Posted on 31st July 2017
by Jim Lodwick
Why it pays to go rugged. Investigating the total cost of ownership for hand-held devices

Look at every section of the supply chain, and the reliance on mobile devices is clear. From scanning and picking in the warehouse to customer sign-off of a delivery during the ‘final mile’, there is no doubt that these hand-held tools have transformed the way we operate.

The key role that they play makes it essential that they are up to the task that is – quite literally – in hand. Hardware failure may sound extreme and uncommon but it is more of a reality than one might expect. If it occurs, process uptime is reduced and productivity can be, on average, almost halved.

The array of consumer devices available with pricing that appears competitive but does not factor in total cost of ownership, means that these are often deployed for fieldwork – and this is part of the issue. Basic measures such as adding screen protectors can be put in place to make them rugged. But while these may appear a good solution on the surface, close inspection reveals it is likely to be a false economy.

Consumer device limitations
Screens on consumer devices are not toughened in the same way as rugged devices built for the purpose, so they are often not up to the rigours of heavy use of onscreen keyboards and sign-on glass routines. Neither are they optimised for outdoor use, making them difficult to see in bright conditions. This lack of compatibility and resulting visibility issues has knock-on effects on workflow, culminating in unnecessary administration as users often have to resort to paper-based methods.

Similarly batteries in consumer devices are not built for the supply chain world. They often need recharging before a shift is finished and, while they are out of action, it is necessary to revert to a manual back-up process, which can be overly time-consuming and affect the customer experience.

Hardware failure results in process inoperability, preventing required activities from being undertaken on devices. For example, it may become impossible to complete a delivery because the screen has frozen or the device has locked due to a software update, or just general over use.

But whatever the reason for the hardware failure, because consumer devices are not designed for use in industrial business environments, they are usually not covered by the insurance or warranties that enable faulty equipment to be quickly repaired or replaced. The result is a significant impact on both organisational cost and operations as devices are taken out of service for long periods of time, while teams continue to work without the optimum number of tools.

False economy
35-40% of consumer devices are replaced within two years of purchase, 80% and more after three years; the corresponding figures for their rugged counterparts, which last upwards of five years, are 8% and 20% respectively.

The overall result? Field staff are 18% more productive with rugged devices.

So while a consumer device may seem more appealing at the outset, taking the long-term view presents an altogether different picture. Total cost of ownership reveals that a rugged device can be upwards of 40% more cost effective than a consumer one. This is due to its focused design and enterprise support (which sees faulty devices quickly replaced through hardware repair plans, software provided with relevant levels of support and maintenance should there be an issue, and platforms tested extensively to ensure they are robust enough for field use to maximise uptime and reduce inefficiency). While it can be difficult to track specific costs, the following is worth bearing in mind:

• 14% - the average annual failure rate of a consumer device
• 75 minutes – the average amount of time lost each time a consumer device fails
• 65 minutes – the amount of IT support time required for each device failure
• 45% - device replacement rate due to hardware failure
• 40% - the proportion of times that hardware failure is not covered by warranty

Additional benefits with MDM
In addition, Mobile Device Management (MDM) software for rugged devices reduces the potential for device downtime. The tools can be deployed to remotely control devices while out in the field, for example controlling when they get updates and managing how they are being used so that the risk of them failing is minimised. The visibility also allows for activity including the helpdesk operating a device remotely, while tracking features improve the safety of workers. In addition, if devices are lost or stolen, data can be cleared remotely and devices locked to prevent usage.

Are you looking for your next handheld solution? Talk to Rocket to help you select the mobile devices that will deliver a long term return on investment.


• Consumer devices can seem appealing because of the initial cost difference, but they are not designed for the industrial use required by the supply chain
• Hardware failure, often as a result of using consumer devices, is a major cause of lost productivity
• Rugged devices are designed for purpose and are therefore robust enough for the harsh environment of the supply chain.
• Rugged devices can last upwards of five years, thereby justifying the initial outlay.

Note: all statistics are provided by one of our handset partners, using data sourced from its direct market experience.