Ways to Manage Hardware for Mobile Solutions

With the increasing receptivity and adoption of Transport Management Software (TMS) globally, questions like “How to best implement a TMS?” and “How do I choose a TMS that best meets my needs?” are gaining more attention as a result as well. Certainly, a positive sign of growth and technological advancement for the logistics and transportation industry, adoption of a TMS would also result in a period of changes in the work dynamics between the company and drivers. Most TMS comes with a TMS mobile app for drivers to improve the flow of information and communications. Thus one of the most fundamental questions that would arise is whether to let the drivers use their own phone or to use a company phone and this is what we would be exploring in this article.

Option A: Let Drivers Use Their Own Devices

This option involves having the drivers download the mobile app directly into their personal phones, without the need to purchase additional hardware or mobile plans for the drivers to utilize the company’s newly bought TMS. This means that less time is needed for the implementation of the mobile app usage amongst the drivers. Considering that the drivers are using the mobile app on the devices that they are already familiar with, the learning curve that comes with the new mobile app may be less steep as well. Drivers are also more likely to take care of their own phones, compared to a company phone. This possibly helps to reduce the costs to obtain replacement devices for the drivers and potential impact on efficiency in the downtime, in times of a faulty device.

However, there are some downsides to this option. For example, the new mobile solution would take up data and there would be a need for the company to reimburse drivers for the data usage. While one can ask the vendor for an estimation of the amount of data needed to run the mobile app, an issue arises when there are conflicting reports of data usage. Thus, the company would have to consider and determine what would be a suitable reimbursement protocol, in case of such situations.

Also, due to the inconsistency of the phone models that drivers have, each with possibly different operating systems and versions, compatibility issues with the software/mobile app may be a problem. There may be a need for the company to fund or subsidise the purchase of a compatible device for the driver.  Such situations can be minimised by choosing a TMS that is easily compatible with Android operating systems since there are more drivers who use an Android rather than an iOS phones.  It would be best if the mobile app that complements the TMS can be easily downloaded from the Android app stores, this is so that drivers can easily download the app or any version updates to enjoy the full functionalities of the app.

Option B: Company Provides Drivers with the Needed Devices

This option involves the company providing devices and SIM card plans to all drivers for the mobile app. In the initial setup phase, the company has to choose the right devices to use, suitable SIM card plans and setting up the mobile apps in the devices in preparation for drivers’ immediate usage. Apart from the setup phase that requires more time and effort from the company, there is relatively more administrative ease that proceeds with the consistency of phone models and ownership of devices. Replacement or fixing of faulty devices can, as a result, be highly efficient, minimizing the impact on the drivers’ workflow and productivity. Additionally, the company can bundle more work apps on their dedicated work devices for drivers, such as a Warehouse scanning app and a TMS mobile app, just to name a few to further increase drivers’ productivity.

When choosing suitable devices, it would be advisable for companies to buy hardy phones (preferably ruggedized Android phones) for hard use and to withstand the rough nature of the work of the drivers, as they are less likely to take care of it. Drivers have to move up and down trucks or forklifts frequently, sometimes while carrying boxes/goods, the phone would be subjected to rough handling often, thus more hardy phones would be more suitable. Companies can also consider installing a Mobile Device Management (MDM) app on their devices to track mobile phone locations, battery levels, data usage patterns and consumption. This is a capability that would be unavailable with personal phones. The MDM app will allow the company to control the accessibility of features and functionality of the phone, such as allowing only work-related apps to function i.e. no Facebook or YouTube. Being able to monitor how the data is used on the devices with MDM means that data consumption/usage can be optimized.

An example would be the Smart Walkie device, a ruggedized Android phone complete with data-based Push-To-Talk (PTT Walkie Talkie) functionality and MDM. In this case, the device also helps to streamline communications through the Walkie Talkie functionality. Walkie Talkie function that relies on data, eliminates the need for back and forth calling between operators and drivers which often leads to a hefty phone bill at the end of each month.

The disadvantages that come with having to purchase the hardware include the higher upfront costs and longer implementation time needed.  The company would need to incur a recurring cost of the apps & SIM card bills. From the selection of devices to getting the drivers familiarised with the new devices, the process would require the company to play a more active role in getting the processes up and running.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Option A is easier to start off and is less demanding on the company financially whereas Option B gives the company more control over the spending and usage of the hardware by the drivers. Important factors to consider include the amount of autonomy and trust that companies would like to give to the drivers, impact of hardware implementation on productivity via either option or specific hardware requirements to support the TMS mobile app selected. At the end of the day, with the drivers being the end users, the option chosen should seek to minimize the inertia for adoption and ease the transition to using the TMS mobile app for the drivers. Only when the drivers are comfortable with the devices and feel that they are well taken care of by the company, can the company benefit the most from the implementation of the TMS mobile app.