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Olympus Medical: Using an Online Learning Medium to Boost the Bottom Line

Olympus Medical Systems Group, a division of Olympus America, supports and sells endoscopic video imaging systems and ancillary products used by health-care providers to perform non-invasive gastrointestinal exams. With a rapidly accelerating business load, 250 sales staff, 80 field engineers and approximately 350 repair technicians spread out around the globe, online training proved to be a welcome addition to the organization’s learning program. Olympus Medical adopted the WebEx Training Center and quickly chopped training costs to just $61 per employee per session.

Olympus Medical saved big delivering learning through a Web medium. “If you take into account the airfare, the hotel stay, meal expenses and in some cases taxi or car rental, we estimate anywhere from a $1,000 on up that a person would incur for travel expenses,” said David Delgado, manager, technical training, Olympus America. “We looked at that versus the number of sessions that we delivered through WebEx in 2003 and the number of dollars that we spent through WebEx, and we calculated all of this out to around $1,100 for travel versus $61 per person.”

Even more important than the cost is the timely access to product information that sales and field staff enjoy from their disparate locations, said Delgado. Olympus Medical now can reach far more employees using an online training platform. Before deploying the online learning, there were occasions when product launches took place without learning. With five to 10 or more product launches per year, this created problems for sales staff, jeopardizing confidence and credibility from customers and creating a negative impact on the company’s bottom line. Specifically, the service contract business suffered. “When a product launch takes place and training does not occur, the timeline to sell other products can be delayed. Customers will not come back,” Delgado said. “If someone hasn’t been trained on a product and they’re being asked to support it and that customer’s under contract, it may take one or two service calls to get that product up to performance, whereas a person who has been trained, the expectations of repairing that system and getting customer satisfaction are much greater.”

Learning at Olympus Medical is a blend of traditional classroom, on-the-job training, self-study and online training with a curriculum or outline for each modality. “We want to be sure that when we deliver online training, we do it for a couple of reasons,” Delgado said. “We may need to get some preliminary information out the door before we do classroom training. Online training can also take place as the result of previous classroom training or for individuals who need to support something right away.”

Delgado continued, “In the past we didn’t know how to deliver information. It might have been done through bulletins or conference calls. Now we have a tool that we know can be very effective visually. We’re taking advantage of the technology, whereas two years ago, we didn’t. Information that we wanted to deliver was either delayed or put into a format that was not interactive, that was not enlightening to the group. It was not appealing.”

Olympus Medical certifies all users through the online platforms’ poll and testing feature, which offers adaptable multiple-choice questions, immediate user scores and an HTML or Excel file of answer breakdowns and score results for the instructor. The organization also is using the record-and-playback feature to record product training sessions, providing their online audience with the flexibility to review the information as needed and learn it on their own time. The material also is available on CD, enabling users to access information from anywhere via laptop.

“We’re able to deliver necessary information in a timely, effective manner, to a wide audience so that a group of sales representatives, for example, can go out and sell service programs that we initiated and created for them,” Delgado said. “Delivering training through WebEx offers immediate information.”