Artificial intelligence has become one of the biggest topics of conversation – across every industry – and the rental industry is no exception. With a number of intriguing potential use cases, AI has the potential to completely change the way companies do business. And it’s not just a luxury for the large national chains; AI is within reach for smaller independent rental organizations as well. With intelligent technologies, you can improve operational efficiency, deliver a better customer experience, and enable faster support - while your human employees get to spend less time on routine tasks and prioritize more impactful strategic work.
So: what are a few ways AI can impact the equipment rental industry?
AI has massive potential when it comes to improving operational efficiency. Let's look at just a few ways operations managers and counter teams can incorporate AI into their day-to-day work.
Demand Forecasting: AI can analyze historical data, market trends, and external factors to more accurately predict equipment demand. Better demand forecasting will help rental companies optimize their inventory levels, improve resource allocation, and reduce equipment downtime.
Dynamic Pricing: AI can analyze various factors such as demand, availability, rental duration, and market conditions to adjust rental prices dynamically. Dynamic pricing can help equipment rental companies optimize their pricing strategies, maximize revenue, and offer more competitive rates to their customers.
Improved Sales Recommendations: As part of an intelligent sales strategy, AI can analyze customer preferences, rental history, and other relevant data to provide personalized recommendations. By suggesting the most suitable equipment for a specific task or project, AI can help sales teams make more informed (and timely!) decisions on what to recommend to the customer, saving them time and effort. This is a major benefit for independent companies that compete with national chains on experience, delivering extra value as a trusted advisor instead of just another vendor.
Workflow Automation: AI has the potential to one day automate various manual and repetitive tasks in the equipment rental process. Contract generation, work order processing, and inventory management are all ideal candidates for workflow automation. This, in turn, frees up employees’ time and lets them focus on more strategic, customer-centric activities.
AI can potentially revolutionize the landscape of preventive and scheduled equipment maintenance. Here are some areas to consider.
Preventative Maintenance: "PM" seems to be a catch-all for all service-related routine maintenance items, but in fact, it is in a category of its own. Preventive maintenance refers to specific inspections where technicians are looking for potential issues during all stages of the rental process. AI can help determine when these inspections are needed based on an unlimited number of variables; not just traditional calendar days or days on rent, but also customer demand categorization and availability. This can have a major financial impact by reducing preventable downtime and lost revenue due to broken equipment; it also improves safety by preventing potentially dangerous equipment malfunctions.
Scheduled Maintenance: "SM" does incorporate PM, as well as other actions that require a higher level of technician intervention. AI can alert the appropriate personnel when maintenance is scheduled, allowing organizations to prepare the proper maintenance personnel at the most efficient time in the rental process to minimize disruption to their fleet deployment. For example, scheduled maintenance can be done when a machine is sitting in the yard and already accessible, or when the machine’s pick-up status is moved to high priority.
Predictive Maintenance: AI can enable predictive maintenance by analyzing a rental company’s historical and real-time data, looking for patterns and anomalies that could indicate potential equipment failure. For instance, it’s possible to detect early warning signs through sensors, monitoring systems, and temperature/vibration/pressure data. Once a baseline is established, AI can analyze machine-specific data and compare it to historical patterns to identify deviations or abnormal behavior. From there, it can trigger alerts or notifications to maintenance managers, who can take timely action.
Prescriptive Maintenance: AI can make prescriptive recommendations for upcoming maintenance actions by analyzing a machine’s maintenance records, usage trends, and equipment specifications. Based on this analysis, AI can recommend specific maintenance procedures, repair actions, or component replacements based on demand. Prescriptive maintenance helps organizations reduce preventable downtime by performing maintenance tasks on a more regular basis – without leaving it to chance. If you know a component is at the end of its lifespan, it is better to change it on your terms (e.g., when you have the part in stock and the machine isn’t scheduled to go out on rent) than whenever the machine decides it is time.
Maintenance Scheduling: Whether you’re dealing with scheduled maintenance, preventive maintenance, or unexpected repairs, getting the right work on the schedule at the right time is crucial. AI can help you optimize your schedules by taking into account various factors, such as equipment criticality, historical maintenance records, resource availability, and operational constraints. (This is exactly how InTempo’s Service Solution can help you prioritize your efforts.) By analyzing these inputs, AI can generate optimized maintenance plans based on type – preventative, scheduled, predictive, or prescriptive – to help you reduce rental equipment downtime, minimize maintenance costs, and produce more efficient utilization of your resources.
Knowledge Capture and Transfer: AI can help you capture, store, and act on knowledge from your most experienced maintenance technicians. By analyzing maintenance records, repair logs, and historical data, AI algorithms can extract valuable insights and create knowledge bases. This knowledge can be shared across teams. You can bring new technicians up to speed more quickly and unlock the expertise your team has acquired over years in the industry.
AI can bring several additional benefits to the customer experience. Here are some ways AI can enhance the customer experience in the equipment rental industry.
Real-Time Equipment Tracking: AI, paired with a real-time Connected Assets solution, can enable more accurate rental equipment tracking. However, this requires a solution with a portal that can pass data through to the end. Providing your customers with more visibility into the location, condition, and usage of their equipment is a major value add.
AI-Powered Chatbots and Virtual Assistants: Chatbots and virtual assistants can handle common customer inquiries (such as requests for contracts or invoices), provide instant support, and assist with new rental bookings. 24/7 availability, quick response times, and reliable support make for a much more seamless customer experience.
Real-Time Availability and Pricing: AI-driven rental software solutions can provide accurate, up-to-date pricing and availability information to prospective customers. Once they’ve confirmed that the machine they need is available, they can get a real-time quote, letting them plan their projects more efficiently and helping you capture more business.
Feedback Analysis: AI can analyze customer reviews and ratings, creating insights that help management find ways to improve (and celebrate the things they're doing well!). By understanding customer satisfaction trends and expectations, rental companies can adjust their services and offerings to enhance the customer experience.
AI has undeniably taken center stage in various industries, revolutionizing how we live, work, and interact with technology. Rapid advancements have made it a critical driver of innovation and competitiveness – even in the rental space.
In this era of digital transformation, adapting to AI is crucial for companies to stay relevant. Equipment rental teams that embrace AI can gain a competitive edge by improving operational efficiency, enhancing customer experiences, making data-driven decisions, and unlocking new opportunities. In contrast, late adopters will have a hard time surviving in their competitive markets.
As we continue to monitor the ongoing developments in the AI space – and incorporate predictive technologies where they have the potential for the largest impact – we're helping rental companies more effectively navigate the complexities of the modern world. With a fully connected suite of rental technologies, we’re creating value that was previously unimaginable. If you'd like to talk about unlocking the full potential of technology to drive future success, InTempo is always here.