Is it Magic? Seamless Parking…
No, no, no, I’m not talking about the tunes from Pilot or Coldplay. But when a Parking and Access Control System works seamlessly for the parking customer, it might seem magical to them. That’s the goal anyway.
PARCS are complicated in today’s age. With ever-present and evolving technology to take advantage of, how do we make it all work together? Equipment, software and service providers may have a wealth of product offerings to satisfy many use cases, but one company cannot do it all. Companies will offer what they can do within their area of expertise, but there is still a lot of ground to cover and some gaps to fill. Enter the Sales Engineer and Project Manager (puff of smoke optional).
Owners/operators may know exactly how they want a system to perform, but for many jobs, Parking Management Consultants are involved to lend their expertise to the functionality specifications. Regardless, PARCS suppliers should always take a consultation approach when working with customers to develop an overall solution to their operational needs and challenges, both before and after purchase. “We not only work to address standard operations but also look carefully at customers’ challenges to develop creative solutions to their difficult operational needs. If we have done our job as a sales organization this has occurred well before the purchase of the solution.” Says Aaron Seibert, Sales Expert.
The sales team needs to discuss the available options and create the proposal documents accordingly so that the customer’s expectations match with the System Proposal and functions agreed upon. “Taking the time up front is important, so that the customer clearly understands the overall system functionality and the options available before agreeing to the proposal, and to eliminate misunderstandings later on.” says Josh Crowe, Project Manager.
Once a base PARCS system is decided upon, next come all the add-ons, bells and whistles. This could include cctv, intercom, reservation, apps, toll systems, LPR, etc. Typically, a PARCS manufacturer would have partners that they have already worked with for functionality outside of their realm.
When considering partner products, input is taken from all team members who are subject matter experts including project managers, system/sales engineers, sales team members, and the market as well including customers and consultants. The input is balanced with upfront costs, service after the sale, and merchantability to determine which partners’ product a PARCS supplier is willing to sell. Some solutions like reservations are approached differently because of their unique requirements. An agnostic approach is best for offering several options to customers and consulting with them about the pros and cons of each.
If the proposed functionality appeals to the owner/operator or consultant all is well. This may not be the case if an owner/operator or consultant already has favored vendors that have not integrated with the PARCS manufacturer in the past, or if something new is requested of the PARCS manufacturer. If a new integration is needed, connections need to be made, legal understandings agreed upon, and integration developed and tested. The wants of the owner/operator would always be the highest priority, of course. During the RFP process a sales engineer would make sure this all makes sense.
Once a job is awarded, the sales team will hold design process meetings with all stakeholders. They should already have several standard documents and questionnaires that aid the process of defining operational requirements. Project managers would have their own little black books of process and procedural magic to achieve the planning, design, execution, monitoring, controlling and closure of any particular project.
A timeline is defined to make sure all aspects of the project fall into place – analyzing current operations, design, construction, installation of each component, testing, training, transition to the customer’s control, etc. If support is needed from partners they are usually brought in early, during the design process. Looking at the big project picture would highlight the longest lead time items and how they fit into a project timeline. A lot of information is juggled to determine what is needed throughout the construction phase. Local sub-contractors may need to be vetted for job requirements and hired to perform works that need permits, inspections and certifications.
Once a base PARCS system is decided upon, next come all the add-ons, bells and whistles.
Did I mention the construction? A project manager may not always be responsible for construction at a job site, but are almost always involved. This requires the project manager to have a very good understanding of the overall parking system architecture, and a thorough background knowledge of the civil, electrical, and communications aspects at each particular job site.
Project managers are required to coordinate the logistics of partners to fast-track their products, simulate the PARCS’s on-site environment, install/integrate and test functionality prior to the factory acceptance test (FAT) and shipping the final product to the customer’s site. This can often require customers to set up a relationship with partners (payment system providers, for example) at the beginning of a project, to ensure that full functionality of a system can be tested during FAT, and less on-site work is required.
For partners that offer integrated services, service engineers and vendor tech support or developers may also need to communicate during installation, to ensure that the integrated solution is deployed appropriately.
Orchestrating the sheer number of activities being executed by multiple parties with an emphasis on limiting down time can be the most challenging aspect. Especially if a transition period is needed to replace the old PARCS with the new. This transition period allows for training for the customer to become more familiar with the new equipment, while still having the old PARCS available for traffic diversion, and to ensure revenue is not lost during the transition. A rock-solid deployment plan is paramount to phase out the old parking equipment, and install the new equipment and still maintain parking operations.
So, is it magic? No, just a lot of knowledge, skill, effort and organization to make it seem that way.
Karen Blasing Pradhan is a Sales Channel Professional at SKIDATA, Inc. with more than 35 years’ experience in the parking industry. She can be reached at Karen.Pradhan@SKIDATA.com.