Siemens Medical Solutions, a division of Siemens AG, is one of the world’s largest suppliers to the healthcare industry. At Siemens Medical Solutions France, field service efficiency is critical. Its 150 techs support approximately 3,500 customers who represent an average of 40,000 maintenance calls for medical equipment each year.
Siemens originally relied on regional call centers to dispatch field technicians via telephone and a manual, paper-based system. Ten years ago, to address the significant billing delays and errors associated with these manual processes, technicians were equipped with laptops and portable printers to enable printing of customer invoices on-site. However, since there was no means to transfer the information as it was captured at each location, technicians had to wait until the end of the day to do so, via a modem connection. In 2003, Siemens deployed a solution composed of SAP running on a GPRS (general packet radio service) Palm Treo with an external bar code reader to keep track of inventory. While the solution did provide real-time communications, the external bar code reader added to the device’s fragility, resulting in spare part replacement costs as high as $128,000.
The medical company looked for a new solution that could provide the same functionality and also withstand daily use in the field to reduce rising repair costs. Siemens France researched several solutions and eventually deployed 150 Symbol Technologies MC50 mobile computers to its field force. The MC50 devices are semirugged computers built to withstand the drops, vibrations, and moisture common in fieldwork. Technicians now use MC50s to receive all work orders complete with location, failure description, room configuration, ordered parts, and a previous maintenance history. Using a Bluetooth connection to a GPRS mobile phone, the MC50 connects to the company’s SAP tracking system in real time, enabling techs to enter closed work reports into the system while still on site. The new solution’s benefits of durability and real-time communications have combined to deliver a quick payback. After six months, Siemens estimates an annual productivity gain of approximately $1.5 million, from an initial investment of $1 million.