Rugged PCs Payoff, Negate Mobility Risks in Distribution, Transportation Industries

There’s a single question that tends to arise most often among warehouse and distribution center (DC) reps when we talk: “Will mobility really give me much benefit beyond current systems? I know that the costs are real and up-front, but will there really be a payback?”

As with any investment, risk is inevitable. But given that today’s top rugged tablets have been tailored specifically to satisfy every single computing requirement of warehouse and DC workflows, it would be regrettable to forgo such an investment opportunity if business process improvements (BPI) are clearly in order.

In my experience, every mobile BPI – and every dollar spent on rugged tablets – can result in a positive return on investment (ROI). This is especially true for manufacturing, transportation and warehouse/DC organizations looking to reboot paper-based processes and/or underwhelming consumer-derived mobile platforms. When you invest in rugged tablets that clearly align with your business requirements and are clearly capable of introducing new efficiencies into proven processes with strategic implementation, then any perceived risk of operational disruption will be negated.

As my colleague Jeremy Trojcak recently noted: “If a computer can do it better, let it.”

Rugged Tablets for Warehouse, Distribution and Transportation

Just look at the resumes of today’s top rugged tablets. If your mobile device of choice doesn’t have the skill set to perform these top transportation, warehouse and distribution tasks in the industries’ most challenging work conditions, then maybe it’s time to put a more competent and rugged mobile PC to work.

That’s one thing that American Airlines understood from the beginning. They were one of the first cargo and commercial transportation leaders to move aggressively towards an operating environment fully dependent on mobile PCs vs. paper. In 2012, they put a plethora of consumer and rugged tablets in the hands of their pilots, which some perceived to be a haphazard approach. But the airline understood that the only way to reach new heights in their operational efficiency was to employ tough mobile PCs that could power workflows all the way to 40,000 feet; they had to put every possible option through the ringer to reduce long-term investment risks.

Though their early stage deployments of mobile devices in the cockpit, at the gate and on the flight line were admittedly a lot of trial and error (not every mobile device is resilient in high altitude, high vibration or HazLoc conditions), constant feedback from end users led to constant finessing of the airline leader’s mobility system. And though ruggedized tablets may have proven their superior mobile prowess high in the sky or in runway refueling and repair use cases, the money spent by American Airlines buying and deploying various mobile devices has delivered a positive ROI.

The point? “Take calculated risks,” as General George Patton put it. “That is quite different from being rash." You have an established base – processes that have proven their worth in keeping your operations moving forward inside and outside. But there may be growing discomfort that sitting pat is the same as falling behind. Change seems risky – there are upfront costs that are real and new tools and techniques that will need to be developed. Just remember: American Airlines, and many others, have shown that ruggedized mobile computing technology does deliver increases in productivity, higher quality and a return on investment.

There is a nice tool to calculate the risk and potential payoff of rugged tablets vs. other mobile devices, this tool will help you see the long-term, big picture ROI:

With planning tools and a review of your most common workflows, introduction of rugged tablets can immediately improve current operations and bring new capabilities no matter the size of your organization or your budget.