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Mobility adds muscle to gym equipment vendor

Gym equipment vendor, New England Fitness, boost productivity by deploying a handful of BlackBerrys linked to a Web-based work-order processing application.

Pen and paper still have their merits, but unless you're writing a daily journal entry or an off-the-cuff poem, it's a pretty outdated system.

So distributing work orders and service requests to a staff of on-the-road technicians wasn't really cutting it with ink. New England Fitness Distributors, which services and distributes commercial-grade exercise equipment to health clubs across the Northeast, needed to update the system.

Service manager Karl Hulseberg said the Glastonbury, Conn.-based company needed a way to get service requests and orders out to the technicians in the field in a way that kept them untethered but also provided the same detailed information they once took down longhand.

New England Fitness deployed a handful of BlackBerrys linked to a Web-based work-order processing application from Wilsonville, Ore.-based Corrigo, a provider of Web-based, on-demand service-management solutions designed for maintenance, installation and repair organizations.

According to Hulseberg, the process works like this: One of the more than 4,000 gyms and clubs New England Fitness services calls a dispatch center to report a problem. The dispatcher logs the call into Corrigo's Web interface. From there, all of the details of the service request are pushed via email to the BlackBerry 7250 of the technician who is closest to the gym that needs service. The tech accepts the work order, goes to the site and completes the service.

The messages the technicians receive are extremely detailed, Hulseberg said. They contain product information, the serial number of the equipment to be serviced, the name of the club's main contact, and other pertinent info -- so the technician walks in fully informed.

Back in the old 8½ by 11 paper days, "You really hoped you remembered to do everything you were supposed to do," Hulseberg said. "Everything is all right there, you don't even have to guess at it. It went from something I couldn't get to today to completing the job within six hours."

Now, Hulseberg said, technicians each handle four or five calls per day. Before the Corrigo and BlackBerry system, two calls completed per day was a job well done. The system also chops down on the amount of travel to and from job sites, chopping away at the mileage technicians rack up, wear and tear on New England Fitness' fleet of vans, and the number of hours they spend on the road rather than on the job. That boost in productivity and number of calls completed is well worth the roughly $3,000 a year the system costs.

"We have it all done right the first time," Hulseberg said. "It cuts through a lot of needless communication and gets things done faster."

When the job is completed, the details are logged, creating a series of checks and balances. That ensures that everything was done and done right, and in a timely fashion.

And while some of the technicians may see that as some sort of a Big Brother scenario, Hulseberg is quick to point out that keeping watch over the process is necessary and adds a level of accountability.

"Yes, it's a little like 'Big Brother is watching you,'" he said. "But even Big Brother has a job to do."

This article originally appeared on SearchMobileComputing.com.

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