Technology has permeated nearly every industry with the goal of simplifying once complex and time-consuming processes. In the parking industry, technology automates various daily processes, including access for daily and monthly parkers and payment options. As facilities transition from fully staffed garages to automation, you may be wondering whether upgrading to certain technological parking solutions is right for your facility. Let’s take a look at some common solutions as well as what you should consider before deciding to invest in automation.
Types of Technology for Parking
Some technological features are more common than others, especially depending on how your garage operates. Perhaps the most common are payment processing solutions, including pay on foot, pay in lane, and eParking apps with prepayment features. These solutions ease overcrowded lanes when entering and exiting; they also help customers feel less rushed, especially if they can pay on their own time (and don’t need to scramble to find their wallet upon exiting).
The same kind of technological solution exists for valet operations—rather than needing to take the time to manually issue tickets by time-stamping each section, noting the license plate on each section, noting damage, and marking details about a visitor’s car and length of stay, parking attendants can use a handheld device that allows them to more quickly perform these functions. In this case, technology enhances the customer experience and makes the attendant’s job more productive. The decision now depends on the cost of automation offset by the customer experience and automated tracking and reporting features.
Making the Decision to Upgrade
Like every decision, choosing to upgrade to automation has its pros and cons; these depend entirely on how your facility operates. A major pro is the significant reduction in costs over time; when you don’t need to pay staff to attend to a garage, that returns huge savings. In fact, many facilities can instantly save up to $50,000 in costs just by implementing an automated parking system.
One drawback, though, is the emphasis on “over time.” However, with competitive PARCS equipment manufacturers, the buy back period on such an investment is often less than two years. That said, if you find your buy back period will exceed a two-year window, you should dig deeper into the types of automation available that will still fit your needs as an owner and/or operator.
In addition, research on other expenses that automation entails that may not exist in a traditional PARCS operation should be considered in the evaluation. Items such as DSL or T1 lines, extended warranties, costs of repair labor and parts if not under warranty, software upgrades, etc. all should be considered when automating and evaluating a true cost to ownership.
You’ll also want to consider the physical layout of your facility. While automation may sound like a great idea, in some cases, it may not be feasible with how your garage is structured. In that case, you won’t want to invest money in a system you may not be able to fully use.
Lastly, consider how you staff your garage. If you can afford to eliminate or reduce staff in favor of automation, the upgrade may be worth it. If you prefer to have staff in the garage to assist customers regardless of your PARCS equipment, you again will need to weigh the customer experience with that of a longer buy back period
Keep in mind that you don’t have to go all in with automation and can instead settle for a compromise—if you think some features would benefit your facility, you can implement those while avoiding others.
It’s the greatest truth of the parking industry: for customers, parking should be a non-event. In the end, you’ll want to consider the following question with regard to implementing automation: will this investment save time and money and enhance the customer experience? If so, you should definitely consider it; if not, search for other options.
Regardless, every solution will be unique—it will depend on your wants, needs, challenges, and logistics. Before you make any sort of decision, though, make sure you do the math and thoroughly research your PARCS vendors on what their equipment can and can’t do. You’d hate to hurt your business just to try the newest “toy” and not satisfy all your needs.
Contact us today for more information about automation in parking garages.