Leasing and renting vehicles on a national scale entails gathering enormous amounts of data from widely varying locations. Budget Truck One Way Rental manages its data primarily on a wide area network (WAN) based in Chicago running on IBM's mid-range computer, the AS/400.
The database, as it exists on the AS/400, is adequate for the day-to-day operations such as acquiring rental and return information. This leaves something to be desired for marketing purposes, as the database is not designed for presenting the data in a form agreeable to the group that resides in Carrollton, Texas. To help meet this group's needs, Chenault & Company embarked on the design and implementation of a marketing oriented database approximately two years ago. The initial system was implemented in FoxPro® over a two month period -- rapid application development made with by tools associated with FoxPro. The system was then placed on the local area network (LAN) in Carrollton, allowing for concurrent access. Additional functionality has been added over time as needed.
Data acquisition for this local database is accomplished by exporting a comma delimited file from the main database on a monthly basis. This file is then downloaded to the LAN in Carrollton, and finally imported into the FoxPro database. Each monthly download adds approximately 18,000 records to the database, which amounts to about 250 megabytes of additional data per year. Because of sheer bulk, facilities have been added which allows obsolete data to be off-loaded (and reloaded if needed), resulting in savings in both processing time and storage requirements.
The FoxPro database allows Budget Rental Truck to make various marketing decisions based on organized data, instead of guessing from volumes of data from the AS/400. Two sets of reports from the local desktop FoxPro database indicate some of the uses:
The Revenue by Age report collects and combines information on revenue, miles driven, and the number of rentals by age groups. The resulting report can then be compared with losses or other data to determine the economic viability of the current renting procedures with respect to specific age groups. For example, it might be determined that the 18 to 25 years old group produces a small percentage of the revenue but is responsible for a substantial amount of the damage the fleet incurs. In other words, some change in renting procedures for this age group might be desirable.
The Inbound for Each Destination report, and it's compliment, the Outbound for Each Origin report, have another purpose. These reports focus on the top 10 origins of and top 10 destinations for trucks receptively. By comparing the inbound and outbound reports, Budget Rental Truck can determine the magnitude of traffic between two stations and the amount of truck buildup that may occur at various points. For example, Las Vegas, Nevada has been experiencing phenomenal growth the last several years -- on the order of several thousand more people moving in than out per month. Consequently, more trucks are rented to Las Vegas than from Las Vegas, making it in a sense, a rental truck black hole, capable of eventually absorbing the whole fleet. These trucks will not leave Las Vegas unless personnel are sent there to drive them back, which costs money. Of course, Budget Rental Truck wants to be competitive in a market such as Las Vegas. Apparently renting to such a destination has a cost greater than just wear and tear on the vehicle and the amount of time rented. This should be factored into the calculations. Conversely, anyone wanting to remove a truck from such a marketplace is in a sense possibly saving Budget Rental Truck money, and a lower price might be considered to be more competitive.
The distributed implementation approach taken
at Budget Rental Truck has several strong points. The AS/400 database
is used for day-to-day operations, and interfaces with the FoxPro
database (on the local network) for purposes of downloading data
on a monthly basis. The AS/400 is not additionally stressed with
marketing reports, which are computationally intensive and would
likely reduce throughput for the primary business concerns --
renting trucks. The FoxPro desktop database receives the data
it needs, and is not hampered with day-to-day operational issues;
thus it can be devoted to producing those computationally intensive
marketing reports. Both marketing and operational personnel are
well served by this division of work between the two databases.
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