Some budget-constrained manufacturing and logistics businesses are ironically spending three times as much on mobile process and inventory technology as they need to.
Ian Davies, UK country manager for rugged tablet PC maker Xplore Technologies, says the business which beat Apple to the launch of the tablet by 14 years, and which is growing its UK presence, is finding that more and more specifiers could be tuning into the difference between a built-for-purpose rugged tablet and a consumer tablet with a protective case - but aren't mainly because of false-economy procurement policies.
"There is a delay in take-up of rugged, which certainly costs more but could well completely transform customer service standards, whether consumer-direct, or b2b. The issue is up-front cost. But the fact is that a consumer-based tablet can need replacing up to ten times in the same three-year deployment period a genuine rugged tablet suffers not one failure - and the consumer-based product ends up costing £100 a month when a rugged costs around £35 a month.
"Gross that up, and an organisation with 1,000 tablets is potentially spending £100,000 a month on consumer tablets which may fail at any time, when it could be spending £35,000 a month on 1,000 ruggeds which are highly unlikely to fail at all.
"Apple didn’t introduce the tablet PC by a long shot - Xplore had 14 years head start. Nor do Apple, or many other consumer-grade tablet makers, today have a mobile PC in any form that’s suited for use by field service or utilities professionals when on the job. But in the UK, that’s fine - because the availability and range of tablet PCs that are actually purpose-built for – and with – field service and related organisations is ramping up in the UK," said Ian Davies.
"Our tablets meet the 'must work, come what may' demands of the UK's highly-tasked EMS, fire and police services - so manufacturing, warehousing and logistics environments will rarely test their limits.
"Unlike more familiar consumer-grade device brands that deceptively claim a water-resistant, dust-resistant, or drop-proof design is going to withstand the complete range of rigours by simply encapsulating in a rugged case, Xplore rugged tablets protect against the hazards that would more commonly challenge device reliability and connectivity in difficult working environments.
"That includes vibration, shocks, temperature, explosive gasses, contaminating fluids and the like. And unlike consumer devices, which, in some cases, may not even even have a headphone jack anymore, Xplore rugged tablets give hardworking professionals the input/output features needed to connect to the specialised equipment that delivers complete situational awareness.
"The problem is, decision-makers’ judgement can be limited - they may not know what they don't know. The consequence is that they don’t end up getting what they need."
Established in 1996, Xplore Technologies Corp. is the second biggest provider of rugged tablet PCs worldwide. Tablets are purpose-¬built for the unique workflow demands of critical industries including oil & gas, utilities, telecommunications, government, military, public safety, manufacturing, distribution and healthcare.
Ian Davies explains more: "Rugged doesn't just mean resisting drops or water resistance: it covers features such as more powerful aerials to stay connected where consumer-based equipment won't, and to allow reliable mapping in marginal coverage areas, plus capabilities such as running normally in very high temperatures, allowing changing of batteries without switching off, and being designed to allow tablets to be repaired in the field.
"Some consumer products may look robust and rugged, and some protective cases for consumer-based tablets look pretty convincing too, but the fact is that a tablet you can buy on a shopping park is not something that should be relied upon in extreme - but often normal for the sector - circumstances.
"But sometimes it's the basics: the death of the 3.5mm socket is imminent thanks to its elimination from the iPhone 7. But 'must work, come what may' demands dictate that the best ruggeds have more - and more types of - ports, not fewer."