New Camera Rental Tracking App Trims Paperwork “Production” Time & Turns Daily Tasks into One-Click Acts
In the hot movie-making hub of Hollywood, Cinema Camera Rentals faces stiff competition in providing customers with the latest and greatest technology has to offer. With a need to streamline its equipment rental pipeline, Cinema Camera Rentals recently contracted with eXcelisys for a new inventory management app. Together, the two firms wrote the script for custom inventory management software and eXcelisys produced the final cut, with the system premiering in February 2017.
Lights! Camera! Plenty of Action!
Based in Culver City, California, Cinema Camera Rentals opened in 2008 when Future Line Entertainment principals Mark and Emma Cameron started renting out their small inventory of film production equipment. Future Line is known for its commercial spots, including some for Oakley Women, Nike Swim and Nike Basketball.
While the Camerons focused on their production company, the rental business grew. In 2013, Matt Stemmley was brought in to join the cast as rental manager at Cinema Camera, which serves clients embarking on months-long feature film shoots and those producing high-end commercials. “We rent top-of-the-line cameras, lenses and accessories,” said Stemmley, noting the value of some equipment packages hits $50,000 to $200,000.
As a brick-and-mortar rental house serving the Los Angeles area, Cinema Camera provides more than cameras. A full production takes truckloads of equipment, including monitors for instant viewing of what the camera sees; matte boxes to prevent lens flare; tripods, dollies and gliding camera stabilizers (like the DJI Ronin) to ensure steady shots; light panels with C-stands; microphones and boom poles. Battery packs. The list goes on.
Cinema Camera rents it all, which means Stemmley has lots of serial numbers and items to track. Cinema Camera oversees nearly 2,000 individual items within its inventory. To keep track of it all, Stemmley instituted barcoding after joining the company and began utilizing Excel spreadsheets.
Stemmley’s primitive tracking system worked, but it had its limitations. To manage rental kits, purchase orders, quotes and invoicing, Stemmley had to open and review multiple files within Excel. The process was time-consuming. Stemmley understood where to find the information, but it was hard for other employees to follow up on his work. In addition, quotes could only be generated one at a time because of limited access to the Excel spreadsheets.
“I tried to envision a better workflow for day-to-day operations,” said Stemmley, who conceived of a system where employees could view each other’s work in real time and see the quotes and invoices others were preparing. “In order to push those daily tasks out onto other employees, we needed a better system. We needed a system we could all have access to.”
Looking for a solution, Stemmley reached out to other high-end rental houses to see what kind of inventory management software they used. He discovered that some opted for premade equipment rental software they leased or purchased, while others bought custom systems. “I wasn’t able to get a uniform sense of the best option,” said Stemmley. One of the happiest rental houses he found utilized a FileMaker Pro system, custom-built by a software developer. Stemmley decided to follow that lead and was referred to eXcelisys for the custom FileMaker database design and development needed for the task.
FileMaker Pro Takes Spotlight as Valuable Production Assistant
In May 2016, Stemmley and eXcelisys began working on plans for a custom software solution. Stemmley created a laundry list of needs and the eXcelisys developers made them a reality. The new system connects desktop computers, wireless scanners, iPads and a Mac mini hosting the FileMaker Pro database solution, enabling real-time access to the latest information from any device by any of the employees.
Because the custom inventory management software is streamlined and very intuitive to use, Stemmley no longer has to micromanage the invoicing and quoting process. He can rely on other employees for these tasks. “Having a centralized point of contact … that helps,” said Stemmley. “Everybody can see everything. It’s allowed me to take the stress off myself.”
There’s also less stress to getting multiple quotes compiled and delivered in one day because the task is quicker and quotes can be created simultaneously. In addition, invoicing is faster with no more need to click through multiple Excel screens to fill out an invoice template. Items that have been scanned out and scanned in appear on the invoice automatically. The program also figures rental rates, offering the appropriate discounts for multi-day use. “Invoicing is crazy easy,” said eXcelisys developer Rob Poelking. “The numbers are there. It fills in everything. You only have to click a button.”
Day-to-day operations also run smoother because employees can jump on a workstation, go to the home page and filter for outgoing rentals. Once the employee has a list of orders going out, the employee can select an order and print a “pick list” so the items can be assembled on time. It’s also easy to amend an order at pickup. If a customer needs to add another matte box or filter, the item can be scanned, which then automatically adds it to the order — no need to look up item numbers or pricing. It’s all there.
The new inventory management app also helps Cinema Camera track subrentals. With a goal of having the right equipment on time and on demand, Cinema Camera sometimes uses subrentals and consignments to meet customer needs. With subrentals obtained from other rental houses, Cinema Camera has to generate POs to pay for the equipment. The new software system has streamlined this process.
Another custom feature includes a field that displays a customer’s insurance information — with expiration date — on the order page. To protect its investment, Cinema Camera requires customers to have at least 1 million dollars in general liability coverage. The easy display ensures this information is up to date. In the end, Stemmley says, the new tracking system has improved the outlook at Cinema Camera Rentals.
FileMaker Pro Retains All-Star Status in New Rental-Tracking App
Cinema Camera Rentals is just one of the many rental businesses eXcelisys has assisted with custom software development in recent years. [pullquote align=”right”] “We wanted to get more productive and apply our efforts in the right places,” said Stemmley. “Not get bogged down with paperwork.”[/pullquote] Working with such businesses prompted eXcelisys to create the ex-RentalTracker — a jump-start FileMaker Pro template that can be quickly modified to meet the needs of any rental business.
Like Cinema Camera, maybe you, too, are torn between choosing a low-cost, premade, out-of-the-box software solution, or investing in a custom system to get everything you need. Try the eX-RentalTracker for yourself by requesting a FREE demo copy via the eXcelisys website, and get the best of both worlds.
To read about another eXcelisys rental-tracking app, click here.