Small Is Good

Small Is Good

Bryer credits much of his success so far to the fact that Parkway is small and family run: there was virtually no prior technology when he came on board to tangle up or torpedo his efforts. Second, Bryer wasn't under immediate pressure to succeed or prove ROI in the first year. "A public company never could have done what we did, because we do things that do not return on a quarterly basis," says Zuritsky. "Our board would have retired all of us long ago otherwise." Third, top management was squarely behind the initiative: "I didn't have to convince Joe [Zuritsky] to do BI; he hired me to help him implement it," says Bryer. And finally? Not having anything like it before made even the smallest results at first look amazing, convincing executives to line up behind most other BI-related initiatives.

So how has BI made Parkway smarter? Consider damage claims, for starters. Complaints filed against parking lot owners for nicks and scrapes to cars while parked is a major cost to all garage owners and operators, and in recent months, liability insurance premiums have been soaring. According to the National Parking Association, commercial liability insurance rates for parking facilities are rising—and by as much as 80 percent for some members last year, says NPA Executive Director Martin Stein. According to the American Insurance Association, insurers see parking garages as high auto damage targets, and since Sept. 11, also as potential terrorist targets, chiefly those in urban facilities.

While not much can be done about the terrorism risk, BI software can help pinpoint the cause for claims increases by letting managers compare claims per employee, garage design and cost data by garage or across the organization. This way, managers can spot anomalies and, therefore, intervene to ask questions, minimize problems and keep premiums from increasing even further, Bryer says. (In one of Parkway's garages, for example, Parkway has been able to cut damage claims nearly in half just by altering the mix of signage and employees on duty.)

And there are other pluses to BI at Parkway. Consider revenues per garage site. Using its new data warehouse and analytics software, Parkway can now analyze revenue by type of garage (automated, self-service or valet parking), length of stay, rate structure and percentage of total use over time, and find ways to help managers rejigger prices and garage spacing so as to run their facilities more profitably and efficiently. For example, a manager might offer higher prices for shorter terms in high-volume lots to earn better revenues per space at a particular location. Parkway says that where it has applied new warehouse analytics to customer lots, revenues per site can go up by as much as 35 percent.

BI is also helping Parkway cut employee theft, another problem in the parking industry, especially in lots where cash is still taken from customers to pay for parking. Automating payment systems, says Bryer, can "keep hands away from money." Indeed, "gaming the system," Bryer says, is such a problem in the industry that Parkway and other firms are moving to develop digital payment systems that employ credit card, digital scanning devices and smart card and sensor technology to charge customers for parking.

Parkway won't divulge how much it loses from theft each year, but analyst Childe of Bear Stearns says the nation's No. 1 parking company, Central Parking Corp.—with 1.5 million lot spaces nationally compared with Parkway's 30,000—has been able to boost revenues 10 percent to 15 percent, just by preventing theft alone.

Switching to digital payment systems, she says, has additional benefits in the parking industry. "When you put in a machine to replace humans, revenues go up—and you don't have to pay a machine benefits or overtime," says Childe. Adds Zuritsky: "You also don't have to pay compensation claims."

This article was originally published on 02-14-2003
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