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The Siren Song of Lift-Mounted ‘Rugged’ Tablets

Male worker operating forklift in warehouse

In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous yet beautiful creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. In Tablet Mythology the iPad revolution lured warehouse managers and IT specialists toward an emerging rogues gallery of “rugged” tablets as a ‘more affordable’ next-gen productivity solution. But lifts by their very nature produce a set of operating conditions that tablets are not designed to withstand…for very long.

Honeywell did us all a favor by articulating this problem in detail. The sub-heading of their piece says it all. “Why Tablets and Purpose Built Forklift-Mounted Computers Are Not Interchangeable.

Five Things to Consider When Using Tablet Computers in Forklift Operations,” details the complicated relationship you enter when you try to mate tablets with a forklift. They break the debate in to five areas. The first is Survivability.

Near-constant vibration, over time, is what forklifts deliver and what a mounted system must withstand. Tablets often fail because to be useful as a tablet they must be mounted in a dock so they can be removed and carried then returned to the lift. There is no practical reason, other than price, for embracing them. But that mounting arrangement can prove inadequate for the operating environment regardless of what the spec sheet may tell you.

The shock resistance, IP ratings and other certifications published on computer spec sheets indicate how the device performed in laboratory testing but do not necessarily predict how it will perform when mounted to a forklift.

Even properly mounted docking stations may not provide the necessary stability to limit the effects of shock and vibration on the device. This transfer of energy accelerates the wear and tear and shortens lifespan on equipment that was never truly rugged enough for a lift to begin with; robbing the operation of savings realized, if any, when tablets were chosen over purpose-built forklift mounted computers.

The docking station on the lift also poses potential problems. It must tolerate the mounting and dismounting of the heavy-duty tablet and withstand the shock and vibration profile of the forklift without failing.

With the duties of the I/O built in to most docking stations, losing a dock or a connection to a heavy-duty tablet through a dock removes that lift from the operation, at least temporarily. Losing the heavy-duty tablet does the same thing. In a high-production, time-sensitive operation interruptions from not one but two devices that could fail on each lift create costs that erase savings realized by choosing a tablet over a more durable device.

In the interest of appealing to the front-end value of tablets while mitigating the risks Glacier engineers have designed a next-gen solution. KODIAK offers the long-term durability of a purpose-built mounted terminal but can compete for the attention of warehouse managers drawn to the front-end price-point of a rugged table.

Tablets and Forklift mounted computers are not interchangeable and in the new golden age of “wireless” there are few if any barriers to data-mobility. If there is no practical reason for a lift operator to wander the warehouse with a removable VMT, an operation can mitigate risk and cost by ignoring the siren song of tablets and seek safe harbor in truly rugged technology built for the rigors of a 24/7 lift-mounted application.


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