As the leading supplier of industrial control
systems and components, Honeywell Inc.'s North
American field operations for Industrial
Automation and Control (PAC) needed to develop
a wireless data communications solution to
manage its service business, as well as manage
information distribution among its North
American mobile workforce. Mobitex and wireless
intranet access provided important components
of the solution.
Wireless intranet improves
To remain competitive today, sales and service organizations must be able to represent and maintain the products of many manufacturers, as well as their own. Maintaining a high level of mission-critical information for real-time distribution has become a challenge for all organizations with remote field personnel. Information management is a major investment regardless of the technology used.
Honeywell's goal was to make better use of information by making it accessible from the field. Honeywell IAC executives knew if any of their technicians needed information, there was a strong probability that someone among the company's 57.500-plus employees already had it. The problem was packaging the information and making it available to the mobile technicians when and where they needed it.
"We needed to figure out how to leverage our size and wealth of information and use it productively," says Ed Campbell, national service manager at Honeywell IAC. "We wanted to collectively share with the field the knowledge and information that we have built over the decades that Honeywell has been in business.
"To really be effective, our company can't be fixing the same bug 40 million times," Campbell continues. "We've got to fix it once and then distribute that information in a usable format to all of our organizations wherever they might be located".
Honeywell's initiative was to leverage Internet and wireless data communications technology, to share the information and make it available to the field, whenever and wherever service was needed.
Tomorrow's technology today
The largest obstacle was that the information on the corporate intranet was largely proprietary. Honeywell executives clearly understood security issues and certainly did not want to create opportunities for outsiders to have access to its intranet. Therefore, security was placed high on its list of priorities for the new solution.
Despite security issues, Honeywell executives remained convinced that building the solution around Internet/intranet technology was the right call. The underlying goal was to enable service technicians to work better, faster and more profitably. Honeywell's intranet provides a massive storehouse of easily accessible information, and it was believed that the Internet would be the dominant data communications medium for the foreseeable future - which made this solution Campbell's choice for expediting the corporate information flow.
The IAC challenge
Scopus Technology, Inc., a leading provider of enterprise customer care solutions that offers service management applications specifically tailored to the requirements of vertical industry sectors. The Scopus suite of customer care applications addressed all of Honeywell's service management needs. Inference/Case-Based Reasoning, a leading provider of self-service and knowledge management solutions that help people solve problems on-line, offering a powerful search engine to locate and present the information to technicians in the field. RAM Mobile Data which currently covers 93 percent of the urban business population throughout the United States. RAM's Strategic Network combines the Mobitex-based wireless network with links to complementary networks including circuit-switched cellular, satellite, and dial-up technologies to enable customers to cover 100 per cent of their mobile users in the U.S. GoAmerica Communications Corporation, a nationwide wireless Internet and intranet service provider, offers wireless Internet and intranet access, as well as E-mail Plus and value added information services, in an efficient, secure and economical environment. Itronix, is a supplier of networked mobile computing systems designed specifically for field service requirements. Itronix has more than a decade of success in combining mobile information systems with reliable communications networks.
The five companies were invited to Honeywell IACs Phoenix headquarters to integrate their products and services into a single solution and demonstrate the working prototype solution in a real-life situation. To prove their product's adaptability, they were to do so within a 24-hour period. Before that could happen, these selected companies first had to create a script - a "day-in-the-life" scenario for a service technician that reflected real-world conditions.
A hypothetical service technician using a laptop computer had to wirelessly download work assignments and research whatever problems he or she would face. The technician also had to be able to wirelessly receive emergency pages from customers, order parts, document the entire process down to the invoice and, in general, respond to customers' needs, if possible, even while parked at the side of the road.
"We wanted to leverage technology to move information wirelessly in forms that people would understand, without necessarily having to be an expert on the topic," Campbell explains. "To do that, you have to understand the environments these technicians live in. We also needed a service application on a familiar platform with intuitive functionality. I wanted to train the technicians once to use their tools, and then be able to add or take away applications as necessary".
Ted Germann, RAM's West Coast Region Sales Manager, laid much of the groundwork for Honeywell IACs proof-of-concept project which began in December of 1996.
A partnership is born
"We brought five vendors together with their separate products, and an entire solution came together in 24 hours," says Campbell. "When they saw what their products and services could do as a single solution, it was magnificent. They quickly became partners, and all we had to do was stay out of their way and let their expertise take over.
"Another result was that the Honeywell vice presidents could now see and understand the difficulties our field technicians experienced by listening to our "day-in-the-life" scenario. It almost put them in the car with the technician and showed what technology can do to actually help solve a customer's problem," notes Campbell.
From concept to rollout
While it is still too early to quantify results, Honeywell predicts improvements of 10 to 15 percent in productivity, and as much as 20 percent in responsiveness by field technicians. As a result, the company expects to realize up to a 5-percent improvement in customer satisfaction.
Although Honeywell originally approached this project from a field service point of view, they see enormous potential in other areas of the company, such as the field sales organization and engineering, where remote access to the corporate intranet is needed. "Take our sales organization, for example," says Campbell. "The information that we're able to build and track in the database can be used to better manage accounts and provide time to find new business. Also, engineering is waiting to get real-time service information from the field, because it will allow them to spot recurring problems or trends and address them long before they become serious".
"It can ripple down through the entire organization," Campbell concludes. "Although this solution development was prompted by the need for remote use by mobile field workers, the entire organization will benefit - it has tremendous potential."