Industry Outlook:
Rental software and services

Next-generation rental software and services expand capabilities and improves business mobility

Advances in computer technology, Bluetooth information transfer and ever-more powerful and useful personal digital assistants are transforming how rental centers can monitor equipment. Greater access to equipment information can drive greater availability and in turn, improve return on investment.

Pro Contractor Rentals asked leading software and service companies to share their ideas about where this technology is going and how it can improve rental center operation. Their insight shares insight into the industry in general and specifics about where their products and services are heading.

Facing challenges and leveraging technology
Malcolm Roach, President/CEO, Open Door Technology

Open Door Technology has identified the following challenges facing rental centers: 

A rental fleet may meet the requirements of customers today but fast-changing equipment and job trends means rental companies need to rapidly change the composition and balance of their equipment. Equipment that was popular five years ago may now be obsolete. Successful rental centers must be on top of what is needed and respond quickly when new requirements surface.

Many rental businesses find themselves operating multiple systems to meet their business needs. Smaller organizations often settle on an entry-level accounting system, a separate rental system and it’s not unusual to use other systems for service, payroll and inventory. Multiple systems require repetitive data entry, which is inefficient and leads to potential data entry errors. With data spread across various systems, it may not be combined until month-end, which means managers are operating on month-old information.

Today, a business of any reasonable size requires timely information delivered by reliable, secure networks running powerful databases. It is very difficult for small- to medium-sized businesses to source capable information technology professionals or outside organizations to maintain internal systems.

The economic downturn a few years ago has permanently changed the rental business. Today, many contractors prefer to rent equipment rather than maintain their own rental fleets. The rental industry is one of the few where the five-year economic projection is for continuous, significant growth. The result has been the entry of large new competitors and the consolidation of many existing rental businesses.

Major technology shifts have caused many software suppliers to go out of business or have rendered systems obsolete. It can be expensive and difficult to change systems. It gets even more complicated as companies grow, consolidate or launch other business divisions. Running separate systems can be extremely inefficient and inhibit effective reporting.

Finally, the threat of ransomware, malicious software used by cyber criminals to hold computer or computer files for ransom, is very real. An attack can cripple a business.
To meet these challenges, rental centers need rental tracking software to solve problems regarding inflexible rental terms, limited access to real-time information and inefficient invoicing cycles. Open Door Technology’s Dynamics NAV rental management software offers a system flexible enough to handle unique business requirements, helping rental companies create a competitive edge. Open Door Rental Software is a system that works for you, using the power of a single database to give you the access and flexibility you need.

Telematics use increases
Alex Warner, Founder, Pedigree Technologies

Telematics systems and fleet management solutions have been available for decades in the construction and rental industry. The initial mission of these solutions was to help manage the location of equipment. Tracking equipment is certainly useful, but telematics systems are evolving in useful and surprising ways. Here are six considerations that rental companies should be aware of when researching telematics solutions.

1. Telematics standards. A key industry change is the implementation of emerging standards, such as the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) telematics specification.

These standards make it possible to connect a wide variety of equipment to a single system as well as integrate data from other systems.

Many telematics systems still only support one line, brand or type of equipment. The best solutions, however, support a variety of equipment. Otherwise, you will need to keep multiple systems in place. 

Telematics standards make it possible to gain visibility of mixed fleets on one platform. Fortunately, many customers and users, along with leading construction and industrial equipment OEMs, are pioneering the push for industry standards.

2. Think business systems. The telematics marketplace can look like a street vendor bazaar in another country. The marketplace is packed with different providers focusing on varied solutions for many industries. A vendor with a strong record on fleet-management software for service vehicles does not necessarily understand much about your new line of portable air compressors.

Look for companies offering business solutions rather than just asset tracking. The quality of the platform, maturity of the solution and knowledge of your industry are all key.
While tracking will remain a core competency, more robust business systems can address other challenges. Solutions should focus on maximizing the use of rentable machines, reduce wrench time, keep accurate records, support customer operations and billing, help manage warranties and recalls from OEMs efficiently, enable strong service chain and
field-level maintenance, ensure compliance and streamline inspections.

This is where the industry is headed, and is important to identify vendors that are working to resolve your industry-specific problems. A wireless provider can track equipment, but are they focused on helping you solve your current and future business challenges?

3. Customer service and support. The customer service required by businesses of yesteryear is still vital today. It’s what separates an “okay” solution from an integral business partner. Many companies can throw together a telematics solution, but will it scale, support and tailor it to the unique needs of the rental industry?

Those who go with the lowest bidder, or a company with knowledge in only one area such as software, will regret the decision when it comes time to get expert help from your provider. Research the support capabilities of each company you consider.

4. Assess the solution provider’s ability to innovate. Companies solely concerned with how much of your equipment they can track now may not be future-focused enough to help you in the long term. Continued innovation will help drive the returns rental equipment companies need to stay competitive.

Innovation in software solutions happens on the hardware and software levels. Some examples:

Wouldn’t it be nice if hardware could send out an alert if someone is operating the equipment during off-hours, or could interact with service persons’ smart phones to record what equipment they worked on and for how long?

On the software level, imagine connecting field personnel and their service vehicles to the system so they can see where the equipment is and what kind of maintenance they need to do. Or combining information with billing systems so customers can track expenses on the web or use the telematics data for their own operational needs, should they want it.

While we don’t know what the future holds, innovation in hardware and software will continue to drive ROI for the rental industry. You’ll want to partner with a company driving that innovation.

5. Integrations and wider application sets. Some solution providers can track equipment, while others manage rental operations with telematics. The best solution providers are evolving their solutions to include field force and workforce management and using mobile solutions for dispatch, work orders and interaction with field forces.

Vendors are integrating with brand-name ERP accounting systems to assure seamless integration to those systems. They are also working hand-in-glove with OEM-based telematics solutions to ensure the data can be delivered and supported in one usable format.

6. Costs. As is typically the trend in technology, costs are coming down while the technology is getting better and more reliable. As a result, rental centers now have affordable solutions available to them.

When evaluating telematics solutions, consider the initial investment and the positive impact it will have on your bottom line.

The evolution of telematics and fleet-management systems is on the march. Choose a telematics provider that understands your industry and is dedicated to your success.

Rental centers of all sizes benefit from data
Greg A. Bennett, Vice President , Point Of Rental
Data: Sophisticated rental stores demand it, and even those who haven’t felt the need for it until recently now recognize they need it to stay competitive. Contractors sitting at home at 10 p.m. preparing for their next job want to know: “What do I have on rent? What equipment is on this jobsite? How much is this costing? What’s the machine’s availability?” They don’t want to rely on store hours to get information; they expect information instantly, and rental centers have learned that customers will turn to stores that provide it.

Data access, for customers as well as customer service providers and business managers, is still the greatest trend for rental stores in 2016 and beyond. The data captured by a rental management system is seamless and easy to access. When there’s a problem, issue or question, you’re not digging through a stack of paperwork, hoping to find that slip of paper that didn’t get entered. You’re not sending a customer the wrong invoice because a couple of papers got stuck together and one didn’t get processed. Instead, a few clicks on selected fields reveal the information needed to make the right decision.

When the system is used properly, each step in the rental process is documented in realtime. Because it’s in the system immediately, other employees can get an accurate look at what equipment is available, where it is and other information from any system-enabled device.

With integrations like telematics, employees can see whether equipment has maintenance due, how many hours machines are logging and where equipment is located. This reduces errors and increases efficiency. It helps employees feel more invested in the business because they’re responsible for entering their own transactions.

Often, people running businesses don’t think their employees can handle the responsibility. Every week, Point of Rental training staff has conversations with business owners who say, “You don’t know my employees in the back.” However, they are surprised at what employees can do once they have the right tools. When the system is set up properly and each person knows what they’re responsible for, it’s easy to see where the ball is being dropped and correct any issues immediately.

There’s really no excuse for transactions not to be entered. When working with something like Rental Expert’s Mobile Workforce, which allows you to assign appropriate levels of access to employees and manage your inventory and equipment from a tablet or cell phone, the paperwork is never more than an arm’s reach away. Salespeople can complete contracts out on the lot or on-site. Delivery crews can mark items as delivered, picked up, or even take condition photos if something has been damaged. That information is automatically updated within the system, meaning everyone else with access to the system can see each update.

Employers also need to consider the levels of access employees are given and implement procedures for granting and revoking system access. There’s no reason a warehouse crew needs access to accounting functions, for example. Keeping employees’ access in their areas of responsibility will reduce opportunities for errors. That, along with procedures for revoking access, will also protect the business from damage caused by disgruntled or fired employees.

The desire for data doesn’t stop with rental stores. End users are looking for much of the same functionality that rental stores have now and their desire will increase as availability becomes more common.

Point of Rental’s software products provide answers to rental centers’ need for instant access to data and we’re always working to keep ahead of the curve. For example, we offer customer portals, which allow customers to see their current contracts and what they have out on rent. In addition, we provide utilization reports, which tell rental stores which items are being rented at what rates and what kinds of ROI they’re getting on a per-product basis. Rental stores are now finding their customers are interested in obtaining that information as well.

The largest rental organizations are already offering these reports; small- and medium-sized rental businesses must look for rental software that enables them to offer the same technological features while providing the smaller-store customer service that people love.
It’s an exciting time to be in the construction equipment rental industry. We’re all becoming more data driven and all segments are exploring ways to be more efficient and productive. Smart rental software can play a big role in getting you the data you need to make the best decisions for your business.

Software helps get on top of repair and service costs 
Ron Piccolo, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Smartequip
The rental industry faces several challenges that are forcing companies to look inward to remain competitive. Factors such as the increasing equipment acquisition costs due to Tier 4 regulations, downward pressure on rental rates, and an industry-wide shortage of technicians threaten traditional equipment ROI expectations. 

To combat these challenges, any improvement in profitability needs to come from an increase in operational efficiency and process improvements. To reduce the cost of turning equipment, rental companies need to focus on minimizing the time it takes to turn a piece of equipment. Metrics such as technician wrench time, time in shop and check-in/check-out time are vital to manage to extract as much profit as possible out of an asset. 

Technology can help reduce handling costs and accelerate the time that a unit can get back on rent. By turning equipment faster, companies can increase rental revenue without investing in additional assets. Software programs can also help eliminate the errors and inefficiencies related to the procurement of repair parts. 

Industry studies reveal that 50 percent of a technician’s time is spent researching and sourcing parts. Additionally, the incorrect part is ordered 18 percent of the time and half of those parts are never returned. 

When you consider the cost of the part, the wasted labor and the potential lost rent (revenue), these are very expensive mistakes but are often overlooked because as a percentage, parts may only account for seven to 10 percent of a company’s total expenditure. It isn’t until you add in the labor, the negative impact on utilization and the increase in unwanted inventory that you begin to realize that parts procurement is actually one of your costliest processes.

No reservation about wanting reservations 
Alain Eav, CEO and Founder, Rovitracker
Increasingly, rental customers are requesting online reservation capability, similar to renting a car online or buying a plane ticket. It makes the rental process simpler. That means a customer can log onto the rental website, see available equipment, reserve it and pay or make a deposit via credit card online. On the day of the pick-up, the customer walks in, signs off and takes the equipment. The rental companies see this as a way that helps them minimize the amount of hires and long lines at the counter. It is a win-win, which creates for a huge value-added feature to rental software. 

Customers are also looking for better integration between rental management software and monitoring data such as GPS, engine runtime, fuel level, battery voltage and other critical operating parameters. They do not want to jump in and out of websites and manually calculate data between software.

Software like RoviTracker is changing how rental centers do business. It’s simple to use and works well for new and existing companies who are still using a whiteboard, Quickbooks or Excel to manage equipment and clients. Rovitracker fully integrates the monitoring of equipment seamlessly.

The biggest challenge facing rental centers is adopting the new technology and adjusting to a new way of managing their operations. The old ways of having a huge learning curve and high setup fees has scared many potential customers to even entertain the idea.

These obstacles can be a thing in the past, depending on the software company.
New software companies have well-thought-out applications that can speed the learning curve and reduce setup costs. RoviTracker has worked extensively with independent rental stores and it is amazing to see the adoption rate skyrocket because of free trials with zero setup time.

The challenge of digitalization 
Helge Roth, Chief Operation Officer, Sycor Americas Inc.
Apart from constantly increasing competition and changing customer demands, the digitalization of the economy is a major challenge for rental companies – and a tremendous opportunity. The key to success is finding the perfect balance between a high-level digitalization strategy for the whole company and for the departments along the value chain without losing sight of the expectations of individual employees.

One of the major drivers of digitalization is a cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. It takes the flexibility and the power of the cloud to scale nationwide, internationally or even globally and to grow at your own pace, now and in the future.

With a cloud ERP solution, rental companies gain increased visibility of organizational risks with a single view, improve their business planning and execution with a consistent solution and ensure their employees are on the same page to manage client rental projects. A cloud ERP empowers employees to make smarter decisions with access to real-time data, redesign business processes faster and fuel business growth.

Employees expect to be able to complete their work fast, using intuitive and mobile solutions they have become familiar with in their private lives. This includes availability on any device and at any time, with touch and keyboard input options.

When opting for an ERP solution, rental companies should make sure it comes with mobile availability and fully integrated apps for single processes.
Business Intelligence (BI) solutions that are designed as expert systems are outdated.

The industry is in the middle of the transition to self-service business intelligence. Rental companies serious about gaining and securing a competitive edge have to provide each employee with real-time, self-service business intelligence tools to structure, analyze and visualize the data according to their preferences and daily tasks for fact-based, fast and reliable decisions. BI functions must be included as an integrated part of the ERP solution using the ERP data base and with full mobile availability.

Today’s customers demand immediate, personalized service and a consistent customer experience. To provide customers with the best services possible, the ERP solution must get all employees on the same page and should allow for networking beyond company boundaries with customers, suppliers and service providers via apps and customer self-service portals. Rental companies should be ready to use new ways of interaction and communication channels through social media.

Mobile solutions improve productivity
Guy Reierson, Vice President of Sales, Visum Software
Rental store owners want the ability to see inventory availability, rates, customer information, ROI, equipment history, customer balances, daily store revenues and more on a mobile platform. 

Visum has developed apps for iPhone and Android phones that accomplish this. FocalPoint Mobile Edition contains these features. FocalPoint apps allow users to process returns away from the rental counter, so customers don’t need to go back to the office. It can process credit card transactions.

Rental centers need to be efficient when delivering and picking up equipment or merchandise. FocalPoint software’s dispatching feature integrates directly with Bing Maps and most Garmin units.

The website interface allows rental centers and their customers to browse inventory. It also has a customer portal where customers can view upcoming reservations, open contracts, and accounts receivable. 

Sometime before 2017, companies will need card readers that read card chips. FocalPoint software will offer integrated chip credit card processing and electronic signature capture. It helps rental centers keep secure records for transactions. By electronically capturing a signature, it can be stored within the transaction for life. If you need to reprint a transaction, the signature will appear. 

FocalPoint software can scan driver’s license information using compatible equipment, eliminating the need to type in the customer’s information, saving time. It can also integrate SmartEquip software to handle a larger volume of customer and internal repairs.

Integrating rental software presents challenges. Assuring the software has the features that will make their operations more efficient is the first order of business, followed by adopting new processes and behaviors that leverage those capabilities. Rental centers find that getting qualified help through technical support in a timely manner is key to transition success.

Visum helps rental centers overcome these challenges by providing training and support after the sale. In addition, Visum offers webinars, online help, newsletters and customer updates in addition to calling or e-mailing the help desk. This level of service helps customers achieve business goals.

When rental software has been adopted successfully, rental centers see improved efficiency, better customer service and higher revenue by selling customers complementary products. A successful implementation leads to fewer technology headaches because the system works on a single platform for point of sale, customer relationship management, inventory, maintenance, reporting and more.

Leverage new technology to exceed rising customer expectations
Alex Kress General Manager of Operations.Texada Software
Rental customers are more demanding than ever. They want lower prices, higher equipment uptime and shorter lead times for delivery.

Delivering on these raised expectations can be a challenge for any business. Smart rental companies are leveraging new technology to automate administrative tasks.

Going mobile and being paperless have been popular buzzwords in the industry for years, but have you considered what your business could gain by implementing these ideas? Being mobile and paperless is not just about the environment and cost savings; it is also about realizing the limitations that paper is putting on your business.

Paper work orders and delivery tickets are messy, slow and create unnecessary manual data transcription. With a mobile solution like FleetLogic from Texada Software, employees get tickets assigned to their mobile device which shows all work details, add labor, parts and notes, and then complete it with a few taps.

Customers come to us because they are looking for a mobile work
order and logistics tool to complement systematic rental management (SRM) software.

Knowing that a service technician’s top priority is to get the job done, any added technology had to speed up how they did their job; not get in the way. We developed FleetLogic alongside service technicians and drivers to ensure that this new tool would be something they would want to use every day.

Using a mobile work order and logistics tool like FleetLogic reduces administrative work while also improving information accuracy and availability. Drivers and technicians know what they need to do and where they need to go, all from their mobile device. They can instantly report status updates. This improves response times, decreases duplicated effort and increases customer satisfaction.

Your customers are evolving, and so should you
Andreas Hellstrom, Senior Director, industry and solution strategy, Infor
Whether you rent equipment to businesses, consumers, or both, some of your biggest priorities are ensuring that your equipment is available and reliable. Having working equipment in the right place at the right time is critical, but it’s only one of your challenges. 

You also need to assure that the revenue you generate from each customer transaction exceeds what that customer costs you. This is the everyday reality of the rental business.

As customer behaviors and expectations change, rental centers must adjust their business practices. The next generation of renters are quickly embracing mobility, omni-channel connectivity, cloud, analytics, equipment telematics and other technological trends to optimize daily operations and hone their competitive edge. It’s no longer just about offering the most competitive prices and contracts. Instead, it’s about finding ways to add layers of service to differentiate your business and build customer loyalty.

Rental centers can differentiate their business from the competition by making it easier for customers to do business online on any device. Many customers start their product research online using a smartphone, tablet or computer. In an omni-channel world, rental centers need to provide the same experience whether they are on the rental center’s website, customer portal, rental store or over the phone. 

Mobility and smartphone/tablet apps are changing the way customers interact with rental centers. It affects how rental centers can interact with and service customers more efficiently. With an app on a mobile device, a rental advisor, yard person or driver can perform pre-delivery inspections with photos and notes and complete deliveries, exchanges, and off-rents with potential damage reports and photos. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) and telematics are adding numerous data points to an already data-intensive business. This vast amount of data needs careful nurturing and management if it is to be transformed into usable information. When completed correctly, it can help rental companies identify new offerings, services and pricing. It can also identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

The cloud gets much attention, but rental centers have voiced that they feel it is too risky to allow business data to be managed outside the four walls of the rental center.
Cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) spend more on security than any rental house may be able to afford. Cloud solutions offer a comprehensive way to unify business processes, increase visibility across departments and divisions and enable better collaboration with suppliers, customers and partners. The cloud can increase processing power when needed and provides state-of the-art security.

A cloud-based complete rental software solution can help you:
• Consolidate key information from across geographically dispersed operations
• Achieve better availability, utilization, and reliability of your equipment
• Manage different types of rental, maintenance, and repair scenarios
• Improve service
• Maintain more profitable contracts
• Streamline operations and improve profitability with analytic tools

A state-of-the-art rental software solution comes with a workflow engine that can automate repetitive business process tasks. Those tasks can be triggered by events such as an overdue contract report, or by automatically sending customers emails informing them of every step of the delivery cycle.In today’s rental marketplace, technology simply can’t be an afterthought. To provide the best customer experience, rental centers need to be proactive about customers’ expectations.

Customers want full visibility of a center’s rental fleet at all locations, as well as the flexibility to order in one place and have rental equipment delivered to another. 

Technology must be a part of your company’s overall strategy because it now plays a role in nearly every aspect of your business.
The technology transition can create challenges. Above the challenge of adopting new technology, there is the capital needed to replace the current software. Finance departments like the fact that a cloud solution and software-as-a-service (SaaS) can be counted as a business expense rather than a capital purchase.

Last, but definitely not least, you have the challenge of organizational change management. This is one of the most underestimated challenges when it comes to deploying a new software solution.

It often doesn’t matter to end users that the new software is functionally better and easier to use. All they see is change and change is bad. They may ask why should they do things differently when the way it’s been done has worked for years.

It’s imperative that new software implementation is sponsored by the business area owners and that the greater goal and reasoning behind the change is explained to everyone.

Front-to-back solutions simplify management
Sandeep Soni, Chief Operating Officer, Unique Business Systems
The business needs of rental companies have grown tremendously over the last 10 years. New technology and advances in mobile communication have driven companies of all sizes to look at ways to address customer needs. Rental companies report they need a software solution that is forward thinking and enables them to provide the best customer service that builds loyalty. 

Many rental centers are providing full service to their customers. A customer rents equipment from them as well as have them service their own equipment. Software solutions, like Universal Business System’s R2 software, allow rental centers to track preventive and corrective maintenance on the rental center’s fleet as well as customers’ equipment. A full history of maintenance can be maintained within R2 software. Work and service orders can be created and tracked and labor and parts charges can be added to the invoice. Preventive maintenance alerts can be triggered by parameters the rental center sets up for each piece or type of equipment.

We live in a mobile world that operates 24/7. The more information in the palm of our hands, the better. Our customers have driven the business need for the five R2 mobile apps that work real-time with the R2 software. The apps work with iOS and Android mobile devices.

Some examples of how our customers use mobile apps: Rental center employees are often traveling to customer’s jobsites and need fast access to equipment availability with options to reserve it immediately or for a future date. The Yard app enables quick equipment assignment, meter tracking and dispatch of equipment via a mobile device; the R2 Pickup app can alert others an item is off rent and ready to be picked up.

The most popular app is the Needs Service app that allows a rental center employee to enter a damaged item asset number into the mobile app, record a voice message regarding the cause of the damage, take pictures and send the information directly to the service department. The asset will be marked as damaged and a service ticket will be created. This can be done at a customer’s jobsite or in the rental center yard and provides instant tracking capability and a system to resolve damages.

Mobile apps, working in conjunction with the right rental software program, will provide a rental center 24/7 access to manage their inventory and better service their customers.
Rental centers are increasingly moving toward tracking equipment via GPS. It’s becoming more popular for tracking equipment location and for collecting data on equipment usage.

Rental centers of all sizes can find the benefits of R2 software. It is scalable and can address the different business needs of small and large rental companies.

Technology is changing rental management 
Brian Beaudry, Marketing Associate Point of Rental Software
Rental companies, especially in the construction industry, are taking advantage of new technology to improve the way they manage business. Incorporating rental management software that provides cutting-edge features and integrates with many other applications is no longer optional; it has become a must for rental businesses.

One example of technology that has taken the construction industry by storm is telematics. While this has been available for years with add-in devices, more manufacturers are now producing equipment with built-in telematics features. Rental management software that can connect to those devices tells rental stores where their machines are, how much they’re being used and whether they’re due for maintenance.
Fleet tracking integration also allows stores to remotely turn their equipment on or off, lock or unlock it, and even restrict it within a geofence to prevent unauthorized site removal. Stores can also cap usage if a contract has capping requirements.

Similarly, small tools are now equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology; so for stores that use rental management technology with integrated RFID, items can be scanned for precision and speed when filling contracts.

For example, in Point of Rental Expert Software’s 2016 update, the Contract Fulfillment module allows employees to add over-prepped items, sell missing or damaged items, and use either blind or double-blind scanning. Blind scanning allows customer service representatives to scan incoming items without opening a contract – the items will
automatically be assigned to the correct contract within a customer’s account. Double-blind scanning performs the same functions, but across the accounts of several customers, closing all fulfilled contracts automatically.

Analytics and key performance indicators (KPIs) are an important
by-product of the functionality created by embedded technology. With advanced reporting, rental management software now allows managers and business owners to mine data gathered from specific items. Trend reports provide insight into seasonal trends to help you know when to defleet or refleet, buy or sell items.

Quantity compare analysis reports show equipment utilization to know whether to purchase more or sell off, as well as track sales to forecast future revenue. The technology can produce benchmark metrics and provide KPIs that allow stores to compare performance against market competitors.

Other important technologies, such as online shopping carts, automated parts ordering and CRM functionality are features rental centers should look for in a rental management
software. As contractors and construction businesses demand the convenience that today’s technology provides, rental stores are pushed to comply.

Ultimately, in today’s market, having the latest technology highly influences the viability of rental stores.