If you have technicians and service workers in the field, you want them to have everything they need to perform servicing, inspections or repairs at their fingertips. But that’s a tough ask when they need to access product or asset information, technical specs, work instructions, and both company and customer communications on the go, without having to make a bunch of calls or make a return trip to the home office.
It gets even more complicated if you need to be able to scan barcodes, print labels or receipts, and track all the work you perform on each piece of equipment or asset, to ensure compliance and manage inventory, billing and costs.
This is why rugged industrial tablets have rapidly gained popularity as one of the best solutions for field service mobile computing, tracking, and communication. At TPI, we’ve seen this first-hand as a technology provider to manufacturers, utility and energy companies, telecom providers, and other businesses with extensive field service operations.
For many of these customers, we recommend Zebra rugged tablets as an ideal field service solution for a number of crucial reasons. Let’s take a look at the top reasons why rugged tablets get our highest marks and the benefits they bring to field service operations.
Durability and Total Cost of Ownership
Out in the field, weather, extreme temperatures, dust, dirt, humidity, water, spills and drops can damage or destroy many mobile devices. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars repairing or replacing damaged devices, so rugged enterprise tablets with military-grade durability are the ideal option for field service.
For example, Zebra’s L10 Series tablets are built with some of the toughest specs you will find in any mobile hardware, including:
- A harder-than-steel magnesium frame
- Resistance to repeated concrete drops from up to 4 ft.
- MIL-STD-810G military-grade durability
- IP65-rated sealing against dust and water, even with ports open
- C1D2 certification against spark risk in hazardous environments
- Operating temperature range from -4° F to 140° F (-20° C to 60° C)
- 40G shock and vibration resistance
- Resistance to extreme rain, wind, humidity, and blowing sand and dust
- Corning™ Gorilla Glass™ Display with protection film for damage resistance
This kind of durability ensures extremely reliable and cost-saving performance that often pays for itself many times over.
More Screen Space and Brightness for Better Workflow Efficiency
When you’re using smaller handheld mobile devices with limited screen sizes, there’s not a lot of room to fit all the information, data and buttons that field workers need to do their job and navigate mobile apps and communications. This means it will take more taps, clicks, and steps to get through every process.
However, with rugged tablets, you have much more screen size to work with. For example, Zebra’s brand new ET85 and ET80 tablets have a 12-inch display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, so you can display much more data and more information, and you can reduce the number of steps it takes to complete mission-critical tasks and get through mobile workflows.
Zebra’s tablet displays are also bright and readable in sunlight with 800 to 1000 units of brightness as well as anti-reflecting, anti-smudge screen treatments. Its newest ET series tablets even include a night-vision mode.
Longer Battery Life
When you’re using a mobile device in the field all day, particularly outdoors and in sunlight, where you need more screen brightness, battery life is often a killer. But Zebra rugged tablets offer a huge advantage because they’re engineered with Zebra’s PowerPrecision+ battery technology, including hot-swappable extended-life batteries that can provide up to 27 hours of continuous power.
Touch Simplicity and Ease of Use
Another big advantage of rugged tablets is their simplicity and ease of use, since their screens are touch-enabled and you can use either an Android or Windows operating system that’s immediately familiar to most users. If you still need a physical keyboard for typing and data entry, there are options for magnetically detachable or detachable friction hinge keyboards too.
Mobility and Vehicle/Office Usage
Rugged tablets can be used as multi-purpose devices in multiple settings, including out in the field as well as mounted in a vehicle or docked in an office. For example, Zebra’s L10 Series Xbook and ET85/ET80 tablets are 2-in-1 devices with detachable keyboards and peripheral accessories so you can easily use them in an office or a vehicle. And Zebra produces docking and mounting accessories so you can quickly mount or dock/undock your tablet in seconds, and then take it with you on the go.
Field Service and Workflow Automation
You can automate many of your field service workflows by combining a rugged tablet with mobile apps and software tools for everything from order, service, and repair management to billing, inventory, and voice or text communication. For example, many utilities and energy companies use rugged tablets with third-party software solutions for tracking and managing all their field equipment, maintenance records, safety and compliance work.
With the latest rugged tablets, you have a variety of options for connecting your tablet to these apps and all your systems and databases, voice and data via Wi-Fi, 4G or 5G cellular, Bluetooth, GPS and more. For example, with Zebra’s ET85 tablet, you get support for the latest WiFi 6E protocol as well as 5G, 4G, and Bluetooth 5.2. There’s also support for CBRS so companies can use private LTE networks for cost-effective wireless connectivity.
But you can also work offline by configuring your apps to collect data offline and then later transmit and update records and information once you can connect again via Wi-Fi or cellular for batch updates.
Mobile Barcode Scanning and Printing
Field service typically requires a lot of tracking and verification of the right equipment and assets, along with a way to quickly and accurately document and update maintenance and repair status.
With rugged tablets, you can do that easily by scanning 1D and 2D barcodes from the same device you use to run your mobile apps and your voice and text communications. And you don’t have to rely on an on-board camera to do it. With Zebra’s L10 and ET85/ET80 Series tablets, you get built-in or optional barcode scanners with advanced scanning and algorithms that decode barcodes faster and more accurately than any camera can, even if barcodes are dirty, smudged, scratched or poorly printed.
You can also pair your tablet with a mobile printer to print barcode labels on demand in the field, so you can identify and track equipment and assets, update their status with color-coding or graphics, and automate future data collection, servicing and compliance.
How to Learn More About Rugged Tablets and Get Enterprise Pricing
Ultimately, we’ve only touched on some of the potential benefits of using rugged tablets in field service, but we’ve covered many of the biggest reasons why you should definitely keep them in mind for your next technology investment.
To learn more about rugged tablets, whether they’re the right fit for your field service operations, and to get specs, special enterprise pricing, and more details, contact our team at TPI. We’ll be happy to share more information and answer any questions you have.