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April 3, 2015

Depot Repair Services Keep Data Collection Hardware Humming

The mobile computers, barcode scanners, and printers you’ve deployed for your data collection application might be rugged, but like most other computer equipment, these devices will require repairs at some point in their lifecycles. This specialized equipment often requires specialized service — and that means repairs conducted by certified technicians with experience working on that particular type of hardware.

Many vendors, value added resellers, and systems integrators offer depot repair services that can help their customers keep the equipment in working order and avoid costly downtime. When your mobile workers can’t use their computers, they often can’t do their jobs. In many applications, a device failure means that employees can’t collect data, complete work orders, accept customer payments, access inventory data, or communicate critical job information back to their managers or dispatchers. Having access to fast, reliable depot repair services (preferably with the option of getting a spare device deployed quickly) helps keep your employees productive.

For some companies, on-site maintenance is unavoidable. Their data collection or mobile equipment is too important for any gap in operations, or the equipment is simply too large (for example, bulky fixed-position label printers or printer/applicators) to ship. In those instances, companies may maintain their own pool of spare devices and rely on on-site visits from technicians to repair damaged equipment.

But for most companies, partnering with a VAR or integrator that can both manage the spares pool and provide fast turnaround on depot repairs is a much more cost-effective and efficient option.

In these scenarios, when a device breaks or malfunctions, the company contacts the reseller and asks for a spare to be shipped overnight. Once the spare device (already pre-loaded with the right applications) arrives, the customer puts the damaged device back into the same box that the spare arrived in and ships it back to the reseller. At the depot, certified technicians that are trained to repair that specific brand of hardware can complete repairs and return the device to the spares pool.

Optimally, the vendor would maintain a separate pool of spares for each customer with a depot contract. That way, they can keep track of historical failure and breakage rates for each customer and maintain the correct inventory of equipment and spare parts to meet their needs.

For mobile computers, scanners, and tabletop-style barcode printers, the return-to-depot strategy (combined with a pool of pre-configured spares) can ensure quick repairs and minimize downtime.

For the end user, that means there is cost savings and improved repair quality. Depot repair is less expensive to provide than on-site maintenance or service. The vendor or service provider doesn’t have to incur the costs of sending a technician to the site, and the depot repair center can leverage economies of scale that help drive down costs.

Depot service also provides ready access to an ample inventory of the right spare parts, standard repair diagnostics and processes, access to state-of-the-art testing equipment and troubleshooting procedures, and higher-quality, faster repairs.

Depending on your application, most vendors offer different tiers of depot services at a fixed cost, which can help keep maintenance budgets predictable. At the most basic level, the equipment can be shipped to the depot, repaired and returned via common shipping services. Advanced exchange programs provide spares that are shipped overnight to replace the damaged equipment. In some cases, flat-rate repair or time-and-material options may be available as well.

Certified depot repair centers also have direct access to manufacturers’ technical and engineering support, product manuals, and the latest product and upgrade information. Depot services can also include preventive maintenance, installation of engineering updates, and re-loading of current factory software.

A damaged data collection device doesn’t have to mean that productivity grinds to a halt. By establishing a depot repair service contract tailored to meet your application and operational needs, you can reduce downtime and ensure the reliable operation of your mobile computers and other data collection equipment.

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