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VOL. 129 | NO. 217 | Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tech Support

FedEx Tech Manager brings services to consumers

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As FedEx evolved, it developed its own technologies for moving packages around the globe, such as handheld devices that scan packages. When those devices experienced problems, FedEx technicians repaired them.

Today, when a FedEx pilot’s tablet, which contains critical flight information, goes on the fritz, the company’s repair center can immediately ship them a new one and repair the busted product to put back into service.

FedEx technicians Jack Ray and Yasir Rosli assess a damaged smartphone in the company’s Collierville TechConnect facility. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Now, the Memphis-based shipping giant is taking more than three decades of experience in repairing technology and its global supply chain infrastructure to the general public as it prepares to expand FedEx Tech Manager, its consumer technology repair service.

“We are looking at doing something that doesn’t exist today, which is provide a high level of satisfaction with tech repair,” said Tod Taylor, managing director of FedEx’s TechConnect unit.

FedEx Tech Manager was rolled out in September as part of an expanded pilot program at FedEx Office locations in 46 stores in select markets. The company will soon expand that service nationwide.

Instead of calling Best Buy’s Geek Squad or taking a device to a local repair shop, the company hopes consumers will turn to the FedEx brand and Tech Manager.

“We thought we’d spend a lot of time convincing customers we were good at this, but there’s such a level of trust and respect there with the FedEx brand that they trust us,” said Taylor.

FedEx Tech Manager provides consumer services for desktops and laptops, including remote virus and malware cleanup, remote wireless network setup, recovery and hard drive replacement.

If the company can’t fix the device remotely, customers can drop it off at a FedEx Office location, where it will be shipped to the FedEx TechConnect Service Repair Center, a nondescript, 150,000-square-foot facility in Collierville.

Every day, around 2,500 items – from laptops and desktops to printers, servers, smartphones and tablets – come through the facility, which handles FedEx TechConnect and Tech Manager repair jobs.

Inside the repair area, specially designed floors and employee clothing limit static electricity. Technicians repair devices at workstations outfitted with everything from microscopic lenses to torque screwdrivers.

Special machines conduct x-rays and CT scans on devices, looking for tiny stress fractures undetectable by the human eye.

FedEx repair technician Jermaine House repairs a bluetooth parcel scanner in the company’s Collierville TechConnect facility.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Liquids spilled on devices is one of the most requested repair jobs, and FedEx has a special cleaning machine that operates like a car wash for tech devices, clearing away contaminants that can lead to corrosion.

“We don’t recommend spilling anything on your electronics, but we have a process if you did,” said Tracy Bailey, planning and engineering manager at the repair service center, with a wide grin.

If a device fails on a Monday, FedEx will receive it on Tuesday and the repaired equipment will be shipped back later the same day.

“That’s a distinctive thing they can do, combine their shipping network with their IT skill to turn it around fast,” said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. “That’s a unique capability.”

Kay said established companies can sometimes have a difficult time branching out and finding new sources of business and lauded FedEx for its excursion into tech repair.

“It certainly represents an expansion of FedEx outside its traditional business area,” said Kay. “It’s a prudent move.”

Like many FedEx initiatives, it was the brainchild of FedEx founder, chairman and CEO Fred Smith.

“(Smith) being the visionary leader that he is said, ‘We’ve got these core competencies in repair. Why don’t we take it to the market?’” said Taylor. “It’s an emerging business unit within FedEx that has the intrigue of the chairman and it is timed right.”

FedEx first waded into the technology repair waters in 2012 when it launched FedEx TechConnect, a unit that serves corporations with overnight computer repair.

One of the unit’s first major customers was Getac, a Taiwanese manufacturer of rugged, durable computers for military, law enforcement and utility workers. If a Getac device is damaged falling out of a helicopter or run over by a tank, FedEx leverages its transportation, logistics and IT infrastructure for a rapid repair.

John Lamb, director of marketing for Getac, said FedEx gave the company a much faster turnaround time – one day compared to 2.5 days – and an extensive IT network for repairs and tracking, a costly investment Getac didn’t have to make.

“We were essentially able to piggyback on FedEx’s extensive IT business,” Lamb said.

Lamb said he understands why FedEx is expanding its tech repair operations, saying consumers’ everyday reliance on technology necessitates quick repair.

“At Getac our products are mission critical, and if it’s me as a consumer with a phone or computer or anything, that’s mission critical to me,” said Lamb. “I want that product back in the customer’s hand.”

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