Interview with Patrice Boivin, president & CEO, Orion Software; talks about logistics management, helping customers control their own assets, understanding patterns of asset performance,

RER: Some of the most important capabilities that have developed recently are in the logistics area, such as mobile apps, viewing fleet location in real time, being able to inform customers about the proximity of a delivery. Do you offer these types of features and what else is on the horizon?        

Boivin: Orion has been a pioneer in using mobile applications in logistics management using the GPS location of the mobile devices instead of installing a GPS device in each truck. This innovation allows rental companies to not only save money but be more flexible in managing their fleet. The device can be used by any driver to select a truck or sub-contractors to integrate the fleet. This approach helps us managing both the driver and the fleet. For companies offering on-site services, the same device can be used to do field services. The key in logistic management is to have a complete fleet on the map. During peak period, rental companies use more third party trucking companies or rent trucks to complete their fleet. This resolves that problem by integrating a new truck with just a new mobile application instead of a full expensive GPS device. Route map on the mobile app and warning of delivery time are increasing customer satisfaction.

Customers increasingly want to manage their own rentals online, access their accounts, be able to take care of business online, especially using a mobile app. Are you offering these types of services and what new developments will be coming along in this area?

Boivin: In 2014, we implemented our first outsourcing web portal for companies managing assets on behalf of their own customers. We now have a mobile app for on-site management of the rental fleet. Customers can view all their assets by site, order new equipment, take pictures, sign contracts or request an off-rent. We believe that rental companies will gain trust from customers and rent more by giving them better control of their assets. End-users always have the choice to buy or rent. If they choose to rent, they want to make sure it's under control. By offering end customers a better management control tool, it will encourage them to select a single source. This will be a game changer in the next few years as end customers will turn to rental companies to choose their single source for years to come.

What do you expect will be the most important development/trend in the coming year or so – in rental software in general as well as your company?

Boivin: Inter-active Web portal and mobile app where customers can view their transactions, order new equipment and request for off-rent. Providing a full control over the end customer’s equipment rented will be crucial. There is not a month that passes without news that a brick-and-mortar business disappeared because it has not adapted to the Internet. In the next coming years, the larger customers will require a web portal to do business with a rental company. It will be a must and it will come very soon. They will displace their sourcing to the rental companies that have one. This is by far the most important change coming.

Have you made any further developments in CRM-related software? How can your software help customers with this important area?

Boivin: At Orion, we decided to offer a Rental CRM to our customers many years ago because we believe renting is fundamentally different than selling. In rental, you need availability, pricing and quoting to be an integral part of your rental CRM. To maximize the rental of existing assets, add value in the process and develop a trusting relationship with the end customers. Salesmen need to be very responsive and be able to commit in minutes. This way, they maximize the day’s utilization instead of constantly adding to the fleet equipment that will not earn a sufficient ROI in the long run.

Rental companies are more interested in using analytics to improve their businesses. Are there any particular ways you are able to help in this area – any particular new reports or capabilities?

Boivin: At Orion, we developed a four quadrants analysis of the fleet return. Rental companies can quickly assess the type of equipment they own and decide which one to buy more or dispose. For pricing, a comparison to benchmark prices is helping rental companies to understand the results of their fleet and take advantage of opportunities.

How can your software help with fleet management, i.e., knowing how long equipment should be kept or knowing when it is more economic to replace equipment?

Boivin: We offer a set of reports and graphs to assess the pattern of asset performance to indicate if it's time to dispose of or keep them. A fully cost ROI including the preventive maintenance is offering a better indicator for assets requiring higher maintenance costs and sliding toward the assets to dispose quadrant.

How is your software updating and simplifying the rental transaction?

Boivin: From its inception, the Sirius e platform was designed to provide the most user friendly rental solutions to end-users. For us, simplicity is more than just a few less clicks, it’s to provide all information in a very concise way in order to take quick and informed decisions. That’s why we use actionable graphs, calendar and maps to present a full picture of the availability status, sub-rent equipment, transfer to other branches, book field technicians or dispatch delivery fleet. With easy to read graphical interface, users can take informed decision faster leading to more efficient transaction flow.

How is your software helping rental companies to run maintenance and repair more efficiently?

Boivin: We offer calendar and maps to schedule shop repairs and field technicians. In a rental companies, there are often resources involved in both and that's why our solutions offer a mix of internal and field repairs. We want to continue to invest in the efficiency of the repair where there are significant gains to get.

Do you expect to see further developments in terms of Cloud technology and SaaS?

Boivin: As the web base programming languages are improving, the rental applications will be moving toward web base interface and Orion is offering, today a combination of both. For heavy users that require more complete and interactive solution, we have a Windows application and the lighter users are using web base interface or mobile application. In fact, users can operate most of their operations on a mobile application if they chose to. There is no reason for that trend to stop. In the end, cloud and SaaS users will continue to grow with less complexity.