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Which is Better - Consumer-Focused Devices or Rugged Ones?

 

In recent years, the trend towards digitisation in the field services has been exponential. The benefits are well documented and include: more efficient processes, greater customer service and cost savings. But which is the best tool for a field service worker - a consumer device or a rugged one? In order to find out the definitive answer, we have taken the findings of a comprehensive survey done early this year by rugged technology expert ‘Xplore Technologies’ and identified: what devices companies are buying; the reasons for their choices; and which type of device is best for a field service provider.

 

2016 report findings - Consumer versus Rugged

 

In order to identify which technology (rugged or consumer) is best for the field, it was first necessary to ascertain how many people chose to employ each type of device and why. The report findings show that so far in 2016 59% of respondents provided their field service workers with consumer grade devices. 16% deployed rugged devices and 20% with a mix of both rugged and consumer devices. From these figures alone, you’d be forgiven for jumping to the (logical) conclusion that consumer devices are the recommended product for field service engineers. However, dig a little deeper and you will see that the majority of companies have purchased consumer products under the erroneous impression that they were making a cost-saving decision.  

 

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However, if they had done their research, these companies would have realised that the TCO (total cost of ownership) of a rugged device is generally considerably less than its consumer counterpart (when factoring in breakages, downtime, lower reliability rates, etc). Moreover, those companies who opted for rugged devices were driven by a need for reliability: 

 

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So, a lower TCO is just a secondary product benefit to those companies whose primary concern is device reliability and durability. Both TCO and device reliability are key factors that many companies are simply overlooking in a myopic attempt to cut initial costs. In fact, considerable savings could be made if companies began to adopt a more pragmatic and longer term approach to device selection.  Perhaps there is a need for further education amongst the industry on this topic?

 

Device Type

Since we have already established that rugged devices outperform their counterpart consumer devices, the next key aim of the report analysis was to identify which type of device format is best suited to the field environment. As you will see, there is a disparity between the technology that is best suited and what companies are actually buying.  

 

Laptops

Laptops were the most prevalent of devices being given to field service engineers with a third (33%) of companies seeing them as the best device for their field service engineers. This compares to a fifth (20%) of companies opting for smart phones and 15% opted for tablets. Of those companies that provided their field service engineers with laptops the majority (61%) had opted for consumer based devices. The reason for this appears to be predominantly cost-based, with 64% stating they opted for consumer devices because of a cheaper cost per unit. So, does this mean that consumer laptops are recommended over rugged laptops for field service providers? Certainly not - as aforementioned, It appears that the majority of companies need to think beyond the initial low cost when supplying their employees with laptops for fieldwork.

 

Tablets

When providing field workers with tablets, 40% of respondents opted for rugged; 40% opted for consumer and 20% provided as mix of both rugged and consumer devices. This greater proportion of ruggedised tablets compared to the proportion of rugged laptops provided to field workers is most likely because people recognise the importance of a tablet that can withstand the stressors of outdoor conditions compared to the much more fragile consumer tablet. Interestingly, the tablet is the most common rugged device deployed amongst field engineers, with just under half of companies (44%) selecting them as the right tool for their employees.  

 

Smartphones

The data about smartphones is less clear. 20% of companies provide their employees with smartphones, but often in conjunction with other devices. However, the key benefits previously identified for rugged vs. consumer (lower OTC and greater reliability) still applies for smartphones.

What is clear from the data is that whilst the laptops and smartphones are regularly deployed as mobile computing tools for field service workers, amongst those companies who see the need for and benefits of ruggedised tools for their engineers it is the tablet that has become the dominant form factor.

 

So, which is best?

For those of you looking to get an edge on your competitors, your best bet is to go with rugged devices. You will reap the benefits of greater durability, which translates into less time and money spent on repairs. Rugged devices are specifically designed for field environments, bringing you and your employees greater reliability and efficiency for the long term.  Moreover, the very fact that the majority of companies are unaware of the long term cost savings associated with rugged devices means that by choosing to convert to rugged technology, you will be giving your company a direct advantage even if you changed nothing else.

 

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