Rugged or Not Rugged, that is the Question
In over 15 years of providing a mobile rugged computer solution, we frequently encounter skepticism about the value of a rugged solution.
Responses include “I use iPads in rugged cases” or “we just deploy commercial notebooks and it is cheaper to replace them when or if they break” and many variations on the theme. It is quite difficult to overcome these objections as they are most often based on ideology rather than facts. But the facts are that an overwhelming array of data collected over many thousands of deployments and with global distributions confirms a rugged solution usually results in less than 50% of the annual cost of non rugged solutions.
So a predominant factor in why rugged is the right choice is TCO or Total Cost of Ownership. A calculator for TCO is available here. There can be many factors in determining the TCO but logically there is any direct repair costs, downtime on the task for which the unit is deployed and possible administrative tasks, such as IT support to re-enable the device. Additionally there may be significant impact from “lost opportunity” costs where only one chance exists to record data. VDC Research is an international organisation whose specialty is analysing most of these factors and their most recent public report is available here.
There are also intangible reasons why a rugged device with close to zero failure rates may be important to an organisation.
Enterprises with direct interfaces to the customer such as telco fault finding, utility repairs and field service technicians are at particular risk of alienating customers if essential equipment fails delaying or interrupting a task. Customers in highly competitive industries can rapidly switch providers if their perception is of poor or inefficient response. A failed computer device that impacts on the technicians ability to respond will adversely impact the customer satisfaction levels.
An area that is also overlooked is the employees’ job satisfaction. It could be argued that a failed device means an employee gets an unscheduled holiday but the reality is that 99% of employees take pride in their work or at least get satisfaction from competing their assigned tasks. Continually failing equipment can result in an employee perception that the employer just doesn’t care enough to provide a “fit for purpose” device. This then manifests in a poor employee attitude and again may impact customer relationships. Who hasn’t at sometime had a disgruntled service representative fixing an appliance etc “bad mouthing” their employer?
Oscar Wilde is famously attributed and frequently quoted “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” He would have been unaware of an esoteric technical issue but it encapsulates the argument on rugged computers versus non rugged computers.