Lightning-fast speed. Easy e-commerce capability. Real-time performance monitoring. Social media transactions. Business intelligence on demand. YouTube channels. Thorough online training. Increasing uptime and wrench time. Business modeling for the future. Servicing from remote locations.
These are just a few of the things that rental companies need in 2014, and just some of what software suppliers are offering. Every year, newer and better programs are available, and we do our best to keep up with what’s out there. What follows are just some of the fast-developing software capabilities that are being conceived, created and transported via cloud-like efficiency as constantly and quickly as you can read these lines. These aren’t all of what’s out there, but here’s a start.
Fast as Lightning and 100-Percent RESTful
CLOUD by Point-of-Rental takes advantage of cloud computing by providing reliable inventory and rental management software accessible through the Internet via subscription. No extra hardware is required and the software requires only a web browser to access. CLOUD is “lightning fast” according to Point-of-Rental, built on 100-percent RESTful API’s and single-page technology designed for pages to load quickly. CLOUD’s automated build process and continuous integration allow for the release of new features and updates every two weeks.
CLOUD enables users to track equipment conditions by uploading photos. It processes credit cards and accesses an online storefront that empowers customers to reserve items. Equipped with Quickbooks exports, CLOUD is designed for easy integration with existing accounting software.
New transactions can be created with a wizard, and existing transactions can be modified at any point. With many pre-defined filters available, CLOUD’s Workbench shows active transactions at a glance and highlights overbookings. By automatically configuring 2D barcode readers, users can add items to a transaction with the items’ barcode or create new customers by simply scanning a driver’s license.
The software can be used on mobiles, PCs and Macs. CLOUD was built from the ground up using 100-percent RESTful APIs and single-page technology to speed load times to microseconds. The software was built on technologies from Google, Amazon and Oracle.
Orion Software’s Sirius e Facilitates E-Commerce
Orion Software has developed a new unique e-commerce solution for rental asset management that allows rental companies to not only offer rental items, but to also take over the management of their customers’ assets. The program empowers customers to control their requirements for equipment. Instead of having to worry about where the equipment is, how to maintain it and get it delivered, customers can go to a web cart unique site to order, resolve conflicts and specify the shipping location. The back office gets the orders in real time.
Sirius e was designed to manage large numbers of locations in a network. Each branch can share the equipment they choose to offer, request inter-branch transfers with a single click and offer customers the complete offering online, increasing e-business revenues and reducing lost opportunities.
The program can be used from any device anywhere with web access. Mobile users are not offered a reduced version. The system integrates with carriers such as FedEx to keep track of all services in real time.
Solutions by Computer
The Eagle Sees and Records it All
Solutions by Computer’s Enfinity has strengthened functionality for mobile workforce management in remote environments. Enfinity applications are now using StreetEagle GPS monitoring, in-vehicle navigation, status updates and reporting tools. It’s an integration that channels real-time field activity data directly into the system’s database. The information can be accessed on all devices where Enfinity can be accessed: desktop systems and handheld devices.
The function that resonates most strongly with rental operators is effective oversight of employees who perform pickups, deliveries and onsite maintenance, i.e., accountability while on the job away from the rental center. The software can be configured to suit specific rental operations with barcoding and other options.
Indoogoo Launches “My Rentals”
Indoogoo is launching “My Rentals,” a new service that allows users to locate and rent heavy equipment online. A social network for heavy industry, Indoogoo connects manufacturers, customers and dealers to facilitate the rental transaction. Companies looking to rent out their equipment are able to create comprehensive listings, including 10 pictures and four videos per piece of equipment, which are then incorporated into Indoogoo’s database. Users seeking equipment to rent can search for exactly the machinery they need, and geolocation technology helps find the equipment located nearby. After signing up for free at www.indoogoo.com, users can search for the machinery they need, specifying where and when it is needed.
The geolocation service compares the search criteria to all equipment near the given location, and the user is presented with a customized map showing all suitable machinery in the area. Each piece of equipment is marked with a flag; by hovering over a flag with the cursor, the user can see the details of the listing in brief and by clicking on the flag the user is taken straight to the full listing page. From this point, the potential customer can contact the rental company directly to request a quotation, while those looking to put their equipment up for rent simply upload their listing and specify their location in order to be added to the map.
Users have the opportunity to buy and sell heavy equipment by creating unlimited listings on the site, and users looking to buy a specific piece of equipment can create an RFQ. Indoogoo keeps connection data strictly private and does not share details between users. Indoogoo is also home to Yard Talk, a discussion forum that brings together manufacturers, rental people, end users and traders of equipment to introduce products, ask questions or discuss news.
“Facebook allows us to create a social network where we can upload different photographs of ourselves, doing things like splashing around with the kids on holiday,” says Turner. “I thought ‘Why can’t we do that in our industry with a social platform where we can upload screens and photographs and videos of our equipment?’ I wanted Indoogoo to be able to build relationships that way to make it easier to communicate and do business, either buying or selling or renting equipment.”
To a rental company, Indoogoo offers an opportunity to create a corporate profile, to invite its sales managers and directors into the corporate profile and create thousands of individual listings of equipment. Each listing can have a number of photographs and videos. “It’s like having a brochure underneath the noses of their customer, but without invading their customer’s space,” Turner adds.
A vendor can go to the MyRentals module on www.Indoogoo.com and enter its entire available inventory. A customer seeking to rent anywhere in the world can specify the location needed and find the appropriate machine that is closest to the jobsite.
Reports on Demand
RMI is releasing new reports for its Excel-based reporting tool. Report wizards guide users through the process and allow them to drill down into the source data, making it easier to dive deep when analyzing results. Most reports are built directly by users, but RMI builds out custom reports by request and releases pre-configured reports to everyone under RMI’s published released schedule.
In April, its CRM worker launched, focusing on the needs of marketing, sales and customer care professionals, placing an emphasis on customer’s experiences rather than simply on business transactions.
“We’re excited about this new functionality because the rental industry is so heavily relationship driven, which is why it is so important to focus on customer experiences and satisfaction,” says Lauren Dorman. RMI also launched a new You- Tube channel dedicated to the RMI CRM Worker, with more than 40 published videos, with more to come. It’s the company’s fourth channel of videos focused on training and demonstrations for the RMI Advantage software.
RMI’s next release will target new Business Intelligence reports, adding to its Fleet Management and Utilization reporting library. The company has three major reports slated: Time/ Physical Utilization Chart, Fleet Utilization by Status and a Service Deadline report. These graphical reports all focus on utilization, identifying patterns and trends that influence the overall performance of the rental company. The reports will be available on demand.
Back to School Online with Wynne University
Wynne Systems is introducing Wynne University, a new philosophy on educating its users. The online course teaches new directions about existing methods, and streamlines the experience of finding answers. The course uses new media, expanding beyond written and video documentation. It presents new strategies, actively seeking solutions to the challenges of hiring and training new and existing employees.
A new feature, Zendesk, searches documents by keyword, with feedback going directly to the author. Wynne’s YouTube channel is searchable through Zendesk. The channel offers short, focused videos to guide users through specific functions. Old videos, meanwhile, will remain available for ground-up training.
Wynne University is designed to reduce the cost of training employees. It introduces an e-learning library, as a result of feedback from last year’s Wynne user conference. It has a collection of training programs. Users must complete fields and perform functions in order to progress through each lesson. The courses simulate performing job functions in Wynne’s RentalMan software. There is a short quiz at the end of each lesson.
The system offers RentalMan ERP certification, awarded by passing a certification test. Different certifications can be awarded for different areas of the system, and different levels of certification – intermediate and advanced – can be earned as well. Tests will be updated as RentalMan evolves and changes. Records are sent electronically to Wynne Systems, and certification records can be verified by calling in.
Why certify? It’s basically “preventive maintenance” for the user’s business, says Wynne, and tends to prevent “slips” in knowledge, reducing the need for re-training and the risk of user error. Certification provides and maintains a knowledgeable training environment for future hires, and helps users get the most out of their system.
Uptime through the Roof
What is the most important purpose of a service technician? Is it searching through manuals to find part information? Is it after, hopefully, finding a part number, getting on the telephone and ordering that part? And if that part has been superseded by a newer part, would it be arranging to send a part back to the manufacturer and trying to find the correct name and number for the part?
Not likely. The most important task for a service technician -- who with most rental companies these days, especially if they are well-trained, certified, experienced and accomplished, make a pretty good salary – is to spend time actually working on equipment. However, with many rental companies, it’s certainly possible that service techs might spend 30 or 40 percent of their time doing something else, rather than actually fixing equipment. And consequently, many rental companies have far too many machines in the shop awaiting service. Equipment not working is downtime, not making money, not contributing to ROI.
With SmartEquip technology, a rental company’s percentage of uptime can increase dramatically. The service manuals are now online and constantly updated by the more than 130 manufacturers that are part of the SmartEquip network. When parts and service information is updated by the manufacturer, the rental company has to do nothing; it’s all done automatically. And in most cases, the part the technician is seeking is represented visually through schematics, and with a few keystrokes, the service technician can find the part he needs and order it to be sent immediately.
One such rental company, which has benefited from SmartEquip for several years, is Rental One, based in Fort Worth, Texas.
“In the past, prior to SmartEquip, a mechanic would spend a lot of time trying to research and find out what the right part was in conjunction with our parts department,” says O’Neal. “They would order the part and not realize it was superseded by a new part, so when the wrong part came in, we would have to turn around and send it back to the manufacturer to get the right part. That’s been eliminated with SmartEquip because it knows if anything has been superseded and automatically does it for you. It knows our inventory. I don’t think we’ve had a mistake in parts ordering where we ordered the wrong thing, that problem has been eliminated. We used to have a huge inventory of parts, a lot of dollars spent. Now we have what I’d call a parts closet. We only keep the bare essentials like filters, because the process of ordering is so simple. And our mechanics can do what they are supposed to do – turn wrenches and fix equipment. Our uptime is through the roof.”
SmartEquip has enabled the mid-market rental companies to similarly streamline training systems and other data entry operations. SmartEquip founder Alex Schuessler adds that the data management benefit is even greater than he’d anticipated.
“Companies are telling us that data management is a manual process in which they’re constantly behind, which is to upload and manually type in these constantly changing lists of numbers,” he says. “We’re writing it into their system at the time of order and they are immediately integrated into their system. So the parts order goes right through and is fulfilled more quickly, which again reduces downtime.”
Alert Computer Systems
Answers to “What if” Questions
Alert Computer Systems Dashboard Generator is a business intelligence extension of Alert EasyPro’s built-in report-writing system that enables users to create complex “workbooks” in Excel that are updated by Alert automatically. The program is designed to create custom financial modeling, forecasting, or analyzing financial results using tables and graphs that refresh in seconds. The system can consolidate multiple reports or answer “what if” questions, integrating reports into Excel. The system can use the Alert “cyberquery” tool bar in Excel to align cells with reports generated from Alert.
The system facilitates timely reporting. When a rental company has multiple reports, Dashboard Generator enables users to model the data into a single Excel workbook that can be refreshed in a few seconds. Users can set up business intelligence metrics to analyze performance across multiple departments or comparable periods.
Field Service Mobility Keeps in Touch
Baseplan’s new Field Service Mobility application for tablets provides mobile mechanics and service technicians with the ability to process all aspects of service and repairs, giving them full access to parts availability, upcoming service requests and back-to-base service communications, maximizing productivity from remote locations. FSM captures all aspects of recording parts and labor for equipment repair, allowing field service technicians to take photos, capture signatures direct to device, providing real-time integration to back-end systems. The program solves the problem of being out of range of available communications, as the application will automatically synchronize with servers when back in range of communications service.
FSM is designed for Windows 8 and 7 tablet devices and will soon be available on Android devices.