Field Service Reboot
By Ellen Muraskin
CareFusion is a medical technology company whose products include infusion pumps, medicine dispensing and patient identification systems, ventilation and respiratory equipment, and other devices and services aimed at preventing both human error and hospital-acquired infections. Based in San Diego, it employs 14,000 across 20 countries, and sells its products globally.
As part of a business-wide effort to improve operating margins that followed its spinoff from Cardinal Health in 2009, CareFusion decided in 2010 that the time had come to consolidate, redefine and streamline many of its call-to-cash business processes. Part of that initiative was establishing their own SAP CRM infrastructure, previously run by their parent company.
With the SAP CRM deployment, CareFusion saw particular opportunity to streamline operations and cut costs in the field service operation of its Pyxis dispensing equipment arm. In that division, taking those SAP applications mobile would be a key element in enabling its field service technicians to accomplish more repairs and maintenance tasks during each customer site visit.
A team of staff field service technicians, supplemented by third-party affiliate technicians, were required to configure, install and service a wide variety of dispensing devices and their associated cabinets in hospitals around the country, with a maximum 24-hour support response time. Such trips required clinical staff to be present, and they in turn incurred growing fuel costs, and generated follow-up data entry tasks that field techs generally took care of after hours at home, incurring high overtime costs. The data re-entry inevitably impacted accuracy, as paper records had to be re-entered online hours after the fact.
Accomplishing more work during each field technician's visit meant not only completing service calls and support tickets. It also meant getting a jump on scheduled preventive maintenance, issuing invoices, and obtaining customer sign-off, replacing phone calls into headquarters with direct views into on-the-truck and in-the-warehouse part inventory, and ordering. All these requirements provided the classic case for application mobility: saving time by bringing information from centralized storage to those who act on it, and saving more time and preventing error by generating data at its source. The diagram shown below provides a map into what CareFusion needed to deliver in order to effectively reboot its field operations.
Equally important, CareFusion needed to drive up its first-time fix rate, both to cut labor costs and to drive up customer satisfaction. Instead of making separate calls to diagnose a problem and then return with needed parts, field service needed access to all the SAP- collected and -stored information that would enable them to view and prepare for all their assignments before starting their day: device schematics, field service manuals, maintenance and contract history.
So informed, field service techs can now prepare their trunk stock, equipment, contracts and technical specs before setting out. With this info stored on their mobile devices, they have this on hand even in the absence of Internet connectivity, with automatic synchronization at the next data access point.
When Michael Roys, CareFusion's Senior IT analyst, began looking into the mobile deployment of the company's new SAP CRM system, the company's mobile assets consisted of BlackBerry devices. These could relay simple service orders via email, but carried no device maintenance histories or opportunities for data entry. Neither, needless to say, did they incorporate any of the ancillary applications or peripheral features now commonly embedded into today's mobile handheld computers: mapping, location, bar code scanning, and signature capture.
CareFusion's business units and IT department issued a formal RFP to find the right mobile partner. Vendor selection took around three months. Roys notes that the company looked for flexibility in customization, not wanting to be locked in to any functionality subset. CareFusion also "didn't want a company 'capable' of handling integration with SAP. We needed a vendor whose products were already integrated with SAP. We didn't want the onus of integration." From this perspective, the branded SMART Service Manager offerings of Syclo, a mobility-focused systems integrator, developer and longtime SAP partner, made sense.
Syclo's SMART Service Manager for SAP CRM field service application displays all relevant customer, service and equipment data at the point of service. It provides parts ordering, capture of parts and labor information, as well as customer signature. It generates new work orders, and streamlines two-way communication between headquarters and the field. Field service techs are now also able to issue electronic receipts as PDF files - easily legible, and easy for customers to store in their digital folders.
Says Steve Cascio, Syclo account executive, "This is an application that has been validated many times across the industry, and according to guidelines from the FDA and others." To prospects rightly afraid of proprietary lock-in, he points out that "This is a critical part of the partnership with SAP, to make sure that these apps we've been building over the past 16 years are strategically aligned with SAP's mobile strategy."
Syclo's field technician application went live in February 2011. Briefly demonstrated on a Motorola MC55 hand-held running Windows Mobile, a tabbed interface guides the technician from authentication (against SAP) to service call assignment and acceptance, to timed status, and a comprehensive view of all relevant customer information, drawn from SAP - products, maps and driving directions, contracts/warrantees, service history, on-site contacts. If connectivity goes down, the app syncs up when reconnected but continues to accept information.
As of this writing, CareFusion is using 455 licenses of Syclo's SAP-based SMART Service Manager, running on laptops with 3G data cards as an interim step. They have already settled on Windows 7 slates as their end user devices, but haven't yet chosen their hardware vendor. Nathan Bearden, CareFusion's Field Service Manager, appreciates how the application "walks the user through the workflow of entering data into Syclo, which feeds it back into the CRM, how it steps them through screen selection, and without overwhelming shows them intuitively what data points they need to add, when to add notes, when to select category codes."
Roys notes the ease of in-house enhancements: "We've enhanced the features you'd see on the phone client without worrying about the underlying SAP code or Java code. We're able to do this fairly quickly. It's easier to customize a Syclo solution for adding validations, for example, than it is customizing the CRM solution, which you want to keep fairly vanilla." He also underscores that the "CareFusion field service reboot will clearly lead to non-trivial TCO and ROI once it is fully operational with tablet devices and deployed to all field users."