Not Bored With the Board

March 1, 2000
Although Illini Hi-Reach was one of the first equipment rental companies to have a significant presence on the Internet, co-owners Larry Workman and Don

Although Illini Hi-Reach was one of the first equipment rental companies to have a significant presence on the Internet, co-owners Larry Workman and Don Davies still believe in an old-fashioned system called "the board" when it comes to tracking its inventory.

The color-coded chart, which takes up about 30 feet of wall space in Illini's main office area, is quite simple: red for scissorlifts, blue for booms and green for miscellaneous equipment. Listing the unit number, model number, serial number and the spec of the machine, the board tells if a particular unit is on-rent, off-rent and ready to be picked up, in the yard not utilized, or in the shop. It shows the customer's location and when each unit went on rent and the estimated date of coming off rent, with a space for comments.

During an era when most rental companies prefer to track equipment by computer, Workman and Davies - who, particularly, concentrates on the operations end of the business - find the board the most efficient way to determine the status of every piece of equipment and to figure out trucking schedules.

"We can tell at a glance where everything is," Davies says. "We can plan trucking schedules so that the pickup can coincide with a delivery; therefore, our drivers are not running around wasting time, and we're not late on deliveries."

Of course, even the most perfect tracking system doesn't make planning easy. "We try to draw up the trucking schedule at about 3 in the afternoon for the next day," Workman says. "And usually at 4 o'clock we're tearing up the schedule because one phone call can change everything. But we make it work. And deliveries get priorities over pickups because we have to deliver equipment on time so that people can do their work on time."

There is no perfect system, but boards like Illini's are still popular with quite a few in the rental business because you can see the whole picture at a glance.-M.R.

Illini Hi-Reach Lemont, Ind. History: After years of sales work for companies such as Selby's Aero Squad, Crane & Machinery and Grove Manlift, Larry Workman and Don Davies founded Illini in January 1993 in Villa Park, Ill., eventually moving to their current facility in Lemont, a small town south of Chicago. They started the company with six scissorlifts. The company now has more than 200 units.

Equipment: Aerial work platforms (85 percent of inventory), industrial cranes, reach forklifts. The largest segment of the inventory is 60-foot boomlifts. Illini is a dealer for Grove industrial carry-deck cranes, and carries products from JLG, Snorkel, Grove, Strato-Lift, Skytrak, Lull and Gradall.

Customer base: About 45 percent industrial, especially refineries, steel mills and chemical plants. Customers include plant personnel and contractors doing maintenance inside the facilities. The rest is construction: commercial, home construction, bridge and highway work.

Key management: Larry Workman, president; Don Davies, vice president; Jamie Gray, service manager; Jerry Lodovisi, sales rep; and Donna Revak, office manager.

Revenues: 1999 rental revenue was almost $3.5 million. Workman expects to top $4 million this year. Illini revenues are about 85 percent rental.

Major jobs: Illini has been a key equipment provider on such jobs as exterior refurbishing of McCormick Place, Chicago's main convention center; demolition and reconstruction at Bethlehem Steel in Burns Harbor, Ill.; a major addition to Ford Motors, Lansing, Ill.; reconstruction of major sections and bridges for I-294, I-55, I-290, I-80 and I-57; construction of Trump and Majestic Star Riverboat Casino, Gary, Ind.; refurbishing of Dyche Stadium, Evanston, Ill.; the repair of Michigan Avenue, downtown Chicago.