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Panasonic’s Windows 8 Toughpad a hit with Fulton Hogan

One of New Zealand’s top companies which works in one of its toughest industries has chosen Windows 8-powered Panasonic Toughpads to boost productivity and convenience in the workplace.

In a comprehensive implementation, the Toughpad FZ-G1 devices are being introduced for roading crew members, replacing several previously used devices and substantially easing the load on the company's IT management overhead. From initial deployments in New Zealand, the company is looking to expand its use of the Windows 8 Toughpads to its operations in Australia and beyond.

Fulton Hogan specialises in building and maintaining transport and civil infrastructure. It has operations across New Zealand and wider Australasia.

Graeme Mackin, NZ IT Service Delivery Manager at Fulton Hogan, says the emergence of a tough Windows tablet aligned perfectly with the company's requirements. "We've used mobile devices in the field for three years and have always struggled to find a good device running a standard Microsoft operating system," he relates.

Fulton Hogan knows what happens when non-ruggedised or even semi-rugged devices are used in its demanding workplaces. While some would deliver the required functionality, common issues included a lack of robustness while others simply didn't provide sufficient grunt to handle the applications used by the company. "Vibration from in-truck devices would wreck the hard drives, the screens would break regularly and the USB ports would break when you connected a peripheral, typically requiring a complete replacement as ports are hardwired to motherboards," says Mackin.

Most devices would deliver lifespans of just three months - and when things break in the field, it causes frustration, holds up work and costs money.

The Panasonic Solution

When the Windows 8 Pro, Intel Core i5-based Toughpad FZ-G1 became available, Mackin was immediately interested. "These devices weigh just over a kilogram, yet are essentially a complete desktop PC in a tablet format. More than that, they deliver the advantages of certified tough design to eliminate the issues we've experienced with other devices in demanding environments."

He says the company knows what it is getting when choosing Toughpad products, as it has prior experience. "We've used Toughbook notebooks in some of our road marking trucks."

"Where other notebooks failed with miserable regularity, over the course of 'years', the vehicle mounted Toughbooks haven't missed a beat."

While this didn't directly influence the choice of the FZ-G1 Toughpad, Mackin nevertheless says he gained a full appreciation of the build quality and field relevance of the IP-65 ingress protection and MIL-STD-810 specifications which come with every Panasonic tough device.

It is predominantly crew members on Fulton Hogan's road and water teams who are getting the Toughpads. "That includes the guys who drive the trucks, machinery operators and site supervisors. There are specific applications used for roads and water, but one considerable advantage we are finding with the Toughpads is that thanks to their Core i5 processors, RAM and solid state hard drives, they are far more flexible than anything we've used before, capable of handling all typical applications including those used for email and document management."

Multiple devices no longer necessary

As a result, he says many staff members who once had an office based laptop, a field tablet and a hand held GPS, are now issued with the Toughpad FZ-G1. "Reducing the number of devices in the field means a reduction in the cost of management - and because the Toughpads are Windows-based, they are managed in a standard, corporate way."

Toughpad and Windows 8 - users love it

The real test of the success of any new device, however, is often to be found in user acceptance. Mackin reports that Fulton Hogan staff are very impressed. "That is to a large extent because these things are very, very good and the previous devices just weren't up to the task," he says.

"With a Toughpad, our guys have a tool that is fit for purpose"

From anticipating a considerable challenge in deploying Windows 8, Mackin says it just hasn't materialized. "The training and support requirement is near to nothing. We've had zero functional questions on how to do familiar tasks," he explains.

He puts it down to Windows 8's design for mobile devices. "In terms of the quality of the user interface with touchscreen implementations on Windows XP or Windows 7, there is just no comparison. Windows 8 on Toughpad is smooth, responsive and intuitive, with key elements like the on-screen keyboard and general responsiveness delivering a very satisfying user experience."

Toughpad + Toughbook: A versatile range

It's not just Toughpads that are winning favour for Fulton Hogan employees: executives are appreciating the advantages of bullet proof technology, too. "We've introduced a number of Panasonic Toughbook CF-AX2 Ultrabooks - I have one personally. Management are getting these as an option which is being welcomed by those who were having problems with screens breaking. These machines are smaller and lighter than a standard laptop and deliver some robustness," says Mackin.

With around 60 Toughpad FZ-G1s already commissioned, Mackin says he expects a total of around 200 to be deployed. "Our technology is leased; with the Toughpads, we're able to lease them over a considerably longer period as we trust they won't break. In addition, the specifications are such that we can have confidence that the hardware will be powerful enough to last up to three years."

He adds that with the Toughpads proven in the field in New Zealand, they are to be introduced in Fulton Hogan's Australian operations, too.

While Toughpads are more costly than standard tablets, Mackin says the value they deliver is obvious. "Toughpads are far less likely to break. The local dealer, Comworth, takes great pride in the capability of the devices and more than that, provides local support so if something goes wrong, it gets sorted fast. The reliability of these products means less down time, happier end users and the ability to keep working where other devices would let you down."

Toughpad. Built Kiwi tough.