We get it: Keeping on top of the most current mobile devices available for a warehouse environment isn’t something you’re thinking about day in and day out. However, we can also tell you that selecting the right one can make all the difference in your shop floor, inventory and other primary task efforts. The questions then become, what is the best choice for your specific application – a consumer- or commercial-grade mobile device? Should you be considering an iPad tablet or something along the lines of a Datalogic Falcon? Which of these will perform better, be less easily damaged and offer a lower total cost of ownership?

First, let’s take a closer look at why consumer-grade devices often present a challenge in the warehouse sector.

Consumer-Grade Mobile Devices in the Warehouse/Shop Floor Environment

It’s all about what you plan to do with the device when choosing to use a consumer-grade product, such as the aforementioned Apple iPad or a smartphone, in the warehouse or on the shop floor. Here’s a scenario we always liken to selecting consumer-grade mobile devices: Imagine going hiking in freezing arctic temperatures. While you can always choose a standard winter boot in which to brave the conditions, you’re definitely going to be better-served by putting on purpose-built hiking boots rated for this extreme climate.

Generally speaking, consumer-grade devices are not designed to withstand the demands of a “rugged” environment – that is, they won’t handle the abuse these devices are normally exposed to in a warehouse. Regardless of how careful an employee may be, devices are dropped and knocked about; as such, consumer-grade products are damaged very easily.

Further, warehouse devices need to endure through the rigors of a work shift, and when operations run around the clock, there’s the battery factor to consider (i.e. they need to be replaceable between shifts). Most consumer-grade devices do not offer replaceable batteries with any kind of “battery sled” options.

Beyond these factors, the following are additional reasons consumer-grade mobile devices don’t always make sense in a warehouse setting:

  • Consumer-grade devices typically feature a touchscreen keyboard which takes up screen real estate, leaving less room to display information; this conflicts with most warehouse management systems, which can display copious amounts of information on the screen of a mobile device.
  • The screens of most consumer-grade devices are “capacitive” rather than “resistive,” rendering them more prone to accidental inputs and requiring a capacitive stylus for accurate “taps” (compared to a standard pen or any other implement that can put pressure on a resistive screen), and cannot be used with standard work gloves.
  • Using a mobile device for the duration of an entire work day can become a strain, forcing ergonomics to play a vital role; consumer-grade devices aren’t ergonomically-oriented like a purpose-built warehouse device (a mobile computer boasting a pistol grip, for example).

Making the Case for Commercial-Grade Mobile Devices

Remember when we mentioned better performance, less damage and lower cost of ownership in the beginning of this article? Rugged, purpose-built, commercial-grade mobile devices offer all this for the warehouse environment. Commercial mobile devices are built to withstand tough working conditions and enables your workforce to get things done faster, more accurately and productively – and in a more consistent manner with greater efficiency. The rigors of warehousing and shop floor operations, especially those with variable temperature and other challenging environments, require the use of devices that are specially-designed to withstand these conditions.

On average, commercial handheld mobile devices can be deployed for up to three times longer than consumer variants while including sophisticated touchscreen technology suitable for multiple rugged working conditions and environments. Additionally, industrial-grade handheld devices tend to be favored by manufacturing organizations for ergonomic factors, ease of use and maximum uptime.

In the warehousing sector, commercial-grade devices:

  • Handle fast-paced operations in distribution centers, warehouses and environments that bolster delivery/package tracking, asset management and inventory management.
  • Offer specialized applications for cold storage environments.
  • Process large masses of data quickly, accurately and reliably in warehouse, 3PL and distribution environments.
  • Execute mass amounts of scans efficiently and communicate via wireless networks.
  • Enable interaction with other devices such as RFID readers, ID card printers, mobile printers and barcode printers.
  • Include data capture devices for specialized functionality such as vehicle-mounted terminals, handheld scanners, tablets, wearable computers and ring scanners.

If you’re ready to take your manufacturing operation’s data-collecting abilities to the next level, Insight Works can help through a comprehensive collection of mobile warehouse data collection, shop floor data collection, inventory management, integrated shipping, point-of-sale and other dynamic tools.

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Mobile Warehouse Data Collection

Warehouse InsightWarehouse Insight is an add-on for Microsoft Dynamics NAV that provides warehouse and production employees with full NAV access via barcode scanners and hand-held computers. Warehouse Insight streamlines NAV’s inventory and warehouse functionality to provide intuitive warehousing tools for inventory counts, shipping, receiving, picks, putaways, bin management, and more.

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