Rugged Tablet Technology for Utilities Facility Management

Tablets have become an invaluable tool for the utilities industry, especially for facilities management. They are used for a broad range of functions that include facilitating work orders, managing plant surveillance, controlling digital signage content, and allowing real-time communication with crews in the field. Tablets have the ability to become a single unified tool to revolutionize how work is completed, increase personal productivity and improve overall effectiveness on the job.

I recently contributed an article to Utility Products that discusses the importance of tablets as a facilities management tool, and highlighted some of the key benefits for managers. Especially useful when walking around a building, tablets provide instant access to facility management applications, as well as the ability to log in and review all open jobs. Managers can view reports on the move, leading to better-informed decisions. In addition, facility managers can track employee productivity in real time.

With tablets, facility workers who are constantly on the go can have immediate access to equipment and information at their fingertips. For field workers, tablet features and constant connectivity provide the potential for more in-depth data collection, through integrated camera, video and voice recording, as well as data input through electronic pens or touchscreen.

An additional benefit of tablet deployment is the ability to bring the point-of-service directly to customer-facing positions. Facility workers who interact directly with customers or clients leverage tablets to execute business immediately in real time, without having to worry about environmental or daylight readability conditions, allowing users to deliver on more customer and client service opportunities.

Feature Considerations for Facility Management

Tablets can support almost any job function across a facility or in the field. In order to capitalize on tablet technology, facilities managers need to consider how tablets will be used, and the features they provide. The versatility, portability and high-speed wireless capabilities of tablets make them especially useful for mobile computing. Enhanced wireless capabilities allow workers and facility managers to seamlessly access data and services, from an enterprise network or the cloud, wherever the job may be located.Tablets also have the ability to integrate solutions across the facility, including monitoring live feeds from surveillance cameras.

Facility managers also need to consider the work environment before deciding between a consumer or rugged device. Consumer-style tablets are thin, lightweight and typically less expensive than rugged devices. They are, however, also more prone to break if dropped or malfunction if exposed to moisture or dusty conditions. In addition, some consumer-grade tablets feature operating systems that may be non-compatible with enterprise applications and software programs.

Rugged tablets, like Panasonic’s line of Toughpad tablets are designed to withstand up to a four-foot drop to a concrete surface. They can also tolerate freezing temperatures, water, dust and extreme vibration. This elevated level of durability results in tablets that deliver high reliability in almost any environment-assuring maximum worker productivity and no downtime. They are especially suited for workers who operate directly in the elements or find themselves in challenging facility environments. 

Total Cost of Ownership

Equipping employees with tablets can make them productive virtually anywhere, anytime. If a tablet fails, however, there can be significant repercussions. Even a brief period of downtime has a ripple effect that can impact productivity and customer satisfaction.

While most organizations are cognizant of the direct costs of mobile device repair, few organizations understand the indirect costs to the information technology organization and the opportunity costs to the enterprise. Using a consumer tablet in a harsh environment, for example, can result in repeated downtime and the need to occasionally replace the tablet. In this case, the ultimate price of that tablet substantially increases. In comparison, a fully-rugged tablet may deliver maximum uptime and productivity, resulting in a lower total cost of ownership over time.

Widespread adoption of tablet computing has the potential to revolutionize the way facilities operate by improving efficiency and employee satisfaction while helping streamline operation costs. As mobile computing capabilities increase, utility facility managers can look forward to reaping the benefits of tablet solutions for years to come.