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Martin’s Visit to the ERA Convention

Jul 5, 2018

Recently, inspHire Managing Director, Graham Dobbs and I (General Manager, Martin Bestwick) made the trip to Vienna, Austria to attend the highly anticipated ERA (European Rental Association) Convention and Awards. If you’re unaware, the convention brings together some of the most well-known and forward thinking names in the European Rental Industry, giving delegates the opportunity to take part in workshops, key note speeches, networking events, a table-top exhibition and the coveted ERA Awards Dinner. You can find (full details of the ERA Convention) on their website.

A Visit to Austria Campus with Zeppelin

‘Tomorrow’s Customers’, the strapline for this year’s convention is the ideal way to describe the focus of the event. This was demonstrated perfectly by the first activity on the agenda…a visit to the live Austria Campus site, which was organised by Zeppelin Rental GmbH.

The visit was an eye-opener, in terms of how Zeppelin diversified the range of services they offer to become far more than just a rental equipment provider. Zeppelin weren’t just providing equipment to the site, they essentially designed and ran all non-construction related activity, from designing the layout of where all site services would be installed (welfare units, canteens etc.) to the management of all site traffic (of which on an average day was over 400 HGV’s!). Such a large volume of vehicles visiting a site in the city centre required extensive planning to ensure as little disruption to the flow of traffic throughout the city itself.

Taking control of so many aspects of a vast site might be quite a daunting thought for many rental businesses, especially as there are specialist engineers/surveyors that are required to provide this service. However, I can certainly see larger rental companies throughout Europe investigating this model in the not too distant future. This approach opens up a completely new revenue opportunity whilst also ensuring site exclusivity in the supply of goods to site.

Lots to Learn from Workshops & Keynotes

The opportunity to take in workshops and speeches hosted by experts, was a fantastic chance to listen to fresh perspectives from industry leaders, whilst at the same time reflect on new studies which had been commissioned on behalf of the ERA.

‘Reinventing construction: a route to higher productivity’ was particularly interesting. Data presented showed that over the past 30 years, the construction industry has been one of the poorest performing in terms of productivity and adopting new technologies. However, the tide is turning, over the last few years the industry has seen an acceleration in productivity, which looks largely driven by the digitisation of various services, a proportion of which has been introduced by rental businesses modernising the services they offer as they continue to be a key element in the construction productivity equation.

On day 2, we attended the Future Group Workshop. The focus of this was ‘who are tomorrow’s customers?’, with topics of discussion focussed around the shape and structure of rental companies and how will they serve customers. It became apparent that many people see rental moving in a similar direction to retail, with businesses serving customers from centralised locations as opposed to having local depots/stores nationwide. This could mean that many rental companies could potentially operate without a physical store for customers to walk into, in fact, the majority of ordering would be done online. Storing assets at shared locations was even muted as a possible way to mobilise equipment quickly whilst still meeting the objective of reducing operational overheads for the industry.

Telematics is an ever growing hot discussion point within the industry (read more about our integrations with leading telematics providers) and more businesses are seeking new ways they can use it to improve the service they off to their clients. One potential use being considered is pricing models based on utilisation. Essentially, a rental company, rather than charging a set daily rate, would only charge customers for the time they actually use the equipment whilst on site. Whilst this may sound like a scary proposition for today’s rental business owners, due to this type of charging structure being less predictable and therefore increases the risk to the business, it may prove an attractive option for the customer though who I imagine will ultimately have the final say.

The ERA Awards Dinner

The evening of May 23rd saw both Graham and I attend the European Rental Awards Dinner. As always, this was a celebration of the best businesses and individuals the European Rental Industry has to offer. Having won Small/Medium Sized Rental Company of the Year in 2017, (Naboen AS) of Norway, went on the claim 2018’s top prize of Large Rental Company of the Year. The judging panel, headed up by Pierre Boels, ERA President and CEO of (Boels Rental) said, “The company’s growth is obviously remarkable, but despite that Naboen has managed to retain its very distinctive culture, which combines a celebration of work with a commitment to provide great service to its customers.”

Swedish company, Byggmaskiner-Gruppen, took the prize of Small/Medium Rental Company of the Year with the judges acknowledging them for consistent growth and serious commitment to health and safety. Further award winners included JCB, Atlas CopCO, A-Plant and Cramo.

Also acknowledged during the awards ceremony was former CEO of the CPA, Colin Wood, who was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award and Xavier du Boÿs of Kiloutou who received the Person of the Year accolade. Take a look at a full review of the Awards Dinner.

An Invaluable Trip

Upon returning, we have taken time to reflect and expressed to the inspHire team how informative, educational and enjoyable the experience had been. Rubbing shoulders with many of the industry’s top names, including some of our customers and being able to discuss how they see the future of the industry is an invaluable insight when it comes to developing our software offering. Personally, I am very much looking forward to keeping in contact with the individuals we met during our time in Vienna and will be keeping an eye out for any events the ERA are holding in future.

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