A common question I have found especially during mobility deployment project is how support of the mobile devices will be managed and especially how to link up the device provider and its external support framework with an expected rate of device turnover from software failure, broken hardware or shelling. This in turn lead to extensive discussions on guaranteed SLAs for device repair or replacement by the provider and what levels of spare devices should be held and especially by whom - the provider or the customer organization. Finally this whole story is written down within a mobile device support model, including a view of the customer and provider responsibilities and of course one or several contracts detailing out the finances and items like guaranteed time windows when a particular version of a device must be available for shipment.
All of this tends to end up quite costly for the end customer organization and examples where stock levels of spare devices up 25% are not unreasonable if the geography the customer operates and availability of provider distribution/repair centers are far between.
So let's go back to the core driver for these costs. How come the devices break so often? Well the best way to experience this first hand is to take a day out of your hectic schedule and follow one of the field service guys, sales reps, delivery drivers or whatever mobile productivity your company happens to be interested in investing in. What you will find is that these devices are truly battered quite badly during an average day. Personally I've seen the chucked in through car door, dropped on concrete floors or in piles of snow or just in general taken very poorly care of. Also you should remember that most of these operators used to have ruggedized devices with no personal value to the individual, however here we have a key trend which have just changed radically which can be exploited to reduce the turnover. More on this further down.
But what about those sturdy ruggedized devices with IP65 grading and other similar casing? All previous generations of mobile devices used by the corporations, in the field or in situations where mobility was essential, were purpose built for their specific use cases. I'm sure you are all more than familiar with Intermec, Bluebird and other similar brands. These specialized devices had to prove through hard facts that they were suitable for the situations and tasks at hand and were typically more resistant to tough handling. However the new generation of mobile devices now entering industrial use, are not purpose built, they are consumer grade devices and may lack some of the sturdiness, but in exchange they are attractive to the very users operating them. Something that in my opinion can be turned into some thing even more valuable and resilient.
The approach I'm hinting at was first brought to my attention at talks with a fruit corporation... sorry, device manufacturer. The concept is to use the inherit attractiveness and perceived value of the device and combining this with personal responsibility and ownership. To be very clear, at the time the devices are handed out, an agreement is reached with the operator that after for example 3 years in operation, the device is their personal property and written off as an asset. The timeline must be set appropriately so that there is still a perceived residual value in the device at the time of decommissioning while still having served it's purpose for the enterprise. Of course if the device nevertheless needs replacing the timeline will be reset.
This technique deployed successfully will drastically reduce the turnover rates of devices which can be immediately translated to further productivity in terms of lower spare stock levels, preferable support contracts and avoided operational downtime.
The topic of protective casing I've deliberately not touched above. Basically they help but do not drastically change this fundamental issue in device turnover and would need to be studied of they really create monetary productivity.