RER conducted a series of interviews for our October issue on software technology and will be publishing a number of them in RER Reports. The first is with Mike Stilwagner, vice president of operations for Irvine, Calif.-based Wynne Systems, who talks about new hand-held technology and other Wynne innovations, how rental companies can improve during the recession and why cloud computing will grow in popularity.
By Michael Roth, RER
RER: What have been some of the new developments in software over the past year or so from your company?
Stilwagner: There have been a number of new developments with RentalMan over the past year. In order to keep in line with industry needs, we realized we needed to place an even higher priority on adding more cost-saving features to RentalMan. Our hand-held applications are a great example of this. Hand-held applications facilitate the workflow of capturing the outgoing and incoming equipment information. Asset number; meter reading and fuel along with accessory quantities are all recorded and instantly communicated throughout the company. The number of times a document is handled is reduced, allowing people to concentrate on higher level, knowledge user tasks. We also added RentalMan Dashboard to our product line. Dashboards allow you to quickly analyze process and share real-time information. Distributing information in a timely manner is critical to making the best decisions and enhances business performance across the organization.
Other new additions to RentalMan are Asset Adviser, to help with the decisions of transferring, selling and replacing rental fleet. We’ve added a streamlined application update process to roll out minor enhancements and full releases and enhanced credit card processing that fully complies with the latest Payment Credit Industry requirements and standards. Also unicode database features to support installations in China, Japan, Russia and other character based dialects. We are also excited about the latest version of Customer Portal where rental customers may view their contracted pricing for equipment, labor and merchandise; searches sorted by estimated return date. Automate reports to specific staff on scheduled days; bar graphs and pie charts for rental history.
What are some of the new developments you have planned?
Currently we are designing the next generation of RentalMan. Meanwhile version 11, to be released this fall, includes:
· Tiered rates to discounts based on time on rent
· Suspend billable hours or days by line item or for holidays, inclement weather and furloughs
· An international banking module
· Additional European accountancy certifications
· Number of transaction copies at the customer level
· Record weather conditions
· Roll based user portal
What are your customers in the rental business asking for particularly? What do you see as their priorities currently?
Our customers are asking for new ways to cut costs. Even though saving time and money has always been important, there is an even greater emphasis on becoming as resourceful as possible this year. Well-trained users give you clean data and keep them working within the system instead of trying to find ways to work around it. Taking a few hours each month to train can save the time of correcting bad data and the money wasted in reworking labor, credit memos and bad information passed within the organization.
From a software perspective, what do you see as some of the important things a rental company should be concentrating on in the current economic environment?
Rental companies should focus on what they do best, rental. Software providers spend all their time and resources to learn about where the industry is going and what the next generation needs to be equipped with to remain successful. Take advantage of what technology has given us and use the tools that have been tested and proven to be successful. For example, the development of dashboard applications that present the “front page news” help companies understand where there are exceptions that need to be managed. The Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) can indicate good news or bad and the appropriate place to concentrate their limited time. Being able to view resources, analyze trends and test alternatives help companies effectively achieve operational goals.
Do you ever find yourself thinking: “If only I had $20 million (or pick a figure!) to spend on such and such?” If so, what would you spend it on?
We make this decision every year. What R & D projects to work on? RFID improvements; user interface ergonomics; store and forward information on portable devices for signatures, service calls, sales calls and other field work.
What are some new technologies that are important?
Each client will have their own list of priorities. Heavy equipment, pump and power companies need telemetric, field service applications and transportation logics. Event rental clients could use RFID technology with hand-held scanning to track the myriad of bulk items that pass through their doors on pallets and barrels with each order. If they also offer portable sanitation an inexpensive telemetric device would facilitate service and return transportation expediting finding the units in the field.
What are some of the new capabilities you expect from software looking ahead five years?
Throughout the years, we have seen a greater desire from companies to be more hands off with their IT needs and opt for Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings. Looking ahead five years, it would be easy to foresee more companies move toward cloud computing. Cloud computing allows users to avoid capital expenditure by renting usage from a third-party provider. More applications and companies will use this model. Why provide your own water, electricity, natural gas, etc.? The same applies for computing power. The ebbs and flows are dealt with and by experts. No need to waste staff on a utility. Concentrate on your expertise and let the others provide expert service.
Laptops, PDA’s, and telecommunications will continue to merge. This is important as we try to collect and deliver information to and from the field efficiently.
Applications will be delivered via user portals and the software publishers will be less known to the users. This means as publishers, our jobs melding into ergonomic user interfaces that are intuitive.