For HVAC equipment manufacturer Lennox International, a computer crash could cost the company millions of dollars for as long as that system stays down. Many of Lennox's manufacturing processes are automated, and if the PC running a line goes down, the line stops. As J. D. Tucker, technical services lead at Lennox, puts it, "Downtime on a manufacturing line costs. The faster we get the onsite tech to that equipment to get the issue resolved, the less downtime and the less money lost."
With 15,000 employees spread over 12 manufacturing plants, a research and development facility and corporate headquarters, I.T. techs have their hands' full trying to troubleshoot and repair equipment ranging from executive laptops to a label printer chugging away on an assembly line.
Reducing downtime is exactly why the $3.7 billion company began looking for ways to improve the efficiency of its IT repair process. The company had already deployed BMC Software's Remedy solution, a suite of asset tracking and helpdesk ticketing modules, but onsite repair techs were still using printed copies of trouble tickets, which weren't easy to update and weren't always accurate.
With Remedy, the helpdesk fields support calls "and in a perfect world, they would troubleshoot the issue, log all the activities inside that ticket and close it," explains Tucker. "But since we're not in a perfect world, the helpdesk can't always solve a particular issue and it has to be escalated to an onsite tech, we had a slow process for getting techs the info they needed to go and fix the issue, whether it was in our corporate campus or on the shop floor." Techs would use the paper copy of the trouble ticket to make notes and at the end of the day, had to enter all the job info back into the Remedy solution.
Even though the company is happy with the Remedy solution, Carolyn Hollingsworth, I.T. director for Lennox, says she knew further productivity gains could be made if techs had access to the solution from the field. "Extending the helpdesk applications out to the individuals that actually go and fix equipment, was very important to us as a cost savings measure, and as part of the drive to streamline processes," she says.
While the Remedy app assigns trouble tickets a priority rating of high to low, techs had no way of knowing if a more pressing issue was sitting on their desks, while they were out in the field. "Our largest manufacturing plant has a million square feet," says Hollingsworth, "so when you only have four or five people maintaining systems at that location, they are not at their desks very often, so it was important to get that info to them wherever they are."
Taking a solution mobile
Hollingsworth says she'd heard about Aeroprise, a company that specializes in mobilizing Remedy applications. Hollingsworth was impressed with what she'd heard about Aeroprise and their promise of a painless mobile deployment. Some divisions of Lennox were already using BlackBerry handhelds for email, so Lennox decided to try Aeroprise's solution running on BlackBerrys.
Lennox initially tested 10 Aeroprise licenses at its corporate campus; Hollingsworth says she could see the benefits of the solution right away, and the company soon planned a full deployment across it 14 locations.
"The deployment was really painless," says Tucker, "we were up and running within three hours and spent the rest of the day tweaking little things. There is a lot of room to customize the application and we took advantage of that to avoid heavy-duty training. Aeroprise really just extends the application out to the BlackBerry, so they didn't have to make many modifications. For techs, it's pretty much directly what you would see on your screen is now what you see on the BlackBerry, things look a bit different due to the smaller screen size, but the flow of it is the exact same, so techs didn't have to learn a new application."
Realizing the rewards
In the first month of deploying Aeroprise's solution, Lennox saw a 40% to 50% increase in its service level agreement (SLA) compliance, reaching 95% compliance in less than three months. And while a lot of factors affect SLA compliance, Tucker says typically he'd expect to see a heavy a drop in compliance with a new deployment. Instead, after installing Aeroprise, SLA levels "spiked and the results have stayed pretty steady."
Techs also now have an immediate view of a job's priority; more pressing trouble tickets show up higher in their work cues, so techs are always working on the most critical issues.
Tucker also cites a surprise benefit of the solution: on average they are seeing more trouble tickets closed, and not necessarily because more PCs are breaking down. "Before, people on the floor would just stop a tech and ask them for help," he explains. "Usually they aren't going to say no, but then later they'd forget to create a ticket for the issue, now they can log the ticket while they are working on the issue. So we've seen better tracking results of what our techs are actually doing."
While time is money, in many industries "numbers are everything" says Tucker, "and our headcount is based on the number of tickets we're receiving and closing." So, the better reporting of trouble tickets, the more opportunities the company has to deploy techs to locations where they are most needed.
Lennox has also been impressed with Aeroprise's commitment to service. "The level of support we received from Aeroprise far surpasses the support of any other product I've ever been involved with," Tucker says. "If I make them aware of an issue, within minutes I have a second or third level tech or engineer on the phone with me. I've had two or three incidents, mostly with issues on our sever side, but the folks at Aeroprise are always there to help me."
In addition to an increase of SLA compliance to 95% in less than three months, other results Lennox has achieved with the system include:
While even a moment of downtime on a manufacturing line can cost the company a bundle, there are a lot of factors involved in calculating costs or cost benefits. As Hollingsworth explains, "As far as ROI for the solution, we can only hit a soft area because every facility is different, the money lost when a line goes down depends on multiple variables, so its hard to get a general number across the board."
- a streamlined, prioritized repair process;
- improved visibility of the number and nature of trouble tickets;
- a decrease in downtime on numerous manufacturing lines.