May 1, 2004
Looking for an efficient way to monitor your equipment and improve your overall business? Wondering what wireless management solutions can do for your

Looking for an efficient way to monitor your equipment and improve your overall business? Wondering what wireless management solutions can do for your rental company? The rental industry can utilize wireless technology in several ways to manage the approximately 2 million pieces of heavy-duty construction equipment in the United States.

The term “wireless management solutions” generates ideas of GPS technology for some people and wireless communication for others. In fact, combining the capabilities of GPS and terrestrial-based systems creates a dynamic solution that rental equipment companies can use to generate revenue, improve customer service and increase security.

Generating revenue

Rental centers of various sizes are beginning to install equipment monitoring and tracking devices in their machinery. These devices capture accurate equipment data enabling rental businesses to increase utilization and recapture residual hours from rental contracts. Efficient wireless monitoring also allows rental companies to increase equipment sharing, boost sales and improve customer service agreements and response time.

Another beneficial feature of wireless management solutions is the ability to monitor engine hours. This powerful tool aids rental companies by performing maintenance only when needed, minimizes duplication of work and reduces downtime of equipment. Most importantly, rental companies are alerted when machinery is being overused and if there are any damage risks that may occur.

One of the most popular characteristics of this technology is the ability to resolve billing disputes. “For example, a long-time customer of a rental [business] owner rented a piece of equipment on a 40 hour weekly rental rate,” says Tim Lewis, senior director and general manager of San Diego-based Qualcomm Wireless Business Solutions. “When the owner checked the equipment's engine log for the week, he found that this customer had actually used the device for 72 hours, 32 overtime hours per the rental agreement. The owner called the customer and explained that the wireless monitoring systems that he uses to maintain his equipment indicated that the machine was being used excessively. He was able to suggest an alternate rental plan with an increased rate that better suited his client's needs and avoided a costly dispute later on. He not only strengthened his relationship with this valuable and important customer but he also increased his rental revenue.”

These features are beneficial to fleet managers and rental distributors because they provide the data needed to pinpoint opportunities for savings and boosting productivity. “Reliable documentation of engine hours is one of the most important methods rental companies can use to determine appropriate pricing plans for their customers,” adds Lewis.

Elevating customer service

“Imagine a rental company receives a phone call from a customer who wants to rent an articulated truck and none are available at the rental company's immediate location,” explains Lewis. “A decade ago, the owner would have probably lost the potential business opportunity. With today's wireless technology, however, the owner can quickly and easily search his database, locate the right equipment, determine its status and availability, and dispatch it for rent, where before he would not have been able to do so. The result is increased utilization and increased revenue.”

Wireless management tools also facilitate appropriate documentation, which guarantees that companies enforce honest billing of their clients and comply with the financial reporting guidelines set forth in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, also known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act. Additionally, software programs ensure that records are properly kept at all times, resulting in fewer headaches in the event of an audit.

Security features

Wireless management solutions reduce theft and unauthorized use by providing cost-effective security management and lien protection through virtual security fences or geo-fences.

With geofencing, a rental company establishes a perimeter that will set off an alert if a piece of equipment is moved outside its contractual boundaries. This feature also aids in deterring thefts and has the capability to notify owners of suspicious activity.

“Equipment theft costs the industry more than a billion dollars annually,” says Lewis. “Rental operators end up suffering from large insurance deductibles that impact their business dollars, and they have to deal with the loss of valuable equipment. Geo-fencing is just one benefit that wireless technology brings to the industry. If equipment is stolen, the piece can easily be tracked wirelessly and recovered, via a system that is pre-installed on the machine before it is rented.”

“Rental equipment companies are faced with higher vulnerability of equipment theft, misuse and abuse than any other industry,” says Daniel Kaplan of Kaplan Associates, Morristown, N.J., an industry analyst. “That's why wireless management solutions represent a turning point for the industry. They essentially provide rental companies with a watchman that efficiently monitors activities and provides constant reports.”

Whether a company's primary concern is security, improving efficiency, lowering maintenance costs or just boosting bottom line, solutions can be tailored to meet its needs.

Incorporating wireless solutions

“Wireless management tools that easily integrate data with back-end business, rental and maintenance software will speed the adoption process by rental equipment companies,” adds Kaplan. “When the industry realizes how straightforward the technology is, more companies will expect and demand equipment manufacturers to have wireless capabilities built in to the machinery.”

Integration is something Qualcomm kept in mind while developing its GlobalTRACS Equipment Management System. The company is well known in the transportation industry for offering reliable wireless fleet management solutions that ensure regulatory compliance. GlobalTRACS is designed to monitor the location and status of equipment assets, communicate with service and delivery trucks and integrate this real-time information with back-office business systems. The company also utilizes a Network Management Center that monitors both satellite and terrestrial networks and supports its customers through its Customer Service Network, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to diagnose problems and answer questions.

“Affordable wireless solutions give rental equipment companies a strong business advantage,” concludes Lewis. “These tools single-handedly manage functions that would ordinarily require the work of several employees, saving companies valuable time and money. Most rental companies are focused on increasing their rental rates 2 to 3 percent — what they don't realize is that the answer is right in front of them by integrating a wireless solution into their equipment and business processes.”

Article courtesy of San Diego-based Qualcomm; www.qualcomm.com.