturing warehouse.
“Corporately, Stone had to change their processes from delivering equipment in bulk to our site in Durham, to delivering kit from their warehouse to individual users across the county, Europe, and even as far afield as Afghanistan. We essentially placed our trust in Stone to liaise with staff individually, and provide them with the right kit.”
The machines from the University were collected from its redistribution centre and taken to Stone’s Stafford headquarters, where they were santised, processed and built. Stone also handled the imaging for individual devices, and even printed out any instructions to staff before they were sent out for home delivery. Between March and June, Stone sent out around 2,000 individual deliveries, at no extra cost to Durham University.
Due to the rate at which this project had to be executed, there was no time to run a test or a pilot. Both parties were thrown in at the deep end and had to deal with any issues as they arose.
“One thing we hadn’t considered for example, was the handling of personal details such as staff addresses,” said Pete. “We simply reviewed our process internally to deal with the GDPR issue and then carried on; it was all about overcoming things as they came up.”
“The amount of extra work Stone has done has been remarkable,” said Pete. “Stone is not the only supplier we work with, but compared to the others, it’s fair to say that Stone has gone over and above what was required of them. Quite simply, we would have been lost with without them. It’s not just laptops they have handled, but also thousands of peripherals such as monitors, headsets, cables, docks, keyboards and mics.”
We talk to Stone several times a day and they keep us updated about current demand and the distribution network
Discounts for students
Stone Group has also helped provide under-privileged students access PCs by arranging a voucher scheme with Durham University. This offered students a further 20 percent discount on the already competitive prices on their Stone Refurb site (previously Encore PC).
As a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher, Stone professionally refurbish and fully license their second user PCs, and supply them with a Genuine Certificate of Authenticity. All refurbished devices supplied by Stone also include warranties, plus upgrade options to protect for them future and ensure users have the power they need. Durham University purchased the 20 percent off vouchers to give to students themselves, allowing students to buy what they prefer.
“Stone has been an invaluable partner during the pandemic, and without them, we would have had to engage a team of core workers which would have been nowhere near as efficient,” said Steve. “Stone had the personnel, expertise and facilities to process our machines, act as a distribution centre and liaise with couriers. We simply could not have managed this in-house.”