From cold storage warehouses to trailer yards, retail outlets and hospitals, the use of handheld computers is becoming increasing common. Their use is expanding beyond the manufacturing and warehousing sectors where they’ve been used for some time in data collection and other automation functions. Today’s handhelds can do more than just RF barcode scanning.
Hardware designed for commercial or light-duty industrial use may be sufficient in many applications, but is sufficient good enough? Consumer-grade devices may even be sufficient in some instances. However, if you drop a consumer-grade smartphone or tablet or any non-ruggedized handheld, how likely is that piece of equipment to break? If a piece of gear is mission critical to your business, can you afford the risk of it breaking the first time it’s dropped on the floor? How many spare units do you need to keep on hand as backups? How many replacements will you have to buy to replace broken units?
Rugged devices that can withstand temperature extremes, moisture, rain, dust, dirt, salt air or exposure to other corrosive environments are ideal for cold storage centers, hazardous material warehouses and a variety of other distribution functions, including transportation, yard management, delivery, field service and repairs. Rugged handhelds have buttons and keypads that can be operated even while wearing gloves in winter or in cold storage facilities and displays that can be read in a variety of lighting conditions. Being rugged or ruggedized also means that cases are sealed to keep out dust, sand or other contaminants, and moisture. Some rugged handhelds can even withstand being submerged in water 3 feet deep. Internal components are shock resistant or specially strengthened to absorb impacts to prevent damage from being dropped or struck. Longer-life batteries may also be used. The end is result is a better built device.
The initial cost of rugged or ruggedized handheld computers is more expensive than equipment rated for commercial or light-duty industrial applications, let alone consumer-grade devices. However, rugged handhelds are built to withstand heavy usage around the clock and you can typically expect them to have a longer useful life. Lifespans of 6+ years are not uncommon. If your business uses a three-year depreciation schedule, the hardware’s useful life beyond three years is just gravy. Every year of use beyond that third year is just free money in your pocket. Plus, you can probably get away with buying fewer spare units as backups and you’ll probably have fewer units that will need to be repaired or replaced.
When investing in handheld computers for your business also factor in expandability/upgradeability. Applications will evolve. The tasks your teams need to perform will evolve. Being able to upgrade this hardware down the road to support new technology like voice command or RFID will help maximize your IT investment today and tomorrow.
FW Warehousing is based in the St. Louis metropolitan area in Sauget, Illinois. It currently operates warehouse distribution centers in three Midwest states, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, totaling more than four million square feet. Founded in 1949 with a focus on food-grade storage, the firm later broadened its services to include cold storage, general warehousing and chemical storage. In addition, FW has more than 60 years experience in third-party logistics and has been ranked in the top 100 Third Party Logistic Companies in the country by Inbound Logistics magazine.
For more information about FW Warehousing, cold storage and other 3PL capabilities visit the FW Warehousing Website.