As OpenTech Alliance Inc. approaches its three-year anniversary, it has a lot to celebrate. In its short history, the company has emerged as a leading developer of self-service kiosks for the storage industry, with its INSOMNIAC units installed in facilities across Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, Ohio, New York, Texas, Washington and Canada.
OpenTech’s business model encourages cooperation vs. competition within the industry. The company has built a team of Alliance Partners whose software products integrate with its kiosk units:
- Domico (Domico Software)
- Empower Software Technologies Inc. (Storage Commander)
- PTI Integrated Systems (TaskMaster)
- SMD Software Inc. (SiteLink)
- Syrasoft LLC (Storage Management System)
- eMove (Webself-storage)
OpenTech has also created an impressive advisory board of industry veterans:
- Pamela Alton, owner of Mini-Management Services
- Anne Ballard, founder and president of Universal Management Co.
- Diane Gibson, owner of Cox’s Armored Mini Storage Management Inc.
- Jeffrey Greenberger, a partner with the law firm of Katz, Greenberger & Norton LLP
- Raymond McRae, vice president and director of operations for Storage Solutions
- Carol Shipley, president of United Stor-All Management LLC
- Franklin Young, director of sales and marketing for DBCi
This panel helps OpenTech set product direction and company strategy. “We’ve been extremely fortunate to have such great partners, advisors and forward-thinking customers,” says Robert Chiti, OpenTech president and CEO.
The real story of OpenTech’s success lies with the facilities using its products. Testimonials mean a great deal in self-storage, especially when it comes to new technology. OpenTech’s customers have embraced INSOMNIAC kiosks and are reaping the benefits. Below are three of their stories. For more information about OpenTech and its kiosk products, call 480.778.9370; visit www.opentechalliance.com.
Number of facilities: 40
Locations: Throughout Arizona
Number of kiosks: 2
Mesa, Ariz.-based Storage Solutions ranks No. 26 in the list of U.S. self-storage operators, based on rentable square footage managed. A year and a half ago, the company installed the first INSOMNIAC kiosk ever at its Palm Valley facility. Since then, it has continued to give OpenTech enhancement requests as well as ideas for product improvement.
In June, Storage Solutions installed an INSOMNIAC 900 at its new Fletcher Heights facility. The 900 model is OpenTech’s top-of-the-line kiosk featuring a built-in fingerprint scanner, signature pad, driver’s license scanner, digital camera, and check and credit-card scanner. It enables tenants to rent units, make payments, update account information, purchase locks, and view multimedia facility tours.
The company boasts another kiosk first: Fletcher Heights is the first storage facility in the world to use electronic locks on its unit doors. These locks, provided by Global Electronics Ltd., are activated by the kiosk and the facility’s management software. In cases in which a unit has been overlocked due to nonpayment, INSOMNIAC can automatically unlock the unit when the customer brings his account current using the kiosk.
“We’ve been really happy with INSOMNIAC,” says McRae. “We originally chose it because we wanted to reduce staff hours and give customers a more convenient way to make payments after hours. The kiosk has worked as advertised. We’ve reduced our managers’ hours, saving three hours a day in staffing costs at each facility, and we’re making more money because INSOMNIAC enables us to take new rentals and payments when other facilities are closed.”
With the help of OpenTech, Storage Solutions intends to move to unattended, fully automated sites in the near future. It has included INSOMIAC in its plans for four new facilities to be constructed this year.
Number of facilities: 65
Locations: Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio
Number of kiosks: 6
Storage Express has been operating facilities without an onsite rental office since 1992. In fact, all of the company’s properties are unmanned. In the past, customers would contact a call center from an on-site courtesy phone in a rental station at the facility’s entrance to open or manage their accounts. At the company’s Martinsville, Ind., facility, however, an INSOMNIAC 500 has replaced the phone. Customers can still reach the call center if they have questions, but standard functions are now handled by the kiosk.
“Before the kiosk, if customers wanted to pay by cash, they had to go to a nearby Western Union agent and wire us their rent,” says Jefferson Shreve, owner and president. “INSOMNIAC allows them to pay on site with cash, check or credit card, so we never miss a rental. In fact, the unit took its first rental within 48 hours of installation, without any human involvement on our side.”
Given its success with its first kiosk, Storage Express has ordered five more 500 models as it moves to integrate the technology at its other Midwest sites. It’s also testing the 200 model, a stripped-down kiosk that only accepts payments.
Number of facilities: 15
Locations: California and Hawaii
Number of kiosks: 24
James Knuppe has been a licensed general contractor since 1960, and having pioneered the introduction of the self-storage concept in the San Francisco Bay area in 1971, he is often credited with being one of the founders of the industry. His legacy, AAAAA Rent-A-Space, owns and operates 15 self-storage properties.
The company has installed two INSOMNIAC kiosks per site at its Berkeley and Colma, Calif., facilities and its Kapolei, Hawaii, property. These mega-sites are some of the largest in the nation-Kapolei has more than 1,300 units, while the California facilities have more than 2,000 units each.
“We’ve thought about self-storage kiosks for a long time,” says Knuppe. “It wasn’t until INSOMNIAC that we found a solution robust enough to handle the demands of our large facilities. We’re delighted OpenTech has brought this technology to the self-storage market.
“Our rollout plan was to put the kiosks in the office for the first 60 days so managers could help train customers to use them. Instead, we’re finding many people who come into the office go directly to the kiosk to make payments and rent units. They’re so used to self-service ATMs in other industries that they immediately grasp the concept.”
The managers at 5A have also embraced the kiosk, viewing it as an assistant that helps provide a new level of customer convenience. In one week, the Colma facility processed 206 transactions using INSOMNIAC, including rentals, payments, lock purchases, and account access and update screens. For the month of May, this amounted to 42 payments and 35 rentals.
Based on this success, 5A has ordered kiosks for its remaining facilities. Because the size of the sites, most will receive a 900 as well as a 200 model, so customers don’t have to wait in line when one is being used.