Warehouses and distribution centers have undergone tremendous – in some cases sweeping -- changes in recent years. Your operations don’t look much like they used to, and in a few years they’ll be very different again. It’s likely you’ve already adopted new technologies such as handheld tablet computers to make your facilities operate more effectively.
Mobility is essential when you’re dealing with more exacting processes that have to address ever-more-detailed and varied customer demands. You have to work faster but also more accurately.
If you can’t keep up, you’ll become easy prey for your competition.
But you have to remain profitable, too. The more you can reduce total cost of ownership for equipment such as tablet PCs, the better the return you can exact from that investment. The value of ruggedized devices is their durability and, therefore, longevity. But given the lightning-fast evolution of technology, it’s a very real possibility that the device’s “brains” will fall behind the times while the case remains perfectly viable.
Expect change. Plan for it.
This kind of obsolescence might be unplanned, but it shouldn’t be unexpected. There’s no doubt your operating environment – and therefore your mobile computing needs – will continue to change. Unfortunately you can’t necessarily predict exactly what that change will look like.
The key to optimizing your tablet PC investment is to “future proof” your choice of features, giving devices the flexibility and scalability to keep working for you as long as possible.
Studies show that getting just six more months from your rugged tablet PC can significantly affect your bottom line. A three-and-a-half year lifespan can increase TCO by more than 14% compared to four years.
What should you look for?
Look for features that give you the greatest capability to add new applications or technologies when you need them down the road. In particular, you’ll want to consider:
- Commonly-used operating systems. Microsoft is the obvious choice because their products almost universally interface with broadly-available and enterprise-specific applications. If you have legacy apps you’ll need to retain, look for terminal emulation capability, but be aware not all TE applications operate similarly.
- Voice and speech recognition. With the right tools, your people can use their tablet to receive and place internal calls, if necessary. Even more important, they can perform their work via voice command. This is considered by many to be the primary avenue leading to picking accuracy that exceeds 99%. And it can lower labor costs.
- Imaging technology. Bar code readers can now scan 1D and 2D tags at far greater distances. And emerging technologies such as QR codes and data matrix symbologies are entering the warehouse and DC environment.
- RFID. If you aren’t using it now, you probably will be. To avoid becoming trapped in a proprietary system, though, specify the standards you expect to meet rather than a particular product.
- Bluetooth. This is the technology “liaison” tool that allows you to seamlessly integrate an astounding array of peripherals, wirelessly.
Tablet computers don’t operate in a vacuum. Thinking “futuristically” about networking needs and expanding wireless capability throughout your facilities will provide the foundation necessary to keep things running smoothly and efficiently as your operations and tech-based processes evolve.
Future proofing your investment in tablet PCs by choosing devices that can grow and adapt with your operations will ensure you get the strongest return on your investment. And your ability to smoothly and easily incorporate emerging technologies as you need them will also boost productivity – savings that may not directly affect TCO but which will certainly improve your bottom line.