Investing in a solution for mobile operations was likely one of the most important (and hopefully best) decisions your organization has ever made. But that was years ago and now you’re wondering if it’s time for an update or a wholesale change.
Communities across the country face this same dilemma. Is it time to replace the asset? Or could a retrofit solve shortcomings and issues that have arisen over time… Potentially at a cost savings? Is it time for something different to match the community’s evolving needs? These are big questions and today we’re diving deeper into some of the considerations.
Signs It May Be Time to Make a Change
First things first; how do you know a change is necessary and what evidence can you use to get key decision makers on board?
Perhaps the most obvious example your solution has become outmoded is that it’s no longer able to interoperate with other organizations. If training exercises with peers are unproductive because of communication or connectivity issues stemming from your vehicle’s dated technology, this is a major red flag. In addition, if you’re no longer able to connect to the Internet reliably or lack the bandwidth necessary to meet ever-increasing data transfer requirements, the solution is failing to meet your needs and will only continue to decline.
Couple these issues with any mechanical challenges, including chassis and drivetrain, leveling legs, awnings, generators, masts, and other systems, and you have pretty conclusive evidence that now is the time to retrofit or replace your existing mobile command vehicle.
If you see any of these signs and have questions, contact us for an audit of your existing solution’s capabilities, status, and areas for potential improvement. Keep in mind that your vehicle may be able to be outfitted with Nomad Total Command, which will provide you a comprehensive, ongoing view of your vehicle’s mechanical and IT systems and allow you to identify issues before they become a major concern.
Retrofit: How do you know if it’s right for your needs?
Let’s draw a distinction. There are two categories of retrofit to consider: Refurbishment and IT refresh. A refurb might address things like interior layouts, cabinetry, finishing materials, and vehicle or mechanical systems that have become worn, broken, or simply need updating. An IT refresh focuses on critical comms, connectivity, and surveillance systems like satellite antennas, modems, routers, switches, radios, cameras, wiring, and peripherals. A retrofit could incorporate a refurb, an IT refresh, or some combination of both.
Retrofitting allows organizations to make specific upgrades and can be a cost-effective way to bring solutions up to speed. However, you must be certain that your asset was designed from the get-go to make these upgrades simple and cost-effective. If the entire vehicle has to be torn apart to run new wires, investing in a new unit may be the better route.
In addition, failing to accurately define the project with a specific statement of work (SOW) can leave you vulnerable to scope creep, as additional problems and needs are uncovered during the retrofit. To mitigate this, get as specific and detailed as possible from the beginning and make sure your statement of work includes multiple “continue or stop” points that will give flexibility to pause and consider the options.
Opting to take a retrofit strategy can also simplify your process when seeking purchase approval. This can be especially true in instances where public funds will be used, as taxpayers are more apt to appreciate your organization’s efforts to act in a cost-conscious manner. However, you must be mindful your efforts don’t trap you in an otherwise obsolete vehicle. Not all platforms are built with longevity in mind, and it’s vital you find out what is possible for your existing mobile command unit before committing to a retrofit strategy.
Lastly, retrofitting your existing vehicle can also lessen the learning curve for your team by allowing them to learn new technologies within a vehicle platform they’re already familiar with. This can save your organization time and get the asset effectively operating in the field more quickly.
Replace: Is buying new right for you?
Now we come to the other side of the coin. Is a complete replacement of your existing mobile operations center the right path for your organization? While this strategy will be more expensive, you will create additional lifetime value by investing in an entirely new solution. Nomad vehicles, for example, offer the option of a lifetime body and 12-year comprehensive warranty, allowing you to protect the investment for the long haul.
Replacing your current vehicle also provides you the opportunity to evolve your next vehicle to meet your current needs. If the needs of your mobile operations center have changed in ways you hadn’t anticipated, now’s the time to tailor your new solution to meet those ongoing expectations.
It’s also a chance to ensure your solution is designed for painless upgrades in the future. Nomad recently undertook an IT refresh (of another manufacturer’s vehicle) in which the cabling had been spray-foamed into the walls, requiring extra labor and the destruction of materials that might otherwise have remained useful.
If it’s your first mobile operations center, this is your chance to work through mission requirements, budget, and other considerations to the finest detail. Consider daily, training, and situational use cases. Just remember that bigger isn’t always better and a smaller vehicle may make more sense and leave budget dollars for upgrades or additional assets that improve your service.
Finally, buying new is a unique opportunity for your team and the community as a whole to take pride in ownership. “New” represents progress, forward thinking, and superior service. Your organization also might have an opportunity to sell or donate older assets, furthering a shared sense of contribution.
To retrofit or replace? Your best-fit plan will be a balance of mission, budget, and community considerations. We’d love to help determine whether retrofitting an existing mobile ops center or purchasing new is best for your organization and the people you serve.