RER interviews Patrick Boivin, president, Orion Software about using RFID technology, the growing utility of mobile devices, using software to bid on jobs, and why online transactions are taking off.

What are the new developments in your rental software since we last had these interviews a year ago?

Boivin: We developed a self-service application for rental companies that want to streamline the process in the stockroom. The drivers can take their equipment, scan it and leave with their contract. It uses RFID technology to simplify the process. They can also return items from multiple contracts in one simple process. We first developed it for a construction company, but it can apply to any rental company.

As telematics grows in importance in the rental industry, the relationship between telematics and rental software is important. Can you talk about the integration between your software and telematics systems?

Boivin: Our telematics technology is a critical tool to improve customer satisfaction. The mobile devices play an integral part in our system. We can use the GPS of the mobile devices and push notifications to communicate with fleet drivers. The mobile devices offer a much more flexible solution as we can link a driver to a truck and add a new rented truck to the fleet in minutes or mix third-party trucking companies into the same dispatching center. The same quality process is maintained, and customers can get their famous message: your delivery is on its way.

One of the challenges rental companies face is figuring out how the level of profitability of each piece of equipment, and each cat-class or equipment segment. How can your software help with that challenge?

Boivin: We developed a series of performance indicators to assess the performance of assets in a complete dashboard. We consider multiple factors with the objective of maximizing the long-term return on investment. We have our own analysis approach that we perfected over many years.

Another challenge for rental companies is the profitability of bidding on a job, and what type of rate makes sense for them in terms of the kind of ROIC they require. How can your software help rental companies to bid on particular jobs or determine the type of rate that makes sense?

Boivin: Based on our complete dashboard by asset class, we set target ROI. When doing quotes, users have access to a graphic interface to determine the appropriate pricing. Based on the target ROI for each asset and the operational costs required to rent the equipment, users can set the price for an acceptable profit. The software alerts users and the management when the margin is below the target. We also integrate with comparative prices databases to complement the analysis.

Increasingly rental customers want as much access as possible to manage their accounts online, have access to billing online, be able to order equipment and call it off-rent online and even be able to determine the availability of equipment from a rental company’s fleet. Are you finding this to be a growing trend and how are you improving in being able to facilitate these functions?

Boivin: This has been our focus over the last three years. The growing trend of online internet transactions is finally taking off. If you look at the stock market performance of companies that have internet solutions in the retail market from those that don’t, it’s clear that the same trend will have a radical impact on the rental world also. For web portal to work, it has to offer real-time availability and pricing and a complete set of functions to control all assets rented. The key is that customers need to trust the portal and be able to book at any time during the day. It’s important to note that many pretend to offer it but only few software providers can actually do it.

Mobility has been a major topic in recent years, being able to do just about everything on a smartphone that can be done on a laptop or desktop. Any new developments in that area in the past year?

Boivin: At Orion, users can do all their day-to-day transactions on a smart phone or pad. It’s not just a complementary app. It’s a complete set of functions to operate anywhere. It goes from quoting, shipping, invoicing, performing maintenance in the field and a full CRM, to a performance indicators dashboard and more. The nature of assets rental is that it’s constantly moving. The system must follow.

What are important future trends and developments that you see, both from what rental companies are asking for and what your programmers are working on?

Boivin: We are developing a self-service stand to allow customers to do their rental contracts on their own, instead of waiting in line to get to the counter. The stand provides full information on the product with pictures and even videos. Slowly, the stand will replace the staff, reduce the waiting and frustrating time of waiting in line. It will be a transition to ecommerce solutions. Customers will be invited to download the mobile app or visit the web portal next time they need equipment. Thus, reducing the time at the rental store while developing a strong relationship that will stay for years. We believe that first rental stores that customers download the app from will be adopted for years.