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Sunstate Equipment Company Increases Operational Visibility by Modernizing a Core Application

Richard McCarroll IT applications manager, Sunstate Equipment Company - Photo by Steve Craft


Customer: Sunstate Equipment Company
Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona
Business: Construction-equipment rentals
Challenge: Improving operational visibility
Solution: Developing a Web-based application front end that allows mechanics and others to better track inventory and increase revenue
Hardware: An IBM Power Systems server
Software: RentalMan from Wynne Systems, Zend Technologies’ PHP products for i and SmartEquip

Anyone who’s driven in heavy fog at night knows what a nightmarish experience it can be. Low beams don’t help and high beams only make it worse, which is why many vehicles are outfitted with fog lights. They can turn five feet of visibility into 10 or hopefully more.

Some businesses, though, don’t have access to those metaphorical fog lights, leaving them operating in a near impenetrable haze. This isn’t without consequences. But gaining visibility across the entirety of operations, including inventory levels, employee productivity and financials, can bring 360-degree views that result in improved efficiencies, saved money and increased competitiveness.

Although some might call this type of comprehensive and overarching view into operations “analytics,” Richard McCarroll, IT applications manager with Sunstate Equipment Company, has a slightly different take. “It’s simply understanding what’s happening within your organization. In our case, we’re not overordering or overstocking. We’re simply understanding our usage,” he says.

To get there, Sunstate undertook an application modernization effort to make it simpler for everyone within the company—from equipment mechanics to parts managers and accounting to senior management—to detail and understand which resources are needed when and where as well as how to more effectively account for them.

Missed Opportunities

Established in 1977, Sunstate specializes in equipment-rental services for construction and industrial companies. This includes earth-removing equipment, but the bulk of its business focuses on more specific machinery, such as reach forks, scissor lifts, water trucks and Bobcats. It also offers smaller equipment, ranging from generators to drills.

Some of this equipment is on short-term loan to what Sunstate calls “walk-up customers,” while others are out in the field for much longer with large construction companies. All of it must be serviced at some point, whether on the job site or at the company’s service centers, which are located in Arizona , California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

To assist in on-site service, the company has meter readers on its rentals that track hours of usage. If a piece of equipment is due for standard service based on usage, Sunstate generates a service ticket and dispatches a field technician. The same holds if a customer calls in to note an issue.

Most of this work, however, takes place at the company’s service facilities. “When equipment is returned, a service tech inspects it and sends it to the wash rack. After it comes out of the rack, the driver turns the paperwork into the office at the yard so the rental can be taken off the customer contract. A mechanic then conducts a more thorough inspection, noting any work that may have to be done,” McCarroll explains. “If a part isn’t in stock, it’s ordered from a vendor, delivered and a mechanic completes the repair. Then that equipment is available for rent again.”

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.

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