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There is no question that EAM systems are more effective with handheld devices, the challenge is to make sure that the proper mobility device is purchased. The decision process is not as straightforward as surfing the net for the best price. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) can range from 3 – 10 times the original price as a result of issues with durability, reliability, ease of use and ongoing maintenance costs. Consequently, facility management needs to consider these factors before purchasing handheld devices.

The Top 4 TCO Considerations Include:

  • Durability. The term durability refers to the likelihood that an handheld device will break or cease to function as a result of impact (dropping, or collisions etc.), water resistance, vibrations or temperature extremes. Each time a handheld breaks there are costs associated to replace the unit as well as downtime if no replacement is handy.
  • Reliability. Battery life, network connectivity, software stability, and how often technical support needed and at what costs. Good examples include the amount of downtime due to battery recharging, memory, bugs in the software and technical support issues dedicated to the device/application. How many vendors must be called to address lock-up issues is another example.
  • Ease of Use/training. One of the most underestimated expenses, it is important to understand what type and how much training is required to operate the device to achieve the functionality needed. Other considerations include, the amount of turnover, cost of retraining as well as training that needs to be redone every time the platform (operating system or model) changes.
  • Technology platform. The two major components the technology platform are mobility and stability. Mobility refers to the efficiencies expected as a result of using handheld devices. This includes productivity gains as well as completion of maintenance tasks such as work orders and inspections. The second component, stability, should be evaluated to ensure that the devices do not become obsolete after a short period of time as a result operating system changes or lack of serialization. There can be substantial costs involved with trying to keep Best of Breed EAM software operating across various models or operating systems.

MC55 versus BlackBerry

To get a better idea of how TCO should influence purchasing decisions let us take a look at the TCO for using handheld devices for Enterprise Asset Management systems. For this example, we have compared the TCO for the Mintek recommended MC55 by Motorola versus the BlackBerry line.

Example – for EAM systems MC55 versus BlackBerry handheld devices. Primary goals are to enhance productivity and efficiency of maintenance management crews.


Price Range Durability Reliability Ease of Use Technology Platform – mobility Technology Platform – stability
MC55 $1000-$2000 great great good – touch screens unlimited, can also be used as cell and scanner stable – windows 5
Blackberry $100 – $650 easily damaged low battery life fair limited memory and scanning capabilities weak – constantly changing model availability

There is a significant difference in the quality of commercial handheld devices and consumer products. Most notably is the durability and reliability of handheld devices. Saving cash up front doesn’t make sense if you are going to need to replace the devices every time they drop or get banged up (which is common in industry). Just as important is the continuity of handheld devices which breeds familiarity and increase adoption rates. One of the worst case scenario for maintenance management is to have implemented a beautiful well thought out system and then be given toys to make it work. Tell us your experiences with handheld devices.

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