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Toshiba augments service support


Toshiba has revamped service training and launched a remote scannerdiagnosis and service program to help boost its position in theU.S. medical imaging market. Key to Toshiba's new service regimewas the establishment last month of the Toshiba Medical

Toshiba has revamped service training and launched a remote scannerdiagnosis and service program to help boost its position in theU.S. medical imaging market. Key to Toshiba's new service regimewas the establishment last month of the Toshiba Medical SystemsAcademy in Irvine, CA.

Technical service support underpins Toshiba's U.S. medicalsystems expansion drive. Toshiba America Medical Systems of Tustin,CA, navigated rough waters in assuming service responsibilityfor Diasonics MRI systems following its acquisition of Diasonics'MR business three years ago. Service problems raised the riskof alienating the large Diasonics installed base. Toshiba hadpaid a high price to gain access to that base.

"We had some problems, that is true. Normally, when youhave such a large integration (of businesses), there are problemsin assuming that kind of responsibility. But our service in MRhas improved steadily. We perform customer surveys every six months,and these have shown a much higher satisfaction rate," saidRavi Sharma, vice president of service for TAMS.

Until the opening of Toshiba's Irvine academy, technical servicetraining was divided three ways among Toshiba America MRI in SouthSan Francisco, the Tustin headquarters and the TAMS x-ray staging,assembly and testing facility in Irvine.

Unification of methods and documentation in the new Irvinefacility provides a cohesiveness to training across modalitiesfor service, applications support and sales personnel, he said.

"We have a common training process that provides one philosophyof training. This will emphasize image quality enhancements andimproving the skills of our engineers in ways that make a differenceto the customer," Sharma said. Improved scanner uptime aswell as image quality are goals of the training program, he said.

Equipment service and technical expertise will be developedon a worldwide basis through efforts of the academy. Toshiba hasunified all English-language technical training in the new facility.Personnel will attend from Europe, Canada, Australia and otherEnglish-speaking countries. Documentation will be both translatedfrom Japanese and written in original English form, Sharma said.

"We are going to develop documentation at this center.A library of Toshiba hardware and software documentation alreadyexists. We will become the distribution point (for English-languageservice documentation) on a worldwide basis," he told SCAN.

TAMS has also established a video facility that will provideprerequisite training films to engineers prior to their attendingthe academy. A need to deal more thoroughly in fundamentals differentiatesU.S. training requirements from those in Japan. Technical educationand support materials will be shaped to serve a mobile U.S. workforce,Sharma said.

"Japan has a tradition of employees starting (to workat companies) right after graduation and retiring there. So theyhave vast experience. If you do not have good point-by-point documentation,the experience makes up for that. We have to be able to hire peopleand bring them up to speed without as much experience," hesaid.

Along with Toshiba personnel, dealer engineers and in-househospital service engineers will be trained at the academy. Mosttraining will occur on an individual modality basis, althoughsome engineers will receive cross-training, usually dependingon the geography they cover, Sharma said.

While MRI service is complex, this modality is not consideredthe most difficult to train for, he said.

"We find that angiography and cath labs are probably themost complex. These incorporate a lot of analog and digital (factors)and are very image-quality sensitive. Each physician requiresan optimization of image quality based on their needs and thekind of exams they do," he said.

MRI HAS BEEN CHOSEN as the first target modality for Toshiba'snew Innervision remote service system, Sharma said. Innervisionwill function initially for users of the 0.35-tesla MRT 35 system(formerly Diasonics). It will be expanded next to other fieldstrength systems within MR and eventually to different modalities,such as angiography and other specialty x-ray fields, he said.

TAMS ran a pilot project of Innervision in the second halfof its fiscal year (end-March), implemented the system in 30 sitesduring this half-year and will expand to 100 sites around thecountry in the next half, he said.

A service technologies group has been established by TAMS thatwill function out of the service academy and interact with Innervisionusers, he said.

"The Irvine center has proactive and reactive capabilities,"Sharma said. "It is proactive in that we will monitor theperformance of the system on a regular basis. If we perceive thatimage quality has deteriorated or a malfunction is occurring thatmay not be noticeable in the image quality, we can schedule servicebeforehand."

On the reactive side, if a customer calls in with a patienton the table and requests immediate help with an image or artifactproblem, the TAMS technical assistance center can look at imagesfrom the site and provide immediate service assistance.

Innervision differs from GE's Insite remote service program(SCAN 1/29/92) in that it places less emphasis on the collectingand archiving of data at a central location for analysis, Sharmasaid. Each Innervision site will have its own service computerattached to the scanner, through which the service analyses andadjustments are made.

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