Why choosing tablets should be a ‘tough’ call

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As we approach the Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Singles Day retail sprees, I’m reminded that once again it will largely be customer experience by which these shopping events are judged.

Only recently did the majority (61%†) of manufacturers, retailers and logistic service providers agree that customer experience will overtake price and product as the number one brand differentiator over the next five years.

The research revealed that real time visibility of orders, shipments and inventory is seen as the most important supply chain capability in the goal of enhancing customer experience. This is why it is an investment priority, closely followed by analytics and business intelligence. 

According to the survey, progress is being made in modernising outdated IT systems but breaking down silos between systems and processes remains a challenge. 

And that got me thinking about the whole procedure of modernising hardware and the procurement criteria that companies use. According to VDC research*, only 31% of organisations performed a total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis during their most recent mobile computing deployment. 

Those that forgo TCO analysis, or that underestimate the hazards to which their mobile devices will be exposed, risk discovering that their tablet purchases fall short of actual rugged needs. Having said that, even those firms that carry out TCO analysis often dramatically underestimate failure rates, replacement costs and the impact that computer breakdowns can have on productivity.

There are tangible costs of procuring devices such as the purchase price of the hardware, upfront software fees, installation and integration costs. And then there’s the intangible costs like employee downtime, system maintenance, upgrades, employee morale, data loss and, the point I began this blog with earlier, the impact on customer service.

If an operator can’t do their job properly, it impacts on productivity, which impacts on customer service. The failure of a device can result in over 100 minutes* of lost productivity, or 23% of a daily shift. This loss of productivity can represent as much as 52% of a mobile device’s TCO.

Not all mobile solutions are up to the job, and failing to align the right mobile solution to the task can expose organisations to significantly higher TCOs. While consumer tablets, for instance, might seem the cheapest option short term, they can end up slowing down operations and costing much more in the long run.

Over a five-year period, the average TCO on a rugged tablet was $17,1131 compared to $36,648 for a non-rugged device. That’s a 72.7% difference in favour of rugged tablets.

So when it comes to your purchasing decision, consider the daily work environments your tablet will face as that will determine the IP rating and MIL-STD-810G standards you need, which should narrow your field of choice. Zebra’s latest rugged tablets, the L10 range, for example, are rated IP65, higher than the minimum IP54, which should ensure the longest life and best ROI. 

Semi-rugged consumer tablets may withstand some coffee spills but if you’re operating in harsh, indsutrial conditions it’s the ‘tough’ choice you need to make.


† Focus on Customer Experience, CSCMP, BluJay Solutions, Adelante

* Implementing Business-Critical Mobility Solutions. VDC Research

1 David Krebs, (2010). Total Cost of Ownership. 3rd ed.: VDC Research

Richard Gilliard

Renovotec is the UK’s largest independent rugged hardware and maintenance, software and services company. Managing Director Richard Gilliard has helped lead the organisation for over 25 years, supporting customers across many sectors including warehousing and distribution, transport and logistics, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, seaports and field mobility. Richard's drive is to enable firms through…


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