When chartered builder and entrepreneur Barry Herman launched Rugged Solutions with its indestructible Tablet PCs back in 2002, he thought he could not lose. But a year later, and with no sales to speak off, the company fell apart.
Herman was floored when it materialised that his partner had been adding up to £600 to the cost per unit from the supplier.
His original backer also ran into financial trouble.
'I've been 20 years in the construction industry and 10 as an innovator, and know what it's all about. But when my backer went bankrupt on me, it hurt.
That was almost it.
'Naive is not the word, but I am a trusting soul, ' says Herman. 'This guy ripped me off, owes me money, but the best way is to move on and learn the lesson.' Now, e rm is back and stronger than before. Dealing direct with suppliers, the kit is a much more realistic price.
And the technology has moved on too, with the company now offering a range of products with technical back-up.
'Now we just want to see these in the field, because we know for a fact that if you give them to a site engineer, he or she will benefit, ' says Herman.
'This stuff used to be heavy, chunky and came with nonstandard software. Now, it is all standard and comes with an eight gigabyte hard drive.
The Rugged Notebook is unaffected when dropped from 900mm onto dense concrete or when subjected to a shock of 15G. It is rated to operate between 0 OC and 50 OC.
The keyboard is water resistant, and the notebook's sealed casing prevents infiltration by rain or dust. It also has a fanless cooling system based on heat pipe technology.
The Rugged PDA is tougher still. Its aluminium chassis is drop proof to 2m, waterproof to 2m and comes with 36 hours battery time. It sells for under £1,000.
The Rugged Tablet, as with the other models, is resistant to shock, vibration, water and dust.
It is just A4 in size and weighs about 2kg. It also has a 10.4 inch LCD touch screen, with a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels with a sunlight readable option.
'The market is still young, but we know there is massive potential. We know what people in the construction industry need, ' says Herman.
It is now six months since the company relaunched and interest is growing, insists Herman.
Contractors Amec, Jarvis and Lafarge are all keen. 'A lot of contractors are starting to think this way, ' says Herman. The target this year is to shift 500 units.
Sales are matched with an ethical, personal service, says Herman.
'If you phone us with a problem you get me or my new partner. And we're bothered.
Break a screen with the major players and they'll just laugh at you, charge you £700 and make you wait four weeks for a new one. With us, a replacement is with you the next day.' INFOPLUS:
www. ruggedsolutions. co. uk