Do you have a Digital Toolbox?
Mobile computing devices are the new digital toolbox for many engineers
The days of lugging around a large bag or box of tools from one site to another is over for many engineers. Move over old toolbox, the new Digital Toolbox is becoming a familiar device for many manufacturing and transport engineers. As the capability and design of the latest rugged mobile computing notebooks and tablets continues to evolve, engineers are increasingly relying on one flexible and multi-purpose device as their “go to” tool for machine diagnostics and it’s easy to understand why.
As automation continues a pace and the Internet of Things becomes a reality, many of our essential systems rely on software to perform at their optimum. As a result, the mobile computing devices that engineers carry need to be increasingly sophisticated and adaptable to cope with the many requirements for diagnostics, maintenance and repairs.
So what attributes does the latest generation of rugged devices need to make them the ideal digital toolbox in these environments? Here are five key considerations for buyers when making decisions about their next devices.
A flexible device
To be able to change the device’s specifications on the fly is an incredibly useful tool for many engineers. For example, being able to level-up the graphics capability of the device, whilst in the field, with just a simple switch. The latest TOUGHBOOK device from Panasonic does just that. For the first time, users are able to customise their device for different tasks while in the field. As well as boosting graphics capabilities, users can add a smartcard reader, additional storage or a DVD or Blu-Ray drive with a simple switch, fit and click of the new functionality in the device’s Universal Bay. In addition, a front expansion slot can be used to quickly integrate a fingerprint reader, RFID or regular smart card reader or for the addition of a second battery.
This type of flexibility is a game-changer for the engineer, enabling wider use of the device and the ability to repurpose a device for a different type of worker as requirements change.
High performance is essential for tasks such as running the latest diagnostics or viewing CAD designs. So, specifying a device with a powerful Intel i7 CPU and dedicated GPU plus upgradable storage is important to ensure your digital toolbox can cope with the demands of today and into the future.
You will need a device that can work alongside the engineer for a full shift, so ensure you ask manufacturers about levels of failure rates and battery life. The latest devices should be able to offer up to 40 hours battery life in a work environment with hot swappable capabilities.
Wide range of interfaces
With a mixture of legacy and new systems in most business operations, its essential that your mobile computing device has the ability to connect to all the systems you need. Panasonic offers a wide variety of interfaces including legacy system ports on all its devices and buyers can often customise additional ports at purchase.
An all-in-one kit
A device alone will not deliver. Make sure your provider can deliver the cables, adapters and peripherals you need for your workforce in your specialist working environment.
So, where are these digital toolboxes being deployed? In my area of transport and manufacturing, I am already seeing these types of rugged device delivering results in a variety of business environments.
One of the UK’s largest train maintenance companies has moved away from a pool of diagnostic laptops to a standardised, personal issue mobile computing device to meet its modern business needs. Using the digital toolbox, the team use their own personal device to:
- Connect to train systems for diagnosis and software upgrades.
- Provide online access to its Management Maintenance System for work order management and real-time parts exchange tracking at depots and outstations.
- Provide access to Vehicle Maintenance Instructions (VMI) and the electronic schematics of trains.
- Give workers access to corporate applications, including email and the Employee Service Portal, as well as a device to use for health and safety applications.
Similar Panasonic devices are being used at Digital Toolboxes for diagnostics, maintenance and repairs in shipping ports, automotive manufacturing and logistics business across Europe. Is it time you looked at the benefits of a modern digital toolbox for your workforce?
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