Choosing the correct hardware for your inspection software is vital in order to perform rigorous and effective inspections. As inspection software is adjusted to match the requirements of the business, consideration of the mobile device must be given in order to complement the inspection software and allow inspectors to optimize their time spent performing inspections.
Organisation should understand and consider the ramifications of their choice of mobile device. To weigh in which mobile device is most beneficially, cost analysis is a useful tool to analyse whether a mobile device will benefit a business and allow comparisons to alternatives. Accordingly, when deciding which mobile device will be most appropriate for your business, there are many factors that need to be considered:
- Consumer Vs. Enterprise – If the device needs to be made for industrial use for both functionality and/or cost savings.
- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – The total costs related to a mobile device over the expected life of the device
- Rugged/Non Rugged – If hardware is suitable for use in a range of environments.
- Company Policies – Companies’ preference and previous experience in similar hardware and electronics.
- Screen Size – What is the optimal size for correct software use?
- Industry grade Wi-Fi – If the device is needed to connect to the internet constantly.
- Ease of use – The ability for employees to learn and navigate the different functions of the hardware most effectively.
- Accessories – If the hardware has the ability to include additional features and be adjusted for a specific reason.
Choosing in further detail:
Consumer vs. Enterprise
There are numerous reasons for your business to consider opting to commercial / enterprise grade such as durability, security, maintenance support and hardware features all of which can benefit a business through time and cost savings.
– Increased IT time securing data on employee devices
– Reduced time training staff individually to suit their mobile software
– Consumer goods are often fragile and have a short product life cycle
Consumer mobile devices often provided businesses with a cost effective solution to complete inspections. These devices are often available at local retail outlets or through mobile carriers on a monthly plan. For many businesses, commercial / enterprise grade mobile devices is needed to effectively conduct inspections through its specific features that consumer goods aren’t equipped with, such as :
– NFC (Near Field Communication) and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)
– Extended Battery Life and ability to swap batteries
– Intrinsically Safe certifications (Zone 1 or Zone 2)
– Durability i.e. IP (Ingress Protection) Sealing
– Ability to include accessories such car mounts, lanyards, holsters
– Dedicated Bar Code Scanning – using a dedicated bar code scanner as opposing the camera/image that consumer device are equipped with.
Companies often have a culture and preference for operating systems and opt to use a certain brand and/or operating system to better sync the companies and employees workflows and operations. When new mobile device is introduced into the company, time must be invested in training employees on how to use the device and recommended workflows. It must be acknowledged that employees may have existing experience and knowledge of certain hardware which resulting, allows the employee to begin inspections in the field more imminent.
Mobile devices differentiate with the product’s specifications and capabilities. Inspectors must consider what is needed for an effective inspection to be made and consider how different features can optimize an inspection. Device factors that should be consider are:
– Touch Screen: Ability to draw and make notes on the screen (e.g. using gloves, or in harsh conditions)
– Speech to Text: Ability to create and store notes verbally
– Camera Ability: Zoom and high resolution imagery
– Screen Size: How big the screen needs to best host the software and operate
– Mobile device Size: The convenience and mobility working with the device – what is the best device size for the task
– Storage: Ability to store large files and data banks.
Rugged vs. Non-Rugged
Inspections are often performed on the field and exposed to numerous elements why may damage or break the device. Consumer devices that are robust such as smartphones and tablets are simply not made for harsh environments. As such, industrial grade mobile devices allows inspectors a more durable option, alternatively rugged cases can be used to protect consumer devices but users need be aware of the device getting overheated
Inspectors opting for a rugged devices it may allow for the following
– Cost saving: A protected device simply last longer, researched by Venture Development Corporation 2003 and Total Cost of Ownership 2007 models surveyed a broad range of mobile device deployments and reported that the cost of ownership lead to annual savings of up to 17% for in field profession applications and 32% in Supply Chain application for rugged hardware deployments.
– Access to harsh environments: Rugged devices provide employees the ability to use hardware in certain environments where an unprotected device wouldn’t be recommended. An example of this is that consumer devices can only operate in ‘normal’ temperature, once hardware is operated outside its temperature range, it may lead to premature failure. (some examples are cold warehouse or open pit mine sites)
– Increased productivity: Equipping employees with durable hardware allows them to focus on the tasks and inspections at hand. Unprotected hardware is prone to be damage and break which can disrupt and even halter workflows.
Choosing the correct mobile device for your inspection software
For many businesses consumer products may seem like the correct solution due to their accessibility and established awareness of the product, however; these products ultimately can provide businesses with a range of obstacles and problems. If businesses wish to continue to implement these devices due to company policy, cases can be equipped on the device to strengthen them and make them compatible in industrial environments i.e. Intrinsically Safe, Ingress Protection Sealing etc.
In conclusion, businesses must firstly identify the means of use for their inspections, determine clear expectations of devices life and consider what factors are needed to be catered to. The correct choice of mobile device will have huge influence on the productivity of employees, reduced rates of device failures and wireless transmission failures and a high percentage of maintenance covered by warranty.
The size and scale of the inspections at hand can definitely play a role when choosing the correct hardware. For a cafe owner inspecting and recording inventory, their mobile phones/tablet can be fitted with the appropriate inspection software. In comparison, a large organization may have a fleet of inspectors and require them to conduct inspections that last hours in harsh environment and which require transferable batteries and rugged devices.