A warehouse worker carries a Zebra mobile printer on his shoulder while moving boxes
By Jim Bajzath | June 13, 2024

Do You Have the Right Type of Protection Plan for Your Business’ Mobile Devices, Scanners and Printers? (I Only Ask Because Most Organizations Don’t.)

The thinking used to be that a warranty plan was enough. Here’s why that thinking has proven to be flawed.

Every time you buy a mobile device, or really any electronic device these days, you're probably asked if you want the one, two, or three-year protection plan depending on what the manufacturer or reseller offers. But what are those types of plans really protecting you against?

Are they protecting your device from incurring damage or downtime in the first place? Are they protecting you from over- or understocking devices across your business – or stocking the wrong types of devices at different business locations? And do they help you see when a device isn’t working as well as it should or isn’t being used as expected?

Or would you consider your protection plan more of a break-fix type warranty that just protects you from paying full price for service or support if your device ever needs to be repaired or replaced?

Most likely, that plan you commonly purchase is a repair and replacement plan – or a warranty protection plan. The problem is that this type of service plan doesn’t help prevent an issue from occurring in the first place. Now, don't get me wrong…you absolutely need to ensure you’ll be able to receive on-call support and service when accidents or device failures happen. So, I recommend that you sign up for this type of warranty service plan for every mobile computer, printer, or scanner you use for business purposes. This type of service plan helps minimize device downtime that could hinder your ability to get products to market on time and meet service-level agreements with your customers.

However, if the only protection plan you have is a warranty-type plan, you’re not necessarily protecting your business from the type of incidents that can hit your bottom line the hardest. Prevention is the best type of protection, yet you can’t prevent what you can’t predict.

So, in addition to a warranty service, you also need to sign up for an analytics service that enables you to see how well your current devices are working, how much they’re being used, where they’re being used, and where you might need more or different devices right now.

Now, it doesn’t matter if the device health/location/utilization data is set up to flow to your in-house team for monitoring and action or to your managed services vendor, you need to just ensure the data is flowing to someone who will pay attention to it and use it to help you proactively manage your device fleet. I’m not just talking about routine maintenance, either. Let me explain.

Why the Best Protection for Your Device Investment is Having Operational Foresight

Think about why you use technology – why you spend money on mobile computers, printers, scanners, and the software and accessories that go along with those devices. You do it because, without that technology, you wouldn’t be able to give customers the product(s), information, and support they want (at least not as fast as they want). So, as the pressure increases to serve more customers in less time and with perfect accuracy, the pressure simultaneously increases to keep that technology working perfectly.

If your frontline workers don’t have the right technology tools available to work efficiently, there will be consequences for your business. And there are a lot of reasons why these tech tools might not be available:

  • You might not have the right quantities or models of devices stocked at the right locations to support workers or certain workflows.
  • Devices might go missing frequently, and you might not find it easy to recover them..
  • Batteries may not be staying charged through entire shifts, which can be disruptive when the device is used to assist customers (or patients), process inbound or outbound goods, or complete sales transactions.
  • Parts and components within certain devices might be reaching end of life, which could lead to device failure. (Just think about all the ways a printer is used across your business – all the revenue-generating activities it supports. Do you really want to wait until the printer is completely down to swap out a printhead that was predictably reaching end of life?)

Of course, even if you’re confident you have the right devices available to every worker, I’m sure you’re curious how much they’re being used, how exactly they’re being used, and how well they’re holding up. If you have device performance and utilization data flowing to your in-house team or partner, your curiosity will be satisfied. At any time, you can log in to a dashboard from any internet-connected device and find out…

  • Where your mobile computers, scanners, or printers are located right now.
  • How many devices have been used in recent days and for how long.
  • Which devices haven’t been used at all (so you can investigate why)
  • Which applications were running the most on each device, which non-business applications employees may have loaded on there, and how many different versions of approved apps are on each device.
  • If there are device utilization habits that could be opening your business up to security vulnerabilities.
  • How often devices are being rebooted.
  • Scan success rates (which can tell you a lot about how effective a scanner may be in supporting your business.)
  • How often settings are being changed by users (which can lead you to inquire about why settings are changing or not changing at a certain rate).
  • If batteries are being properly charged.

Once you can see what is happening, you can start to investigate why it’s happening. Once you understand what’s going on with your device fleet, you can start to adjust operational processes to improve device availability, reliability, effectiveness, and impact.

Maybe you’ve been buying too many devices, or perhaps you haven’t been buying enough. Maybe you haven’t been buying the right devices for certain workers, or perhaps your team needs to be retrained on how to use or manage the devices to keep them working optimally. No matter what you learn, I am confident it’s going to help you reduce wasteful spending and help boost front-line worker efficiency. I’ve seen it happen time and again at organizations that use device health and utilization data to proactively monitor and maintain their fleets.

For example, one of our Zebra partners was telling us about a brick-and-mortar retailer they support in North America that was ramping its seasonal worker staffing in preparation for the busy holiday season. The store managers wanted to ensure they would have enough fully operational mobile computer devices to meet demand, as it was going to be an all-hands-on-deck situation in which each of its associates would need a mobile device in hand. The partner remembered that the retailer had a shortage of devices last year, with a spike in device repair volume. So, to help the customer prepare for the coming holiday season, the partner turned to the insights provided by Zebra’s VisibilityIQ™ Foresight device analytics service to see:

  • the annual history of seasonal spikes of devices in inventory and their usage levels.
  • how many devices the retailer currently has on hand.
  • whether those devices are currently secure or require an upgrade (by checking the version of Zebra Lifeguard for Android that is installed), and
  • how many devices are in the service depot being repaired and when those devices will be returned to the onsite stock.

When going through the dashboard, the partner noticed the retailer had an abnormally high amount of repairs resulting from physical damage at a few of its stores — the type of damage that indicates physical abuse of the devices. So, the partner recommended several ways in which the retailer could find out which worker uses each device to improve accountability in the future when devices are damaged.

The partner also calculated the number of devices required to meet the needs for this year’s seasonal staff and advised the customer to purchase the devices by September to provide ample time to upgrade and standardize security and applications software. This helped to prevent both a crush of work for IT heading into peak season and a potentially harmful device shortage on the front lines.

In another situation, the leaders of a transportation and logistics (T&L) company in Europe were complaining that their spare mobile computer pool inventory was always understocked even though they were continuously purchasing additional devices to replenish their spares. So, its managed services partner peeked at the Utilization Insights provided by the Zebra Visibility IQ Foresight service to determine if all the deployed devices were being utilized and how the spare pool was being managed.

The partner concluded that most sites have more than enough devices on hand, yet nearly 100% of the replacement device requests were being fulfilled. After further investigation, the partner concluded that the spare pool manager had no way to determine if a requesting site required additional devices — or if their currently deployed inventory was being under-utilized.

So, the partner granted the T&L company access to the Visibility IQ Foresight service so its in-house team could validate the spare device replacement requests. Once the customer’s spare pool manager could see the number of devices on hand, which apps are being utilized, the quantity of successful scans, available device memory, Wi-Fi signal strength, and more, they declined over half the “replace device” requests that flowed their way. The replacements weren’t needed – just better device management. Spare pool issue resolved. Money saved. Win-win.

One More Thing to Think About Before Opting In or Out of a Service Plan – or Buying a Device for Your Business

I know both warranty and preventative data analytics service plans are marketed as tools to protect your device investments. But their true purpose is to support your people – to protect their productivity, boost their efficiency, and empower them to arrive at the best business outcomes possible.

Just ask the team at Autodemolizione Pollini Group.

More than 300 employees used to rely on computing and printing devices that didn’t have performance/utilization monitoring software built into the devices. So, they never knew if the devices were working as well as they could or should be, and they never had the luxury of right-sizing their device stock, recovering lost devices, improving device management habits, or preventing devices from going down. They just had to wait until something went wrong to address the issue, and some issues could never be fixed because they couldn’t figure out the root cause.

Frustrated by this lack of visibility into device health and utilization trends, they  to Zebra devices. They liked that they could receive those usage insights for Zebra devices to steer their device management actions. (They also liked that Zebra offered an extensive warranty plan that gives them well-rounded support and service coverage should something unpredictable happen to a device).

Since moving to the new Zebra devices – and gaining those device performance and usage insights – device availability has improved, operational productivity has increased, and company leaders report a better return on their investment. Specifically, the number of device interruptions and time spent resolving the interruptions decreased by 20% and 10%, respectively, with a significant impact on annual savings. This is due in part to the efficiency gains made by its IT department, as IT technicians have been able to use the centralized Visibility IQ Foresight dashboard to track device performance, location, and utilization. They have also been able to create standardized processes to address reported issues.

What’s most notable, though, is that device users have been much happier since the switch. These are people responsible for processing and dismantling 70-80 vehicles daily, handling around 2,000 spare parts, and maintaining stock of approximately 350,000 items in the warehouse for delivery. Can you imagine what they were going through every time a device failed? Or how frustrated they probably were when they realized that issue could have been prevented (and their progress didn’t have to be interrupted)?

Remember: Every time you must take a device out of service, the person using it will be slowed down and it will take longer to provide goods and services to customers. It’s not enough to have backup devices sitting in storage, either. Even the few minutes it takes for a front-line worker to retrieve a replacement device can have a major impact on your organization’s output. So, you should always do what you can to prevent issues from happening.

The goal is to reserve that break/fix warranty for something completely unpredictable or unpreventable. Even more importantly, you should be ensuring that workers have the right devices for the job at hand, that they know how to use and manage those devices, and that they can quickly find them if they are misplaced. That’s only possible if you have a data set that includes historical device usage/performance and current usage/performance to reconcile against current and future needs.

So, if you want to ensure your team will be able to access the data it needs to effectively manage your devices and protect your business, let’s talk about…

  1. What type of protection plans you should be signing up for when buying devices for business use.
  2. Which questions you should be asking about device analytics and management when buying devices for your business.

You can reach your local Zebra representative here.


Editor's Note:

You can find more advice about how to monitor and manage Zebra device performance and analyze business impacts in these commentaries from other industry leaders:

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Blog, Article, Handheld Mobile Computers, New Ways of Working, Printing Solutions, Scanning Solutions, Software Tools, Tablets, Field Operations, Public Sector, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Retail, Transportation and Logistics, Warehouse and Distribution, Hospitality, Banking, Energy and Utilities, Success Story,
Jim Bajzath
Jim Bajzath

Jim Bajzath is the Senior Services Portfolio Manager at Zebra. He has more than 25 years of high-tech service/product management experience. His experience includes managing Professional Service and Managed Service portfolios for Fortune 500 companies across the telecom, core routing & switching, and storage sectors.  

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