M.A. Mortenson is probably best known as a national general contractor/construction company, but their business includes so much more. They are incredibly diversified, doing everything from engineering and light manufacturing to fulfillment and preventive maintenance on renewable energy systems. In addition to all of that, they also run a construction equipment rental business. Mortenson procures, manages, and maintains capital equipment (like cranes) and related construction equipment for the projects they work on. Sometimes they rent the equipment to their clients, as part of a project’s billable expenses. Other times, they rent it to their subcontractor partners, such as electricians and landscapers. It’s all part of the full-service experience they provide for clients — and their commitment to the success of their projects.

Not Enough Bang for Their Buck

Managing a nationwide rental equipment operation is no mean feat. Over the years, Mortenson has implemented several different software packages for running this part of their business. The challenge with software that’s designed specifically for an equipment rental business is that it’s disconnected from their ERP system. Some of their information exists in one system, while some exists in another. Their fixed assets (i.e., the equipment) and depreciation information was always kept in the backend financial system. The rental contracts and inventory activity, as well as vendor/subcontractor lists, was managed in the rental-specific front-end system. Managing and maintaining interfaces between these two systems was always an expensive and difficult proposition. As a result, Mortenson often couldn’t get the level of reporting they really wanted.

Making matters worse, the most recent system they were using is a full ERP designed specifically for rental businesses. Mortenson, however, was only using a fraction of its capabilities, because they use Oracle EBS as their ERP. This also made it an expensive solution with much more functionality than was needed.

“It’s a system that’s really intended to probably be a rental business’s ERP. The way we do rental at Mortenson — where we are renting to our own projects — there are some nuances that really didn’t lend itself well to [that system],” says Todd Groskreutz, Mortenson’s Finance and Supply Chain Solutions Manager.

Knowing the power of Oracle EBS, Mortenson turned to Traust to help develop an in-house solution for their rental operations. The goal was to reduce overhead by creating a system that would better leverage their existing investment in Oracle EBS.

Tailored Functionality, without the Customization

Mortenson has struggled in the past with some heavily customized software solutions that were difficult to integrate and support. For this application, they didn’t want to create more technology overhead they would have to support for years to come. Instead, they wanted to use their existing Oracle EBS application stack to create a solution that would be both user-friendly and forward-looking.

The Traust-designed solution connects their Oracle Order Management system with Oracle Purchasing through standard system integrations. The system utilizes the modules in a unique way, however. Normally in Order Management, an “order” is meant to be something that is shipped to the client. In Mortenson’s new system, however, an order is a rental contract, and then that order stays open for the duration of the rental. Within the system, rental orders can generate monthly billings, return orders, and all the other transactions necessary for an equipment rental business. All of that is done by leveraging Oracle Workflow with Order Management to be the engine that drives the system.

“We’ve been able to get all of our data into one environment. It can do reporting on margin and on revenue. We’ve also been able to smooth out the whole end-of-month AR/AP netting process. Getting rid of the integrations was huge to help us be able to do that,” says Groskreutz.

“And then, from a contract perspective, we’re not paying $325,000 a year for [a separate] application. That one makes everybody happy.”

From a technical perspective, the solution uses Oracle APEX to create a user-friendly front-end enterprise web application. So, it looks great and works through a web browser — just like a modern SaaS app. But on the backend, it’s all done using standard Oracle systems and integrations. It doesn’t use any custom tables, very few flex tables, or any other “bespoke” elements. That means that the solution can easily grow with the rest of Mortenson’s ERP. It won’t need major customizations later, such as in an eventual move to the cloud.

No More Spreadsheets

Another challenge with the existing system is that Mortenson was still doing a lot of work in Excel and Smartsheets. One of the ancillary goals of the project was to eliminate most — if not all — of those spreadsheet workarounds. Mortenson wanted the whole lifecycle of the rental process in the system, where it would be traceable. The new system helps move them off spreadsheets by providing a client-facing site for projects. Project managers can use the front-end site to rent equipment and manage their orders. All the data then flows into the Oracle EBS backend as a request to the equipment facility, who can then work to fulfill it. Now, instead of managing rental equipment needs through spreadsheets, all their data will live directly in Mortenson’s ERP system.

360º Visibility and Forecasting

Within the new rental system, Mortenson can track all their equipment — both the equipment they own and equipment they rent from other vendors. It’s all administered in the install base and managed with Oracle-standard integrations. The system can track every piece of equipment — where it is, what condition it’s in, and its complete history. That’s something Mortenson was never able to do before in their backend ERP. With this tracking in place, Mortenson can now ensure they know everything about the equipment used on each project. For example, sometimes they have had trouble with a particular piece of equipment from a given vendor. Now, they can track that equipment’s serial number and get a different one the next time they call that vendor. The system gives them that kind of 360-degree visibility to the history of each piece of equipment.

Moreover, since the tool now tracks all their equipment in their Oracle backend, it’s tied to their asset management system. That gives Mortenson the ability to report on the profitability of each piece of rental equipment.

One of the biggest ways the new system is helping Mortenson is with their project forecasting. This is something they have not been able to do well for their rental business in the past. And for Mortenson, forecasting is very important. They can run forecasting scenarios for each project that dynamically account for the costs of rental equipment. This helps them understand future billing for each project in the coming months. Forecasts are based on the project progress (vs. schedule) and the rental equipment required for each stage and task. That’s something they’ve never been able to produce before.

A Tight Deadline and Nationwide Deployment

In addition to developing and testing the tool, Traust had to transfer all the data for every equipment facility across the country. For each facility, that meant cleaning and converting all their data before they could go live. Each week, new facilities have been making the switch-over to the new system. A small team from Traust has tackled this immense challenge, all while supporting the equipment facilities that have already made the transition. The Traust team consisted of a business solution architect, project manager/functional lead, and a technical developer, along with a functional analyst to help with testing.

The development timeline was tight for a project of this scale with a nationwide deployment. The timeline was based on not having to sign another long-term license and support agreement for the rental management software. Planning began in August 2020, right during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new system went live for the first facility in January 2021, and Mortenson began the process of turning off their previous rental software in May 2021.

Says Groskreutz, “When you think about how all this happened basically remote, it’s pretty impressive.”