Choosing the Right Mobile Equipment Takes More than Luck

Choosing the best mobile equipment for your needs takes quite a bit more than luck. Those looking to bring on new barcode data collection technology have a variety of items to consider before a large purchase.  Use this as a guide to ensure you don’t waste your cabbage or get pinched by not fully understanding what you are getting with your purchase.

Choose mobile equipment with the features that meet your needs.

When considering bringing on new mobile computing equipment for your company be sure to jot down your top reasons for the purchase. Are you looking for newer technology, faster print or scanning speed, more durability or resistance to certain elements? There’s a solution out there to suit your needs.  Other questions worth considering include:

What type of barcodes are being scanned?

1D barcodes are the most common barcode type and used in warehouses and retail operations. UPC codes are primarily used on consumer goods in the U.S. whereas Code 39 and Code 128 barcodes have alphanumeric capabilities and are often used in the automotive, transportation and supply chain industries. 2D barcodes can store more information in a smaller space. While 1D barcodes typically contain less than 30 characters, 2D barcodes can store up to 3000 characters in a more compact format. 2D barcodes can embed text, numbers, and even web addresses that take users directly to a website for online purchases.

What is the average distance between the user and the barcode being scanned?

Standard range includes scans to around 2.5 feet, medium range about 4 feet, long-range scanning can be as far away as 25 feet and Extended Range up to as much as 60 feet. Great for super large warehouse applications.  Although image scanning technology has become far more prevalent in the last decade or two and can perform as well or even better at standard and medium range, laser scanning technology is still widely used in long-range scanning applications.

How durable/resistant does my mobile equipment need to be?

Phone, tablet, and PC manufacturers measure the ruggedness of devices by the Ingress Protection (IP) Rating.  The IP rating is determined by the durability of the device (i.e., how well it holds up against dirt, dust, and water) using a scale ranging from 1 - 6 for dust and dirt, and 1 - 8 for water. IP ratings are displayed as a 2-digit number. The first digit reflects the level of protection against dust, and the second digit reflects the level of protection against liquids. 

How rugged does my mobile equipment need to be?

It all depends (did someone say concrete floors in a fast-paced environment?). Manufacturer drop tests vary, but it’s typical for mobile computers to be tested a number times, subjected to drops onto each face, edge, and corner while in non-operating mode.  Initially, drops can range from 26-50 times, at each of the three heights – typically 4, 6, and 8 feet.  Anything over that is just gravy.

CN70e handheld computer being used at a newsprint manufacturing facility (Paper Mill) to monitor maintenance operations on equipment

What’s the average daily amount of time the mobile equipment will be in use?

A milliampere hour (mAh) is 1000th of an ampere hour (Ah). Both measures are commonly used to describe the energy charge that a battery will hold and how long a device will run before the battery needs recharging. Extended-life battery options run 1800+ mAh with an expected life of 14 hours on a single charge, making it ideal to operate through an 8-hour shift., with only 4-5 hours to recharge.

Which operating system will work best?

Android Enterprise is Google’s framework for mobility management on devices running Android OS. This highly customizable, easy to use solution works well when paired with an Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) platform, giving your IT team a more consistent management experience across deployed devices. 

Apple at Work enables the enterprise to more efficiently buy or lease iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watch, Apple TV and other products in a new initiative; initially rolling out through CDW. 

Enterprise Linux is any distribution of the open-source Linux operating system that is targeted to the commercial market — not to consumers—for use on corporate or small business servers, desktops, workstations and mobile deployments.

Once dominant platforms for mobile devices in the AIDC Industry, Microsoft has announced that they will be discontinuing support for their Windows® CE and Windows® Embedded Handheld (Windows Mobile) operating systems later this year.  Many users are making the Android platform their mobile OS of choice and industry leaders are responding to demand.

What’s at the end of the rainbow?

Don’t assume you are getting everything you need to begin using your mobile equipment. Empower your decision to purchase by leaning on vendors to answer critical questions before providing you a quote. A few key areas which you’ll want to ask clarifying questions:

  • Batteries: Batteries are often sold separately – giving you the option and flexibility to upgrade to an extended life option. It’s a great idea to have a few extra batteries on hand to safeguard against unwanted downtime due to poor device battery management.
  • Managed Services: Getting expert help with staging, deploying and maintaining your mobile equipment is worthwhile. Often this service is offered separately by mobile equipment providers. Trusting an experienced AIDC provider to guide you through deployments will save costs in the long run. Consider the amount of time a less experienced internal employee would spend to ensure devices are working and there’s no lag in your operation. An experienced partner can pre-configure your mobile equipment, so it’s are ready right out of the box.  It’s also a good idea for harsh environments with a high failure history to inquire about spare pool management and advanced replacement options to ensure uptime is maximized.
  • Extended Warranties: When purchasing professionally refurbished devices, a warranty is often included for a designated period (i.e., 90 days). This covers most issues (be sure to read the fine print of their terms), but it’s a good idea ask about additional coverage especially when using devices in warehouses, manufacturing plants, industrial environments, etc.

Taking a few extra moments to have a dialogue with your mobile equipment provider will improve your chances of investing in a solution that is turnkey, and ready to use on day one.

Don’t get pinched, know your vendor.

In the age of Ecommerce, even business-to-business transactions are taking place on Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba. The risk you run is the same as if you were using these online stores to purchase something for personal use – there’s very little information available about the seller, outside of their username and user-generated rating.  That’s why it’s more critical than ever to take a few moments to do your own research when sourcing directly from a company. Corporate websites and social channels will give you clear insights into what the company values and how they position their services. Explore resources like D&B to make sure you are working with a reputable company who will deliver and stand by their offering. 

Given the competitive landscape in the mobile equipment arena, there’s more than likely an option for you and your budget. Choosing devices made by the major OEM’s is never a bad choice as they have years of manufacturing experience and many facilities to ensure you are getting what you need.