Sweeping success: Mobile data application smoothes productivity, inventory management, customer service for Tennant
Just weeks after rolling out Dexterra’s mobile field service management application in Spain, Portugal, and Italy—thus completing its European implementation of the solution—Minneapolis-based floor-cleaning machinery maker Tennant has seen a transformation in its operations, whereby some 93.5 percent of service orders are now processed without any manual intervention.
Just weeks after rolling out Dexterra ’s mobile field service management application in Spain, Portugal, and Italy—thus completing its European implementation of the solution—Minneapolis-based floor-cleaning machinery maker Tennant has seen a transformation in its operations.
Some 93.5 percent of service orders are now processed without any manual intervention, explains Leo Suurmond, a Uden, Netherlands-based
A two-week billing cycle has been reduced to just two days, and error levels for both billing and parts-ordering have fallen as well.
Although the application was first rolled out in America, notes Suurmond, deployment in Europe came with its own expected set of challenges.
“Europe’s needs are very different, both from an IT perspective and a business perspective,” he explains. “There are more languages and currencies to consider, but also a very different marketplace. In contrast to the U.S., the European customer base has a lot of contract cleaners that demand same-day service.”
As a result, the European implementation needed particularly fine-grained—and rigid—status control, so that Tennant customer service representatives could quickly see on their SAP screens if an engineer had accepted a job or not, or was waiting for parts, or was still working on the repair.
“Same-day service just isn’t the same issue in the U.S.,” observes Suurmond. “There, more machines are owned by industrial users who simply want to clean warehouses once a week—so a one-day breakdown isn’t critical.”
Yet the rationale behind the adoption of the Dexterra solution was the same on both sides of the Atlantic: sharply reduce the impact of paper-based tasks on Tennant service technicians’ productivity levels, allowing them to focus on repairing equipment.
Head-office productivity also is up, says Suurmond. “By having a direct GPRS [General Packet Radio Service] connection back to our servers, we eliminated an entire level of paperwork because job information is input directly to our SAP system. It means our engineers spend a lot less time on the phone asking about available inventory, or what their next job is, because that information is literally at their fingertips.”
Installed on ruggedized Panasonic ToughBook laptops and accessed by Tennant’s field engineers in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Benelux, Spain, Portugal and Italy, the Dexterra application has done more than boost productivity. Through a Dexterra-certified SAP .NET intelligent adaptor, configured to match Tennant's exact requirements, the application has also boosted data accuracy levels as well as improving Tennant’s ability to better serve its customers.
Leo Suurmond, European service development manager for floor-cleaning equipment maker Tennant, says a Europe-wide Dexterra mobile field service management application deployment is yielding a wealth of operational benefits even while workers are on the move.
“Clean master data is key to a smoothly run operation, and we’re finding that some of the data in our SAP master database isn’t as good as we want it to be,” says Suurmond. “A customer might have moved a machine from one location to another without us knowing about it, or the machine name or configuration might be wrong. The engineers don’t change the master database themselves—that’s a step too far—but what they are doing is reporting anomalies, allowing us to check the position, and then change the database.”
Inventory management also improved, he explains. The system allows engineers to order parts themselves directly from their laptops, and monitor and manage the level of stock held in their vans. “When an engineer requests a part, the system checks to see if the part is on their van. If not, the system orders it,” says Suurmond. “Next time the system‘syncs up’ with SAP, the replenishment order is uploaded.”
And it’s here, adds Suhas Uliyar, CTO of Dexterra, that some Dexterra-patented technology optimizes the use of the GPRS wireless connection over which the mobile laptops communicate with headquarters. “We’re very careful about the data that gets transmitted over the air,” he says. “We only send and receive data that’s actually changed. We’re not synchronizing the whole data set each time.”
The latest release of the Dexterra application—switched on across Tennant’s entire European operations on January 26—further extends its benefits, adds Suurmond. Quotation pricing can now be handled by engineers, as opposed to it being carried via phone quotation into Tennant’s Antwerp, Belgium, sales office, which then mailed it out. It’s a feature that's very useful when customer locations have the capability of confirming quotations “on the
“Dexterra’s solution enables our field workers to be a lot more efficient and productive," concludes Suurmond. "What's more, we tailor it specifically to fit the way our field workers do their jobs.”
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Annual Salary Survey
Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.
There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.
But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.
Read more: 2015 Salary Survey