Technology in Parking! Let the Buyer Beware
Sometimes I think of this phrase and compare it to other common phrases such as “Military Intelligence”, “Deafening Silence” or “Living Dead” (I do have to admit that the latter I believe in after visiting certain garage parking offices)!
To better understand parking technology, let’s start at the beginning. I started in parking Jan 3, 1975. “State of the Art” technology at that time was a Ticket Dispenser, Gate, Manual Cash Register, a time clock, treadles in the lane and a Sedeco print recorder.
Vehicle reconciliation was done by counting vehicle axels over the treadle. Monthly customers had an embossed card that was processed through an addressograph machine the way credit cards were processed on a carbonized sales slip (long before PCI was a thought in the Banker’s Goose that lays the Golden Egg).
• Credit Cards in parking did not exist, this was an all cash business.
PCs didn’t exist in the parking garage, much too expensive, and no parking manager could spell PC let alone run one. Carbon paper, however, did work just fine with a typewriter (now you know what cc means on all those emails). Revenue Control was the manager auditing and re-rating 100 percent of the transient tickets to ensure the correct rate was charged and/or validation stamps were attached to tickets.
I purchased an Apple lle, took it into work, and did the budgets for 100 locations based on historical numbers. I revolutionized that section of the company and as they say, the rest is history.
In the 33 years of Windows; there have been 26 different full release versions and 61 sub versions released.
• That’s a new version about every
If we are lucky, Microsoft will support a full release Windows version for +/- seven years. PCs keep doubling their hardware clock speed and RAM about every 30 months, if not sooner.
Now you start to understand why the life of a PARC system is about seven years. Yes, they can run much longer; getting parts or finding replacement boards is a problem sometimes, but not out of the realm of possibilities.
Why should manufacturers produce a system that can last 20 plus years when they can force the customer to purchase a new system every seven years or so? It’s called Designed Obsolescence! I am also sure that the repeated profit from the second and third sale of a system has never entered or clouded a salesman’s opinion…
Federal APD released Scan about 1983 and ScanNet Central Management about 1986. What a dramatic change in the parking industry. ScanNet; that was 32 years ago, before many garage managers of today were even born.
Today, the “buzz” words are not even words, just the alphabet shaken up and poured out like Scrabble tiles. We all hear the words; PCI, DSS, AVI, NFC, EMV, RFID, LPR, WYSIWYG, GB, TB, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Bluetooth and etc., but few honestly know and understand what those acronyms mean and ever fewer understand the technology that make it happen. Today we are so lazy, we simply sit in the living, dining or bedroom and shout out “Alexa” or “Siri” to do the chore for us.
PCI DSS EMV, this is an exercise in futility. Before you ever install the current version, the banking industry has changed the rules so the current version is almost obsolete when it is installed. In two more years all one needs to do is spend another $15,000- $20,000 to upgrade to the newest version PCI software. Does Ponzi scheme come to mind?
It has always been data, data, data. I learned that when I bought the Apple lle. PARCS stands for Parking Access Revenue Control. If we can’t control the revenue and access, then why are we in business or have gates on the lanes? Data is just the byproduct of revenue collection and if understood and properly manipulated, it can generate additional revenue for your facility.
Every end customer assumes that the PARCS they are purchasing will permit them to account for every penny, every day, automatically and without any intervention by the staff.
First; most of the systems are only about 96 - 97 percent accurate and I think that is a generous number. If your facility is doing $2 million annually, that means there is $80,000 you don’t account for. Over the seven-year life of the system, that’s $560,000, almost real money that should be considered.
Next, it’s the executives at the Top of the Food Chain. How hard can it be to run parking? Maybe some guy in IT can walk the walk, but for the most part, executives know what they heard or were told as part of the “sales” pitch.
PARCS sales reps - their job is to sell. When checking references, do you think a sales rep would give you someone who just “tore out” the system he was repping? That’s the reference you really want to talk with and find out why it was removed.
The onsite Garage Manager. Let’s learn another new word for our vocabulary – “Training”, “Training, and then “Training”. I read an article published several years ago in one of our Trade magazines. The claim was only about 10 – 15 percent of the software purchased was ever used.
When all else fails,
push the reset button
and start over!
Why? Because, the manager didn’t know how to use the software, didn’t realize the value of the software or didn’t want the software source document to be compared to what was being reported to ownership. On a recent audit, the operator paperwork and reports showed less than a 1 percent uncollected ticket loss. The CPA firm doing the audit, using the same system tools and data from the PARCs, arrived at more than a 33 percent uncollected factor.
One manager I ran into did not know how to use Word, so everything was written in Excel. Emails and memos look somewhat different when viewed as a table. And then there was the manager who was not fluent in English. I had a heck of a time reading his SOPs because the words were spelled phonetically.
The stories go on and on after 42 years and 1,500 locations.
The real issue is many managers do not have the necessary fundamental skill sets to run and manage the systems available today. As the systems are upgraded, no one wants to invest the money in the cost of continued training. With applications such as PARIS or ROME, the need for a back room central office of the operator is no longer a necessity for monthly invoicing, collections and A/R tracking. Yet, many of these new standalone systems are managed by individuals with limited accounting skills.
We are now starting to enter the realm of LPR and remote management. Instead of an untrained manager running just one location, he is now sitting in a call center with his finger on multiple locations. Can you say, “Remote Open and Thank You”? That was exactly what one national company’s response was; they view it as “customer cervice”, just open the gate and say thank you!
Well, if you are simply going to open the gate and let the customer out without collecting the revenue; why did you buy a PARCS in the first place?
I firmly do believe that LPR, electronic validations and credit card only payment with remote management control is the next step in the parking evolution. Operators are not fond of this because with remote management, the onsite labor footprint is greatly reduced. Payroll, and payroll related taxes, along with garage insurance, are profit centers for operators; sometimes more than the annual management fee. Thus, operators will be slow in moving to this method of operation.
In closing, I will leave you with two thoughts:
• Be careful what you wish for and purchase, and
• When all else fails, push the reset button and
Dennis Cunning is the CEO of DLC Consulting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.