Wise to customise
With technology such as rugged tablets and handheld devices becoming commonplace in the hands of the mobile workforce, Rob Blowers, General Manager – Engineering and Project Management at Panasonic Computer Products Solutions Europe asks if businesses are falling short on the returns from their mobile IT investment because they fail to tailor their solutions to workers’ specific needs?
With the productivity benefits of computing now quickly migrating out of the office and widely into mobile workforces, I was surprised to read the latest research from leading analyst firm, IDC, that just 19% of business tablets are vehicle-mounted and only 23 per cent of companies have even considered vehicle-mounting their devices.
It seems such a natural thing to do. Would you give your office-based worker a computer and then not provide them with a desk to sit at to use it effectively? So why give a mobile worker a productivity transforming tool and not give them somewhere safe and secure to house and further enhance productivity when working from their office on the road?
It got me thinking that many businesses may not be squeezing the maximum benefits from equipping their workers with rugged mobile devices because they fail to consider any customisation requirements their workforces may need. And it’s not just vehicle docking solutions that can make a significant difference in those final considerations. It could be customisations for carrying and using the device, specific software for managing the security or content of the devices, as well as bespoke peripherals to most effectively work with the device.
In fact, these customisation challenges were behind Panasonic Computer Products Europe, Europe’s market leading business rugged notebook and tablet provider, setting up its own Custom Design Solutions team to meet these tailored, business requirements. Working closely with the customer, the team design, prototype, test, modify, manufacture, deploy and support new mobile solutions that are not currently available in the market. Taking this approach, Panasonic ensures that the solutions deployed match the very specific needs of the mobile worker and the success stories are already stacking up.
When one of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers wanted a new end-of-line testing solution for its flagship car production centre, it turned to Panasonic to design and build a rugged and versatile Automotive Mobile Test Solution (AMTS).
The team worked hand-in hand with the automotive manufacturer over a two-year period to design, prototype and test the device to meet their needs. It was important that the solution could be easily connected to the car whilst on the production line and also simply carried and used by the production line engineers.
The resulting Panasonic AMTS is the next generation vehicle production and testing solution for the automotive industry, based on the market-leading, fully rugged Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1 tablet, with its 7-inch capacitive multi-touchscreen display.
Fast access for fast food
When a fast food chain needed to retrospectively add a finger print reader to its Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 tablets for staff to sign-on to the device before order taking, the team designed a solution using the USB port to retrofit the device with the reader.
Never off the rack
When a European postal service provider wanted a rack mountable charging unit for up to 4 devices at once, the design team created, tested and deployed a solution in a matter of months to help win the important tender.
Equipping AA patrols
When the AA wanted to upgrade its mobile technology for its 3000 vehicle patrol, the ability for Panasonic to use its specialist team to custom design, build and crash-test a slim vehicle docking solution for the devices that could be fitted to the eight different vehicles used by the AA patrols played an essential part in the decision-making process.
The Panasonic Custom Design Solutions team built a new slim docking solution from the ground up. Designed to be mounted on the dashboard of the vehicles, it was important that the dock could be swivelled for the device to face the operator or the curb side of the vehicle. Other important requirements incorporated into the design were a pass-through antenna to improve connectivity to mobile networks and a connection for an external GPS module for maps to locate customers. Access to multiple ports on the device, such as LAN and VGA were also included.
The dock had to be designed for easy one-handed insertion of the tablet with latch and lock options and was tested to 30,000 plus insertion and removals. Standard VESA 75 mounts were used in the design to enable off-the shelf replacement parts to be used when required.
All appropriate crash safety, head impact and vibration testing was then undertaken by Panasonic to ensure the docking solution was as rugged as the Panasonic Toughpad tablets themselves.
Finally, Panasonic was also contracted by the AA to manage the installation of the docking solution in all 3,000 vehicles, over a three-month period, with a 99.8% first time success rate.
To effectively deploy and manage devices, Panasonic Toughbook engineers are also able to support customers in-country with customized solutions. These include creating specific corporate images and recovery partitions for devices, as well as different levels of BIOS programming and the customisation and implementation of Driver Integration Packs.
In addition, Panasonic has launched a range of management and security services for its AndroidTM-based rugged Toughpad tablets and handheld devices called COMPASS (Complete AndroidTM Services and Security).
Panasonic COMPASS offers businesses everything they need to deploy and manage their rugged AndroidTM tablets and handhelds securely. It is designed to give businesses the confidence to take advantage of the flexibility offered by an AndroidTM operating system with the reassurance that Panasonic’s devices are business-ready for applications, management and security. Panasonic Toughpad currently offers a range of market-leading, AndroidTM rugged tablet and handheld devices with 4.7, 5, 7, and 10.1 inch screens.
Wise to customise
In summary, the roll-out of the right technology can transform the productivity of mobile workforces in many industries but to reap the true rewards businesses must consider the specific needs of their workforce to ensure those final customizations squeeze out every last drop of productivity and return from their investment.