The Innovative Product Awards 2018 – Re-Imagining Rental

Dec. 15, 2018
Serious Labs, Point of Rental Software and Sullair Corp. take the Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards in a boundary-stretching year of innovation.

2018 was another year of eye-opening innovation in the rental market and this year’s Innovative Product Award entries have once again stretched the bar on what is possible, both in extending the rental industry to new horizons commercially and the introduction of new high-tech options. In the coming months as RER profiles all of the entries, readers will have a chance to see a fascinating range.

This month you will read about the top three vote-getters from our panel of independent judges, more than a dozen rental industry participants. Taking home the Gold Award is Serious Labs for its virtual reality simulator which represents a game-changing breakthrough in the important area of training, offering 34 scenarios that enable users to experience the reality of challenging situations in mobile elevating work platform operation without ever leaving the ground. But you will feel as though you were up in the air.

The Silver Award goes to a perennial Innovative Product Award winner and finalist, Point of Rental Software for its UnLockIt, the use of a smartphone app that enables a rental customer to lock or unlock a locker 24/7 to rent a tool, thus re-imagining rental and how it might be practiced in an increasingly high-tech age.

And the Bronze Award goes to Sullair, which re-uses its legendary air-end, first introduced in the mid-1960s, to offer a robust portable oil-free rotary screw air compressor that is already having a big impact particularly in industrial rental markets.

These three winners qualified for the big prizes by winning their categories: Serious Labs in Technology Enhancements, Point of Rental for Computer Software and Sullair for Compressors and Air Tools. In the coming issues, you’ll also read about nine other category winners: Hilti’s TE2000-AVR demolition hammer in Concrete-Working Equipment; Takeuchi’s TL6R track loader in Earthmoving; POWR2 Hybrid Energy Systems in Engines/Power Sourcing; Lincoln Electric’s Vantage 549 in Generators/Welders; Haulotte’s HA 61 Le Pro in Lifts; Allmand Brothers’ Nite-Lite E-Series in Light Towers; Gehl’s Mark74 Series 74-hp telescopic handlers in Material Handling; Hilti’s Water Management System DD-WMS-100 in the Miscellaneous category; and Stihl’s TS 440 Cutquik saw in Power Tools.

We’ll be telling you about all these and a couple of dozen more in the months to come. But first, on to the Grand Prize winners.


GOLD AWARD --- Serious Labs

Product: Ryze-MEWP VR Simulator

KEY INNOVATION: Virtual reality training safely puts the operator in complex and risky situations, so they can develop necessary operating skills without the risk of physical harm. The new Serious Labs Ryze-MEWP Virtual Reality Training Simulator provides a comprehensive aerial training solution for the rental industry, taking the future of training and safety culture to the next level.

For fans of construction equipment, it might be the most fun you’ve ever had. In a way it’s like a video game, but the most realistic video game you’ve played yet, total immersion on a level we have yet to see in technology. When you ride – and I’m not sure “ride” is quite the right word -- in the Ryze MEWP VR Simulator it’s easy to forget that you’re only a few inches off the floor because the degree of reality is so intense. Compared to the first versions Serious Labs created a few years back, the new Ryze simulator really takes the user into the air.

But this product is about far more than fun. This is a serious journey into learning in ways we have not seen before in this industry. Serious Labs explains it this way:

“Globally there is a deficit in competent operators and a lack of objective aerial operator training assessments — the very cause of most incidents. The new Serious Labs Ryze-MEWP Virtual Reality Training Simulator provides scissor and boom lift operators with complex training scenarios simulating real jobsite situations.

The simulator consists of 18 training scenarios on slab and diesel RT scissor lifts, and 16 articulating boom lift scenarios. The simulations progressively become more challenging, isolating tasks around driving, elevating, platform positioning, and vehicle placement. Each piece of equipment contains a 20-minute practical assessment and approximately one hour of training content for remediation. Metrics provide feedback about the operator’s performance and behaviors, showing gaps, weaknesses and strengths.

The simulator kit includes Serious Labs’ motion base which connects what the operator sees with sensory feedback of equipment operations. The user can look down and have the sensation of being at height or load equipment on a truck and feel the bumps, allowing the user to fully engage with the training. The motion base eliminates nausea felt in other VR products on the market today.

The simulator requires an internet connection for updates/diagnostics and operates on a basic 15-amp outlet. The physical footprint is two feet, eight inches x two feet eight inches, with full setup measuring six feet x 10 feet. The kit includes an Oculus headset and touch controls, aluminum cage, laptop, boom lift control panel, scissor lift control panel and travel case.

The Ryze meets IPAF and ANSI training requirements, with scenarios mapping 1:1 on assessment for certification validation, correcting behaviours and enforcing best practices.

The scissor lift scenarios were co-developed by Operations Director Peter Douglas of Nationwide Platforms, a UK-based safety expert and aerial industry veteran. Scissor lift leader Skyjack also provided guidance on scenario development, including key feedback on scissor lift models, sensory feeling and realism.”

An exceptional aspect of the Simulator is its ability to zero in and define whatever weaknesses an operator might have, whether the operator is learning for the first time or an experienced operator that might need a touchup.

“It enables us to access where a trained operator is weak and address those areas of weakness,” says Serious Labs CEO Jim Colvin. “We can isolate exactly where the area of weakness is, it’s really an MRI for operators. It can see everything you are doing on a simulator and everything you’re not doing. That enables us to zoom in where an operator can be improved, whether it’s a new operator striving for efficiency and effectiveness or a seasoned operator who might have become over-confident and not paying attention in certain areas, just as the driver of a car might do. It’s not just a pass-fail scenario, but it’s taking a more holistic approach. Sometimes an operator might not notice something he’s doing, and even a traditional instructor observing from the ground might not see it.”

The advancing scenarios are a full curriculum in the operation of an aerial work platform, covering all aspects of operation, taking the operator into dangerous situations without having to expose him to real dangers high above the ground. And it grades the operator’s ability to go forward or in reverse, to handle corners, to handle the ability to come very close to a building without making contact, simulating wind and other conditions that one might face on a jobsite.

The simulator has penetrated the rental industry in the past year or so and is now global in its use, particularly in Europe and the Middle East as well. United Rentals, which has been using versions of the simulator in its training academy for the past few years, has just signed an agreement to use the machines at training centers throughout North America.

Colvin tells a favorite illustration of the program’s effectiveness. One of the simulator’s creators, Wade Carson, attended an IPAF training course in the U.K. along with other operators. He had never actually stepped into a real boom lift, while the other operators in the course all were experienced. Carson was offered the opportunity to practice with a machine before his assessment, but he insisted on being assessed as he was. He scored 100 percent, and the surprised instructor said he couldn’t recall any operator of any level of experience scoring a perfect score.

The Ryze MEWP Simulator is taking training and education in the equipment rental industry to new levels and the benefits are just beginning.



Product: Point of Rental Software’s UnLockIt

KEY INNOVATION: The UnLockIt App allows rental businesses to provide self-service rental, rental-on-demand, and after-hours parts pickup. It does this with mobile-friendly contracts, and by integrating with automated devices.


Self-Serve Lockers

“Sometimes circumstances make it impossible to pick equipment up or drop it off during business hours. It’s not efficient to staff a store 24/7, but Point of Rental’s UnlockIt app allows rental businesses to provide self-service rental, rental on demand, and after-hours parts pickups.

Here’s how it works: A customer makes their reservation online (or in the store), but they need to pick it up after hours. The counter staff confirms the reservation and places the item in a locker with a locking mechanism that’s now tied to that contract.

The customer arrives after hours, opens up the contract using the app on their phone, and scans it into a central location. A locker automatically opens with their tool inside, ready for them to rent. When they’re done, they can return it to the store during business hours or return it to the lockers by scanning their contract back in.

If there’s something wrong with an item, customers can make notes prior to return. If there’s a problem when it gets back, cameras on the lockers let staff know when and how it came back. It’s even possible to provide 100 percent self-service rental. Customers simply get the item they need, when they need it, and only as long as they need it for. A business owner gets contracts tracked, customer information, and income while they’re not even working.

An app that benefits both rental owners and their customers, Point of Rental’s UnlockIt reimagines rental, making it accessible for anyone, anytime.”

The locker concept is currently available on the market and Point of Rental is working with several of its customers on trying different ways to use it. The most obvious is for participating rental centers to put up lockers in front of or outside of their locations. Point of Rental has found a supplier that can provide banks of locker that can be set up in the location the rental company wants to use. They can even be customized into different shapes or sizes according to customer demand and what type of tool or equipment they would want to store.

But Point of Rental CEO Wayne Harris sees the potential for other applications. One such possibility is for a rental store to use in a different market to possibly test the waters for expansion, or simply a way of serving customers in additional areas without actually opening branches.

“If you think about it, what’s the cost to open another store?” says Harris. “Buy or rent a property and set up signage and parking, employees and all of that. This is a way where if you’re thinking ‘I wonder if I could expand into that area,’ you could put a locker over there and start getting a feel for how many customers you might have in that area. Some rental customers, when they think about the locker, they think ‘oh that would be a great thing to have in front of my store for after-hours rental if somebody needs to rent a sewer snake at 10 o’clock at night.’ But I think the real concept is ‘how can I expand my rental footprint?’ So maybe you can go down to the local Tru-Value hardware store and ask: ‘Can I put a locker in front of your building?’ So now you’re still doing the rentals at 10 o’clock at night, but now you’re getting a different clientele in a different area.”

Harris has other ideas as well. “You can put these lockers in apartment complexes and put a vacuum cleaner in there and you’ve got hundreds of people that go down those stairs and they can just pick up the vacuum, go vacuum their place and put it right back in and ready for the next guy.

“You can also put it at a jobsite and fill that locker with equipment. And let’s say a power tool or a demo hammer breaks down, there would be an option on the app to say if a machine was broken, and the rental company could have a guy drive around in a truck fixing items that are in the lockers. Also, if a customer is in the middle of a job and needs a cut-off saw or some kind of tool, they can just walk over to the side of the jobsite and use their phone to open up the locker, grab the tool and go do the job and then return it and never have to leave the jobsite. What is that worth to a guy if he doesn’t have to leave the job and spend an hour going round-trip for a tool and then the same when he is ready to return it? So maybe a rental store can charge a higher rate for the convenience because the customer just goes down to get it out of the locker rather than driving to the store to pick up and return.”

A way of using the lockers, Harris suggests, is pre-authorizing a customer’s credit card for the value of the tool or equipment and if it’s not returned, the rental company charges the card full value.

At Point of Rental’s recent user meeting, customers brainstormed various different ways of using the locker and the UnLockIt app.

“I think we’re coming into a day where rental stores need to be re-thinking about how rental is going to be done in five years and 10 years,” Harris adds. “Like taxi companies were sitting back fat and happy, not thinking about other ways to do things and now they’re hurting. So rental stores need to continue to be innovative and keeping ways for consumers to do what they’re used to in other types of environments.”



Product: Sullair, a Hitachi Group Co.’s OFD 1550 Portable Oil Free Rotary Screw Air Compressor

KEY INNOVATION: Sullair identified a need to offer rental houses 100-percent oil-free air in a mobile package and developed an innovative product to fill the void. The Sullair OFD1550 oil free portable air compressor brings ISO 8573-1 Class 0 oil-free air wherever it is needed—plantside, refineryside or at the jobsite. Able to satisfy both short-term and long-term rental customer needs, the OFD1550 gives rental houses the flexibility to satisfy more customer demands and provide higher utilization rates, resulting in more profits.

DESCRIPTION: The Sullair OFD1550 oil free portable air compressor is designed for maximum reliability and durability. It features the legendary – invented back in the mid-1960s -- Sullair dry screw two-stage air end driven by a powerful Cummins QSX15 diesel engine. The OFD1550, particularly useful in industrial applications such as pharmaceutical manufacturing, food production facilities, nuclear power plants, refineries, provides versatile operation—even in environmentally sensitive applications. Advanced engineering has resulted in a truly innovative air flow package designed to provide optimal performance and cooling under various load and ambient situations.

Offering oil-free air in a portable package, the compact design of the OFD1550 makes it easy to store, transport and navigate a jobsite, refinery or manufacturing location.

“Sullair saw an opportunity, where it was really an under-served market,” says Russ Warner, vice president of rental and infrastructure, sales and air solutions at Sullair. “There was nobody really retailing oil-free diesel machines to rental yards for their rental use, so we jumped back into it.

The OFD1550 incorporates many advanced features important to machine operators, such as a state-of-the-art 7-inch color Sullair Touch Screen Controller; the ability to operate in temperatures ranging from -20°F to 115°F; high-altitude capability (up to 12,000 feet above sea level); multiple lockable service doors providing easy access to all service components; and the latest technology in low-emission diesel engine packages. Both a refinery package and cold weather package is included in standard configuration.

“It’s not uncommon, if you think about the refinery applications, they have these working in Texas in the summer and we have them working in Fort MacMurray in Canada,” Warner says. “All the extremes between those two markets and it does well in both environments.”

A 250-gallon onboard fuel system provides 10-plus hours runtime, making it ready for the jobsite and extended duty uses—all day long.

Sullair AirLinx technology allows rental companies to monitor and track telematics for maximum uptime and fleet management. Installed standard, telematics has become almost a requirement in today’s jobsites and manufacturing applications.

“We see that as critical, because not only does the owner want to see where an asset is located, but they need to see the parameters on how they are operating,” says Warner. “These are not inexpensive machines, they are a big capital investment so it’s important for them to do that. We have a service program that we really encourage customers to take advantage of where we will also monitor their machine. Hitachi has been making great advances in artificial intelligence and we’re starting to use some of that predictive maintenance and technology to predict any possible failures or machine issues and alert customers long before they could have a problem, so we can rectify it. We use the telematics to monitor and make sure machines don’t go down unexpectedly.”

The units have resonated strongly in the rental market since Sullair introduced them earlier this year at The Rental Show.

“We’ve done very well since we launched this product in New Orleans this year,” Warner adds. “We’ve actually sold out all production slots for the year. But they’ve been primarily to the large rental houses, some of the national ones that are buying them up right now.”

However, Warner notes, the units have been in demand from smaller independent rental companies as well.

“It’s all market specific; it depends on what their local need is,” Warner says. “Especially if there’s a strong manufacturing base in a rental market. Typical applications would be pharmaceutical manufacturing, textiles, sometimes plastic water bottle manufacturing, food manufacturing plants and also refineries. If they’re serving those industrial markets, there’s definitely a need for this type of product.”

Video outlining the OFD1550 innovations: