Guest Column | February 10, 2014

Advantages Of Rugged Devices For The Manufacturing Workplace

By Randy Helm, Director of Product Management, Motorola Solutions

Manufacturing organizations globally are in the midst of a massive transformation. Shifts in global markets and key technological advances within manufacturing organizations are introducing a new phase of innovation, growth, and opportunity. Manufacturers are leveraging advances in mobile technologies to improve operational efficiencies and to create competitive differentiation. 

The drive for improved operational efficiencies has increased the level of investment in mobile communication technologies within manufacturing segments, and key decision makers are faced with multiple technical options in the fast-paced mobile landscape. Whether it is the mobile operating system (OS), form factor, level of ruggedness, or application ecosystem, the options are limitless. In addition, the influx of consumer devices and platforms has introduced additional confusion into manufacturing organizations.

The appeal of consumer devices for manufacturing workflows is real, with benefits of low adoption cost and intuitive user experience and interface. On the manufacturing floor, however, a worker’s communication device needs to be able to withstand the rigors of daily operations and use — from being dropped on the floor to dealing with loud background noise to having a simple interface to manage complex work environments.

While it may be tempting to leverage a consumer device for the manufacturing workforce, here are three key factors manufacturers must consider when deciding between rugged or consumer devices for their workers:

  • Durability within extreme work environments
  • Superior Audio  leveraging noise cancellation in loud environments
  • Enhanced Usability for workers wearing gloves

The Economic Proof

A recent study by VDC Research Group validates the value of choosing an enterprise-class device over a consumer device. According to the VDC study, consumer devices are three times more likely to fail in the first year. The average first-year failure rate for rugged devices is 7 percent, compared to 23 percent for consumer devices — and consumer device failure rates in excess of 50 percent are not uncommon.

The cause of 77 percent of those failures was a dropped device, which resulted most commonly in a cracked display. The cost of all those failures is high — not only does the device require repair or replacement, but every failure can result in 180 to 260 minutes in lost mobile worker productivity and additional internal support. The cost of just one or two instances of device failure can easily justify the additional cost of a rugged device.

While at first glance, it may appear that lower cost, consumer grade mobile devices and BYOD programs are the most cost effective and most successful for manufacturing mobility solution, the facts show that rugged enterprise communication devices deliver the best value. Over the lifetime of the device, it costs much less and is better able to meet harsh manufacturing requirements.

For information on Motorola’s two-way radio communication solutions, including the new XPR 7000 series, visit this link. Also see news on