Tennant Co. expands US mobile service app

Tennant Co., a manufacturer of commercial cleaning products and equipment, plans to expand its successful North America field service worker wireless application to more than 200 workers in Europe, Asia and Australia later this year and next.

The rollout follows a smooth U.S. deployment last fall to about 300 service workers who replaced paper-based systems with Panasonic Toughbook CF18s tablet PCs running Windows XP. The tablet PCs are connected over cellular networks to Tennant's SAP AG ERP system, Tom Hayes, IT project manager for the field service application, said in an interview last week.

Tennant started creating its mobile system with a variety of products in 2004 after dropping a home-grown system in its infancy, Hayes said. The current system, used to order products and equipment repair manuals, cost an estimated US$4 million to $5 million and has yielded big productivity returns. Hayes expects it to provide a payback on investment in less than five years.

Minneapolis-based Tennant is currently connecting users in the United Kingdom to the system, but will add multi-language capabilities through other countries in Europe later this year, Hayes said. That capability allows a Dutch-speaking Tennant rep to allow a German-speaking customer to sign a contract on the tablet with the contract details in German, he said.

Tennant relies on Dexterra Inc.'s mobile connectivity software, which is customized for Tennant's needs using .Net, Hayes said. The "ServiceLINK for Tennant" application had to be adapted for SAP and the tablet-sized screens, and has made possible greater efficiency to "technology innocent" users, some of whom had not ever used a computer, Hayes said.

"We had to make sure the tool was focused on service and not technology and Dexterra was an intuitive application for our reps," Hayes said. Dexterra is based in Bothell, Wash.