Technology plays a vital role in creating change and opportunity for the rental world in the new millennium. It is a tool that helps level the playing field for all and provides a foundation for new opportunities fueled by improved products, faster communication or the global economy.
All customers, whether they need a scissorlift, vertical personnel lift or a boomlift, basically crave the same thing - a solution to their needs. In the rental industry, the solution partially lies within the products. Over the past 10 years, manufacturers have been considering not just the design of their products, but how their products function. By using advanced research, manufacturers can analyze large quantities of customer input and then work on addressing those needs. This technology identifies a wide variety of questions designed to assess the customers' requirements. Is the operator comfortable? Are the controls easy to reach and operate? Can a new operator quickly learn the controls? Are customer communications and training easy to understand? Does the equipment address all the possible conditions of the work site?
Most product designs begin with the same premise - maximum operating efficiency with minimum operator intervention and maintenance. In other words, elegance lies in simplicity. The equipment needs to be a logical extension of an operator's natural action, which you can achieve with intuitive controls across different product lines, using large, easy-to-read graphic indicators and ergonomic positioning. By understanding how a person uses a machine, manufacturers can apply technology to better meet operator needs and the demands of their job site.
Consider work-site terrain. A machine equipped to operate in mud or snow will provide 100 percent uptime under those conditions; whereas, downtime simply has a negative effect on the bottom line. The same holds true for a machine's power source. To meet customer needs, a manufacturer must consider the constraints of a job site and provide an accessible power source for the machine - whether it's electricity through a conduit or gasoline in a hose. How long is the duty cycle, and how much time will the operator spend recharging or refueling and not producing? Today's new multi-power machines result in higher productivity because equipment can automatically recharge itself.
Improved communication technology also played a part in changing the industry. We are all familiar with how the Internet's real-time technology breaks down communication barriers. Even more exciting is the ability to communicate with equipment via self-diagnostics and satellite communication that allows us to track where a machine is and how it is being used. This capability provides us with knowledge to improve future designs and optimize existing fleet performance.
E-commerce also empowers the key players in the industry to make timely decisions. For distributors and rental companies, for instance, the Internet helps them align themselves with a manufacturer. By linking the manufacturer's Web site to their own, customers have access to all the product specifications as well as information about purchasing products.
The Internet not only removes communication barriers at home but also tears down barriers around the globe. True global marketing is no longer an economic theory, it's a profitable proposition. However it's not as simple as it sounds. While technology provides us with information, it does not make decisions for us. We still need to manage cultural differences, language barriers and political practices so that we can offer products and services that meet those differences.
Technology also creates a more knowledgeable sales force that, in turn, will provide better information and solutions to a global customer base. We can work closer with customers around the world in designing and delivering the products that they want. Because of improved technology, we can engineer high-performance products and support them fully, regardless of their geographic location. More importantly, we'll provide our customers with solutions on a local level utilizing the power of global information.