How To Choose A Mobile Computer For Inventory Management Software In Australia?
What is a Mobile Computer?
In the AIDC barcoding industry, a mobile computer is simply a smart device that is portable and allows for data collection in mobile-mode and away from PC. The main concept as it suggests in the name, is being mobile – ‘portability’.
Often these devices are small enough to fit on the palm of your hand or in your pocket. Such devices have been around for many years and have evolved and improved greatly. Businesses rely on them in order to carry out inventory management and stock control activities more efficiently and accurately, as a result saving time and money. Mobile Computers play a vital role in any business especially, in industries like warehousing, logistics, healthcare, government, manufacturing and more.
Below we will dig deeper, and look at how you should choose the perfect mobile computer when the time comes for your business to acquire such a need to help manage your inventory.
Why Would You Acquire a Mobile Computer?
Depending on the type of industry and business you’re in, a mobile computer can be absolutely crucial. Let’s look at a practical perspective here; let’s say you have an order to pick for a customer for 10 different items:
You have a number of ways to pick these items:
- The old fashion way; using pen and paper and walking to shelfs to pick and tick each item on the order sheet.
- The Trolley/Basket method: Collect all items, place them onto a trolly then come back to the main PC where your inventory management software (if any) is and tick each item on the software.
- The modern/efficient method: Use a mobile computer with appropriate inventory management software that allows for mobile data collection; in this example, the order, picking, scanning the items barcodes, marking as backorder, validations, labeling and manifest can all be done seamlessly and simultaneously on the one same device – the mobile computer. The entire order picking process can be done on the device without having to use a pen, paper or even going back to the PC software.
As you can see from the above, the first two methods are outdated, can be tedious, time consuming, inefficient and therefore extremely costly. You’d be surprised with the vast number of businesses out there still using these outdated methods.
It is no brainer for any business or warehouse who carries stock or has any type of tracking needs should and must use a mobile computer to help run the business seamlessly and smoothly.
8 Things To Consider When Buying A Mobile Computer
In the AIDC barcoding industry, a mobile computer is considered a ‘driver’ aka an empty piece of hardware. Without a relative inventory management software system it is not much of use. Similar to having a brand new PC, without Microsoft Word, Excel or Internet Browser, there is not much you can do on an empty PC, right?
To use a mobile computer, you need an inventory management software that can be installed and executed on it. The software is considered the brain of the entire solution, whereby it is responsible for collecting data, communicating with the database and interacting and guiding the user in the process of managing inventory, all in mobile mode. The mobile computer in this case is the hardware driver which allows for the software to run and do its thing. I hope this makes sense to you?
Now that you have your inventory management software in place, you are ready to look at taking it to the next level and incorporate a mobile computer. Below are the 8 things to keep in mind when searching:
- Type of Mobile Computer
- Operating System (OS)
- Mobile Computer Scan Engine Type
- Communication Type
- Software System (App)
- Other Features
- Mobile Computer Accessories
Type of Mobile Computer
When choosing the right mobile computer, you will need to factor in the type of environment and location the device will be used in. Is it a harsh environment? Will it be exposed to hazardous chemicals, freezing cold or extremely hot temperatures? Will it be used on forklifts? Is it going to be worn on the wrist to allow both hands to be free? Etc.
Here are some of the types of mobile computers available today:
- Handheld Terminals – With or Without Pistol Grip (Gun handle)
- Wearable – On the Wrist or Waist
- Mounted – for Forklifts and/or Vehicles
- Tablet Type – With or Without Wristband
- Smartphone – With or Without Pistol Grip (Gun handle)
Each category of mobile computer comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and accessories specific to certain environments and industries.
You can purchase rugged mobile computers for industrial or harsh environments. You can also get mobile computers specifically designed for environments where there may be a risk for explosions, intrinsically safe mobile computers for electronic sensitive settings. You also have the option for large screen tablet form factors or handheld devices to process data on the go for office type environments.
Operating System (OS)
Mobile Computer Scan Engine Type
Keep in mind, today, most scan engines are generic. Almost all the leading brands will provide similar features and perform equally as aggressive and provide similar outcomes.
- Linear Imager: AKA CCD engines, have been around for many years. Capable of scanning 1D barcodes, it emits an LED light when triggered and are great for damaged barcodes. They are widely used in retail and logistics industries.
- Laser 1D: This engine has also been around for many years, it emits a laser beam when triggered. They are suitable for 1D barcodes ranging in different densities and sizes. We have found that laser engines are also great when used to scan in direct sunlight or in poor lighting conditions. They also allow for greater distance scanning than the Linear Imager type engines.
- 2D Imager: The 2D scan engines have become very popular and almost all manufactures are using this engine as the main and only engine in their mobile computers and barcodes scanners. They can scan both 1D and 2D barcodes. The advantage of a 2D engine is that you can scan from any angle, unlike the above engines where the light needs to be directed horizontally at the barcodes when attempting to scan.
Mobile computers come with 3 main types of communication; Bluetooth, Wifi and 4G/5G. Selecting the type of communication will depending on your Inventory Management software and its communication requirements. Our Inventory Management software for instance allows for Batching and Live communication. This means that it can store the data in the mobile computer’s memory as ‘buffer’ and allows the user to upload the data when needed via TCP-IP through Wifi or 4G/5G network.
- Bluetooth: With Bluetooth, you can connect your mobile computer to label printers for instant labeling of your inventory items, connect to your modems or headsets. This communication is generic and almost every mobile computer comes with it.
- Wifi: This is widely used. It is a beneficial communication type as it uses local TCP/IP network connection which can be a lot more secure than WAN networks. Wifi is commonly used in warehousing, retail, hospitality, healthcare and manufacturing industries.
- 4G/5G: This technology uses cellular signal to transmit data at high speed. It allows for instant access to information in real time while working in mobile mode. Users have the ability to manage inventory from anywhere including areas where there is no Wifi signal, on road or out in the field.
Software System (App)
In this blog we are using an inventory management software as an example which in the case of ours, it allows for data collection using a mobile computer via batching and TCP/IP. When choosing a mobile computer, you need to check the specification recruitments by the your software, for instance; does it need Wifi or 4G/5G communication, what screen size and resolution does it need, memory and storage sizes, etc? These are all question that can be answered by your software vendor. Please talk to us for a free consultation as well.
Mobile computer manufactures outfit their devices with a variety of features and accessories in order to accommodate the vast requirements of industries and applications. Make sure you study these features when shopping around for mobile computers. Some of which include:
- Ruggedness: From tough to ultra-tough. Mobile computers nowadays can withstand drops of up to 2 meters onto concrete.
- Handling: You can select from light, medium to heavy-duty handling mobile computers.
- Form Factor and Size: Choose the right mobile computer size to fit the purpose, are the users females or males? Should the devices be light and small or bulky?
- Display: Some mobile computers come with keypads and some are just screens like smartphones. Does your application need buttons? We have seen applications like stocktaking that prefer mobile computers with keypads in order to enter quantities swiftly while stocktaking.
- Temperature: Where will the mobile computer be used? Outside in the sun, near ovens or inside coolrooms? There is a vast variety of mobile computers that can withstand different environmental temperatures.
- Customizability: Most mobile computers are fairly customizable, for instant; a mobile computer with keyads allows you to program its buttons to perform specific functions suitable for your application.
- Handles: Pistol Grip Gun Handle makes the device feel and look like a gun which allows for a more comfortable handling especially for the longer shifts. You can generally choose to purchase a mobile computer with or without a gun handle.
- Memory and Storage: This again depends on the inventory management software you are using. Check its mobile computer specification requirements. Most mobile computers have a minimum of 2GB of RAM and 32GM of storage.
Mobile Computer Accessories
As there are a multitude of features, there are also numerous amounts of accessory options available to facilitate for efficient processing. Some of which include:
- Pistol Grip Gun Handles
- Gun Handle with RFID
- Single Slot Cradles (Docking stations)
- Multi-Bay Chargers
- Vehicle Mounts and Chargers
- Cigar Car Charger
- Protective Cases
- Hand Straps
- Belt Holsters
Most mobile computers include standard accessories such as; Hand Strap, Power Adapter, Country plug, USB Charging and Communications Cable, Battery, and LCD Protection Film for that added durability.
Like any purchase, you need to consider your budget. Depending on required specifications; mobile computers can range from $700 AUD to $3000 AUD. The median price for an allrounder mobile computer is approximately $1000 AUD, such a device would be very rugged and suit most applications and environments. Reach out to us for a free consultation via this link: https://www.scopelink.com.au/contact-us/it