2009 Mobilizer Awards: Best Enterprise-Wide Mobility Deployment

By  Kassandra Kania — November 06, 2009

An enterprise-wide RTLS solution enables UCSD Medical Center to slash inventory expenses

Staff frustration levels were at an all-time high at UCSD Medical Center in San Diego, CA. Without a system in place to track the whereabouts of hospital assets, personnel often wasted hours searching for misplaced equipment.

"It was ugly," admits Tom Hamelin, Associate Director responsible for perioperative services, radiology, pulmonary special procedures, and GI procedures. "We had to send out teams of people to look for pieces of equipment." In addition to causing aggravation, time spent hunting down missing instrumentation and equipment could lead to delays or even cancellations in surgery -- a major cost for the hospital.

To keep tabs on everything from wheelchairs and gurneys to IV pumps and operating room headlamps, UCSD turned to Awarepoint to implement an enterprise-wide RTLS solution.

Awarepoint installed the ZigBee wireless sensor network throughout the hospital, using sensors that plug into electrical outlets. The wireless mesh network provides location, status, and movement accuracy with room-level precision. Battery-powered RFID tags can be attached to any type of equipment. So far, the hospital has tagged several thousand assets across its Hillcrest and Thornton campuses.

"IV pumps were the first thing we tagged," says Hamelin. "Everyone agreed that was a problem because ICUs and other units would stash them in closets." UCSD tagged both hospital-owned and rental equipment and was able to show ROI in a few months. Not only did the tags lead to a reduction in lost, stolen, and misplaced IV pumps, but they also resulted in a savings of nearly $200,000 in infusion pump rental fees.

Next, UCSD Medical Center turned its attention to applying temperature monitoring tags to refrigerators and warmers. If the temperature moves above or below a preset threshold, the tag sends an alert to the user. "Before, it was difficult having a mobile fridge, because we couldn't get a thermometer that tapped into our system downstairs," says Hamelin. "Now the temperature tags don't have to be plugged into the wall, so we can just throw the tag on the fridge and it doesn't matter where the fridge is. We're able to track the temperature."

Finally, the hospital focused on tags that could withstand the sterilization process so that they could be used to keep track of its medical instrumentation trays, which are shared between hospital campuses. "We never had the ability before to tag instruments because of the heat generated during the sterilization process," says Hamelin. Some items are sterilized daily while others may need to be sterilized multiple times a day. The sterilizable tags can withstand repeated autoclave cycles.

As a result of the tray-tracking application, UCSD has saved nearly $500,000 in reduced inventory requirements and revenue impact to the OR in the first year.

Staff satisfaction has been one of the system's primary benefits, says Hamelin. "They no longer have to get frustrated and waste time looking for a stretcher or a wheelchair."

And using the system is a piece of cake, he adds. Staff members have access to any tagged item enterprise-wide from any networked PC. The system simply displays a map of the floor and indicates which section of the room the asset is in. "So far, I haven't heard of any difficulties finding anything," says Hamelin.



Honorable Mention

Mobile platform enables Innovapost to reduce errors, improve productivity 

Canada Post's technology solution for mail delivery comprised a hodge-podge of aging mobile computing platforms. Innovapost, an Ottawa, Ontario-based subsidiary and IT provider of Canada Post, needed to upgrade delivery agents' handhelds and curtail future costs with a scalable platform architecture.

Innovapost deployed Motorola MC 70 handhelds running Windows Mobile 5.0. SQL Anywhere from Sybase provides data synchronization, while Sybase's Afaria provides security options and the ability to update software on the devices.  Already deployed at 560 mail depots, the solution has improved data delivery speeds, en-route communications and service performance. Agents can now scan letter boxes and report missed boxes in real time, allowing for immediate corrective action. Another key benefit is the reduction in paperwork, says Innovapost's Bert Ljungstrom, senior consultant, solution delivery. "Equipping agents with mobile devices will reduce the data entry pool from about 50 people to five by early next year," he says. By the end of 2011, 25,000 delivery agents will have wireless, real-time scanning capabilities.

"When we started introducing handheld scanners, the quality index error rate for a depot was more than 5%," says Duncan. "This year it went down to about 1.5%. We've reduced our error rate threefold."


Honorable Mention
BP's common mobile operating system keeps oil refineries in optimal operating conditions

Carson, CA-based BP's enterprise-wide mobile deployment, which began rollouts in 2008, is expected to drive more than $150 million in cost savings annually for BP's downstream operations. The company deployed Wonderware IntelaTrac software on Motorola's MC9090 rugged handheld computers with RFID readers running Windows Mobile OS. Along with Wonderware, SAIC was involved in project integration tasks, including RFID equipment tagging, training and rollout to 800-plus operators and supervisors.

BP's goals for the new solution were to mitigate major risks and operate in a compliant fashion. The company also wanted to establish a common operating managing system across all BP operations. Using the IntelaTrac system and advice messaging based on conditions encountered in the field, operators have improved their inspection rounds. This, in turn, has helped to reduce the Op Gap, which is the amount of money left on the table due to decreased throughput or availability caused by equipment failures and unplanned maintenance.

BP can now ensure that company best practices are consistently followed and acted on at multiple refineries. In addition, the integration to backend systems and data histories gives plant managers the information they need to make informed decisions and enhance their monitoring of environmental, safety and compliance regulations.


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