20 Nov Mobile Barcode Asset Tracking: Medical Equipment Management
A company that delivers and installs medical rehabilitation devices in patient homes, hospices, and hospitals came to us in need of a solution. The business had equipment that was used to help a patient recover (PSR’s). The PSR – depending on if it is ancillary or serialized — will either remain with the patient or return to the company depot for continued usage. An ancillary product is consumable, and thus is not picked up from the customer, whereas a serialized product is used over and over, like the PSR that moves from customer to depot repeatedly. This company provides both for medical rehabilitation purposes, be it at home or in the hospital.
They did not have a remote data capture system in place, instead they used manual paperwork in the field and transcription into the business system later, facilitating error and inefficiency.
Some problems with the current system include:
- Time lag between the manual form’s completion and when it shows up in the business system causes several issues within the business:
- Billing: The billing process cannot begin until all data is entered into the system (so it will begin late in accordance with the late transfer of manual forms).
- Asset Availability: available assets may not be visible to the company or within the company business system.
- Asset Location: If an asset is moved, the system may still show it in a location that it is not, ultimately due to the time lag. This contributes to a poorer overall customer service experience and minimized efficiency.
- Accuracy is diminished because the system includes transposing manual data into a computer system, which yields human errors.
AB&R’s Recommended Solution
A 2D barcode system integrated with a database and website for a holistic business system rather than a broken entity between paper and technology. Some hardware and device requirements were:
- Highly ruggedized handheld portable computers with an integrated barcode scanner with 2D barcode reading capabilities (which is good for a perceived important system in the future).
- A server class PC on which we will host the database and website for the company.
- Infrastructure service from a local cell carrier, estimated to cost between $10 to $100 per terminal per month.
- The mobile device must support use with a wide range of barcodes and have capabilities to take a low-quality image of an insurance card.
- Touch screen capabilities are not enough; ease of use is paramount.
- Withstanding temperatures at both extremes is a requisite of the mobile device.
The recommended handheld product for this solution is the Dolphin 7900 portable data terminal. Boasting a Windows Mobile Second Edition Software for Pocket PCs operating platform, 64 MB of RAM, an imager/scanner, and a rugged durability amid harsh environments make this the best piece of mobile equipment for the job.
The Handheld Program
The program used on the mobile devices chosen will be written with the following criteria in mind:
- Ease of use – the screens must flow coherently and quickly from one prompt to the next.
- Directed – an “On Screen Help” option must be available to aid inexperienced users.
- Logical Looping – a process’s completion means that the program loops to the most logical prompt depending on the process. Then it can re-use the information from the last item to cut down on data entry.
- Scan and Go – “Confirming” a scan is no longer necessary, making scanning automatic because the handheld simply moves to the next prompt.
Basic functions of the PSR in compliance with a handheld program while in the field include:
- Receiving inventory
- Moving inventory to Depot
- Moving inventory from Depot
- Transferring inventory from Depot
- Setting up customers
- Picking up inventory from customers
- Performing a cycle account
- Requesting RMA
- Closing RMA
- Transferring inventory to Hospital
- Setting up customers at Hospital
- Picking up inventory from Hospital
- Performing inventory lookup
All of these mobile functions are within grasp with the Dolphin 7900, which has mobile capabilities for all of your asset tracking needs. The same functions are applicable to the PC program, which integrates with the system on the mobile device for a lag-free input to the company database.
This asset tracking system is far less expensive than most. It requires very little infrastructure development, unlike RFID systems, which cuts costs significantly. The majority of the costs, in fact, come from procuring the mobile equipment, which can be purchased in the hundreds at companies on a big scale.
The remainder stems from handheld programming (putting the mobile asset tracking program onto the rugged mobile devices), which highly impacts the system’s effectiveness, web application programming (implementing the program used on the mobile devices to the PC assets as well), installing software, training employees on how to use the system and new devices, configuration and installation of the wireless for each handheld, and software support for the first year.
Return on Investment
Full implementation and effective usage of a mobile barcode asset tracking system implies huge increases in efficiency and savings. Not only does it permanently eliminate the lag between manual paperwork and desktop database input, but it saves the time spent inputting that data twice. All errors made transcribing text to type are dodged, and time is allocated to more important functions of the business.
Asset location and availability problems dissipate; all assets can be viewed and located at the touch of a button. Customer satisfaction levels skyrocket, even more valuable time is saved, and sales go up. The benefits are irreplaceable.
The new barcode system solved productivity problems and improved the business as a whole. Optimize your company today with the help of American Barcode and RFID, while it is still a competitive edge, and not a commonplace practice.
For more inventory management systems, go to our Inventory Management page.
Image cc Flickr via Alex