One of history’s most famous work flow systems was created by Henry Ford in 1903. Until then, cars were built one at a time, by hand. Ford revolutionized manufacturing and created the moving production line where workers at each point had a specific task to complete and each task was sequenced to make sure the entire process ran smoothly. The result was mass production of high quality cars at a low price. This unprecedented expediency and productivity was indeed a milestone in manufacturing. But the true power of the concept of workflow really lied in its sheer applicability. Any repetitive process regardless of the industry can benefit from an intelligent application of workflow.
The concept of workflow automation is not new to the leasing industry. Small ticket lessors pioneered the concept many years ago. Success in their market depends on processing large volumes of cookie cutter transactions, providing fast turnaround and minimizing handling costs, a model naturally suited to automation. Indeed, over the last ten years, a number of lease management systems with workflow capabilities were developed to help automate pricing, score transactions, make credit decisions, generate documents and book small ticket transactions. Despite the pervasiveness of workflow automation in this segment, however, it has yet to make inroads into the middle and large ticket segments of the industry.
While the nature of the processes performed by middle market and large ticket lessors are dramatically different than their small ticket counterparts, it is arguable that their success is also dependent on the expediency of their service and keeping their costs under control. Of course, in addition, a middle market/large ticket leasing company’s value proposition is also based upon differentiation by providing more customized and sophisticated products, a high degree of customer service and intimate knowledge of the assets being leased.
Leasing companies that specialize in assets such as Information Technology and Medical equipment, for example, thrive on these very factors. Many of their customers choose leasing for non-financial as much as financial reasons. The lease agreements they enter into involve millions of dollars and often hundreds or even thousands of assets. These customers place a high value on the ability of the lessor to ensure that the equipment ordered meets policy, manage the delivery and acceptance process, and efficiently make payments to large numbers of vendors. They want help tracking assets that are delivered to numerous locations and may be relocated several times, with implications, including for billing (based on domicile), and sales/use and property taxes. They want the flexibility to upgrade technology as needed, and assistance in the disposition of technology early in the event of a downsizing or upon final lease expiration.