This blog post comes from Russ Martin, Southeast Regional Sales Manager here at MobileDemand. - For more than 20 years, forklift mounted computers, originally known as vehicle mounted terminals (VMT), have been transforming the way products move throughout the supply chain. Early implementations of these VMTs usually emulated traditional host-based terminal applications. Adding bar code scanning to the system greatly improved the timeliness and accuracy of the data in the system, allowing companies to be more attuned to their operational efficiencies. As with most process improvements, these strides going forward did come with a step or two back. In the case of the vehicle mounted computers, these back steps came in the form of power glitches, resulting in the terminal shutting down, or rebooting; usually resulting in the loss of critical data. These interruptions could cause a loss of productivity due to downtime that resulted while the user waited to log back on to the system to resume their duties.
Power issues aside, there is the issue of needing to perform tasks while away from the lift, or pick and run. The majority of the time, the driver will use the computer while sitting comfortably in his or her driver's seat. However, there are certain cases where there will be a need to perform pick-n-pack, cycle counts, inventory moves, or where the products may not be in a position to easily scan the bar code from the seat of the forklift. Traditional forklift-mounted computers have been stationary, not allowing the computer to be un-docked and carried to the point of work. Besides the fact that these computers are not the lightest appliance, usually over 10 pounds, they do not have internal batteries to maintain operation when away from the lift.
These challenges can be overcome by implementing a solution which provides both a reliable computing platform, capable of performing through power fluctuations, as well as the mobility of a portable computing solution. Rugged tablets are the latest advancement in forklift-mounted data collection systems. Tablets have been used for years outside the four walls in direct store delivery, field service, and fleet management systems. Recently, they have made their way inside the four walls and are proving as valuable of a tool indoors as they have outdoors.
When considering a rugged tablet to mount on your company's forklifts, there are considerations to think about.
The first is size, how big of a screen is required to run your applications? There are smaller mini-tablets with 7" displays up to larger 10" displays; the trade-off being the amount of real estate available on the lift.
Another consideration is the amount of computing power required for the applications you will be performing. Smaller tablets tend to have less processing power and memory, where the larger tablets have more powerful processors, memory and features similar to higher-end laptop computers.
The last, but not the least important, is the understanding of the power of the forklift and matching those to the power input options of the rugged tablet mounts. Propane powered lifts traditionally have a 12V power source, where smaller electric lifts are 12V to larger lifts reaching 72V. Most rugged tablet vendors offer wiring kits and step down converters to address any of these power requirements.