iTouch Business Mobility
28 September 2004
Communicate IT Ltd Press release: iTouch Business Mobility Christchurch, NZ, 28-Sep-04
iTouch delivers UK's first fully managed Pocket PC GPRS solution for Dyson field engineers
New system reduces paperwork and admin by over 400 hours a day, increases efficiency and productivity, and retires 215 PCs and exorbitant phone line costs.
Home appliance innovator, Dyson, has rolled out a new managed mobile service developed by iTouch Business Mobility called iService. The implementation is the first in the UK that exchanges customer and service job data from engineers in the field to the head office in real time using advanced handheld barcode technology over O2's GPRS wireless network.
Dyson has a team of 170 field engineers across the UK. With increasing business activity, the company recognised that it needed to improve efficiency if it was to keep its same day service and repair promise to its customers.
"We were getting concerned that our system had a number of reliability issues," explained Bryan Thompson, Dyson Project Manager. "Our field engineers were using old Win95 PCs and dial up modems to download data, which were becoming increasingly unreliable and very slow. So we started investigating ways in which we could improve the way we work. "
Dyson were looking for a paperless solution that would eliminate the 2 hours spent daily by their engineers filling in forms by hand and double entering the data into the computer when they returned home. They also wanted to save the 4 hours that each of the call-centre staff spent telephoning engineers to relay job changes and cancellations.
"What we ideally wanted was a fully managed service where the supplier would manage the entire solution - hardware, software, customisation, support, hosting, the lot," said Bryan.
Differentiating the market leaders
Investigations started in November 2001 and over the ensuing months Dyson selected 30 potential partners to submit proposals. Unfortunately, finding the perfect solution proved harder than expected.
"Sales in the IT market is very high pressured," explained Malcolm Hird, Dyson National Field Service Manager, "and what was out there fell way short of the mark. Everyone was claiming to be the market leaders and distinguishing the truth from the hype was frustrating. Most presented theoretical examples of a solution, but it wasn't until we were introduced to iTouch in February 2003 that we saw, for the first time, an actual working demonstration."
While the final decision was close, iTouch won the contract on the strength of the iService application, their experience with managing large corporate systems including Parcelforce Worldwide, and their willingness to amend the programme to meet Dyson's workflow needs.
"From the minute we met, we could tell that they were way ahead of everyone in this area," he added.
Dyson had a number of objectives that successful partners had to meet. These included:
· Demonstration of previous experience · Existing infrastructure · Compatibility and ability to integrate with Dyson's Siebel CRM system · The ability to manage the entire project and offer full system maintenance and support · 24 hour office support · Fast and reliable response times to problem resolution
The iService Managed Solution
iTouch, together with partners Panasonic and O2, secured a three-year fully managed service contract with Dyson in September 2003. Just two months of development and integration later the system was ready for roll out.
iService works by communicating all customer and repair job details directly from the head office to the engineers handheld. As the units are online all the time (coverage dependent), all progress updates, parts ordering, receipts and customer signatures are integrated live with the back office system. The data is instant, measurable and 100% accurate.
To ensure their staff were trained and up to speed in a comfortable timeframe Dyson opted for a deliberate 6-month slow roll out. At each stage, groups of engineers had their old PCs replaced by Panasonic Toughbooks with an in-built barcode scanner for re-ordering parts, and a portable Extech printer for printing off customer receipts.
"We evaluated the Panasonic Pocket PC unit against other ruggedised options, but preferred the colour screen and battery life of the Toughbook. To date the unit has proved very reliable. Our engineers love the new system and find it very straightforward to use. Our customers are also immensely impressed with the new system and the fact that they can sign for the work done on screen and watch the engineers scan in data and print out receipts there and then. The system is fast, accurate and far more professional than what we had before," said Bryan Thompson.
Russell Younghusband, Business Manager, Panasonic UK Ltd said, "From an industry point of view Dyson is very important for us. The market is relatively new, and a lot of UK companies have yet to realise the many benefits that can be achieved for businesses that have staff working out in the field. Dyson is an excellent example of this."
Benefits to Dyson
Since the project was completed Dyson has noticed a number of benefits of the new system, including a "massive reduction in errors" in the data collected by the engineers.
With the old system a single typo such as a wrong serial number would corrupt the entire data, and a lot of administration time would be spent correcting the mistake. Now, accuracy of the data collected has increased 100% in part numbers, stock holding, customer data, and serial number capture of all Dyson products.
The iService solution also allows Dyson to monitor, review and check customer data easily and reliably. Daily KPI figures, such as mileage and fuel usage, can also be extracted at the press of a button and transferred into reports for quick analysis. Before, they were manually copying and merging Excel spreadsheets together, and then spending hours comparing and evaluating efficiency.
Dyson anticipated that the return on investment would take about 1 to 1.5 years and, seemingly, early indications show that they are on track to achieve this. Their single most important objective was to reduce time wasted on administration. Since roll out began engineers and support employees started saving over 2 hours a day each on administration.
With no more paperwork to fill in and hours to spend at night on the computer, engineers have taken to new system like ducks to water. Training took just half a day and within hours of using the units in the field engineers were saying that they found it very easy to use and would not want to go back to the old system.
The new system has improved efficiency and customer service by enabling Dyson to plan and co-ordinate repair jobs more effectively and timely. Also, with significantly less voice calls to engineers, telecommunication costs are down and support staff are able to add value to other business processes.
"This has been a significant project for iTouch," said Dave Tinkler, Managing Director, iTouch Business Mobility. "It is the first iService managed service contract where we host, manage and update the entire application for Dyson. This service saves a lot of hassle for corporates as they don't need to up-skill the IT department. Any user changes or software updates are delivered seamlessly overnight ready for the next days work. It is a good example of how managed mobile solutions can add significant value and business benefits to corporates."
Malcolm Hird agrees, "As soon as we met iTouch we realised straight away that they understood our business problems. Everything went to plan. The project was delivered on time, to exact specification and spot on budget."
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iTouch Business Mobility
iTouch Business Mobility (www.itouchmobility.com) is one of the top international mobile computing application developers. We were the first in the world to deliver market-ready business mobility applications that could run over the GPRS network.
We have developed a number of leading-edge applications that run on hand held computing devices with wireless data connections over a full range of mobile voice, data and Internet platforms. These innovative mobility solutions are enabling businesses to work more efficiently and competitively by extending the enterprise system to the mobile workforce.
Dyson (www.dyson.com) engineers and designs better and different products for the household, including vacuum cleaners that doesn't lose suction and 2-drum washing machines. From its Malmesbury headquarters it serves 37 countries around the world. 25% of its 1,500 UK employees are scientists, engineers, designers and technicians working in its Research Design and Development centre.
Panasonic UK Ltd
Panasonic and Technics are brand names for Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd. of Japan (MEI), one of the World's largest manufacturers of consumer electronics and ranked 3rd on the Fortune 500 Electronics & Electrical Equipment Index. Panasonic UK Ltd was established in 1972. Since then the company has grown substantially and become a leading supplier of consumer and business related electronics products. Its headquarter is located in Bracknell, Berkshire and this is supported by a national Logistics Centre in Northampton. The company currently employs more than 500 staff.
Each Panasonic Toughbook (www.pansonic.co.uk/toughbook) is designed and manufactured to meet a level of durability matched to an intended work environment. The most rugged Toughbooks have been designed using MIL-STD-810F test procedures to measure levels of environmental reliability. Created by the U.S. government, the MIL-STD-810F specifications cover a broad range of tests that measure the durability of equipment used under harsh conditions. From the MIL-STD-810F test menu, Panasonic selected those that most closely reflect the challenges that mobile professional's face in the field, on the road, and in the office. These tests include drop, shock, moisture, dust and vibration-resistance, exposure to extremely low and high temperatures, and many others.
O2 (www.o2.co.uk) aims to enrich customer's lives by enabling them to get the most from their mobile. As a leading provider of mobile services to consumers and businesses in the UK, O2 offers a range of services including text, media messaging, games, always on data connections (via "GPRS"), music over mobile, mobile video and much more. O2 is the UK market leader in mobile data services such as text, with over half a billion messages being sent by O2 customers each month. O2 has approximately 13.5 million customers in the UK.