Why is Thinking About the Future So Important for Self-Storage Owners?

Posted by Christina Alvino on Feb 14, 2023 12:00:00 AM

The Transition from Manual to Automatic Operations in Self-Storage

Like the automobile industry making the transition from manual to automatic transmissions, to even self-driving cars, the self-storage industry is advancing to support its customers’ evolving needs and demands. According to CarMax, a whopping 96% of Americans drive automatic vehicles today. This is largely due to consumer preferences and as a result, there’s more money in the automatic vehicles business. While driving a stick shift might gain you brownie points, most people prefer to drive automatic vehicles. People
don’t want to be bothered by a clutch and shifting gears when these functions can be completed automatically while saving them time and effort. The same can be said for self-storage keys and codes.

So, what can the self-storage industry take away from the automobile industry?

1. Manual operations take extra work
2. Consumer preferences lean heavily toward automatic operations
3. Automatic operations can generate more revenue
4. One day, manual operations will be a thing of the past

In comparison to the automobile industry, manually operating a self-storage facility takes a lot of work. You have to hire a versatile site manager who is great with customers and will go cut a lock, walk around with a bucket of overlocks, set up certain available units for online rentals, and so much more. It’s truly impractical in today’s world, especially with the current labor shortages and the growing demand for remote positions.

Not only is an automated facility easier and more efficient to operate, but it sits higher on the list of consumer preferences. Property managers can oversee more sites at one time, they have more time in their day for important tasks, and you don’t have to hire a jack-of-all-trades type of site manager. Instead, you can hire a site manager that has great customer service or sales experience as physical presence, activity, and requirements are no longer a necessary part of the job.

What exactly is an automated self-storage facility?

Automated facilities are quickly becoming the new norm for self-storage. These facilities take their operations online. Tenants can check availability and rates on the store’s website or app, rent units, sign up for autopayments, and gain immediate access to their units without ever having to talk to a site manager.

Site managers can oversee their property remotely, performing daily tasks such as lock checks from their smartphones or online web portal. Once manual and mundane processes such as overlocks and releasing overlocked units are now done automatically. An automated facility truly makes life easier for the tenant and the site manager.

While there are many others, another benefit to an automated facility is the flexibility and control it gives the tenant. They no longer have to keep up with physical keys or remember complicated codes because everything is right there on their smartphone. This even allows them to share digital keys with anyone needing to gain access to their unit.

Characteristics of a manually managed self-storage facility:

  • Traditional locks and hasps
  • Minimal security
  • Jack-of-all-trades site manager
  • Manual and mundane lock checks, overlocks, and releases
  • Lengthy onboarding

Characteristics of an automated self-storage facility:

  • Access control via smart locks/keypads
  • Remote management
  • Fully automated rentals
  • Tenant-driven onboarding
  • Thermal motion sensors
  • Digital key sharing
  • Mobile app monitoring
  • Fully automated lock checks, overlocks, and releases

While some people stay stuck in the past, automation is the way forward for the self-storage industry. Not only does it help you run your operations more effectively and efficiently, but tenants of all ages and demographics benefit as it eliminates the barriers between the tenant and their unit.

In the coming weeks, we are going to discuss macro trends that are fueling growth in the self-storage industry and why technology is so important to support that growth. So, hold onto your seats because it’s going to be one hell of a ride!