We asked leaders of some of the most prominent software suppliers in the rental industry how fleet logistics will change in the face of advancing innovations in rental management software. Here what they had to say:
Ray Bonestroo, Genisys Software: I think GPS will be way more prevalent and will become less expensive per unit to install and therefore more attractive to the average rental company; as they can then tie in the GPS software with their rental management software to use this for scheduled maintenance, equipment movement, shutting down equipment for non-payment, etc.
Clark Haley, BCS ProSoft: Telematics systems will have the most influence on changes related to fleet logistics. The technology is available today but there is lots of room for growth as more companies adopt telematics into their operations. More importantly, integration with back office accounting and/or fleet management systems will help fuel this growth further. This integration will help reduce or eliminate the time required for manual data entry related to the usage of a piece of equipment. A properly integrated telematics/back office system will allow for immediate meter readings to be taken during the billing process so that any excess use charges can be captured as it is occurring.
Rob Ross, Alert Management Systems: Inexpensive mobile technology makes it easier to get the right equipment in the hands of your customer and to know exactly which serialized units they have. Software can offer the ability to use simple wireless bar code readers to load and unload serialized equipment, eliminating the need to select a particular unit at the front counter or to document the selection of the actual unit picked in the yard or warehouse. No specialized mobile computers, tablets, or cellphones are required. Zap it when you load it (or unload it) and all the work is done.
RFID technology, pioneered by the federal government and companies like WalMart, will eventually be cheap enough even for smaller operations. RFID uses the same premise as bar code identification only on a passive basis: No need to zap anything. Detection is instant for anything that passes in or out of the yard gates or warehouse dock.
GPS is increasingly ubiquitous, making it possible to place GPS tracking devices on smaller and less expensive equipment and to design increasingly smart telematics solutions for rental fleet management and for delivery logistics. Although some of our customers have used telematics solutions for 5-10 years (for tracking expensive semi-trailer-sized generators, for example), we are seeing the trend move down through the fleet to smaller equipment, such earthmoving equipment, heaters, smaller generators and so forth.
Michael Saint, Corporate Services: Fleet managers will need to rely less and less on personnel-driven procedures and will base decisions more on real-time information from sensors such as GPS and RFID devices. Software will continue to provide more accurate and timely information from a host of these devices.
J.J. Shea, Solutions by Computer: Over the past several decades, software developers have paid a great deal of attention to fleet management within the rental facility: rental-ready status, late returns, preventive maintenance, inspections, etc. Now there’s an increasing focus on bringing a similar level of control to fleet management in the field. This goes beyond telemetry devices that track fleet in the field. Our belief at SBC is that fleet management will continue to evolve toward a partnership approach, using technology to gain efficiency. The rental company and its customers will both have a hand in co-managing fleet utilization and share more information over the Internet.
Rod Theoret, Texada Software: Telematics is advancing for both delivery vehicle optimization and rental asset tracking. We can now get many benefits with data collection by tracking where and when assets are moving, along with other equipment sensor data that can be captured. For example, based on meter readings, a work order can be generated for a piece of equipment in the field to meet a preventive maintenance schedule in real time.
There are several different telematics hardware providers today, and the rental management software needs to be easily connected. This way, we can provide real-time notifications, business workflow automation with more accurate and granular equipment data input.
Dispatching and routing efficiency is another area of fleet logistics where software innovation can have a big impact. These solutions can enable rental companies to reduce logistics costs by re-routing drivers based on delivery traffic flow or to optimize pick-up and delivery schedules with real-time driver assignment and notifications.
Wayne Harris, Point-of-Rental: Fleet logistics continue to fall in price both for the initial purchase of the GPS hardware required as well as the monthly service fees. This lower price point allows for even more items to be tracked via Internet based GPS units. Our software already has the capability to find location, as well as meter reading and odometer readings. We are just waiting for the pricing to come into line with the perceived value to the rental store.
Patrice Boivin, Orion Software: The fleet will be equipped with GPS devices integrated with real-time location reflected on a map in the rental solution. The devices will update the meter values and warn users on maintenance due. The rental solution will integrate all aspects of the logistics and the service management. So, the distributors, rental companies and the service companies will use the same application to manage all aspects and growth in each of these markets as complete providers.