Equipment rental software
I'm researching the ins and outs of the equipment rental business with an eye on potentially starting a rental house in an underserved location. One of the biggest questions I haven't been able to find an answer to is what software packages are most recommended for managing inventory, scheduling and invoicing.
Ideally the software would allow my website to automatically reflect the availability of each bit of equipment, from the cameras down to the XLR cables. Online booking would also automatically reserve the equipment to prevent double bookings. Logging equipment in and out should require minimal work through the use of RFID/barcode scanning, etc. Last but not least I'm looking for automatic invoice and packing order paperwork generation, which would save a lot of time.
I've come across several options: Roots Rental, Rental Tracker, EZRentOut and SalesIgniter.
While some of these look promising, none have managed to completely convince me so far.
Any recommendations and anecdotes are much appreciated, thanks!
I like these guys...
It is set up in the demos to reflect a post facility, but would work exactly the same for rentals. it's basically a customized front end to a filemaker pro database, but though you *could* code something like that yourself, they've done it for you, and probably better, certainly faster than you could, yourself.
Thanks for your reply. I had a look at the StudioSuite website and it certainly ticks a lot of boxes. I might have missed it, but they don't mention any capability to link to an online rental portal for automated booking and availability status. Though it should be possible to hire someone to write a bit of code to link to an e-commerce platform like magento.
Setting aside that every dry hire facility that I know of in London (UK) is currently having a very hard time, and prices dropping like a stone due to cheaper equipment and too much availability.
However, even if you have a market with no competition, then there are issues to consider which the software won't be able to do for you:
1) Will the person renting the kit know how to use it?
2) Insurance - you need to manually check and verify every application before a hire. Unless you sell it as part of the hire?
3) Although automated, all kit have to be unpacked and checked for faults and repacked for the next hirer. Not forgetting to charge batteries and erase cards.
4) T&C's - especially to make sure that client doesn't sue when they've forgotten to copy footage of the cards that you've just erased...
5) Check your own insurance before putting anything online. Are you allowed to advertise that the equipment in your premises? Do you need additional preventive measures to secure the hire kit?
Not wanting to discourage you, just setting out some of the issues that can be quite costly. So if this is a secondary business to make a bit of "pocket" money on your investment, then maybe you should think again.
All the Best
@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Many thanks for your thoughts. Point 4 is one that I had not put enough thought into yet.
The location I plan on entering is underserved, while the media and entertainment sector there is growing rapidly. Also, my clients will be ENG crews and production companies so they will have the necessary knowledge and insurance coverage to use and rent the equipment.
What are your biggest annoyances when renting equipment? What would you change or implement?
The more they, the more difficult they'll be to serve - that is your professional colleagues, soon come clients that I'm speaking about.
Forgot point 6: Never ever finance your purchases through leases and/or bank loans. If you can afford it, buy the kit, if not - do not do it!!!
I am lucky as I have one of the best hire companies who I rent kit from on average 5-10 times a year. As they are 100% trustworthy I pay them upfront, and they give me competitive rates. So I've got nothing major to complain about.
However, they are not a small outfit, so there are always 1-3 vans around to deliver or pick-up kit, including at a specific time at location, which is a great help. In an emergency they can also respond rather quickly if there is a problem that needs sorting.
Annoyance problems (but NOT common) is a broken head-phone or a loose tripod plate - the kind that you don't notice until it comes to operating the kit. Also used to not be able to get a job only insurance - that I've since covered with a blanket annual insurance.
Biggest help is that they are happy not to erase any cards until I've loaded the footage. If anything, if I haven't already given the all clear, they will call and let me know that there are still footage on the cards.
Although I'm advising against it, do be bold and go for it if you feel that the business is there for you.
Maybe run a "proof of concept" trial first with a few select clients and colleagues and see how that works out for you.
All the Best
@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
[Sebastiaan Knoops] "What are your biggest annoyances when renting equipment?"
We don't have to rent too often, but every now and then we do, usually supplemental HMIs when we have something bigger than we can cover with our own instruments.
Biggest pet peeve would be gear that is poorly maintained, or in need of repair (but is sent out for rental anyway). Here we have two choices... one is a big rental house and their gear is always in top shape. But their prices are sky high. The other choice is a small outfit, and often I'll find something that needs fixing, tightening, or replacing on their gear (a loose bolt here, a missing nut there, the wrong kind of receiver on a yoke, something missing or bent, etc.). But their prices are dirt cheap. So it's a tradeoff.
You'll have to stay on top of that. Having been on both sides of the news-crew fence I can attest to the fact that no one is rougher on gear than ENG crews. Maybe a building demolition team, but that'd be about it.
The only other pet peeve is when I need something that is not available. The main rental house we use is a huge (huge) lighting company... but they mostly cater to stage productions (touring Broadway shows, arena rock concerts, etc.), and very little for film... so their HMI inventory is very limited (I think they only have six instruments). It's not unusual to call to book something and everything they have is out.
It's really helpful when you find a rental house that really goes above and beyond. There's a camera rental house in Nashville (100 miles north of me) that gets my highest marks for that. Before we bit the bullet and bought our own lenses we used to frequently rent a superspeed primes set from them. They were always super helpful, one phone call and a couple of hours later the lenses would be waiting for me a block away from our studio at the bus station. It always dumbfounded me that they were willing to put $120K worth of glass on a Greyhound bus (even more surprising since it was a small case that even had a handle on it to make stealing it extra easy), but they did, over and over again. Highest marks from me for customer service.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
I agree, delivery and pick-up of equipment is a very valuable and time saving resource. Though I'd choose to deliver my gear in person, and not with a greyhound bus!
Hi Sebastiaan, If you like to start a new business you should always start small. I suggest you start with a website/shop and start learning which products have a high demand. You'll find out soon enough which products need more stock and you also learn if your business model is viable/scalable.
As soon as you can't manage your inventory and orders/sales on paper anymore you should start looking for software. We recently started a cloud based rental software company called Booqable Rental Software. Have a look as soon as you're ready. We started allot of other (successful) companies and love to help you out :)