The enterprise world has long moved into the mobile era, with continual technological refinements having allowed engineers to design solutions that have condensed features such as document handling, inventory management and communications into devices that workers can easily carry around.
These devices can generally be separated into consumer-class products and enterprise-class products, with enterprise mobile devices often having capabilities not available on their consumer brethren. These features are often designed to improve security and productivity, but can also incorporate essential functions such as the ability to print receipts and tags on the go. Enterprise-grade devices are often designed to survive under rough handling as well, with protection from drops, extreme temperature, dust and water.
However, many companies issue devices meant for consumers to their employees, such as consumer-focused laptops instead of enterprise-grade ones, as these may have lower upfront costs. This was further amplified by the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, which saw many companies issue directives for employees to buy and use their own devices for work in a bid to reduce expenses for the company.
While this approach may be feasible for office environments, as consumer laptops have most of the features and functions required for office work such as document and spreadsheet editing, it may also be counter-productive, especially for organisations in demanding sectors such as logistics, manufacturing, and healthcare which require purpose-built equipment for heavy-duty tasks. Instead of considering only upfront costs, business leaders should be measuring the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Non-rugged devices see an annual failure rate of 10-23 percent, with an average 100 minutes of support time required for each failure, compared to an annual failure rate of 4-7 percent for rugged devices with 80 minutes of support time required per failure. Take for an example a fleet of 1,000 non-rugged devices deployed throughout a business: this translates into 41,400 minutes of lost productivity per year, or US$51,750 over 3 years.
Why Businesses Need To Measure Total Cost of Ownership, Not Upfront Cost
TCO considers upfront costs as well as other costs throughout the lifetime of the device, such as repair costs and business interruptions due to device failures. In fact, a VDC report estimates that upfront costs may constitute only 10 percent of the TCO.
A separate VDC study shows that using devices in line-of-business environments they were not designed to operate in, can result in hardware failure rates of over 50 percent, and that the TCO of rugged devices are significantly lower than that of non-rugged devices . Of course, the actual TCO depends on the use cases of the device, and specialised enterprise solutions often have additional features not available on unspecialised devices. Here are some aspects of enterprise mobile devices that gives your business more bang for your buck, in the long term:
- Drop protection
Today’s businesses have learnt to maximise the use of their horizontal square footage and their vertical square footage. Therefore, the potential for longer drops is very real. Industrial environments can be tough on devices. When your device cannot survive your use case, operator efficiency is negatively impacted and costs increase, as evidenced by a report which shows that the TCO of consumer devices in line-of-business environments is considerably higher than that of enterprise devices due to increased failure rates . On the other hand, unstoppable performance means less downtime and increased productivity across all industrial applications.
- Water and dust protection
Water and electrical components simply do not mix, while dust can interfere with and even cause catastrophic damage if it gets into the inner workings of hardware. There is a distinct difference between being waterproof and water-resistant, with the latter often being insufficient for enterprise situations, such as being sprayed with jetting water or submersed in water for long periods of time. Many Zebra products, such as the TC75 mobile device offers IP67-certified protection against dust and water, while some other devices such as the ZQ500-series mobile printers can be specified to feature IP65 protection.
- Resistance to extreme temperatures
Enterprise-grade devices are also designed to continue working even in areas where humans cannot stay for long without added layers of protection. The ability to use the touchscreens with gloved hands is a feature that enterprise-grade mobile devices can offer. In addition, resistance to low temperatures allows devices to be used in places such as freezers in the cold chain industry.
- Remote tracking and management
Some enterprise-grade devices allow companies to track and manage their fleets of devices remotely, ensuring that they maintain full visibility of critical assets. Remote management systems also allow firmware and software updates to be made mandatory and deployed remotely, as well as increasing security throughout the network of devices. Companies can whitelist and blacklist apps to ensure that employees do not use their enterprise devices on irrelevant apps. Cloud-based management systems, such as Zebra’s Operational Visibility Service, also allow IT managers to analyse the performance of the business’s fleet of devise to predict and pre-empt possible issues before they cause problems.
Decision makers need to think long-term when it comes to hardware investment costs. While consumer devices may offer lower upfront costs, enterprise mobile devices are purpose-built for their specific use cases, incorporating many essential functions into convenient products that can be easily carried around and withstand the harsh environments and rough use from the warehouse right out to the field. From being easily managed by IT support department, to offering reduced failure rates from increased hardiness, and to being able to operate in a wide variety of environments, enterprise mobile devices simply offer better business value and lower overall TCO.