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When acquiring mobile handheld device technology, the price is not the most important decision factor. Purchase managers will want to evaluate the costs associated with durability, reliability, ease of use/training, as well as ongoing maintenance over the entire asset lifecycle for each handheld device. Together these factors help make up the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). The TCO for some products can be 3-10 times the original price making it very important to ask the right questions during the planning stage.

TCO Influences for Handheld Devices

The top influences for determining the TCO include:

  • Durability. Durability covers the likelihood that an item will break as a result of motion, too many moving parts, temperature extreme and quality of design for the task at hand. Each time an item breaks there are costs associated to replace as well as downtime. Purchasing managers should look at external casings, design and susceptibility to changing thermal conditions.
  • Reliability. Reliability issues include battery life, software stability, how often is technical support needed and at what costs. Examples include the amount of downtime due to battery recharging, bugs in the software and technical support issues.
  • Ease of Use/training. Often an underestimated expense, it is important to understand what type and how much training is required to operate the device.
  • Technology platform. There are two major components to evaluating the technology platform. The first is making the proper efficiencies are being provided by the technology. This may include a touch screen or ease of mobility. The second component is making sure the operating platform is in series and not going to be obsolete with replacement or new devices. Equipment should be easy to track and maintain and not worry about which device has which features or operating system.

Consumer versus Commercial Products

To get a better idea of how TCO should influence purchasing decisions let us take a look at the TCO for operating handheld devices versus competitive offerings in the cable industry.Example 1 – Cable Industry, MC9090 versus tethered scanners. Primary goals are to scan CPE inventory, asset tracking, perform serialized reconciliations.

Price Range Durability Reliability Ease of Use Technology Platform – mobility Technology Platform – stability
MC9090 $1500 – $5000 great great great unlimited stable
Tethered Scanners $150 – $ 2500 fair-good good good limited stable

The key to successful integration of handheld technologies is to understand how the devices will be used over the entire lifecycle of the product. Commercial products such as the Motorola line are designed to be very durable but also to work with specific application software. Consumer products although cheaper on the initial buy have less flexibility with regard to true mobility (tethered products), battery life, memory capacity and stability. In addition, consumer products will more likely have to be replaced more often as either a result of failure or changing series. For example, the MC9090 has been used for over a decade and can be supported almost indefinitely.

Mintek strongly recommends the MC9090 for its proven longevity and durable within the cable warehouse industry. Share with us your thoughts on using handheld devices.