Mobile computers are a must for tracking out-of-office assets and inventory. However, inventory & asset management systems with mobile computers can be quite expensive. Now regular smartphones and tablets can do the same job at a significantly lower cost.
What are Mobile Computers
By definition, mobile computer is any computer that can be carried around. By this definition, notebooks, laptops, tablets and smartphones are all mobile computers. However, when you hear a word "mobile computer" in one sentence with "inventory management" or "asset tracking" - these are mobile computers that you see on the image above.
Mobile computers for asset and inventory tracking are rugged devices made with the field work in mind. They are capable of barcode scanning, but also have keyboard and screen to input and read back data. Mobile computers can use Wi-Fi or cellular data to connect to the back-end inventory and asset management system.
What is a Role of Mobile Computers in Inventory Management and Asset Tracking Process
Mobile computers are usually listed as a component of any robust inventory and asset management system (along with software itself, barcode scanners, barcode printers and labels). In fact, even if you do not have any assets and inventory out in the field, a large warehouse will require employees to walk around with a device capable of reading input and providing information. This is what mobile computers are for. And if you have inventory and assets in the field, on the job sites, on the trucks or other mobile locations - having mobile computer as part of asset and inventory tracking system is even more important.
The problem is - the devices, networking service and software for them are quite expensive. Although small businesses often do have assets and inventory in remote locations, they can hardly afford such inventory systems - the total cost can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Now smartphones can be used for the same purpose at significantly less expense.
How Can Smartphones Be Used For Assets and Inventory Management Instead of Mobile Computers
Smartphones are a type of mobile computer family, and with the right application installed can perform the same functions:
- Scan QR Codes Or Barcodes
- Allow users to input information
- Allow users to access and review information
- Allow users to collect signatures
- Connect to inventory and asset management system via Wi-Fi or cellular connection
- Taking photos and attaching them to inventory and asset transactions for visual documentation
- Record GPS location of scan or transaction
- Review documents related to assets or inventory, both PDF files and online documentation
In addition, you can use smartphones for:
If you use smartphones for inventory and asset management, you will not only save money on purchasing hardware and on network consultants. It is also much easier to find inventory software that works with the smartphones, and this software will have a significantly lower price tag.
Blending Lines Between Smartphones And Traditional Mobile Computers
Recently the leading manufacturers of inventory management hardware, such as Zebra and Motorola, started to produce mobile computers somewhat similar to the smartphones (lightweight, convenient to carry around, with a larger screen, virtual on screen keyboard, a camera that will allow you take pictures). These devices usually run android operation system, and you can download mobile applications from the Play Store just like on the regular Android smartphone. These devices are rugged, waterproof, and can be used in a hash environment were regular smartphones won't work.
If you are just thinking about purchasing a new inventory and asset management system that can track mobile inventory, look into a web based / mobile application suit. Unless you have a specific reason to use mobile computers (e.g. you need rugged mobile devices), you can receive the same or better functionality at a much lower cost using smartphones for asset and inventory tracking.
If you do need to have more rugged devices, you may look at the newer mobile computers that run android operating system - this will give you an access to the modern inventory management cloud-mobile inventory software that will be simpler to learm and use and much less expensive than traditional inventory management systems.