Zurich Engineering upgrades to Panasonic Toughbook 19 based on trust in brand

For almost 90 years, Zurich Engineering has been helping businesses identify, manage and control risk. As part of Zurich, a leading commercial insurer in the UK, the division’s 500 engineer surveyors perform upwards of 3.5 million safety inspections a year on items ranging from escalators, elevators and industrial machinery to kettles and computers. Zurich Engineering plays a vital role in ensuring that its customers protect their employees, the public and their businesses; therefore, Zurich takes no risks when it comes to choosing a mobile computer for its surveyors. This is a tough market and one where the larger players face increased competition from small, independent contractors. Luckily, Zurich can always rely on one strength—the quality of its service—and its Panasonic Toughbook® mobile computers play a major role in helping it deliver just that. 

After five years of using Panasonic Toughbook 18 fully-rugged convertible laptops, the division is now betting squarely on the new Panasonic Toughbook 19. Before the company rolled out the ruggedized notebooks in 2004, its engineers would arrive on-site and gather information for their reports, then drive home to complete each report on a desktop computer—a practice that wasted thousands of man hours every year. Now, using the tablet touch screens of the Panasonic Toughbook notebook, that work can be completed on-site, leaving the engineer free to move on to the next task. John McMullen, Head of Operations and Systems for Zurich Engineering, estimates that the division recouped its £1 million 
investment in Panasonic Toughbook computers within the first eight months of use. “We are looking to do more work with less people while providing a better service. The Panasonic Toughbook notebooks help us achieve this,” says McMullen. “When you realize we produce 3.5 million reports per year, the benefits soon mount up!”

What is more, giving each engineer a Panasonic Toughbook computer ensures that he or she arrives on-site with all the information he or she needs, including technical documents, risk assessments or a method statement explaining how Zurich works and why. McMullen believes that “our Panasonic Toughbook mobile computers give us an edge over the competition.”

Along with full Windows capabilities, tablet functionality and a long battery life, ruggedization is a core requirement for Zurich Engineering. The division’s engineers may find themselves working on tower cranes, in manufacturing facilities, chemical works or foundries—even clinging to an offshore wind turbine, in the harshest weather conditions. Faced with stormy winds and saltwater spray, an ordinary laptop wouldn’t cope. Luckily, Zurich’s fully-rugged Panasonic Toughbook®
convertible laptop is built to survive. Its magnesium alloy casing and shock-resistant hard drives shrug off 6-foot drops*, while the IP65-rated** sealed construction leaves no opportunity for dust, rain or water to take their toll. One of Zurich’s Panasonic Toughbooks, was run over by a crane, sustained a cracked screen but its hard disk was still intact. “We just took the hard drive, put it in a new notebook, and the guy was up and running,” claims McMullen. 

With the recent move to the Toughbook 19, the successor to the Toughbook 18, the new convertible laptop brought further benefits for Zurich Engineering’s work, ranging from 3G mobile communications to improved battery life. The Toughbook 19’s integrated mobile broadband features, combined with support from the company’s chosen wireless provider, Orange, are making it eveneasier to provide a better service. “Our guys can email the customer from the site,” explains McMullen, “and they can be a lot more interactive and connected to the business.”

Given the operating conditions Zurich’s approximately 500 Panasonic Toughbook 18s were placed in, they saw very few failures. So, when making the switch to the Toughbook 19, Zurich didn’t consider other devices. According to McMullen, “the Toughbook 18s were reliable even in the most extreme conditions and required minimal IT support. Five years of service in a market like ours is impressive, to say the least. That level of reliability allowed us to maximize our return on
investment. Beyond that, our workers were more productive and they really liked using the device. Even our customers liked them! There was just no compelling reason to switch.”

That’s not to say there has never been pressure to change devices. “We have had other manufacturers try to sell us on their solutions, but no one has been able to show us a device that provides the mix of performance, reliability and value of the Toughbook brand,” McMullen adds. Customization has always been a strength of the Toughbook brand,  and Zurich Engineering is taking full advantage of the camera built in to its  Toughbook 19. As McMullen says, “Now if there is a fault on a piece of equipment, I can easily send the customer a photo.” With the new devices, photos can be taken and combined with the report almost instantaneously. There’s no need to explain the size of a crack or other defect—the customer can see for him- or herself. “This is groundbreaking for our industry,” says McMullen, “and nobody else is doing this.” What’s more, there are side benefits. Surveyors can photograph equipment immediately after inspection, and if it’s dismantled and reassembled incorrectly at a later date, the team has the evidence to prove it.

Zurich Engineering is delighted with its Panasonic Toughbook laptops, and with the service and support it has had from Panasonic. “We worked with Panasonic to share ideas and decide how best to make the deployment successful. The Panasonic team was very open and supportive,” McMullen adds. In the end, though, one statement from an engineer equipped with a new 3G Toughbook 19 says it all: “If you want it back, you’ll have to fight me for it!”