Equipment monitoring solutions can help you find peace of mind and additional revenue -- even if you don't have a huge inventory
Kip Lemon didn't think twice about letting a well-dressed man with a nice-looking vehicle rent his skid steer. "Everything looked on the up and up," he says. But two hours after renting the machine, the well-dressed man sold it to undercover detectives for $7,500. When Lemon went to get back his skid steer, a member of the regional auto theft task force asked him what measures he was taking to keep his construction equipment from being stolen.
" I basically said 'good faith,'" says Lemon, owner of Time Rental of Azle in Azle, TX, remembering the 2004 incident.
A business owner since 1983, Lemon knows that unfortunately good faith doesn't always work. He has witnessed theft becoming an increasing problem, especially during the summer.
" People don't return things because they can't pay for them and/or they had no intentions of returning the equipment to begin with," he says.
When a customer can't be trusted to pay for a rental, Lemon takes it personally. "This is my living," he says. His wife and two other employees also depend on the rental of his 10 pieces of trackable equipment.
For the smaller rental businesses, one of the reasons they might start looking at monitoring systems, or management systems as they are sometimes called, is to get help addressing the problem of equipment theft. Equipment monitoring systems have two basic functions: monitoring the location of the equipment and monitoring the hours the equipment is used. With these two functions, the systems can deliver benefits that lead to increased revenue. People might think these systems are just for those with large fleets, but they can be very effective for small business owners also.
While attending a rental conference, Lemon learned about the vShepherd from Longview Advantage Inc., headquartered in Alberta, Canada. He's now been using vShepherd tracking devices for almost two years. The asset management system is used primarily for equipment tracking and combines GPS (global positioning system) technology, wireless communications, the Internet and a 24/7 Alarm and Recovery Center.
Putting new technology to use, however, does not typically obliterate crime.
After installing vShepherd, Lemon again was a victim of theft. He was given a stolen check and shown the ID of someone resembling the customer but who was not actually the customer. Lemon acted on a hunch that something wasn't right and tracked his Kubota tractor on his Longview online account. The last place Lemon was able to track it to was the house of the thief's friend, where the tracking device had been removed. In this case, the Longview Advantage team helped put pieces of the puzzle together and the tractor, trailer, ramp, chain and boom — everything but the tracking device — were recovered.
In September 2005, a Longview Advantage customer who wishes to remain anonymous was able to find exactly where a stolen skid steer was by using their Longview Advantage Internet account. After locating the machine, the customer printed out a map and talked with police. They then went to where the thieves had left the machine with the GPS tracking device intact. From the time the company heard the skid steer was stolen to the time they had it back was less than a half hour.
Longview Advantage Vice President Mel Baillie reports the company's equipment recovery averages less than 30 minutes, thanks to its proactive Alarm and Recovery Center, manned by former military and law enforcement personnel who work well with law enforcement agencies in North America.