Five reasons to use rugged mobile devices for transport & logistics
The rapid digitalisation of global supply chains means that transport and logistics providers now rely on rugged mobile systems. In this post we look closely at the ‘rugged’ element of that description, and show why only rugged mobile devices for transport and logistics are good enough for competitive enterprises.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the problems inherent in traditional supply chains, and it seems that – as many commentators predicted – these issues are continuing post-pandemic. In response, supply chains are becoming increasingly digital, and nowhere is that more important than in transport and logistics (t&l).
In fact, it’s so important in this sector that we have written an entire guide to digital supply chain management for t&l, which you can download here.
This change means that the sector now relies on 24/7/365 connectivity. The modern supply chain demands the integration of all work processes, from stock records and despatch notes to EPOS and proof of delivery, into digital systems. However, because so much of the work involved takes place in warehouses, in vehicles and on the road, standard consumer devices often fail to keep up. What’s more, when they fail the cost is substantial: in terms of reputation, customer happiness, downtime and supply chain visibility.
This problem can be solved with a switch to enterprise-standard rugged mobile devices, and yet some businesses baulk at the purchase costs involved. What they may not realise is that rugged build frequently makes the total cost of ownership much lower, while reducing incidental expense and improving productivity. By way of explanation, here are five of the best reasons to choose rugged devices.
1. Rugged mobile devices for the digital supply chain
The key to a digital supply chain is the visibility of all elements; when a company is warehousing, storing or transporting goods, other members of the supply chain need real-time information on where those goods are. This is virtually impossible to achieve without mobile handheld devices, so transport and logistics enterprises must provide these for most, if not all, members of their workforce. There are many rugged devices for t&l, and with good reason.
Most consumer models do not have the build, battery life or configuration to withstand the rigours of daily life on the road or in the warehouse, nor do they have sufficient functionality. Many enterprise-standard rugged devices include multiple capabilities; it is not unusual to find a barcode scanner, EPOS, proof of delivery and/or automated cloud-based reporting service built into a single rugged enterprise-standard tablet or notebook. This makes it simple for transport and logistics personnel to link into the digital supply chain, providing the vital information that customers and other suppliers require, using a single device.
2. Rugged devices for work on the road
Another important advantage of enterprise-standard rugged devices is the fact they are designed and built to maximise productivity. While consumer products can be cheaper, they lack enterprise-level capabilities. Consumer smartphones may include a barcode scanner, but whether this can cope with damaged labels or read from multiple angles is highly questionable.
The importance of capability extends beyond software, too. Enterprise-specific devices come with a host of accessories and supporting equipment that can be chosen according to the tasks involved and simply gets the job done. This can be very important indeed for workers in the field, those who work in vehicles and/or away from standard office provision.
For example, ruggedised mobile devices often come with bespoke fittings that keep them visible and secure in a moving vehicle, or when they have to be frequently lifted in and out of a holster or cradle (for example, when couriers frequently hand their devices to customers for digital proof of sale signatures). Many are designed to be usable even in direct sunlight. And only an enterprise-standard device, such as a rugged handheld scanner, is likely to sit securely in a forklift while reading barcodes or RFID tags from multiple angles, which may be routine in a warehouse.
Placing such demands on consumer-grade mobile devices, even if they initially look as though they are coping, is likely to cause failure sooner rather than later. And that’s before considering the challenges involved in charging consumer devices in t&l settings (in contrast, ruggedised mobile devices are generally designed for sustained operation).
3. Rugged handheld devices are built for the job
Some businesses believe that they can ‘ruggedise’ cheaper consumer-grade devices simply by putting them into a ‘rugged’ case. This is incorrect.
The ability to cope with work is built into rugged mobile devices at multiple levels. Many have power management capabilities that keep them charged throughout a shift and beyond; and if the battery does run out, or another part of the device fails, it can often be replaced in a straightforward process (how many consumer devices permit that?) Screens are slightly recessed and flexible so that when the rugged mobile device is dropped, even onto concrete, the screen does not shatter but rather flexes with the impact (which also preserves internal connections). Many have IP protection against water, dust and dirt ingress.
In other words, in rugged mobile devices the ‘rugged’ is holistic and runs throughout the device, it is not merely a reference to external protection. The average lifespan of a rugged mobile handheld device is frequently twice, or more, that of its commercial equivalent.
4. Rugged devices handle multiple tasks, improve productivity
Due to the demands of modern supply chains, enterprise-standard rugged devices are now designed to carry out multiple jobs and connect with shared information streams. A single device can serve just one purpose (for example, a rugged tablet with barcode scanner) and feed that information stream into a cloud-based service, or it can fulfil many needs such as mobile EPOS, proof of delivery, access to information and documentation and much more.
This delivers major benefits: field workers and others can now operate with as much access to information and support as their office-based peers, which drives improved productivity and outcomes. For example, workstreams can be fed into supply chains and data analytics immediately and accurately. Queries or problems can be more easily solved on the spot with online access to company information and documentation, reducing the need for technician visits, and the whereabouts of mobile staff can be seen in real time, which helps to optimise transport routes, route planning and staff deployment.
5. Rugged smartphones and devices reduce cost of ownership
While the cost of consumer devices may initially seem lower than that of rugged mobile devices, standard comparisons can be deceiving. The longer lifespan of rugged devices, alone with the fact that parts can frequently be replaced or upgraded, often makes the total cost of ownership lower. And that is before considering that consumer devices are more easily broken (and thus more likely to need replacement), which often necessitates the keeping of multiple spare devices, adding to the original cost of purchase.
Consumer mobiles also tend to become obsolete more quickly, and are subject to frequent updates that can be hard for managers to control and/or oversee.
Perhaps most importantly, because rugged mobile handheld devices generate many productivity gains – some incremental, some small, some large – when scaled across the device fleet these can provide substantial and sustained cost savings. The enterprise-focused characteristics of rugged devices, such as ergonomic design and flexibility of use, save time and increase process volumes in ways that benefit the company’s bottom line. For example, Getac’s highly-regarded range of rugged mobile devices can be used with or without rotating handstraps, kickstands, styluses and detachable keyboards that streamline processes and increase outputs.