To some, Kinney Surgical Services may seem like a new name in the biomedical repair field, but, in fact, the company has been performing sought-after equipment repairs since 1992. Recently, however, the Knoxville, Tenn-based company has been gaining increasing amounts of exposure as it begins to deal more directly with hospitals and medical facilities. 24×7 recently spoke with its founder, Randy Kinney, about the importance of component-level facilities, his repair process, and how cutting out the middleman can equal cost savings for hospitals.
24×7: Tell us a little about your background.
Kinney: Before working with medical equipment, I was in business management for more than 20 years. I learned a great deal from some of the most successful businesspeople in the country. The most important thing I learned in those years was integrity. A company, and everyone involved with that company, has to have the trust of its vendors and customers. The success of their business depends on you following up with the agreement you have with them.
24×7: Kinney is a component-level facility. On the repair side, how does this make you different from other businesses?
Kinney: We repair, not replace. Most companies replace or exchange the boards. You do not know the history of these boards. When you repair to component level, you know what the problem is and you fix it. With a used board you do not know if it has had intermittent faults that could come up later.
24×7: Why should heath care facilities seek out component-level facilities?
Kinney: Component-level repair is less expensive in most circumstances and is more reliable. The equipment we work on includes patient and vital sign monitors, and our list is always growing. If it is not listed on our Web site, call us. Electronics and components are the same everywhere. Someone out there makes the parts, and we do our best to find them.
24×7: Kinney Surgical is able to obtain hard-to-find parts. How do you come across them?
Kinney: We can get more parts because we conduct research to find the source of who makes them. Instead of dealing through somebody who bought at the source, we buy direct. There are a lot of items where we are still not to that “source” level yet, but we are farther down the line than anyone else is.
We also have some parts vendors that only deal with a small customer base. Through years of experience, our techs have acquired contacts for parts in other countries. That’s how we can get some of these parts that others cannot, which allows us to repair a larger selection of equipment.
24×7: What prompted you to start dealing directly with hospitals?
Kinney: We’ve been behind the scenes, really, so we made this decision to get the word out that we’re doing the work. The biomedical part of hospitals did not really know who we were.
There are maybe half a dozen stainless, handheld, and microscopic instrument repair companies out there, but there are probably about 50 that are picking up items to be repaired. Dealing with a third party is more difficult and time consuming, but it’s still a large portion of our business. Working directly with the technician at the facility is much simpler, faster, and more cost efficient for everyone involved. If facilities are seeing many of the same equipment problems again and again, we have the opportunity to troubleshoot the problem directly with the people actually working with the equipment to help eliminate the need for further repairs.
24×7: Your company must be able to work with any one of thousands of pieces of equipment at any time. What type of training is required of your techs?
Kinney: Electronics is electronics whether you are replacing a chip of sonar or a chip in an MMS module. Training is such a broad term. As long as you keep up with the technologies on hand such as ESD, soldering qualifications, and manufacturers’ specifications of any given piece of equipment, you do not necessarily need training on each piece of equipment.
24×7: How do you keep your techs’ skills sharp?
Kinney: Continued education and by keeping their qualifications, such as IPC certification, up to date.
24×7: What is your approach to satisfying the customer?
Kinney: Our company is built around customer service. You must have good turnaround times with your repairs and be there before your customer needs you. If we have a request for a repair or purchase that we do not support, or if the equipment is not available, we will do everything we can to help the customer find the best solution.
24×7: As technology changes, how is repairing/working with medical equipment changing?
Kinney: Electronics started with through-hole mount. The components were large and attached from the backside of the board. Now, everything is surface mounted to the front. That’s a type of repair that a lot of people don’t have the equipment or the training to do.
Medical equipment is becoming more software driven and less hardware driven. It is very important to understand the software side of the equipment and to have the right testing equipment to complete the repair. You can’t verify if a piece of equipment is repaired until you properly evaluate it, so you really need the right tools for the job—which are usually other pieces of electronic equipment.
24×7: Has demand for any of your services increased over the years? What are biomeds and clinical engineers asking of you these days?
Kinney: We have constantly grown not because of selling, but by word of mouth. Because of the market, hospitals are not buying new. They either want the equipment they have in the storage closet repaired, or they want to purchase refurbished equipment.
24×7: How are you responding to this?
Kinney: We are purchasing more used equipment and assisting the hospital by keeping its old equipment running longer.
24×7: Can you take us step by step through the repair process?
Kinney: First, we check equipment in from shipping. We check for accessories that were included and verify it with the customer’s list. Then, we verify the faults listed on the customer’s form and quote the customer, as we do not repair unless it has been approved. Afterward, we repair the actual equipment and test functions of the unit. We then let it burn anywhere from 8 to 24 hours, depending on the fault and the equipment type. When everything checks out, we can ship the equipment back out to the customer.
24×7: What’s in store for the future?
Kinney: To continue to be a stronger resource for the local and international markets.
Stephen Noonoo is the associate editor of 24×7. Contact him at .