Rugged Devices v Consumer – Which Is Best For Your Warehouse?

Rugged devices can be expensive, are they the best option ?

If you’re a small to medium sized warehouse using a mid-range warehouse management system (WMS), finding the best device that offers the best combination of low cost and effective scanning capability while serving the specific needs of your business, whether it be rugged devices or consumer, can be quite a challenge.

As more and more businesses are shifting to cloud applications and taking advantage of all the latest technologies, the question has been asked – We can just use our existing smartphones or tablets, right? Isn’t that the easiest option accessing your systems from anywhere? Unfortunately, that is not the case in many situations.

The mobile devices you choose whether it be consumer or rugged, will determine the return on investment (ROI) in your mobility strategy. If you select the wrong device, this could result in frustrated users, decreased productivity, increased costs, and potentially introduce safety risks. However, the right device will not only maximise your productivity, but also the efficiency and accuracy with the tasks at hand in combination with your WMS.

In this post, we’ll look at the differences between consumer and rugged devices and some tips on how to choose between them.

What is a Consumer Enterprise Mobile Device?

A consumer enterprise mobile device is a smartphone, tablet, or other electronic handheld that is used for business, but can also serve as a personal device. An example would be a personal smartphone that a manager also uses for business purposes such as looking up inventory data or pulling sales reports.

What is a Rugged Enterprise Mobile Device?

A rugged enterprise mobile device is a smartphone, tablet, or mobile handheld that is built with the rigors of commercial use in mind. These devices have options like high performance barcode scan engines, hot swappable and longer lasting batteries, as well as higher IP ratings against water and dust.

What are the main differences between Consumer & Rugged?

Compatibility & Connectivity

A disadvantage of consumer mobile devices is that the operating systems such as your base Android and iOS, for example, may not include the business extensions and APIs you require, resulting in you having to manually install additional components on every potential device.

A rugged enterprise mobile device, on the other hand, could provide a single build designed specifically for all your mobile system needs. Without all the variations that consumer devices entail, these units are streamlined and efficient in what they need to do.

All Wi-Fi radios are not created equally. Wi-Fi radios in enterprise class devices are designed to maintain connectivity and application performance for workers who are constantly moving – something the typical consumer class radio doesn’t offer.

Ruggedised devices also include support for most Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions, whilst consumer devices can include security features that make it difficult to centrally provision certain applications. The rugged devices can also provide additional targeted information about device health and user activity that do not exist in consumer grade devices.

Security & Safety

Consumer device mobile solutions has its flaws when it comes to security as you are relying on each individual user to safeguard the proprietary information being accessed and utilised through their device – potentially putting your business at risk.

A rugged mobile device is typically designed with enterprise level security in mind. Multiple users and logins are easy to implement. They’ll also be less susceptible to hijacking, viruses, and other forms of data theft.

With new versions of consumer phones and operating system updates occurring annually, it is challenging to provide a consistent set of hardware and software across all devices in an environment for an extended period of time.

Rugged devices can also provide extra levels of safety in hazardous areas, such as volatile chemicals.  Consumer grade devices are often not even permitted anywhere near these areas.

Life and Durability

Ruggedised devices are tested to withstand shock, vibration, drops to concrete floors, and exposure to dirt, dust, moisture, and chemicals. They are less likely to fail in commercial environments than a consumer device that relies mainly on third party protection such as screen shields and cases. While these may be adequate in some situations, consumer devices could present additional repair costs.

Rugged devices are also built with longer battery power whilst consumer devices can’t compete on a single charge and don’t have the option of a swappable battery pack. For mobile devices to remain in service for a full shift, you need two things: a battery with the capacity to last and a removable battery that can be swapped – instead of taking the device out of service for charging.

Price and the Total Cost of Ownership

Consumer devices are cheaper, it’s true. And that’s why many companies stick with them, despite all the advantages of more rugged devices. But what companies fail to take into account is the fail rates, repair and replacement costs, and “soft costs” such as lost productivity and sales, time spent on tech support, and device maintenance against a rugged device.

While consumer devices might be cheaper in the short term, purchasing rugged mobile handhelds for your warehouse needs will save you thousands of pounds in the long run.

Enterprise Application Requirements

Last, most consumer devices can’t handle the requirements of high volume applications. Ruggedised devices have faster, more accurate barcode scanners; longer battery life; support for multiple wireless networking options; screens that can be read easily in both daylight and dark conditions; enterprise level security features; and additional options to support RFID scanning, GPS, and other technologies.

For fast paced, time critical applications, a camera scanner simply does not perform accurately and fast enough, decreasing worker productivity. Consumer devices simply can’t compete because they were designed for much lighter usage and different applications.

In Summary

At first glance, choosing consumer devices over rugged devices might appear to be a viable low cost solution, with BYOD solutions further reducing costs by eliminating the need to purchase and support devices altogether. However, upon further examination, it would seem rugged devices deliver the best ROI over time and are able to better meet commercial business requirements.

Software for warehouse management systems varies in capability, customisation and integration with barcode readers. When researching barcode readers for a WMS, it’s extremely important that you consult with your software vendor to find out what data capture devices integrate with their software. Also, find out whether or not the vendor offers device specific mobile applications or if the software is cloud based. All of these things will influence your choice of data capture device.

About us:

Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.

Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.

ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfillment and manufacturing warehousing.