Deploying a global field service system is spearheading IBA’s plans to drive greater efficiency both internally and for customers as it grapples with rapid expansion.
Belgian medical device firm IBA, which builds and maintains complex proton therapy machines for cancer detection and treatment, has sold roughly 50 installations of proton equipment worldwide. Each customer site requires a team of 10 to 15 IBA staff to service and upgrade equipment.
“We’re still in what you might call a start-up type of mentality, which means we’re very technology driven, very R&D driven,” says Eduard Crits, chief information officer and VP of operational excellence at IBA.
This has also meant that individual sites often worked independently, supported by customized technologies to manage IT, field service and other processes.
But rapid expansion — the company grew from 1,200 to 1,500 employees last year — has created the need for a more streamlined, global approach. As a result, the company has invested heavily in ERP, product lifecycle management, and CRM tools. IBA also uses ServiceMax to manage its service operation.
The field service project, part of the company’s broader push to streamline and globalize its business, is split into three phases. By early March 2017, the aim was to have the basics of workforce and work order management live in one pilot site. Two further pilot sites will follow before deployment worldwide.
Phase two will focus on integrating IBA’s field service system with the company’s ERP backbone. This will enable the company to further streamline its technical and operational processes. For example, local hubs across the world currently supply spare parts to individual locations. With tighter integration, Crits hopes to be able to reduce the amount of stock held in these hubs to save money, or even allow customers to order spare parts themselves.
During the third phase, IBA’s service team will focus on getting closer to its customers by moving into preventative and predictive maintenance and using equipment performance data to support and improve IBA’s service operation.
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“One of things we’re doing right now in terms of our machines and installations is making them ready for remote monitoring and remote servicing, so we can start collecting remote data,” Crits says. It will be a gradual, cautious process given the complexity of IBA’s machines.
The company’s approach, wherever possible, is to standardize its technology across all sites and to keep customization to a minimum. This has precipitated some “lively discussions” with employees accustomed to working independently, Crits says, but the company has managed to stick to the standardized approach as the initial project rollout.
“The biggest challenge is to align people on the functionality that they are going to get. Our technicians have been working on their own islands for quite a long time,” Crits says.
Educating and communicating the changes and benefits has been a key focus.
“We’re hiring and training people like crazy. We’ve set up development programs and specific culture transformation programs in order to align with the growth that is happening.”