In the past ten years, smartphones have become ubiquitous, finding their way into just about everyone’s pocket; throw in work phones and people quickly start juggling multiple devices at once. Given the quick spread of smartphones and their usefulness for on-the-floor communication, many in warehouse management have been pushing for the industry to rely on them more and more for barcode scanning and inventory. However, given the tough environment of the warehouse, the move to smartphones isn’t in the best interest of a company’s bottom line. The equipment you use should be tailored to the environment on your warehouse floor or else you could find yourself facing high replacement costs.

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The advantages of smartphones

One of the major advantages of relying on smartphones and tablets is that they’re easier to integrate into other aspects of your business, whereas mobile computers can easily become silos of information. Commercial smartphones can also be significantly cheaper than ruggedized handheld devices, although the costs of using smartphones can quickly get out of hand if you find yourself constantly replacing them. Of course, there are also obvious advantages in terms of display and a light touch, multi-touch capacitive touch screen. Depending on a warehouse’s needs, however, these are all features that can become pain-points for workers.

The advantages of mobile computers

Ruggedized mobile computers have been the standard in warehouses for years for a good reason – they’re built to withstand the tough demands put on them by the environment. Part of the reason for their durability is that touchscreen technology in mobile computing is made to withstand contaminants like dust and impact. Workers drop devices, misplace styluses, and use impromptu substitutes that would damage more fragile screens; they have a job to do and you want them to be able to do it as quickly as possible. To get a sense of what the toughest touchscreens on the market can handle, it helps to look at the technology made by manufacturer A D Metro. Their ULTRA resistive touchscreens, incorporated into mobile computing devices for commercial and industrial applications, are waterproof, function without disruption in the presence of contaminants, are flame resistant, and come with EMI immunity. They also operate in a large temperature range, making them suitable for refrigerated warehouses or outdoor use in cold climates.

One of the key factors in handheld computing devices is price, and while the ULTRA resistive touchscreen can handle just about everything, A D Metro also makes a line of Projected Capacitive touchscreens including water resistant versions as well as standard resistive touchscreens that are lower cost and economical, but still tough enough for warehouse use.

Your options for inventory control equipment are defined by the environments on your floor, and while smartphones and tablets can seem like a more affordable solution that’s easier to integrate with the rest of your business, if they can’t withstand the environment, they’re only going to cause headaches and higher costs. You can’t keep costs down if you’re constantly replacing your inventory management device, so consider warehouse conditions before making your purchase.

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