Why We Don’t Fear Customization Requests: The Making of the World’s Most Rugged Tablets

Xplore has always been focused on serving the “walking while working” mobile customers. That has taught us a lot over the last 15 years about what is needed for service techs, manufacturing and logistics workers, public safety officers and even military personnel to do their jobs effectively on the front lines.

We’ve learned that any slate tablet we develop must be rugged, mobile, readable in sunlight, and able to withstand rain, dust and extreme hot and cold temperatures. We’ve been driven by customer feedback to make everything from the fully rugged R12 to the ultra rugged XC6, and many variations in between. We have added lots of standard I/O on our tablets, and introduced lots of accessories to support the individual needs of our customers.

And because we have not settled with a one-size-fits-all approach to rugged mobility, Xplore now offers the widest range of rugged tablets in the industry and the most rugged tablets on earth.

Because we have listened to our customers consistently for 15 years, our tablets’ features are better aligned to meet their needs than any other lineup in the industry. That is also why, in most cases, our customers find a perfect fit for their workflow with one of our many existing tablet architectures. But not always.

We understand that no two customers are the same; neither will their specific rugged requirements or mobility needs remain now or in the future. What distinguishes Xplore from our competitors is that we are open to customization for our customers. We won’t try to shoehorn in the wrong tablet if it isn’t a perfect fit for your needs.

But let me preface the rest of my thoughts by saying: I’m not here to sell you on Xplore’s long-standing rugged mobility leadership – or even sell you an Xplore tablet. I’m not a sales guy.

I’m product development professional, and I’m here to design and deliver to you the world’s best mobile tablet solution. We architect what’s right for your business and provide the precise level of ruggedness for your industry and your workers’ mobility needs. Ultimately we deliver much more than a tablet. We deliver the full-package solution that’s going to keep your entire team connected, your customers happy and your operations fully mobilized from the office to the vehicle and into the field – wherever that may be and throughout every rugged task that may entail.

Custom Rugged Tablet PC Solutions

Now that doesn’t mean that our sales teams don’t play a critical role in customizing your solution. Xplore’s engineering leaders are deeply integrated with our sales, marketing and support teams to fully understand your demands for a truly rugged product. How else would we know what you expect? But I can honestly say that we derive our inspiration for product development from our customers’ immediate needs and long-term aspirations.

Our engineering team regularly goes out to the field and works directly with our customers to understand working conditions, product expectations, and physical environment. That’s where we’ve captured customers’ enthusiasm for our “bullet proof” and “crazy rugged” tablets and their “unbelievable quality” and “extremely low field failure rate”. But that’s also how we learned that…

  • One of the largest airlines in the world needed a custom waterproof outdoor docking station for baggage tugs and enhanced security features, which we addressed by adding special keyed screws for SIMM access and de-featuring user access hard drives.
  • A long-time leader in railroad transportation needed their rugged tablets to stay powered up even longer on cross-country trips. So we developed a multi-bay battery charger specific to them.
  • A telecom and infrastructure contractor now benefits from the addition of sub-meter GPS technology and mapping applications to more precisely locate pipelines.
  • One of the world’s largest telecom providers needed easy access to HDMI to diagnose whether the issue was with the customer’s devices or the telecom’s equipment. They now have that port on the tablet. (And this was not an easy one to do!)

Spending face-time in the field with our customers helped us identify the expandable configurations still needed by certain industries, such as the generous integrated I/O port capabilities that we’ve recently added to the benefit of telcos, warehousing operations and manufacturing. (Our tablets now allow customers to utilize dedicated external ports for custom applications, including NFC, Barcode Scanners, True Serial Cable ports, RJ-45 ports, HDMI Out, etc.)

It gives us a unique opportunity to truly listen to the voice of the customer, consider all the options for customization, evaluate the benefits to both us and the end-user and provide a straight-forward recommendation on the ROI and value of moving forward in this manner.

We have respectfully declined unique customization requests when deadlines were too short to deliver a quality solution or changes were too costly for the customer and didn’t solve a tangible technical requirement. But we’ve always worked to adapt our current rugged mobile platforms to the specific requirements of the environment in which they will be used.

Can you say the same about any of your other mobile solutions providers?

If not, you may want to reconsider the value of customization to your business. Though a one-size-fits-all rugged tablet may work, so does that paper gown at the doctor’s office. But it’s not designed to flatter your body or meet your comfort levels. It only benefits the doctor “selling” you on wearing it for a few minutes. Same applies to a mobile smartphone or a laptop, neither of which are amenable to field work. The phone may get an email out, and the laptop may be okay as an office PC solution, but beyond that it’s not going to be the right choice. And your work doesn’t stop with an email, and it’s certainly not confined to the four walls of a building.

Find a rugged mobility partner that goes beyond just supplying a generic hardware platform. You need an advisor; a product development team that retains some of the leading experts in the rugged field and encompasses a broad range of expertise ranging from hardware to software to manufacturing and quality control.

Don’t settle – on a ruggedized tablet or a manufacturer – just because the brand name seems big. Their high volume turnover usually doesn’t translate well to providing a high level of quality product customization or personalized support. Xplore didn’t become the number two worldwide leader in rugged mobile tablets by forcing customers to make our products work for them. We work for you. So help us understand what works and what doesn’t within our current rugged mobile portfolio and we’ll work with our world class partners to identify new technologies that will deliver next-gen products relevant for your business for generations to come.