Q&A: How TOUGHBOOK Warranties Improve Total Cost of Ownership

Rugged TOUGHBOOK devices often have a higher initial investment than standard consumer-grade products, but they offer a lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) over time. A lower TCO can help you stretch your budget dollars while providing that the best available technology is being used by critical frontline workers.

The total cost of your mobile devices needs to take into account several factors—the initial cost along with the failure rate, the expected life or longevity of the device, repair costs, and the warranties available.

When choosing the optimal rugged mobile devices for your frontline workers, one of the more important (but sometimes most overlooked) factors to research is the vendor’s warranty programs. Standard warranty coverage, the availability of additional coverage, and convenient repair services can sway the outcome to the total cost of ownership (TCO).

To dive deeper into the analysis of TCO for rugged mobile devices including reliability, warranties, and costs of repairs, we spoke with Sonia Arnold, a 12-year Panasonic veteran and strategic sales leader for TOUGHBOOK mobile solutions and Panasonic ProServices.

Here’s what she had to say:

Q: How does TOUGHBOOK reliability compare to consumer laptops or tablets?

Sonia Arnold: Consumer-grade products, in general, are built with planned obsolescence in mind. TOUGHBOOK devices are built with an entirely different manufacturing and engineering mindset. These products are built to last, typically with a sub-2% failure rate.

Q: What are the most common causes of failure, and what does Panasonic do to address them?

Sonia Arnold: TOUGHBOOK devices are deployed in the roughest and most extreme environments. The most common causes of failure are events like getting run over by a truck, dropped 10 feet on to cement, or dumped in the ocean. It takes a pretty significant environmental or accidental hit to damage these products, which are built to survive five- and six-foot drops to concrete. For tablets, the typical problem is a cracked screen. We fix this and any other issues at one of our two National Service Centers, one in Memphis for Android products and one in Kansas City for Windows devices. These centers are stocked with a huge inventory of Panasonic-manufactured spare parts, so there’s little we can’t fix in a hurry—and if we can’t fix a product that is under no-fault warranty, we will replace it.

Q: How does longevity play in the overall reliability picture, and how does the TOUGHBOOK stack up?

Sonia Arnold: Longevity is another area where Panasonic really shines. Our products are built to be in service for five years or more. That’s why we support our out-of-warranty products with guaranteed availability of spare parts and service for five to seven years from end of life, which is not an unusual lifespan for a TOUGHBOOK product. We manufacture many of the components that go into our products, as well as the products themselves, so we can meet our parts-availability guarantee.

Q: How do the reliability and longevity that we’ve talked about affect the total cost of ownership?

Sonia Arnold: There are two factors in play with TCO. One is how many times you have to take a unit out of the field to be repaired. If you have 100 service techs in the field, and you’re trying to keep them operational with a non-rugged product in a rugged world, you can have quite a few “person down” situations with just your typical wear and tear and accidental damage. Every time a tech can’t complete work because of a mobile device failure, that’s a TCO issue. The second factor is how long the device is in the field. If you’re turning over the whole fleet of computers for 100 techs every two years, that’s a very different model from the TOUGHBOOK cost of ownership model, which can extend out to four or five years or longer. So, that’s one whole replacement cycle that’s avoided, including the cost of the devices, the software, rollout, and training.

Q: What is the Panasonic TOUGHBOOK standard warranty plan? And how does that compare to typical warranties for consumer devices and for other rugged products?

Sonia Arnold: With consumer devices, you can get anywhere from 90 days to maybe a year of warranty. And for other rugged devices warranties vary from one to three years, mostly at the low end of that range. Most of the Panasonic TOUGHBOOK products come with a three-year warranty out of the box, and that can be extended to four or five years. Plus, we have a one-year warranty on batteries

Q: What types of extended warranties are available from Panasonic?

Sonia Arnold: For starters, we have programs that enhance coverage during the standard warranty period. Our Ultimate Care program, for example, gives a client zero out of pocket repair costs for accidental damage. Zip, zero, none for the term of the warranty. That’s complete bumper-to-bumper, accidental damage coverage, which works well for really tough environments like inside a warehouse on a forklift, on a crane, or where the devices are going in and out of vehicles.

With our accidental damage coverage programs, if a unit gets totally destroyed—say, if the client had a fire or they dropped it or somebody ran over it, we will replace their unit with an exact replica of the same unit. For example, if a unit is two years old, we will build back the exact model of that unit and apply the same serial number. This is significant because when you have an approved enterprise image and software that’s working on a particular type of TOUGHBOOK changes in the model version can be disruptive. Also, from an asset management standpoint, it is really significant to be able to replace the “same” unit and not have to delete an old unit and add a new one for asset tracking.

The other big issue with mobile devices is battery life. Customers who are running devices in multi-shift environments like warehouses or long shifts in the field like utility workers during a disaster need those devices to work without fail—and they are the ones who wear out batteries faster. We have an optional battery warranty that will extend coverage from one year to up to five years. The program also includes proactive battery replacement when the battery goes below 50% capacity safeguarding that your field worker has plenty of power to work remotely.

Q: What type of warranty is recommended? How many years should the warranty be purchased for?

Sonia Arnold: Panasonic offers very cost-effective extended and enhanced warranty programs—usually half of what others charge. We recommend the no fault programs and extending the warranty to cover the planned life of the project, typically three to five years. This will eliminate repair costs for the entire project.

Q: What is Panasonic’s standard turnaround for repairs and replacement parts? 

Sonia Arnold: We’ve got a great story here … get this: if a unit needs to come in for repair, Panasonic will pay for overnight shipping to the service center and then repair the unit on average in two days or less. Then, we will send it back with overnight shipping to you. And if you need a box for the device, we will overnight that out so you can send the unit back. Our clients really like our sense of urgency around the whole repair process. We get that everything is urgent in the mobile working world.

Q: Can you talk about the turnaround time and parts availability TOUGHBOOK provides after end of life (EOL)?

Sonia Arnold: We guarantee parts availability for five years after EOL for the Android TOUGHBOOK products and seven years after EOL for Windows TOUGHBOOK products. After the EOL unit comes off of warranty clients can still pay for the repair and shipping and keep the units up and running in the field. 

Q: Is there anything else in terms of reliability that people should ask about or probe with vendors when they’re making buying decisions?

Sonia Arnold: Yes, let’s talk about spares pools. There’s not a mobility project that doesn’t have a spares pool of some sort. With other OEMs, that pool can be 10 to 15% of the rollout. We’ve even heard of 25%+ spares pools. With Panasonic’s reliability and quick repair turnaround, we can typically bring spares pools down to 2% to 5% and save clients quite a bit of money and reduce the logistical headaches of managing all those units going in and out of the field.

Q: What are the top three things that make Panasonic TOUGHBOOK products and warranties stand apart from others?

Sonia Arnold: One thing is that I’ve never seen another company have such a sense of urgency around the service process and keeping TOUGHBOOKs in the field. From the very beginning of the TOUGHBOOK story we have been servicing federal government and public safety clients, and so we monitor everything—DOAs, turnaround time, call wait time and failure rate to help keep first responders moving. Nearly every executive in the company is watching these metrics and supports the manpower, training and spare parts needed to keep us number one in this area.

Second, at Panasonic, the service story doesn’t stand on its own—it starts with the way things are engineered and the way things are manufactured, and the feedback loops we have. Over 95% of the products that we sell are serviced in one of our two service centers. So, for nearly every device that ever fails, we have the information on why. Panasonic engineers from Japan come in once a month and take a look at where the failures are, and then study them and engineer changes into the next generation of that product.

And lastly, the combination of high reliability and quick turn-around times at Panasonic is hard to beat. The savings from just doing those two things right go way beyond the hard costs. The soft costs of the logistics of sending units in and out of the field and trying to keep workers up and running are huge. I like that we solve that problem by making great products and having the best service process in the industry. 

Visit our website for more information on Panasonic TOUGHBOOK warranty services and Smart Suite Solutions, including our battery warranty program. Or if you would like, contact us directly at: TOUGHBOOK@us.panasonic.com