People use tools all the time that aren’t really designed for the job. A weekend painter uses a board across a couple of chairs as makeshift scaffolding. A do-it-yourself woodworker uses a hand sander instead of a power sander. In some cases, people just try to make do with what they have. In others, people use the wrong tools because there are a lot of choices out there and they just don’t know enough to make the right one. It’s not that inadequate tools don’t work at all; it’s just that you usually pay the price – in quality and precision of the work, time and money.
But when it comes to the kind of efficiency and productivity that can make or break a business, the right tools are essential. Such is the case when selecting the right tablet computer for your mobile workforce. There are times when either an iPad or Android tablet is the best choice. And then there are applications for which only a rugged tablet PC will do. But it’s not always easy to tell which jobs require which tool.
Here’s some information that should help you decide which type of tablet will be the best fit for your business.
Begin by answering the “Who, What, Why, When, Where and How” questions. Answering these questions will determine whether your needs would be best met with an enterprise-class rugged tablet PC or a media tablet such as an iPad or Android device.
- Who will be using the tablet PC? Older workers? Younger workers?
- What will users do with the tablet? What tasks will they perform? What problems are you trying to solve?
- Where will the tablet PC be used? Indoors? Outdoors? Both?
- When will they be used? In the rain? In extreme heat? Dusty environment?
- Why do you think you need a rugged tablet PC to do the job?
- And how will you measure return on investment?
An enterprise-class rugged tablet PC is the best choice when:
- Ruggedness is an absolute requirement because the tablet is an essential tool for the business to get more done. When uptime is crucial the tablets need to be tough enough withstand spills, drops, rain, and dust.
- Mobile workers will be using them outdoors as well as indoors – making sunlight viewability essential.
- The tablets will be moving from one extreme temperature to another – from a hot car to a beverage cooler, several times a day.
- The tablets need to be managed and maintained by IT. Supporting devices with different types and versions of operating systems can be highly inefficient and can pose security risks.
- The tablets need to do more than merely compute. Functions such as the ability to read bar codes or RFID for onsite inventory or read credit cards to take payment in the field at the point of transaction help companies by more productive.
- Flexibility is paramount and the tablets will be used both in-vehicle such as in a truck cab or on a forklift and for mobile data collection. When rugged tablet PCs are used in vehicles they need to be securely locked down in a mounting bracket to withstand the extreme vibration, and then easily undocked for mobile data collection.
- You need the functionality and security of a full Windows operating system and the processing power of a desktop.
- Leveraging existing IT systems and software compatibility are crucial.
- You need to extend enterprise applications to the point of work – such as extending ERP systems to warehouse workers.
Typical environments and applications where a Rugged Tablet PC would be the right tool for the job include:
- Transportation (Trucking, Rail & Intermodal, Airplanes & Airports, Shipping & Ports) – In-transit visibility, pickup & delivery, cross-docking & logistics, yard management, warehouse operations
- Food and Beverage Distribution (Beer, Wine & Spirits, Soft & Energy Drinks, Water, Dairy, Snack Foods) – direct store delivery, asset tracking, inventory management, payment collection
- Manufacturing – shop floor data collection, quality assurance, parts tracking, equipment maintenance, access control, shipping
- Warehousing – pick & run, inventory management, cross-docking, load management, asset tracking
- Field Service (HVAC, Insurance, Telephony, Cable, Home Services) – work order management, maintenance and repair, dispatch operations, route optimization, inventory asset optimization, resource planning
- Retail (Stores, Restaurants, Vending) – Mobile POS and Line Busting, backroom inventory management, price look-ups and point of sale promotions by store associates
So when would an iPad or other non-rugged media tablet be the right fit for the job?
- Retail associates who need to fulfill a brand image and stay connected when they are helping customers in the store.
- Hospitality employees with customer facing applications to demonstrate products and share specific visual promotions with consumers.
- White-collar professionals in an office or other benign environment who wants quick access to data and web applications.
- Health professional needing to interact with patients with light level data collection.
- As a second computer when budget allows, as an add-on for mobile functionality compared to the main computer such as a laptop in the car or office.
These types of customer facing applications can be aided by the media tablet’s user friendly multi-touch capability and improved high resolution display. They are in close proximity to the “office” and are used in room temperature.
When used in these ways, media tablets tend to be a secondary, non-mission critical device. Sometimes in these situations compromises have been made to deploy multiple devices as neither device has the full range of capabilities to get the entire job done.
A no compromise option for the right application: A rugged tablet PC.
Today the cost effective option for an enterprise’s limited resources can be a rugged tablet that fits both the primary and secondary device roles. In a rugged tablet, users get all of the “media” device capability combined with productivity features they need for their comprehensive job workflow requirements in a hardened and robust tablet form factor.
This no compromise option has total cost of ownership advantages as well. A study conducted by Venture Development Corporation reports that on average, mobile workers lose 50 to 80 minutes of productivity when their mobile devices fail, which represents as much as 41 percent of a mobile device’s TCO.
The study shows significant TCO savings with rugged tablet PCs. Average annual TCO for a rugged device (large form, i.e., tablet PCs) is $2,814. The TCO for a non-rugged device is $6,598. That’s a 42 percent savings. In a 5-year period, the average is $14,071 to $34,788, rugged vs. non-rugged. That’s also a 40 percent savings with rugged tablet PCs.
No one knows your business as well as you. When deciding on the best technology for your mobile workforce, consider all the options and answer the 5 W’s to ensure the decision you make is the best fit for the job.