Outservice Your Mobile Computing Competitors
A VAR clinches a 300-vehicle rugged mobile PC install by being the first to solve a utility customer’s hardware needs.
Many VARs avoid selling mobile computers because they feel it’s too hard to differentiate themselves. But, VAR/systems integrator/distributor TransCOR Information Technologies knows that price is almost never the determining factor a customer bases its buying decision on — if you combine the right mobile computing product with good service. According to Tom Haywood, president of TransCOR, that’s exactly how his company won a 300-vehicle rugged mobile computing installation with a multistate, Northeastern utility company.
In 2005, the Northeast utility company wanted to install a workforce automation software program for all of its field workers and equip 150 vehicles with rugged mobile computers. Since the utility company had used TransCOR for previous installs, TransCOR was brought in to bid on the mobile computing portion of the project. “After understanding the customer’s needs, we recommended the Panasonic CF-18 convertible notebook/tablet PC against two competitors’ rugged tablet PCs,” says Derek Biersteker, sales manager for TransCOR. “As an example of how the CF-18’s versatility can benefit a utility field employee, reading meters is best captured using dropdown menus on a tablet PC touch screen and entering minimal data,” says Biersteker. “When technicians have to document malfunctioning or damaged meters, however, a keyboard is more efficient than a touch screen.”
A Quick Response Seals The Mobile PC Deal
During the evaluation process, the utility company ran into a problem with its workforce automation software. The software required two serial ports on the mobile PCs, but each of the computers had only one. Biersteker recalls receiving a call at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. “We contacted Panasonic right away and sent our project team along with two Panasonic engineers to the customer’s site the following morning,” he says. “Within two days our technicians and the Panasonic engineers evaluated four possible solutions to the problem and landed on the best one, which entailed using a Gamber Johnson NP-CF18 docking station to enable two serial port connections to the convertible PC.” According to Biersteker, the competitors both claimed they could solve the problem, but they never came on-site or produced a solution. “In addition to showing our responsiveness, we showed how well we worked with our vendor,” says Biersteker. “This was further reinforced during the last leg of the evaluation phase, which entailed setting up a working demo for the customer.” TransCOR outfitted one of the utility company’s trucks with a Panasonic CF-18 convertible Toughbook and Gamber Johnson docking station, and it programmed and installed a satellite communication device and cellular modem along with the customer’s workforce automation software. “The other competitors didn’t offer a turnkey solution, so all they could do was place their tablet PC on the seat of the vehicle and do a partial install,” recalls Biersteker.
TransCOR won the initial install, which entailed outfitting 150 vehicles. More recently, the utility company hired TransCOR to outfit an additional 150 vehicles with convertible PCs and docking stations. The utility also had TransCOR program, install, and support the satellite and cellular communication devices that are part of the overall workforce automation solution. “We’ve completed installations on 300 vehicles, and there is the potential for 600 additional installations over the next two-and-a-half years,” says Biersteker. “What’s more is that some of the installations we completed back in 1999 are ready for product refreshes, which could add a couple hundred more vehicle installs with the utility operating companies in the near future.”