Today, Motion announced the latest edition to their lineup of tablet PCs, the F5. This semi-rugged tablet is designed to meet the needs of workers who are in the field doing true mobile computing. My company has been increasingly focused on designing solutions for folks in the construction, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and related businesses so Ii think that it is a good time for this kind of device. While a tablet PC and related software is still a significant investment, the F5 provides a much better value than a Panasonic Toughbook or Itronix DuoTouch. Those are great tablets, but are bulkier, heavier, more expensive and use older technology.
So can a business owner justify the cost of a semi-rugged tablet PC, forms software, maintenance and training? Let's see:
Cost of a F5: $3,400 (includes Sprint broadband, car charger and bump case)
Sprint service: $40/month
Active Ink software client: $129
Forms design/implementation/training: $4,000
If a business with 5 technicians were to buy 5 tablet bundles ($3,400 x 5 = $17,000) and pay for Sprint broadband ($40/month for 36 months x 5 techs = $7,200) and Active Ink software licenses (5 x $129 = $645) along with the forms, implementation of the solution and on-site training the total investment over three years would be $28,445. Under a lease, the monthly cost per techncian is only $180.
The question is whether a business can recoup an investment of $180/month. With a solution like this, an owner would get many advantages:
1. True paperless environment - Using an electronic forms system to complete paperwork saves time and increases accuracy. With the manager or dispatcher filling out the top of a work order and emailing it to the tech, the office could make sure the customer info is accurate and reduce the amount of form filling the tech needs to do.
2. Mapping - When the tech receives the email with the work order, it is automatically linked to Google maps to guide him to the client's address with no lost time.
3. Signature capture - By having the client sign the work order, the business has verification that the tech completed the work and that the customer has agreed to pay.
4. By completing the balance of the paperwork at the customer's site using a form with checkboxes, dropdowns and a space for the client to sign, techs will easily complete the work order and immediately email it back to the office for review.
5. With the completed form back at the office just minutes after the service is complete, the manager can review the work order for completeness and then automatically create an invoice in their accounting software. There is no manually entry and the invoice can be sent to the client the same day.
This appears to be quite a fair investment per month considering the savings in time, the increase in accuracy, and the ability to bill the customer immediately after the work is completed. Let me know what you think.