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Thread: Is less costly more expensive? Laptops

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    Default Is less costly more expensive? Laptops

    Is less costly more expensive? Laptops


    I had a discussion with an IT worker about how their firm decided to purchase the laptop PC’s for their locators. They decided against buying the ‘rugged’ class of laptop, the ones made for rough environments. They determined that is was less costly to buy office type laptops, yuppie computers I call them, and then repair them when the failed.

    I disagree with this and if anybody can post some studies, links to studies, reports or can relate what happened at their firm please do.

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    Default Re: Is less costly more expensive? Laptops

    This is my reply to my own initial posting on this topic.


    It is my gut instinct that the factors used to determine buying yuppie computers were not accurate for our business.

    Any firm out there needs to justify to themselves the cost of the more expensive laptops and the first step is a form for computer breakdowns that shows the true costs.

    For each laptop that fails and requires some type of repair a form is filled out detailing the costs associated with the failure. My proposed form is:

    Consideration A

    1a) Number of hours locator was unproductive until computer was fixed or replaced.

    1b) Employee rate of pay plus matching SS paid by company plus cost of company paid benefits.

    1c) multiply 1a times 1 b

    2a) Amount of overtime generated to make up for lost productivity.

    2b) 1b times 1.5 times 2a.

    3a) 1c plus 2b.

    4a) cost of repairing laptop.

    5) 3a plus 4a - This is the actual cost of the failed laptop,

    Use above form for each failure and track the true cost of any laptop.


    While actual costs of repairs are basically outlined above, Consideration A, there are still two other considerations.

    Consideration B.

    Because the yuppie laptops have a higher failure rate we will have to keep a larger inventory of spare laptops and spare parts. Total the costs of the inventory and then minus what the cost would be if the rugged class laptops were used.

    Consideration C.

    This kicks in with the larger firms rather than with the small outfits. As the inventory becomes older, and these things age rapidly in the field environment, more and more repairs will be needed. This results in the IT hardware person becoming overloaded increasing OT costs and can even mean hiring an additional person.

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    Default Re: Is less costly more expensive? Laptops

    There is another option to factor in, the "semi-rugged" class of laptops. Less expensive than the rugged class but look tough enough for our type of work. This closes the gap between initial costs and is a serious consideration.

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    Junior Member foefn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is less costly more expensive? Laptops

    How are you using the computers? Are they truck mounted? Do you bring them outside the truck during the locating process? I assume you are expected to bring them in the house each night. That may be an issue but that could be dealt with by reminding the users that this is a tool just like your locator and needs to be taken care of (not just tossed around).

    I am a locator employed at a utility company. We have the semi-rugged computers installed in our trucks. I have seldom had to take my computer out in the field (other than during emergencies I was dealing with working with our gas and/or electric crews - another part of my job - not locating). I have a few laptops in my family at home and am well aware of the fragility of these units. When handled with care, they do quite nice. Just like my locating equipment, when handled with care, they continue to work as intended.

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    Default Re: Is less costly more expensive? Laptops

    Quote Originally Posted by foefn View Post
    How are you using the computers? Are they truck mounted? Do you bring them outside the truck during the locating process? I assume you are expected to bring them in the house each night. That may be an issue but that could be dealt with by reminding the users that this is a tool just like your locator and needs to be taken care of (not just tossed around).

    I am a locator employed at a utility company. We have the semi-rugged computers installed in our trucks. I have seldom had to take my computer out in the field (other than during emergencies I was dealing with working with our gas and/or electric crews - another part of my job - not locating). I have a few laptops in my family at home and am well aware of the fragility of these units. When handled with care, they do quite nice. Just like my locating equipment, when handled with care, they continue to work as intended.
    Most locate firms do not "mount" the laptop, it sits on the passenger seat. Usually they stay inside the truck but for complex locates are taken outside. They also may be taken outside to share the screen with other locators or contractors. Due to being taken into the field they are subject to being dropped as we are also sometimes carrying our locate equipment.

    They are subject to constant vibration of the moving truck. Heat and humidity is a constant problem as the heating and cooling of the truck cab causes condensation to form inside the laptop. Dust is also a major problem as construction site dust permeates everything. Once dust gets inside the laptop the condensation forms mud inside the laptop which keeps is wet longer, does not readily dry out.


    Another source of water is our hands as we work in snow and wet environments and carry water back in on our hands.

    Since we have no paperwork anymore the laptop must remain open during driving so we can see the address of where we are going. This subjects the open screen to vibration and g-forces that the yuppie machine was not built to handle so cracked hinges and cases is a constant problem.

    The laptop may or may not be taken inside at night.

    The rugged and semi-rugged class have extra provisions to resist vibration, the lids and cases are tougher and are better sealed against water and dust entry.

    It is not a matter of taking care with the laptop, it is just a rougher environment than the yuppie machine was built to work in.

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