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Why Choosing A More Expensive Supplier, Could Pay Dividends In The Future

We know what it's like. Budgetary constraints and purchasing departments often demand 3 quotations for any purchase, focussing primarily on price to decide which supplier you ultimately buy from. But is choosing the lowest quotation always the best long-term strategy for saving your business money?

The old adage "you get what you pay for" applies in both the business to business market, just as much as the business to consumer market, and has never been more important than now, following the introduction of mobile data capture devices running Android OS.

Whilst Android has been embraced whole-heartedly throughout data capture hardware manufacturers as the only operating system to use moving forwards, it can leave customers with problems that they, and many hardware providers, have not anticipated.

We came across a prime example of this recently with a company we worked with to supply and configure Zebra Mobile computers, which were running an Android SAP S/4 Hana mobile client.  The customer was very happy with the initial installation and everything worked well. However, as is the case sometimes, for the second round of supply, the customer's purchasing department, opted to buy additional devices from another supplier, who primarily supply through internet sales, providing low prices but offering no pre-sales advice or aftersales assistance. 

The customer provided the exact part number supplied by us to the internet supplier, so were getting exactly the same mobile computer, to use with the supplied configuration for the mobile devices and the same SAP client - what could go wrong?

Well apparently more than you might think. They immediately ran into problems. The SAP client did not work as expected; the screen did not display the same and some barcodes had missing characters at the end, or did not automatically move to the next field. As is often the case, the customer complained to the SAP supplier, who quite rightly said that the same client was running on all the devices.  Eventually after trying and failing to get assistance from the chosen internet based hardware supplier, with tail firmly between legs, they turned back to Barcode-IT to try to find out why the original devices worked, but the same device from the other supplier did not.

After agreeing a fee to investigate the issue, which was probably more that the saving made buying from the big internet supplier in the first place, our experienced technicians found the problem. The Android version was a higher revision on the new devices! Same part number, identical configuration, but some subtle difference in the underlying Android OS, which was changing the way that the SAP client interacted with the mobile device.

The fault was not with the SAP software provider; their SAP client could be made to work on either device, but with slightly different configurations for how the screen was displayed and how the barcode scanner sent data to the software (but at a cost and we all know how much SAP changes cost!). So the customer had two options, pay for the additional SAP changes and run the devices with two different configurations (a potential nightmare for the future) or downgrade the new devices to the original version of Android, which is fortunately possible, thanks to Zebra's Enterprise grade products.

So what can we learn from this cautionary tale?

  1. Use a supplier who understands your system and is certified by the manufacturer to manage and configure your industrial mobile devices. Not just an internet box shifter!

  2. Just because a data capture device runs a later version of Android, does not mean it's better for your business. In fact there may be no advantage at all!

At Barcode-IT, we provide a full pre-sales process, including providing a range of demo devices, before taking an order, and staging all the devices before delivery, ensuring that the Android OS is the same version as that tested in the field and configure the devices to be ready to work immediately. Finally, and crucially, we offer an after-sales service for any problems you may encounter after installation. We may not be the cheapest on the market, but with us you certainly do get what you pay for!

Need advice on mobile data capture devices or moving to Android OS? Contact us on 01200 441977 for a no obligation discussion

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