Mailroom Mobile Computers

Mobile Computers

We spend a lot of time selecting the best mobile computers for use in the Mailroom to track inbound mail and parcels.

It is so easy to just assume that any device will do, so lets just get the cheapest. If it really was that simple, we would just say – buy a £50 device from eBay or Amazon and read the barcodes with the inbuilt camera. It would make our solution more appealing as overall it would be cheaper and give our solution a competitive advantage.

The harsh reality is that the users scan hundreds of items each day and anything that slows them down just a bit is very expensive to you. Lets take the way you read barcodes, which you will do a lot of:

  • Smartphone / PDA
    • Uses a Camera
      • Slower than a dedicated barcode reader
      • Not as User Friendly
      • No Aiming Markers
      • Can Struggle in Low Light
      • Can Struggle in Bright Light

  • Industrial Mobile Computer
    • Uses a Dedicated Barcode Reader
      • Reads Barcodes Very Quickly
      • User Friendly
      • Aiming Patterns
      • Copes well in low light
      • Copes well in bright light

Massive Time Savings

 It is often extraordinary to us that nobody realises the time saving of things such as a dedicated barcode scanner over a Smartphone Camera that might take several attempts before the barcode is read. Lets us look at what saving 3 seconds means:

  • 3 Seconds per Scan

  • Likely a Scan onto Mail Trolley, then a Scan on delivery – so 2 scans per item delivered

  • If you deliver 200 items per day, that is 200 x 2 x 3 seconds saved = 1200 seconds

  • Over a week = 6000 seconds which is 100 minutes

  • Over a year = 5200 minutes which is 86 hours

  • Over a 5 year period that is 430 hours / 57 days (7.5 hours per day used) or 11.5 weeks

The point is that when you are doing the same small thing, but hundreds of times a day, just a small average saving equates to a very large amount of time saved over the coarse of a mobile computers lifetime.

When you are delivering hundreds of items of mail every day, you don’t want to be held up by things such as barcodes not reading very easily.

Other Considerations

We have focused so far, just on the barcode scanner, but this is just one of the considerations. There are in fact several more:

  • Drop Test – How often do you put your Smartphone down or pass it to another person in a day? In a Mailroom you are often moving 100 to 200+ items a day, so the mobile computer will get dropped frequently, so you can either go for the “just get another one if it breaks” approach or the “I need a unit that stands up t being dropped” approach.

    Sales staff often like the “just buy a replacement it is a quarter of the price of the rugged unit”, but that may not be as it seems:

    • If you drop a non rugged once a month and if it breaks after 4 drops (4 months) that equates to 3 Replacements per Year or 15 Replacements over 5 years!

      I suggest you put your own figures in and look at what the costs come out as.

      Rugged units break sometimes, but if we saw a rugged unit break twice over 5 years, we would be surprised.

      The drop test on the Honeywell CN51 is 26 drops in a row, from 1.8 meters to concrete, over all angles

    • What is the cost in terms of time to buy in the replacement, get IT to set it up, move the software license over?

  • Battery Life and Hot Swap Batteries

    My Smartphone gives me a days work, just about. But I am not scanning barcodes and obtaining signatures all day – in which case I would struggle to get 8 hours out of it.

    Furthermore the battery is not replaceable.

    In a Mailroom, things just have to get delivered – so it is not really ideal to use a Smartphone that won’t give you a full shift and won’t allow you to swap to a fully charged battery!

    The Honeywell CN51 provides a full shift on one charge and allows you to swap batteries on the fly. Some of their cradles provide a spare battery charging area and you can purchase quad bay spare battery chargers.

  • Docking Cradles

    Consideration needs to be made with regards to space and power sockets for charging the units overnight. Our experience is that space is at a premium in a mailroom. So we look for cradle options:
    • Single Cradle
    • 4 Bay Cradle
    • Ability to Daisy Chain Cradles together

Industrial Mobile Computers

Mobile Computers with Desk Cradles

We tend to recommend Industrial Mobile Computers as they are designed for the job.

Honeywell / Intermec CN51

  • Drop Test – 26 drops, 1.8 meters to concrete
  • IP54 Sealed (wind blown dust and rain)
  • Integrated Dedicated Barcode Reader
  • Integrated Colour Camera
  • Wireless LAN