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Voice of Users

Mobile System for Field Service

Customer : Elemic Co., Ltd.

"PDAs don't do enough!" CF-U1 with full Microsoft® Windows® Operating System capability chosen for maintenance service mobile system. Customers more satisfied with prompt and proper response.

Around the clock, throughout the year, Elemic operates a service organization that maintains business-type electric water heaters. To enable maintenance tasks to be carried out in a prompt, accurate, and reliable way, the company introduced CRM (customer relationship management). The investment has already paid for itself with spectacular improvements in business efficiency. Playing a key role in the system is the Toughbook CF-U1, chosen as the mobile terminal for use onsite by service engineers.

To ensure prompt, accurate, and reliable service

By improving communications with onsite service engineers, the company ensured better customer satisfaction.

By improving communications with onsite service engineers, the company ensured better customer satisfaction.

Operating in the Tokyo metropolitan area, Elemic’s business centers on product sales and subsequent maintenance. On call 24-hour hours a day, 365 days a year, a well established aftercare service organization is one of the company’s special strengths.

In the maintenance business, when a customer requests a service visit, it is important to respond accurately and promptly. Before, when headquarters received requests from customers, the orders were faxed to service engineers. This system was prone to human error. Details were sometimes incomplete, and errors were occasionally made when filling out the forms. Inevitably, there were times when the faxes did not go out immediately or, when they were sent, did not receive immediate attention.

Then, service engineers would have to phone in additional onsite requests to headquarters. Because the documents had to be drawn up at the office, estimates could only be submitted following day. This sometimes hampered business.

The system processed a huge number of forms and faxes: “In paper procurement, we were second only to the ward office.” “Our fax counter tallies were the largest in our city.” So much paper was used that the headquarters building had to be designed to allow for its weight. Another expense was the overtime required to process all the forms.

Mr. Yoshio Miki, Assistant General Manager of the Sales Department in the Headquarters Control Division states says, “The different in-house systems were poorly linked and uncoordinated and simple tasks involved a lot of bureaucratic red tape. Poor communication between onsite engineers would sometimes lead to mistakes, and this occasionally caused problems for customers. I feel we really reached the limit if we kept on doing things the same way.”

Aimed at radically improving service, new system developed and introduced

In April, 2009. Elemic completely overhauled its entire business system. The newly introduced Elemic Field Service System was an SaaS system applying FieldBase, a CRM package made by TDC Software Engineering Inc. It comprehensively covered business tasks from processing orders for goods and services to procurement, while encompassing all other in-house and onsite procedures such as paperwork and accounting. Linked to headquarters by wireless WAN, the mobile terminals used by each service engineer, automatically received service requests and dealt with all business tasks, including the slips and forms.

Since some of the users were not computer power users, it was important for the new system to be “Simple and easy to operate, able to be used by anyone.” Consequently, the key element in the system, the terminal, was carefully considered and notebook computers and PDAs from various makers were examined.

The service engineers already had to carry a lot of tools with them, so it was important for the terminal to be compact and light. Onsite, space is often highly restricted and, from time to time, the terminal was likely to be knocked or dropped. The possibility of getting splashed with water was another factor. These risks ruled out the use of an ordinary notebook computer. At the same time, the screens of PDAs were too small to use comfortably. PDAs also worked with operating systems that did not allow full use of the functions of Microsoft® Windows® Operating System, which limited software development.

Bearing in mind these various conditions, the choice fell on the Toughbook CF-U1 model with built-in barcode reader and wireless WAN.

Mr. Yoshio Miki, Assistant General Manager of the Sales Department in the Headquarters Control Division states

Mr. Miki was in charge of the introduction of the new system and spoke about the results.

Elemic’s Special Field Service System

Toughbook CF-U1: Also highly appreciated by service engineers

Mr. Shinichi Yamaguchi, Service Foreman in the Engineering Division

Mr. Yamaguchi Service Engineer told us about the experience of using the Toughbook CF-U1.

Despite being so compact, the CF-U1 comes installed with a fully functional Microsoft® Windows® Operating System. Besides having a splash proof and dust resistant design, the unit is also drop tested to withstand the impact of 120 cm falls. Operation via the touch screen is possible and, using the handstrap, the unit can be held in one hand. Decisively, built-in wireless WAN capabilities enable high-speed network communications from field sites.

Mr. Shinichi Yamaguchi, Service Foreman in the Engineering Division spoke about the onsite experience of using the CF-U1:
“Because we are dealing with business-type water heaters, we needed something able to withstand splashing and dust when we are called out to restaurant kitchens or dusty factories and construction sites, and other challenging environments. The CF-U1 is small and light. You can hold it in one hand and operate it with a stylus. It’s easy to use.”

Mr. Miki reported, “The service engineers also rated it highly. Even experienced engineers who felt reluctance at first are saying that they are happy to have it now. It has become completely accepted in the onsite.”

System development benefits, because the CF-U1 runs Microsoft® Windows® Operating System

The CF-U1 brings many advantages to the people responsible for system development. Because it runs with full Microsoft® Windows® Operating System, it is easy to create applications that match onsite demands. The advantages are even clearer when you compare the cost and time needed to develop software for PDAs and other devices.

The CF-U1 also has plenty of practical functionality. For example, because Bluetooth® is built in, it is possible to use mobile wireless printers. Onsite, the service engineer can enter the work done and the parts used and print out, there and then, the work slip and issue it to the customer. This ability to promptly issue paperwork leaves customers with an impression of professional competence and improves the company’s image.

Then, by using the built-in barcode reader when parts are issued at the storeroom, the company is able to maintain a real-time grasp of its inventory of spares. Now, it is possible to carry out accurate and reliable stock control.

Parts barcode reading enables efficient control of huge inventory.

Parts barcode reading enables efficient control of huge inventory.

Pay off: paper consumption cut by half; stunning overtime working reduction down by as much as 90%

After the system was introduced, the effect on paperwork was dazzling. Business efficiency was improved, both by eliminating the error-prone processes of filling in and sending faxes and by the ability to more quickly issue transaction slips.

It also became easier to make estimates. If the requirements are entered on site, headquarters is able to quickly work out the estimate, which can then be issued on the spot.

Mr. Yamaguchi, Service Foreman spoke about improved transaction results: “In some cases, such as when the estimate ends up looking expensive, speedily issuing the estimate makes it easier to close the deal while the transaction is still hot.”

Head of the Engineering Section in the Headquarters Engineering Sales Division expressed the headquarters viewpoint: “Because we can share customer information across the system and immediately grasp the customer’s situation even without consulting the service engineer in charge of the account, being able to provide a prompt and appropriate response is a great plus.”

In addition, there have been substantial cost savings. Paper use is expected to be reduced by half.

Head of the Control Section in the Headquarters Control Division reported, “Overtime working by office supervisors is down by an average of 70% to 80%, and sometimes by as much as 90%. In terms of total cost, this is a greater saving than the amount from reduced paper consumption.”

Great deal of attention inside the sales network. Intent to extend system to other bases

Elemic’s results have attracted attention from other companies in the same industry.

Mr. Miki explained, “Our gains in business efficiency have resulted in better and faster service. Our forward-looking and serious approach attracted people to the company. Service engineers working for other companies are envious of the CF-U1. It has attracted a lot of attention.”

Elemic is now planning to further improve the quality of service it offers by means such as improving the efficiency of internal operations through computer–telephony integration (CTI) and the use of GPS linkage for more efficient management of service calls. In this way, aiding at the very moment, the CF-U1 is more successfully achieving and improving its mission to respond in a prompt, accurate, and reliable way.

Toughbook CF-U1 used onsite as an essential part of the service tool kit.

Toughbook CF-U1 used onsite as an essential part of the service tool kit.

Elemic Co., Ltd.
Headquarters:4-18-18 Heiwadai, Nerima-ku, Tokyo
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