One Customer, Eight Sales
Systems integrator ATM/Canterbury sought a customer from the healthcare vertical market and then let its solution do the talking. What began as one asset-tracking installation has grown into eight sales.
Alan McGaffin, president of systems integrator and software developer ATM/Canterbury, enjoys going to the hospital. No, he's not a hypochondriac. His six-employee company, which posted nearly $1 million in 1998 sales, designs and installs record- and asset-tracking systems for large facilities.
A recent installation at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, improved asset-tracking capabilities — and more. An installation in one department at the hospital has expanded to several departments over the past four years. At the same time, the M.D. Anderson account has helped expand ATM/Canterbury's overall sales figures.
ATM/Canterbury Corp., headquartered in Houston, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Canterbury Information Technology, Inc. (Medford, NJ). Canterbury Information, a $12.1 million company, purchased the former ATM Technologies two years ago. McGaffin founded ATM Technologies in 1983.
Making A List, Checking It Twice
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is required by Texas state law to take physical inventory of major equipment annually. Tracking 50,000 pieces manually was time-consuming, often inaccurate, and labor-intensive. The manual system required employees to make notations on computer-generated inventory listings. Their notes were then cross-checked with current inventory records.
Discrepancies required a second count and, due to manual accounting and keypunch errors, sometimes were not resolved. Counting inventory and comparing those statistics with past records would take several days for each hospital department.
"Plenty of labor was needed to perform this task," said ATM's McGaffin. "One person couldn't complete the job. It took several people on different shifts to get the job done. It would take days to perform inventory counts and make comparisons for the audit. Now the job can be done in one-fourth of the time. A 1,000-piece inventory that might take two 10-hour shifts manually now takes just five hours. If employees paid $10 per hour work only five hours instead of 20 — just add it up. The cost-justification itself sells the system."
McGaffin regularly makes his sales pitch to facilities managers in charge of tracking corporate assets. "With all the personal computers (PCs) and laptops in the workplace, the value of assets has gone way up," McGaffin said. "All that technology needs to be tracked. Some companies literally don't know how many PCs they have." McGaffin's contact at M.D. Anderson was Property Control Supervisor Paul Dunn. The two had built a relationship years prior to the asset-tracking installation when ATM had installed a laboratory inventory-control system.
Faster Data Collection Result Of Upgrade
The new asset-tracking system featured portable handheld scanners that established an inventory database by reading bar-coded stickers placed on each piece of equipment. Collected data was downloaded to a mainframe that produced exception reports. Exception reports clarified which equipment was missing and which equipment was moved to a different room. Master Trak software by ATM/Canterbury drives the system.
McGaffin and Dunn recently agreed to upgrade the hospital's asset-tracking system by replacing the original data-collecting laser guns with Denso ID Systems' BHT-6000 portable handheld scanners. "They're one-tenth of the weight and half the size," McGaffin said. "They can fit into your shirt pocket." Other improvements included a longer battery life cycle. "They can scan items every five seconds, 24 hours a day for an entire week on just one charge," McGaffin said.
With the original laser guns, a 30-minute data upload at 9600 baud to the mainframe through a cable was required. The Denso ID scanners transfer data at 110k baud — about 10 times faster — through a Jet Eye infrared interface.
Sales Multiply Over Time
ATM/Canterbury provided more than just one solution to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Several other departments within the hospital are now using Master Trak software and Denso ID scanners. "They're tracking everything they can," McGaffin said. "One system led to the other. When we made the first sale, I didn't project that I'd sell eight more of them to the same hospital."
M.D. Anderson's quality control department purchased a modified version of the asset-tracking system. "When the department staff cleaned rooms, the inspectors checked an inspection list on their clipboards," McGaffin said. "Now, programmed portable handhelds prompt them through the list, asking if each aspect of the room is acceptable, not acceptable or not applicable. It's automated their quality control."
Other departments within the hospital wanted to track items valued at less than $500, such as wheelchairs and stretchers. "We even adapted the software to track 2,500 fire extinguishers," McGaffin said. "The fire marshal requires a report monthly, and now all they have to do is scan the item instead of writing a report. The maintenance department saw this, and now they're tracking buffers and other cleaners to keep up with the all the different cleaning crews."
In addition, the management information system (MIS) department tracks tapes and other vital communications equipment. M.D. Anderson's laboratory tracks supplies and specially codes perishable materials with expiration dates.
McGaffin says that selling solutions is just one way VARs can profit with handheld scanner technology. "Once VARs establish the database for a client, they can go in with the portable and provide the service of conducting an inventory for them," he said. "They can scan in new equipment and charge a fee per item scanned. It would be a logical area for outsourcing by smaller companies who can't afford full-time property management."