FEATURE: Data crunching
By Helen Wright12 September 2016
UK-based Doosan Power Systems runs a £14 million (€18.5 million) internal rental business, tackling a large volume of orders from within Doosan, with just half a dozen people in the office and seven in its depots. It has a little help from Wynne Systems, the owner of Result Group, and its RentalResult software.
Doosan Power Systems equipment manager Tony Walker said the company would not be able to cope with such few people without the help of this technology. “The software does allow a small rental operation to punch well above its weight,” he said.
Mr Walker explained, “The idea was to control the company’s stock picking process and make it a paperless procedure. After testing, the system went live in February last year, and the company has spent the intervening time RFID tagging all of its equipment to tie-in with the system.
“This allows the storeman to bring up the picking list on the tablet and from there, using a RFID reader, read the plant numbers into the picking list, without manually keying in the plant number. This speeds up the picking process even more now and ensures they are very few problems with plant numbers.”
The mobile apps being used are Logistic Picking and Assets, and the software programme is the Transport Control Centre, all developed by Wynne System (RentalResult).
“Now we receive an order into the system, we convert this to a picking list in the Transport Control Centre. The picking list is then allocated to a Storeman, who will view the picking list on his tablet. He can then pick the items and move onto the next picking list.
“The Stores supervisor then 'marks' the picking list as ready for despatch. He then allocates the despatch to a truck and despatches the goods. He produces a load list (all despatch notes in one go) and gives them to the driver. Job done and with no paperwork between the Stores and office, no walking backward and forward, it works very well.”
Meanwhile, Matt Hopp, general manager of InTempo Software, said it was a myth that only the largest rental businesses could benefit from enterprise resource planning (ERP). InTempo is Wynne Systems' sister company, targetting local and independent regional rental operators in North America.
“Organisations of all sizes are sitting on mountains of data that can be turned into actionable information,” he said.
“Amidst this ‘information age’, smaller and mid-sized rental businesses can also realise the benefits that an ERP offers. In our own experience at InTempo, a growing number of customers, including single-location rental stores, are adopting ERP technology to harness the power of data and information.”
Mr Hopp said using ERP software made it easier to collect, access and manage information across all areas of rental operations, including purchasing, quoting, reservations, rentals, repairs, maintenance, parts, billing and collections. Users can also capture a clear view of profitability by managing assets from the initial purchase order through to its disposal, e.g. choose from depreciation methods.
ERP systems can also enhance collaboration throughout an organisation, and make it easier and faster to train new employees.
“Adaptable technology can keep pace as you grow,” Mr Hopp added. “Because ERP technology is an all-in-one solution, customisations and third party software integrations are easy to implement. Scalability makes it easy to add locations, new users and new rental inventory lines.”
Meanwhile, UK-based rental software developer inspHire, which said it currently served over 1800 businesses with more than 10000 users worldwide, said customer relationship management (CRM) technology was becoming essential for keeping in touch with existing customers and prospects, managing the sales pipeline and reducing the time taken for chasing quotes.
Its CRM platform has been updated with a new integration with e-mail marketing automation tool Mailchimp. The company said custom lists could now be built based on behaviour, sales, interest or needs, meaning businesses can provide companies with relevant information that is engaging and will help achieve business goals.
Campaign results from Mailchimp are stored back into inspHire CRM, allowing users to analyse campaign success rate, monitor sales, open rates, click through rates and revenue.
“Bringing together customer information in one integrated platform helps build a customer focused business from marketing through to sales, customer service and business analysis. It gives everyone involved in the business access to important campaign information that will ensure your business stays at the top of its game,” the company said.
Another update from inspHire is a customisable dashboard - allowing sales pipeline monitoring and updates on information such as overdue activities, and schedules.
For its part, Texada Software (which is owned by US-based rental company Noble Iron) has launched FleetLogic, a new asset tracking and data management tool. The platform combines a mobile app and web-based dashboard that allow users to manage field service, logistics, in-shop work orders, and many other business processes. Texada said users could manage and rapidly scale entire operations from the palm of their hand.
Key FleetLogic features include paperless capture and review of photos, notes, digital signatures and asset history; logistics, fulfilment, and service queue management from any device; mobile inspections and tracking reports; and configuration for individual user needs, requiring no additional programming.
Texada Software general manager Alex Kress said, “With FleetLogic our customers will now have a central resource for all fleet-related information, on almost any device. With this new level of accessibility, we have opened the door to empowering users.”
Meanwhile, UK-based rental software developer MCS said it is helping rental companies find practical ways to use technology to their competitive advantage. It said mobile rental apps lent themselves to eliminating unnecessary paperwork, for instance, and with more remote working and workers moving around between depots, it said it was important to be able to view and input data that directly updates their rental management software.
MCS said its new Picking Mobile app uses WIFI to free users from having to be near to a desktop PC to share their picking data with their co-workers. Depot managers can allocate new jobs seamlessly to their warehouse team and inventory availability is refreshed when the picking data is reconciled with the contract, according to the company.
MCS software development manager Chris Clarke said, “MCS’ Picking Mobile promotes smarter working. The data captured is more accurate, as they are picked on the spot from predefined lists. Using electronic pick lists and scanning of equipment barcodes eliminates the need to print to paper at all – a huge cost saving.
“There is no need for staff to rekey their data into the hire system – since picking data quickly reconciled in the MCS-rm system at the touch of a button. This saves a hire company a vast amount of wasted time which can now be spent more productively elsewhere.”
And the MCS-rm system has CRM capability built in. Guy van der Knaap, MCS’ managing director, said, “An increasing number of transactions are being performed on mobile devices whilst workers are on the move. The sales rep can operate independently now without needing the contact, or support, from the back office.
“Using CRM Mobile helps the sales team plan and map journeys to their client addresses, saving them time rekeying address and phone number data into their smartphones. When on site, they can reference that client’s order history, outstanding quotes and financial information instantly.
“They can also see an up to date rental inventory levels ready for when they want to raise a new quote. Sales teams can capture their appointment notes immediately after it has taken place ensuring that no data is lost whilst travelling. Sales people want to make the best decisions quickly and CRM Mobile helps them do this whilst helping to strengthen their client relationships.”
Other innovations from the company include its 24/7 customer portal, which has been revamped to be responsive in design and display on smartphones and mobile devices.
Another feature of MCS-rm include optimising journeys and routes in advance –with routes allocated depending upon the proximity of the site to their nearest depot using mapping tools. Drivers equipped with the mobile app receive all their jobs electronically.
“Our Transport Mobile application is really gaining momentum – especially internationally where the distance between depots is that much greater and the cost savings on transport even more substantial,” said Mr van der Knaap.
And MCS has also integrated their MCS-rm software with JobWatch, a GPS vehicle tracking and resource scheduling technology from Bigchange Apps, to create Workshop Mobile.
Mr van der Knaap said, “MCS Workshop Mobile gives a Transport Controller an overview of all their remote service engineers’ exact locations. It’s easy for them to allocate the most suitable person for a job, based on the engineers’ current availability and proximity to a job.
“The engineer uses their mobile app to record the work undertaken whilst recording any spare parts used from their van for the repair. Alternatively they can order new spares, there and then, to minimise wasted time.”
The adoption of cloud computing in rental also continues to accelerate. Businesses are less likely to invest in setting up their own server environment and hire expensive IT administrators to look after their in-house IT platforms, according to Mr van der Knaap.
“Hire companies are making the leap from investing in their own IT servers to storing their rental data ‘in the cloud’. It reduces the business overhead costs as fewer trained IT staff are required and subscription payments mean there are no surprises in the day-to-day budgeting.
“At MCS, we have noticed a sharp upward trend in demand for our MCS-rm cloud solution. It’s more flexible to add or remove additional users and meets the changing demands of a hire business. Using cloud-based rental software means a hire company can focus more effectively on their strategic business goals.”
Meanwhile, software developer Annata is also developing its mobile capabilities – it offers its mobile tablet app for Mobile Mechanics, for instance, and this was followed by a new Sales Advisor App. The company said it was now working – alongside customers such as UK rental company Speedy Hire – to develop additional mobile Apps. This includes a Mobile Inspections App which is due for release later this year.
All of Annata’s mobile Apps are made available through the Microsoft Azure Marketplace – a cloud-based ERP programme. This means that rental companies can access the ERP functionality from a mobile device, including IOS and Android.
Central to the Annata system is the Device module which handles the lifetime management of equipment – this can go back as far as the manufacture, through to purchase, service, maintenance, disposal – from ‘cradle to grave’.
Annata said an entire rental business – including HR, sales, marketing, purchase, banking, fixed assets and more - could be run using one platform.
“We believe this is one of the areas of greatest efficiencies for rental companies, who historically had to have one solution for rental, and have then needed interfaces to integrate with their other back office systems or CRM systems, which can often hold back a business that needs to react quickly to market changes or customer demands,” the company said, adding that company-specific customisations were also possible, with the option to upgrade as time goes on.
Meanwhile, Dean Jacobs, rental services director at software company HSO, said the latest ERP systems were exactly what rental companies need to keep their business on track in today’s ultra-competitive rental environment.
“Today’s multi-location companies are also multi-lingual, multi-currency and work across multiple time zones too,” he said. “Inevitably, multi-faceted companies have multiple IT systems to deal with the diversity and variability of their business.
“Larger companies have grown through acquisition, which probably means inheriting a jumbled IT architecture, often made up of second or third generation systems. These are often rich in functionality because they have grown over time, but nonetheless tend to function as silos and are difficult to integrate across the entire organisation.”
Mr Jacobs said HSO had recently implemented a system for international rental company Ashtead Technology. “Working across different time zones meant that there was always a lapse of intelligence and insight on utilisation and, indeed, the current state of the business,” Mr Jacobs said.
“Now all the data across all their geographies is reflected in co-ordinated universal time (UTC) so whether a hire begins at 3am UTC in Singapore or 10am in Brazil, users view this consistently from every location.
“In other words, regardless where they are working from, the business processes are identical. Documents such as invoices are all in the appropriate languages and currencies, but fundamentally they are consistent and standard.”
Other advantages include customer relationship management tools such as automatic order processes and tracking prospects. In fact, having a central source of real-time information can help ensure all equipment is returned on time and help with financial planning, Mr Jacobs added.
“In my view, the rental industry has an extremely bright future; just look at how servitisation and subscriptions are taking over beyond the world of plant and heavy industry,” Mr Jacobs said.
“However, promising prospects usually lead to increased competition. Only those willing to optimise their use of technology will be able to cut through the complexity to maintain and grow their profitability.”
Overcoming the cost-cutting game
Erik Bengtsson, executive VP of Cramo Scandinavia, oversaw the roll-out of Zilliant rate optimisation software MarginMax throughout the company. If you are reading the tablet edition of this magazine, click on the image in this story to play a video of Erik and Iain Lewis, Zilliant director of customer success, discussing how the software helped the Finnish rental company to improve efficiency.
“Cramo’s business is very complex because we operate in many countries and there are many pricing decisions made every day,” said
Mr Bengtsson. “By 2009, the effects of the economic downturn made hitting profit and loss goals much tougher at Cramo. Prices were pushed downward and rental duration was getting shorter and shorter.
“Not only that, but customers were dissatisfied as well, as they did not have a consequent price level in the market. Sometimes they paid too much, sometimes they paid too little. They almost never knew how to earn more discounts by increasing rental duration. It was time to act.
"We tried to change our price list, and tell people to give less discounts, but it didn't really work, they discounted anyway. By 2010, we realised that the cost-cutting game was impossible to win."
The company implemented Zilliant’s Margin Max price optimisation software to improve pricing and rental duration rates.
Cramo named to programme Right Price, and began with a pilot in its South operating division, before rolling it out to the West, North and East. The company also provided comprehensive training across its operations.
MarginMax is designed to help sales teams quote the right price at the right time, and to encourage customer loyalty.
“During implementation of rightprice, we realised we had very bad pricing control – it was painful, but it was good to learn how bad it was,” Mr Bengtsson explained.
“Most customers were positive, they think it’s a fair system and they are now bringing more volume to us – they really like having a net price instead of old style pricing with a discount,” he said, adding that other companies in this highly competitive market were also taking note.
“We have seen that our competitors are getting nervous,” Mr Bengtsson said. “The revenue lift we see for the right price customers is over 10%, and the rental duration has grown on average somewhere between six to eight weeks. We are in perfect control centrally as well now.”
Iain Lewis, Zilliant director of customer success, said, “Before the implementation of Margin Max, sales reps at Cramo struggled to explain how the pricing structure worked, now they get very clear price guidance. And the message to Cramo’s customers is clear and simple too – if you rent for longer and spend more with Cramo, you’ll get better prices.”
This is a feature from the July/August 2016 issue of IRN. To read the full article, with extra images and information, subscribe to the magazine: http://www.khl.com/subscriptions/magazines/international-rental-news/