X-ray vision with xdas

26 Jun 2003

While all customers demand quality customer service, those with medical equipment will probably demand better than most. Given the crucial nature of their work, healthcare providers will want a quick response time should anything go wrong. With this in mind, one Irish company, Medray Imaging Systems, decided to issue its service team members with handhelds in order to better manage their service process and make time savings.

Medray has been up and running since March 2000 and acts as a supplier of X-ray equipment. The company is an authorised distributor for equipment manufacturers such as Agfa, CEA, Champion Photochemistry, Ferrania and Konica. Medray has a wide customer base and its clients include almost all of the country’s hospitals and a large number of dental clinics and veterinary practices. The products it supplies include X-ray film and chemistry, conventional X-ray equipment and a range of accessories required to keep an X-ray facility operational. Managing director Aidan O’Reilly estimates that the company has over 600 pieces of equipment operational at various locations around Ireland.

To keep everything up and running, the company employs a team of four service engineers. With a stated target of having 1pc down time on any machine per year, the company has set itself a high target in terms of the customer service it will offer.

The solution the company went for was Fieldtrak’s Fieldtrak.net service. This software solution allowed it to replace the traditional triplicate paper-based system, which is common to most service companies. The Fieldtrak.net service is delivered via O2’s xda devices for the engineers with a base controller at the company’s headquarters co-ordinating the service teams’ efforts. Once a service call is made, the base controller then relays the details to a member of the service team, who can pick them up on the xda. The engineer can then proceed to the customer’s site, service the equipment and when the job’s done, obtain a customer signature on the xda. Once a job is signed off, the information is relayed back to the base controller, who can then dispatch the engineer on another job.

“The system allows us to know where every engineer is at any given time and automatically calculate labour costs, thus improving efficiency,” explains O’Reilly. “The reporting functionality of the system allows us to get a broad overview of how we’re doing and identify areas for improvement.”

The new system also has an element that deals with the client side. This means that their customers can now log their support calls across the web and can track the response, progress and eventual resolution of each technical issue, something that would have been very time consuming for both customer and service provider.

In terms of the costs involved, O’Reilly was quite pleased with the amount the company had to invest. “The cost of employing Fieldtrak.net is €100 per user per month. In this way it’s quite scalable. If we need to, we can add and remove users and we’re only paying for the service we need,” he says. He calculated that the company had already achieved a return on its investment. “If each engineer saves half an hour per week, then the system has paid for itself,” he adds.

Hardware costs were also involved and the company invested in O2 xdas for each of its engineers. Initially Medray was using Compaq iPaq handhelds in conjunction with mobile phones running on the Vodafone network. “We weren’t terribly happy with the quality of the Vodafone GPRS service, so we switched over to O2 recently and we noticed a big improvement,” he explains. Moving over entailed moving to xdas, hybrid devices combining a mobile phone and handheld computer. O’Reilly calculated that the company spent between €400 and €500 on each device.

While happy that the technology employed is improving operations, O’Reilly was keen to stress that technology alone won’t improve efficiency. “With any system like this, you need a good base controller to co-ordinate everything and we’re lucky to have one,” he says.

Although some people have claimed handhelds are little more than executive toys, the example of this company illustrates that there are plenty more applications for this type of mobile device.

By Dick O’Brien