Save time and money with custom imaging on your fleet of rugged computers

Guest blog by Jeff Gilbert, Systems Engineer at MHI Member Company JLT Mobile Computers

What do you do when you unbox a new computer at home? You boot it up and start playing around. You play a movie, check out the applications, put on your favourite album or create a family budget. In fact, you probably start doing all of those things at once and forget to set up your email, which is what you intended to do.

Do you want your staff to do the same with a rugged computer, a work tool? No way! When you deploy a rugged device out of the box you often get a consumer version of Windows. This means your workforce can get online, check the scores of last night’s game or even play a quick round of solitaire instead of getting on with their jobs. But with a custom image you decide what your employees get access to and how the device works.

Almost anything with a computer nowadays has a custom image, like a car. Behind that screen telling you your gas consumption, mileage, speed, etc., is a computer running embedded Windows. But instead of getting a picture like a desktop on the screen, the manufacturer has created a custom image that shows you only what you need for driving and managing your car.

The opportunities are endless

It’s exactly the same if you install a custom image on your fleet of rugged warehouse computers. You can create a picture, an “image”, that shows only the items your workforce needs to do their jobs. Besides shutting out anything that could distract your workforce, such custom imaging can increase productivity by offering one-touch screen shortcuts for regular functions. For instance, if you design a custom keyboard, you can get rid of unwanted keys and create shortcuts that launch apps or carry out a series of keystrokes. So, you get better “screen” real-estate management, whilst bigger keys mean fewer mistakes and are especially handy if your workforce wears gloves.

Other customizations include setting up your boot experience to go straight to your application and lock out any other applications or internet sites. You can set your warehouse management system as the “boot shell”. Or you can automate the Windows login, leaving the login point at the application. The possibilities may seem endless, but these choices all save “Dollars and Cents” for your business.

One final advantage of a custom image is that you can sidestep unnecessary OS updates. When you lock down a device you can stop automatic downloads because if your applications haven’t changed, then you probably don’t need to update the OS. You can keep running the same system for as long as you want, perhaps even ten years.

Roll out in minutes

Of course, you can get your in-house IT team to create and install your custom applications manually on each individual system. Depending on what you’ve got to install, it could take 25 or more steps and two hours of staff time to set up one computer. This may sound like an OK amount of time but imagine if you’re deploying 100 devices. Then we’re talking about 200 hours of work for your IT staff, who probably already have a full workload.

And there’s a good chance that with 2,500 steps to complete, one or two of them might be missed or done incorrectly. So, you will need additional support, during and after a deployment. No one has time for that! A better approach is to get one system perfect and then deploy it across your 100 systems. Ultimately, you should be looking to your rugged computer supplier to create the perfect custom image for your specific needs before shipment. That way, your rugged computers will be ready to go out of the box, and your workforce will have to wait until their shift finishes to check the scores.

For more helpful tips on things to consider when optimizing your warehouse, check out these free downloadable guides on How to choose and buy the right rugged computers for your business or How to Increase Productivity in your Warehouse.