Investing in Mobile for Field Service Techs: A Few Points to Consider

Field-service technicians’ mobile devices must be as rugged as the environments they work in. The functional ability of their mobile technology is essential to job performance and productivity. Running machine diagnostics, service call documenting and reporting, communication between other technicians and their customers–nearly all of what field service reps do in a day’s work depends on their mobile devices. 

Rugged and semi-rugged mobile laptops, tablets and handhelds, and even military-grade mobile devices are available to help prevent device failure, but they can seem to be cost-prohibitive. For many companies, a dead battery on a standard consumer tablet or a cracked scrreen on a device can bring a service call to a screeching halt costing significant time and money.

What to Look for When Buying New Field Service Ready Mobile Tech

Field-service organizations can no longer let device purchase price expense or touted durability be the only factors in purchasing new mobile technology. Companies must ask questions such as:

• Does this rugged tablet offer a hot-swappable battery?
• Will the cooling fan for the new laptops get clogged-up with job site dust?
• Do the new tablets we’re looking at have Wi-Fi signal-boosting technology?
• Will the new 2-in-1 laptop be sturdy enough to operate after being dropped into a mud puddle?
• Can the barcode scanner on this handheld survive multiple drops onto concrete floors?

Negative or unclear responses to any of these questions should compel any purchasing agent to continue to shop around.

Warranties Are Important, but They Can’t Replace Durability or Reliability

Some companies may be tempted to go light on equipment but heavy on the warranty, assuming it’s less expensive to repair or replace damaged inexpensive hardware for the occasional accident rather than going the more expensive durable-tablet or laptop route. It might look good on paper, and it might even look better at the end of the fiscal year, but there’s a higher price to pay than business case financials alone may reveal.

When a Mobile Device Goes Down, So Does Your Level of Service

When a mobile device goes belly up in the field, a host of problems can result: Adjustments become approximated tweaks, certain parts ordering becomes parts guessing and diagnostic routines turn into something left for the next service call. This affects machine performance, which leads to a drop in customer satisfaction. If this is a frequent problem, the effect will damage a company’s profitability (as dissatisfied customers turn to a competitor) and maybe even its reputation but it may be difficult to link the purchase of inexpensive tablet computers for your techs to the loss of revenue.

Mobile Tech ROI — Are All of the Variables Being Considered?

Return on investment (ROI) is a crucial measurement when making any technology purchase. Mobile-device performance, regarding productivity and profitability, is most likely going to be judged by how well the software and hardware perform together to achieve the forecasted goal.

Determining ROI without factoring in mobile-tech downtime is incomplete at best. Contributing to the inaccuracy is the fact that technicians don’t usually report when they’ve skipped part of the repair or diagnostics because the device battery “died” or they couldn’t access the application because of a poor signal.

The bottom line of determining if the mobile device you are considering will meet the needs of your techs and you will get a positive return on investment is to thoroughly research and get detailed performance testing and failure rate information from the device manufacturers under consideration. At Panasonic, we recommend you also know about and understand the standards and tests available that identify the level of ruggedness, known as MIL-STD-810G (Mil-Spec).  

To help you learn more about how to do a full analysis of your likely Mobile Tech ROI we invite you to visit our Mobility Knowledge Center to read the IDC whitepaper, Pay Now, Save Later and others to assist you in your research.