A Computer on Wheels Can Maximize Efficiency and Reduce Errors

What is a Computer on Wheels?

Workplace technology has evolved at such a rapid pace that it can be a bit overwhelming when trying to decide how best to allocate your IT budget. If a primary goal is to provide your workforce with the equipment and information it needs to work effectively and efficiently, then a computer on wheels is the ideal solution.

Computers on wheels are PCs or laptops mounted on a powered mobile cart. Employees use them in healthcare facilities, warehouses, fulfillment centers, and manufacturing plants to take the tools of their job to the point of their tasks. The compact, easily maneuverable, powered workstations have space not only for the computer and monitor (with keyboard and mouse platforms), but also related equipment, such as barcode scanners, printers, and storage bins (which can be lockable for controlled access to important items, such as hospital patients’ medications).

They are powered by rechargeable, swappable battery packs for uninterrupted service throughout a shift. Computers on wheels provide a wide range of benefits for healthcare, warehouse or distribution environments, reducing errors and increasing productivity for optimized workflows and maximum profitability.

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Computer on Wheels Healthcare Industry Uses and Benefits

Computers on wheels have become essential tools in healthcare, due in large part to the legally mandated shift to digital patient information, such as electronic medical records (EMRs, or records of a patient’s care at a specific facility) and electronic health records (EHRs, or complete and integrated patient medical histories). Hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and facilities for rehab and outpatient or senior care can benefit when providers have access to these electronic records at the point of care. Advantages of computers on wheels include:

  • Optimal Leveraging Of Hospital IT Infrastructure: Instead of needing to have a computer in every patient’s room, or needing to go back and forth to a shared office or wall-mounted computer (which is not ergonomically adjustable like a mobile computer workstation is), providers can take one computer with them on their rounds. While also easily transportable, tablets have touchscreen keyboards; and data entry is much faster and more accurate with a real keyboard on a computer cart. Plus, tablet battery life is shorter than that of a computer on wheels. And if your tech provider offers a good maintenance plan, your IT staff can spend their time in other areas. Computers on wheels are thus the most effective IT solution.
  • Streamlined Clinical Workflows: Providers can save valuable time (and a lot of steps) when they don’t have to travel back and forth after each patient to input their notes. Immediate data entry improves accuracy and allows providers to spend more time ensuring quality care with each patient and even to see more patients per shift.
  • Fewer Data Collection Errors & Better Patient Safety: Healthcare providers can create and update records while at the patient’s side rather than taking notes to enter later at a different location. Memory can be fallible, and notes can be lost or illegible. Direct entry of information provides the greatest accuracy and confidentiality, as sensitive information is entered at the point of care rather than at a shared or more public workstation. Accurate and accessible information enhances patient safety: for example, a nurse dispensing medication can check the correct dosage or be alerted to any allergies or contraindications.
  • Increased Patient Engagement: Many patients can better understand a provider’s explanations or instructions with visual aids. With a computer on wheels, the monitor can be turned so the patient can see diagnostic images or test results for themselves, leading to improved comprehension and a greater likelihood of following treatment protocols and achieving better outcomes.

Computer on Wheels Warehouse & Manufacturing Industry Uses & Benefits

Healthcare isn’t the only industry where computers on wheels have become essential tools. They offer a multitude of benefits for warehousing, manufacturing, and fulfillment or distribution centers as well, including:

  • Extending The Mobile Workforce: The workforce can now bring all of the equipment and tech they need along with them to the point of their tasks, including PCs or laptops, barcode scanners, and printers. With a wireless network connection, they can access your WMS, ERP, and other applications at any time, from any point in the facility.
  • Cutting Down On Foot Traffic & Improving Safety: Computers on wheels eliminate the need for employees to make trips back and forth between warehouse shelves and a centralized computer station. The time and energy saved results in greater productivity. Safety is also enhanced, as the battery-powered carts and wireless network connection means fewer cables and cords to potentially trip over.
  • Reduced Employee Fatigue: When your workforce carries around its tools and technology for the duration of 8- or 12-hour shifts, employee fatigue sets in. Employee fatigue can lead to workplace safety issues, decreases in productivity, and low company morale. A computer on wheels puts the tools of your business in your workers’ hands, allowing them to efficiently complete their tasks without putting unnecessary physical demands on their bodies.
  • Increasing Efficiency & Reducing Errors: When data can be entered immediately at the point of task, accuracy improves. A picker fulfilling an order can check all of the items together rather than making separate trips, and since they have direct access to the WMS, inventory can be updated in real-time. Most warehousing and distribution processes (not only order fulfillment and inventory management but also cycle counts, labeling, and inspecting or cataloging received shipments) can be streamlined with a computer on wheels.

Essential Features of a Computer on Wheels

With so many options available for powered, mobile computer carts, it’s essential to make sure your enterprise gets workstations to meet your needs and have features that easily get the job done. You want a computer on wheels that is:

  • Durable, Yet Lightweight: Your powered mobile workstation should be made of materials that are rugged enough to withstand years of normal wear and tear (and frequent cleaning, especially in healthcare settings), yet lightweight enough so that your employees aren’t unduly fatigued by lugging it around. Stainless steel, aluminum alloy, and ABS plastics are tough without being too heavy, and some can even be treated with antimicrobial coatings to reduce the spread of germs.
  • Agile, With a Small Footprint: Along with weight, a smaller size will improve ease of mobility, reducing fatigue and the possibility of work-related injuries. The wheels should move freely in every direction, over multiple surface types (concrete, carpet, tile, and even elevator thresholds), and should be designed so that they don’t pick up dirt and stray debris) that could inhibit motion.
  • Ergonomic & Adjustable: Unlike wall-mounted computer stations, a computer on wheels can be adjusted for each user’s comfort. Look for smooth mechanisms to change height and keyboard and mouse platforms (for right or left hand). Swivel or slide mounts for monitors so viewable data can be shared.
  • Flexible in Providing Storage Options: Depending on what items your employees will need to have at hand, you should be able to customize a suitable configuration of drawers, bins, or trays. The extra security of optional locks may be required to restrict access to confidential or potentially hazardous items.
  • Equipped With a Battery System That Meets Your Facility’s Needs: You should be able to calculate how much wattage you need to power all of the equipment and how many hours you expect it to run before the battery needs recharging. Choose a battery with a higher power capacity than you currently need, both to “future-proof” the cart and to ensure that it doesn’t have to run on maximum all the time (which would decrease battery life).

The Importance of a Superior Computer on Wheels Battery System

Speaking of batteries, there are other important features of the battery systems to look for in addition to high power output. Essential characteristics include:

  • Hot-Swap Capability: A vital component for reducing downtime is the ability to “hot-swap” the batteries or switch out a depleted one for a fresh one while on-the-go. Swapping the batteries without having to shut everything down and then reboot, or having to take the whole cart back to a recharging station, ensures uninterrupted service. With a two-battery system, when one battery gets low, the cart can start using the other one, allowing time for your staff to hot-swap the low one.
  • Easy-to-Read Fuel Gauge: There should be a clear display that lets employees know how much time is left before a swap will be needed.
  • Lightweight: Some battery types can add too much weight to your cart, making it less maneuverable and less ergonomic.
  • Enhanced Safety & Low Risk For Hazards: Some battery types, such as lead-acid or lithium-cobalt, are not only heavy and short-lived, but also prone to overheating and potentially catching fire.
  • Fast Recharge: Batteries that recharge quickly and can be used with either a partial or complete recharge are also crucial to reducing downtime.

Breaking Down the Computer on Wheels Cost

Don’t let the “sticker shock” of the initial unit price tag put you off from selecting a computer on wheels. They are a significant investment, but more factors on the balance sheet must be weighed when considering the total cost of ownership.

In addition to the base price of the unit, there will be preventive maintenance and repair costs. However, you can significantly expand the unit’s life expectancy by not skimping on quality and adding a good maintenance plan from your tech provider, ensuring that you get the maximum value.

Offsetting these costs will be the savings that will create a good return on investment. Computers on wheels can reduce labor costs by boosting productivity and efficiency (and therefore profits), enabling your employees to do more per shift. The immediacy of data entry also reduces the potential for costly errors resulting in dissatisfied customers and patients (or worse). The gains should quickly outweigh the costs, making the investment more than worthwhile.

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How to Install & Deploy a Computer Workstation on Wheels

The best strategy for installing and deploying your computers on wheels is to choose an experienced provider with a knowledgeable team. Let the experts assist you with every step, including:

  • Planning, Set-Up, and Configuration: If these are handled at the provider’s facilities, it will increase on-site installation efficiency.
  • Hardware Installation: mounting and connecting all equipment, including laptops or PCs and peripherals, printers, and barcode scanners.
  • Adjustments/Fine-Tuning to Movement & Ergonomics: ensuring maximum mobility and comfort.
  • Software Installation: loading the programs you’ll need.
  • IT Network Integration: enabling wireless functioning of equipment, such as barcode scanners, and connecting to your systems (EMRs and EHRs, WMS and ERP).
  • Regular Preventive Maintenance: according to your needs.

Choose a Provider You Can Trust

When you select a computer on wheels, you are also investing in a lasting partnership with the tech provider. Seek a provider with a strong industry reputation, dedication to customer service, and a thorough understanding of your facility’s specific needs.

Our experts offer more than four decades of industry experience. Our tech solutions are backed by an industry-leading 5-year warranty and a guaranteed 12-month ROI. To learn more about how our systems, including computers on wheels, can benefit your facility, contact us today.

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