There are still many millions of workers who do traditional "blue-collar" work—but who now consider a computer to be as much a part of their toolkit as a hammer or hardhat.
When your employees include both blue- and white-collar employees, how do you make sure the computers you buy will meet the needs of both? And is it possible that the same workstation would be perfect for both? That's asking a lot of any computer, but you might just find that the needs of the two collars are not nearly as different as you first think.
Think about it: Most "knowledge workers" today are using their PCs for communication and collaboration, accessing enterprise applications via a web interface, and creating or editing documents of various sorts using personal productivity applications. That is essentially the same set of uses a blue collar worker might have, though many blue collar workers will find themselves spending more time on form-based interfaces, whether for machine control, inspection and quality control, or workflow input.
What to look for
So, what qualities should you look for when you're choosing a workstation for users with dirt under their fingernails?
You want a workstation that is a solid performer with the current (and anticipated) version of your chosen operating system. You need networking capability that supports the applications in use. Those are fairly basic requirements that can be met by a lot of different workstations. But now we get to some points that make the blue-collar system different.
1. Environmental considerations
Blue-collar work often takes place away from air conditioning, in spaces filled with dust and flying debris. So you want a workstation that doesn't need a fan for cooling—nothing that will draw all that dust and debris into the computer case. Many of the workstation cases that make do without fans are small, and that's also good, because it makes it much easier to put them inside an armored cover to further protect them from damage.
Blue-collar applications are likely to take advantage of a touch screen interface, making them perfect for current generation touch screen monitors and touch screen or convertible laptop workstations.
The caution here is to make sure that the screen is as environmentally rugged as the rest of the system. You also want to ask whether the touchscreen is pressure sensitive or conductive—in other words, whether it will respond to hands wearing standard work gloves or will require the worker to wear special gloves or remove the gloves entirely. This isn't the sort of concern the average office worker faces.
Keep an eye on the basic specifications, seal the box against the environment, and make sure the user interface makes sense in the context of the work. If you do that, you'll find that the blue-collar workstations you've chosen are as useful and economical as those in the executive offices.