Overcoming Challenges In Rental Businesses
An Interview with Louise Barker, Senior Consultant at Annata.
More and more companies who are selling and/or manufacturing devices are looking into the possibility of expanding their businesses to the rental industry. But, from a digital solution point of view, what is required to make that move successfully? To get the answers we asked Louise Barker, Senior Consultant for Annata – a Microsoft Global Independent Software Vendor – who specializes in rental solutions.
Tell us about your background within the rental industry.
– I’ve spent more than 30 years in the rental industry. I went straight from education into rental, working for one of the biggest tool hire companies in the UK. At that time, there were no solutions for a company of any size that really fitted the rental industry. Any rental solution you could buy at the time was pretty much a sales order system that, when you scratched the surface, just didn’t give you what you needed. So, when the company decided to write its own own bespoke rental system in 1992, I became the link between operations and the IT department, helping them understand each other. After managing the initial implementation, I continued to work with the IT department to improve the system.
A lot has of course happened since. How have the solutions evolved?
As the years went by, contestants to the traditional sales order systems added extra features that provided rental companies with more of the functionality they really wanted. Most of them, however, were standalone systems that had to interface to all the other back office and business systems. That’s why companies like Annata evolved, where the solution for rental is directly linked to an ERP system, as an extension of it. This gives you a rental solution that you need and want, that also connects seamlessly into all you back office systems. That way you don’t have to build all these interfaces and deal with all the trouble it entails.
What is the fundamental challenge that creates a need for a specific rental system, rather than just a generic one?
To put it simply – in rental, everything you rent out always comes back. You therefore have to calculate cost in different ways than if you actually sell products. You also maintain the integrity and safety of the machine with inspections and services after return and on a recurring basis. The safety of the machine, when it is rented out to customers, is paramount. Annata provides functionality specifically for rental as well as device management and is fully conversant with service and maintenance. At the same time, calculations for cost are easily set up in the standard ERP solution.
Other upsides to using Annata’s rental solution compared to other rental systems?
– Many of the early rental systems were created by people in the rental industry because there weren’t any solutions that did what they wanted them to. They worked great for the rental part of the company, but as soon as you tried to scale up or link it into the invoicing or payroll system, it became a nightmare. And if you wanted to expand your business your hands were tied because the systems are just not robust enough. Larger companies also handle enormous amounts of transactions which calls for reliable systems that really delivers in terms of performance and to work with partners who have the competence to really understand their business.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 with Annata as a fully integrated extension is that type of platform that many people know and trust and can handle those enormous amounts of data. Another upside is that companies that haven’t been doing business in the rental area before, but are using Microsoft Dynamics 365, now has a chance to try it out without taking a huge financial risk. A rental extension of the ERP system, like Annata, allows them to move into a whole new industry and capitalize on all the data that is already in their current system. It is also a way of trying out a new area, to see how well it goes, to a very little cost for the implementation of the rental function.
Annata is a Microsoft GISV (Global Independent Software Vendor) with 15 years’ experience and focus on delivering end-to-end information technology solutions for Automotive and Equipment industries. Annata relies on Microsoft technologies and innovation to accelerate the development of the Annata 365 vertical business solutions on top of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Application Platform.