Transportation firm customizes delivery system for medical imaging

January 28, 2004

TechTrans supports demos and salesEquipment demos go right only if the equipment gets there intact and on time. TechTrans is dedicated to doing both.The specialty carrier came out from behind the curtains at the RSNA meeting,

TechTrans supports demos and sales

Equipment demos go right only if the equipment gets there intact and on time. TechTrans is dedicated to doing both.

The specialty carrier came out from behind the curtains at the RSNA meeting, hoping to attract new customers with a logistics and transportation system that every month orchestrates between 700 and 900 ultrasound demos across the U.S.

"We've been able to save $12 million for a single vendor over the last two years, coordinating and moving imaging equipment," said Scott C. Carpenter, vice president of national account sales for TechTrans, who asked that the client remain nameless.

The Delafield, WI, company is the brains behind clients' brawn, as its staff fields requests for equipment deliveries, picks the hubs where equipment is stored, then manages the delivery, setup, and breakdown. TechTrans complements these activities with a service that handles the delivery of equipment sold as the result of these demos.

The heavy lifting is done by the client's employees, including drivers and setup staff, who are trained using materials developed by TechTrans. They serve as extensions of the TechTrans organization.

"We train them, we communicate with them, and we treat them right," Carpenter said.

Carpenter describes his staff as "black belts in quality," having earned a less than 0.5% defect rate on all deliveries. This is achieved in part through a hybrid of common sense and innovation.

TechTrans found, for example, that uncrated equipment was very difficult-and expensive-to move. So the company began building customized crates for the ultrasound equipment, paying for the crates out of its own pocket.

"We do that because there is so much value and benefit for us," Carpenter said.

TechTrans has turned an otherwise generalized market into a very specific one. Its main competitors are the traditional van lines and freight carriers that serve corporate and private accounts. These 1500 to 2000 companies, some with only one or two employees and a truck, are known as "third-party logistics providers," according to Carpenter.

"We call them the herd," he said. "And we are trying to separate ourselves from the herd."

One way is through proprietary software. Tracking systems follow the equipment, capturing data that can serve multiple purposes. Foremost are the management of demos and the delivery of equipment sold through successful demos. The DemoMove Coordinator is an inventory management tool helping TechTrans staff find the equipment closest to scheduled demos and schedule its delivery.

"With 100 reps calling in, there is a lot of coordinating going on," Carpenter said.

The software helps make sense of what could otherwise overwhelm TechTrans' four account coordinators and one account manager, who work with the client's 24 equipment hubs across the country.

The data can also be used to grade the success of clients' sales staff, as well as to forecast demand. With these data, clients can move and stage equipment strategically. They can place the type and quantity of equipment where it will be needed most.

"One of the reasons we can save them so much money is that we cut their inventory carrying costs, by moving equipment out of where it is not being used," Carpenter said.

TechTrans began building this infrastructure for medical imaging equipment about two years ago to support the needs of a single very large client. The process has continued to evolve, working with the client's field engineers and quality control and sales staffs.

TechTrans hopes now to expand its clientele, which was the primary reason for its presence at the RSNA meeting. It is not, however, entirely dependent on the current client. TechTrans serves other medical companies, including Baxter Healthcare, as well as companies in other industries, such as telecommunications and retailing.

"TechTrans is driven by what our customers want," he said. "We have the transportation expertise and we love doing this."