Inside Self-Storage

MAR 2019

Inside Self-Storage (ISS) is an information source for industry owners, managers, developers and investors covering news, trends, facility operation, finance, real estate, construction, development, marketing, technology, insurance and legality.

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Next is the overlock challenge, specifically how to release an overlocked renter if there's no manager onsite. We use a lock system we developed ourselves, but there are other automated lock options in the industry. Even if your facility is staffed, an overlock system will help with efficiency, as the manager won't have to spend time removing overlocks, and locks can be removed even after hours. It's a better customer experience. Our auctions are all online. It's rare that we don't sell a unit, and we're relieved of having to haul off junk, as that burden falls to the auction winner. We do employ part-time maintenance techs who invest an average of 10 to 20 hours per facility per month. That's still far better than 160 hours per month for a full-time manager. A maintenance tech mows, blows, cleans, overlocks units, takes auction photos and handles other routine tasks. We're experimenting with 360-degree cameras and virtual-reality headsets that will allow our maintenance director to be "present" with the tech to do things such as walk-throughs or troubleshooting a gate. Monitoring We rely heavily on our camera system and are experimenting with analytics cameras. A legacy system records what has occurred on site, but an analytics system can be trained to recognize if a door or vehicle gate is stuck open. Plus, the cameras can see thermally, so they can recognize if a climate-controlled building's temperature is outside of its target range or there's water on the floor, indicating a leak. Our goal this year is to make the analytics cameras our central nervous system to monitor all aspects of the facility and actively notify us of exceptions. A kiosk and model unit at 10 Federal Storage in Belmont, N.C. 10 Federal locations feature this unique retail display at the back of the unit model to show people everything they might need to store, including boxes, blankets, tape and gloves. To order, the customer simply uses his phone to scan the UPC code and purchase items through the Amazon or Lowe's apps. Please Scan Here Challenges We have experienced some challenges when introducing technology at our properties, and they can be divided into two categories. The first we've defined as "the incident of failure rate" and the second is simplicity. With unmanned operations, we have no one on site to deal with things that fail or break; hence, our goal is to get the frequency of something not working as close to zero as possible. There are a lot of amazing whiz-bang technologies out there, but if they're not extremely reliable, they aren't a good fit for unmanned sites. Also, when you're unmanned, there's no one on site to explain how anything works. Every process must be as simple as possible so anyone without prior self-storage experience can jump right in and execute. We work hard to get tenants onboard with our technology. When we acquire a facility and implement new tools, we lose 10 percent of the rent roll, on average. That may sound bad, but that same technology allows us to quickly recover those lost tenants. And, by the way, those are our "least efficient" customers—the ones who insist on paying by cash or check—so we're not exactly sad to see them go. Most tenants are remarkably comfortable with our technology, as we try to keep it in the vein of interfaces they're already used to, such as a website, kiosk or combination lock. It's all familiar to them thanks to online shopping, Redbox and ATMs. Whether you're thinking of going unmanned or just looking to find new efficiencies, I encourage you to attend industry tradeshows and see the technologies firsthand. Consider things that are easy to implement, such as connecting your gate to your website and management software. Chances are, everything is already in place, you just need your software provider to flip that switch. Then you can rent units 24/7! This is just one way you can better serve customers and lower your operating costs. Brad Minsley is co-founder of 10 Federal Storage LLC, responsible for operations including new-technology development, acquisitions, management functions and finance. 10 Federal operates 17 unmanned facilities in the Carolinas and Virginia. For more information, visit 68 ISS I March 2019

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