20 Years Old 1995-2005

Linen & Equipment Rental Platform

An intelligent, centralized, system of record where all linen & equipment rental production and fulfillment is managed.

Seaside Linen and Rental Company is a forward thinking company that sevices the vacation rental industry in Willmington, North Carolina area.  While they do serve customers direct, they prefer to establish relationships with large property management or vacation rental companies (VRMs) that outsource their linen and equipment rental needs.

Linens are difficult to make profitable and keeping an inventory of equipment is a logistical nightmare.  Property management, real estate, and VRM companies are starting to realize they can reduce overall costs by partnering with a trusted linen and equipment rental company for these services.

This project tells the story of an online application that helped a linen company to profitably provide these services, while the PM / RE / VRM company gets piece of mind and makes a little money on the deal.

Project Challenge

Until now, a mobile software application designed specifically for the linen & equipment rental industry did not exist.  As is the case with anything cutting edge, there were many challenges to overcome and problems to solve.

  • The process to enter a new reservation was time consuming and prone to human error
  • Each property had a predefined bed configuration that needed to be loaded by default
  • Integration with PMS software APIs for Escapia, VRM is a challenge
  • Getting updates from PMS software and making intelligent decisions with the information
  • Breaking up routes into managable regions on a map that can be turned off in slow times
  • Scheduling, or routing delivery and pick-up schedules with a click of the mouse
  • Easy to move a reserviation to a new day or delivery truck
  • Automating the export of invoice data to elimate data entry, again
  • Reporting tools used to streamline operations and make better decisions

While not a comprehensive list of all the requirements, this is an impressive list of challenges to overcome.

Discovery

As we take on a project of this magnitude the complicated feature sets are obvious.  But, the details are what make this solution great for the linen and equipment rental company looking for ecommerce and automation.  Details were uncovered as part of the discovery process, and designed into software.

  • Teaching the import to memorize how each PM names property and/or rental items
  • When a reservation is moved or canceled, automate this communication
  • You have to make it easy to add new items to a reservation
  • Inventory control is needed for equipment that will run out of stock
  • Rental items need to be grouped or bundled and added to a reservation as one line item
  • Each PM company has custom wholesale pricing
  • When booking a reservation direct, process a credit card transaction and email a reciept
  • Integrate with label printer for print of packing labels for each reservation
  • Load report so everything on the truck is in reverse order of delivery route
  • Delivery and Pickup reports for linen, equipment, and bed making trucks
  • Setting up exports to accounting based on billing cycle for PM
  • Matching accounts in system to accounts in accounting package

Details are the different between a one-size-fits-all software package and one that is built specifically for you.

Design

We now have all requirements on the table, so how do we take all that and design a mobile application that is easy to use?  Designing and building something user friendly for a browser has its challenges, but then you throw in the mobile or responsive requirements and the design gets complicated in a hurry.

Technology we used to help make the user experience more app-like (minimal screen refresh/reloading):

  • Bootstrap for responsive, mobile first projects
  • CSS for global styles
  • JavaScript for client side functions that eliminate screen reloads
  • HTML5 for access to the latest in browser toolset
  • PDF conversion tools for print requirements

A successful design is not only appealing to the eye, it has great functionality made simple through user experience.  For such a complicated set of requirements, we were able to find a nice balance of look & feel in this application.

Implementation

This is a living application that constantly evolves as new technologies and requirements come along.  The design and implementation phases become cyclical as there are always opportunities to get better.

  • Integration with new property management systems or OTAs (AirBnB, Booking.com, etc.)
  • Open the platform up to PMs / VRMs (vaction rental managers) for alternative revenue sources
  • Incorporate intelligence to make a particular function faster, or more powerful
  • Reports help us to make informed decisions
  • Continue to automate labor intensive processes as they are defined
  • eCommerce and digital marketing as a channel for new reservations
  • Better communications between all parties involved

The inititial build utilized much of the toolset Five Technology had already built over the years, but it was still almost two years of development and tweaking before this platform was ready to go live for Seaside.  Even as we glide through the first full year of Seaside using the software, countless features and updates have been made to further improve the process.

Results

Just one month into the busy summer season in southeastern North Carolina, Seaside has already saved over 2500 hours.   That is a lot of time freed up to do other things.  This is time you get to spend with your family, these are temps you no longer have to hire during busy times.

The existing staff is much better at their job, and human error has almost been eliminated from the process.  Customers are happy because orders are correct and delivered on time. Every role in the company has gotten better at doing their job.

I think a quote from Craig Myatt, owner and operator at Seaside, sums it up best.  "Saturday used to be a day of chaos!  It was a very reactive, stressful environment that had my team constantly on edge trying to find ways to find and fill missing or incorrect reservations.  I'm still in the office on Saturday, but instead I get to start thinking about the week ahead.  This piece of software is a game changer for my linen and equipment rental business."

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