Equipment Rental Company Increases Deliveries Per Day by Unloading Faster and Decreasing Paperwork [CASE STUDY]
United Rentals is the largest equipment rental company in the world with a network of branches across the United States and Canada. To better serve customers they needed a solution to increase the number of deliveries, raise branch productivity and integrate their paperwork into a mobile work flow.
United Rentals issued over 2,000 Samsung Galaxy S smartphones equipped with a custom-developed app to its branch drivers and equipment associates. The app, used 50-70 times per day, helps to prepare and check-in equipment, communicate with customers and branch, navigate to jobsites, comply with Department of Transportation regulations, photograph equipment damage, and many other activities.
Increased equipment assembly by 20% per day
The field automation apps and Samsung Galaxy S smartphones have delivered major branch productivity improvements. Equipment associates are able to assemble 20% more equipment per day by digitally managing the entire process. Drivers are able to do one to two more deliveries per day by loading and unloading faster and minimizing jobsite paperwork.
“We needed to put in a frictionless system that would ensure that the right equipment was in the right location at the right time.”
– JR Taalman, Director of Operations Excellence at United Rentals
United Rentals, founded in 1997, has become the world’s largest equipment rental provider, with an integrated network of over 880 rental locations in 49 states and 10 Canadian provinces.
United Rentals manages over eight billion dollars of rental fleet including forklifts, scissor lifts, pumps, power tools, earthmovers, trench safety equipment, and many others types of equipment.
The company’s diverse customer base includes construction and industrial companies, utilities, municipalities, government agencies and independent contractors.
Accelerate Operational Efficiency
Equipment rentals is a competitive and complicated business. Each branch has millions of dollars of equipment fleet that needs to be turned as quickly as possible. And customer equipment needs and schedules are in constant flux. “We embarked on a major field automation initiative to accelerate operational efficiency,” says JR Taalman, Director of Operations Excellence at United Rentals.
The company wanted to digitize the entire rental workflow process and mobile-enable the equipment associates and delivery drivers so they could have all of the information they needed at their fingertips.
The equipment associates are similar to a pit crew at a racetrack. They prepare, load and unload equipment and manage the equipment fleet. “Our equipment associates were spending a lot of time going back and forth to the office to check on orders and often didn’t have the latest information,” says Nicole Haag, Area Operations Manager at United Rentals.
The company also wanted to improve order accuracy and customer transactions. “We have national customers with many construction sites and lots of equipment going in and coming out,” says Taalman. “We needed to put in a frictionless system that would ensure that the right equipment was in the right location at the right time.”
Android-based smartphones and applications development were faster and more cost-effective than industrial mobile devices
The company initially considered using industrial mobile devices. “We looked at handheld industrial devices, but they were expensive, had slow speeds, and lacked the software flexibility we would require as our needs evolved,” says Kevin Neville, Director of Technology for Field Operations at United Rentals.
The company determined that an Android-based smartphone and applications development would be faster and more cost-effective. “We needed a reliable smartphone that had a bright screen, a good camera, processing speed and would work well in our hard-hat environment,” says Neville.
Managing the smartphones was also a concern. “We were going to have thousands of smartphones in the field, and we needed to have Enterprise-class device management and security,” says Neville.
Mobile Field Automation Applications
United Rentals selected Samsung Galaxy S smartphones to connect with its suite of field automation apps. Over 2,000 Galaxy S phones have been issued to equipment associates and drivers.
The mobile phones integrate well with United Rentals mobile and IT systems. “Samsung’s APIs have made it really easy for us to connect to our IT infrastructure,” says Neville. “And the Android OS is an easy development platform so we can quickly expand our app functionality as business conditions change,” says Neville. “Samsung phones easily integrate with our mobile management software so we can centrally manage all 2,000 phones from one location.”
Equipment associates use the Galaxy S to manage their entire workflow. When a new order comes into the branch, it is routed to the device so the equipment associate can quickly see the order and stage the equipment. When equipment gets added or returned to the yard, the equipment associate uses the high-resolution camera to scan the inventory bar code label and update the system.
“When I first got the Samsung phone, I didn’t know if it would be a good tool for my position,” says Ken Shipman, Equipment Associate at the Plymouth, Minnesota branch. “And now, I can’t live without it. I use it 50-60 times a day.”
Delivery drivers use the smartphones to navigate to jobsites, get signoffs from customers for drop-offs and pick-ups, photograph equipment conditions, fill in their Department of Transportation compliance logs, and communicate with customers and branch dispatch.
United Rentals new smartphones are also all-in-one devices that are lighter, faster and more versatile than proprietary mobile devices. They feature IP68 certified water resistance,* an all-day battery with fast charging and expandable memory.
“I love my Samsung Galaxy S phone, it’s my little digital buddy,” says Rick Rohdy, delivery driver at the Plymouth, Minnesota Branch. “It helps me all through the day.”
Samsung Galaxy Smartphones
Flagship smartphone line for enterprise productivity, performance and security.
Ruggedly built, military-grade exterior that’s made to endure some of the harshest, dirtiest and most challenging work environments.
Increase Driver and Associate Productivity by 20%
The solution has also enabled the Galaxy S phones and the field automation apps have driven major improvements in branch productivity. The phones have streamlined the equipment delivery and pickup process for the drivers so they can make more deliveries. “Our drivers used to make about eight deliveries a day and now they can do up to twelve deliveries – that’s a huge productivity gain for us,” says Haag.
The Galaxy S phones have also enabled the equipment associates to inventory and prepare the equipment more efficiently. “The Galaxy S phones and the apps are saving our equipment associates about two hours a day,” says Haag. “They have real-time information and everything they need to process orders right at their fingertips.”
“Our drivers used to make about eight deliveries a day and now they can do up to twelve deliveries — that’s a huge productivity gain for us.”
— Nicole Haag, Area Operations Manager
The field automation has also positively improved customer satisfaction by minimizing the time it takes to make deliveries and pickups. Instead of multiple forms and signoffs, customers only need to digitally sign once for all documentation. If there is damage to the equipment, drivers can quickly snap photos from the phone’s camera and immediately email them to the customer and branch.
“What this mobile platform has done for us is increase the speed of information,” says Taalman. “We are now much more agile and flexible. We are able to respond to the customer needs in a way we were never able to do it in the past.”
The Samsung Galaxy S phone and the field automation apps have far exceeded the initiative goals for higher productivity and better customer service. “The business impact of this mobile platform has been huge for our company,” says Taalman. “We can get our equipment in and out of our branches quicker, we can get on and off the truck quicker, and we can get it to our customer on time. That is a huge competitive differentiator in our industry.”