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7 Questions to Ask Before Buying Devices for Your Shop Floor

Written By: Michelle Farley, Lead UI / UX Designer, on Mar 28, 2018

Thinking about upgrading to a mobile maintenance solution? First, you need to consider all your options for the implementation of devices. This hardware is likely new to your organization, so how do you choose what will work best in your environment? Be sure to ask yourself each of these questions before you take the leap:

If your technicians are more comfortable using a certain operating system, they will be more comfortable using that device. The common OS wars come into play here as different people prefer different devices. For a technician that is used to using an iPhone and has to then pick up an Android device, it’s like walking into a dark room and not knowing where to find the light switch. If you have to learn a new operating system, it’s going to take some time to get comfortable with how it works. Don’t expect every technician will be able to pick up a device you choose and it works for them.

You certainly want to make sure you have an understanding of the limitations of the technical knowledge some of your technicians might have. Some will be able to use any type of device you give them and it will be intuitive for them. Other technicians are going to struggle. Be aware of what they are comfortable with to make the best decision for their productivity.

In your facility having a secure (password-enabled) high-speed WiFi available to your technicians to connect their devices is going to give them the best experience. You also want to make sure you have a very strong connection where the technicians will be working most of the time. You might want to consider the security limitations that certain operating systems will give you when connecting to networks.

If you have technicians that work offsite or have to travel out of your facility (and where your network lives), then they will likely need a device with a phone plan that includes data coverage so their work does not get interrupted when using the application offsite.

Again, it all depends on the user. In our usability testing, we have found technicians are more successful with a larger screen size. Tablets have room for lots of information on the screen. The screen real-estate on the tablet is easier to navigate with those larger fingers covered in oil. That being said, if your technicians are moving around and leaving the bay often and going outside, carrying a phone that they can stash in their pocket might be something to consider rather than a larger tablet.

We know the environment that your technicians is not exactly an “iPhone without the case” kind-of-place. There is heavy equipment, greasy hands, and technicians are working busily. They don’t want to be concerned with being careful with the device you provide them, they want to get their work done. There are lots of hard cases out there to consider that can withstand dropping your device, water, even getting run over by one of your vehicles!

It is possible that you already have company phone plans provided for your technicians, if this is the case then you are one step closer to a quick implementation. You will want to review the devices that your technicians currently have on those plans to make sure they meet the requirements of your fleet management or EAM software. For example,  you may need to take into consideration the device's age, operating system, and the types of browsers it runs. Making sure they are set up with the right software and hardware will be important because nobody likes working on a laggy device.

There is no hard and fast answer for which devices to choose. In the end, you need to talk it over with your team and understand the use cases for certain devices. You need to understand their limitations with technology and what they feel comfortable with.These are some questions to consider when moving forward with choosing your hardware.

Always check in with your software provider, they will likely be able to recommend devices that meet the specifications of the software. They also have a sense of the pros and cons of common devices in use by other organizations.

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Michelle Farley, Lead UI / UX Designer

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