Handhelds, laptops, and smartphones… oh my! When it comes to mobile warehouse solutions, you have many choices from which to choose. While each device can help you achieve the same goal (to automate warehouse processes), they are not made equally. Each device has a unique set of characteristics and is suited for a particular environment. While we cannot make the decision for you, we can explain the differences between each mobile device and guide you to the best solution for your company.
Before we begin discussing the differences between mobile devices used in the warehouse, you need to understand the importance of having a mobile solution in a warehouse environment. If your company is currently relying on manual processes, you are losing valuable time and money. Mobile solutions can free up your employees to focus on more important tasks, improve profitability, and raise productivity levels throughout your organization. Mobile devices are just that – mobile. Employees can carry them throughout the warehouse to capture data and record information quickly and accurately. Without the presence of mobile devices, your warehouse is seriously lacking.
Smartphones and Tablets
Smartphones are becoming increasingly popular in the business world, and the warehouse environment is no exception to this trend. Since most employees are familiar with smartphones, many companies opt to use them in the warehouse for data capture and process automation. While they are relatively inexpensive and easy to use, smartphones lack the durability manufacturers and distributors need in a mobile solution by themselves. Because they are not designed to be rugged devices on their own the good news is there add on accessories that we use to give the units durability in the warehouse or out in the field. Take the product Invisible Shield, this gives any iOS device a lifetime guarantee on the screen. We also recognize that users constantly drop their devices. We have found a case that gives your iOS device a 6ft drop spec and includes a built in scanner, turning your smart phone into a rugged handheld device. This is a great alternative if your budget is tight but you still see the value in automation.
Laptops definitely have their place in the warehouse environment. While they tend to lack mobility and ruggedness, they work well for complex field applications and are multi-use. For example, if you have a service vehicle that requires a laptop for an application, you can run a field application on it to collect the information you need. The costs of laptops have decreased significantly, making them an affordable solution. However, if you need a more rugged laptop for your warehouse environment, be prepared to pay more. While laptops do not offer the same level of mobility as smartphones and handheld devices, they can be valuable in the warehouse.
Handheld devices are the most common mobile device used in warehouse environments. Also known as barcode scanners and automated data collection systems, handheld devices can automate time-consuming processes and seamlessly capture data. Handheld devices are far more flexible than smartphones or laptops as they can be purchased with whatever level of ruggedness or features your company requires. They work well in most environments and so easy to use even people with limited computer experience can master them. While they cannot handle the complex applications that a laptop could, handheld devices can handle a wide variety of applications necessary in the warehouse environment (such as timesheet collection, data capture, picking/packing, and delivery tracking). They come with many features, including touch screens, cameras, RFID, Wifi, cell phones, data connections, and many more capabilities specific to various environments.
The more expensive handheld devices may seem costly, but they are far more reliable (and durable) than a smartphone or tablet will ever be in the warehouse environment. They are relatively small in size, so workers can carry them around the warehouse to capture important data (a feat that could not be accomplished with a laptop).
As you can see, mobile solutions come in all shapes, sizes and forms. While handheld devices are the most popular solution, your company could benefit from incorporating smartphones and laptops into the warehouse environment. Before you make the investment, be sure that you understand the capabilities and limitations of each solution. If you have any questions or need help coming to a decision, contact us today. We offer a variety of mobile warehouse management solutions designed to increase your productivity and profitability and boost your warehouse automation efforts. We will be more than happy to guide you through this process and help you achieve full warehouse automation.
Are you employing any of the above mobile solutions in your warehouse? What are the benefits and drawbacks of the solution you are using?