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Self-Storage Automation, A Case Study: Two Facilities Embrace Technology and Transform Their Operations

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New printers, computers and property-management software were installed along with an Internet connection. Managers were trained on the basic operation of the new software.

A location for the kiosk was selected and the staff purchased a small building to house it. An electrician was hired to power it. A subcontractor was employed to upgrade the building’s finish to stucco and to construct a rain enclosure.

You Stuff It Personal Storage. Similar to what he did at South Congress, Yandow developed an improvement plan that addressed business processes, automation tools and the manager’s role and compensation. At this location, investments were made over a period of six months, including:

  • A kiosk
  • Internet-based property-management software
  • A website with ability to take customer payments
  • Security cameras with the capability to broadcast to a Web page

Once the automation tools were installed, the new business processes were introduced to the manager, which created direct accountability. Other processes included:

  • Accepting cash at the kiosk only and not in the office
  • Spot inspections and audits
  • Shifting the manager’s bonus structure to include rewards for customers use of the kiosk and other technology

Key Results

Yandow has experienced great success with both facilities. He feels strongly that owners need to streamline their business processes to take advantage of the integrated toolset. “If they don’t have hands-on experience, they should consider engaging someone who has successfully executed the targeted improvements, as opposed to the people that just talk about it,” he says. “To do this right, you should take a look at the overall operation, measure all aspects, and streamline the business to take advantage of the tools.”

At South Congress, Yandow now has real-time visibility to monitor facility performance over the Internet, a kiosk that provides customers access to rent units and make payments at any time, a website that returned to the first page on Google searches, and repeatable business processes. With increased occupancy at more than 95 percent and monthly net operating income increased by more than $6,000 per month, the facility appraised at 35 percent more than the purchase price eight months after acquisition.

A new manager was hired at You Stuff It who is very comfortable with the new business processes, software, automation tools and general operations. In July 2008, 170 payments were made through the kiosk. A typical payment takes three to five minutes and a new lease takes 20 to 25 minutes. In one month, it’s estimated the manager saves more than 18 hours on these two tasks. This time was redirected into truck rentals, managing delinquencies and business development, helping to increase the bottom line. Overall, the facility provides better customer service and more access to rent units and make payments.

It’s really an eye-opener to see how well customers and staff have adapted to the changes implemented at both facilities. These automation tools have given Yandow the ability to service customers day or night.

“Ten years ago the demand for storage space was more than the supply—it was an easy business to run,” Yandow says. “Customers needed the space, so even a poorly managed business was successful. Then developers overbuilt the supply of storage and the market shifted to a surplus. We are now engaged in markets where supply is greater than demand, and we must out-service our competition. Facilities need to operate as well-tuned streamlined organizations with a focus on customer satisfaction. Technology is an integral part of that strategy.”

Mandy Welborn is the marketing manager for OpenTech Alliance Inc., maker of the INSOMNIAC line of self-storage kiosks. For more information, call 602.749.9370; e-mail; visit .

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