The shortlists for this year’s European Rental Awards on 25 June were published in February after the meeting of the judges. Here we provide details of the shortlisted entries.

The judging panel for the European Rental Awards met in Brussels on 18 February to decide the shortlists, with the winners to be announced at the awards dinner in Amsterdam in 25 June, during the European Rental Association’s annual convention and the International Rental Exhibition (IRE).

The shortlists for each category, in alphabetical order, are:

Large Rental Company of the Year (revenues >€15 million)

  • AFI (UK)
  • GAP Group (UK)
  • Loxam (France)

Small/Mid-sized rental Company of the year (revenue

  • Crestchic (UK)
  • Dromad Hire (Republic of Ireland)
  • GGR Group (UK)
  • Hotmobil (Germany)
  • Industrial Access (Romania)

Rental Product of the Year

  • Firefly (Cygnus hybrid generator)
  • Niftylift (HR28 hybrid access platform)
  • Power Towers (Pecolift access platform)
  • SDMO (Rental Compact generators)
  • Towerlight (VTLED lighting tower)

Rental Safety Campaign of the year

  • AFI (UK)
  • Lavendon Group (Europe)
  • Ramirent (Finland)

Rental Marketing Campaign of the Year

  • 4-punto-1 (Italy)
  • Hewden (UK)
  • Nationwide Platforms (UK)

Rental Person of the Year

  • To be announced at the awards dinner.

ERA/IRN Lifetime Achievement Award

  • To be announced at the awards dinner.

The judges said the more than 50 entries for the awards "demonstrated the passion and enthusiasm that is in the rental industry, with companies proud of their achievements and willing to share their experiences.

"Even in a generally difficult year for rental in Europe, as 2013 was, many companies were able to grow and innovate. It was encouraging, for example, to see small companies making their own space in the market, often with niche products or in new sectors - a sign that there are great opportunities still to be found in rental."

To book your place at the awards dinner visit www.erarental.org.

Ritchie Bros is the Gold Sponsor for the awards, and IronPlanet is the sponsor of the awards drinks reception. Silver sponsors are Caterpillar, Grindex and Hilti.

On the following pages we provide brief summaries of the submissions from each of the shortlisted companies.

Large Rental Company of the Year (revenues >€15m)

AFI (UK)

2013 was a year of profitable growth for AFI, one of the UK’s largest powered access rental companies.

Following an £85 million refinancing it made acquisitions in the UK (Hi-Reach and Wilson Access) and the Middle East (Access Rental Gulf), with revenues growing 37% and operating profits up 44%.

More even than its financial growth, the year was notable for AFI’s investment in safety. It more than doubled the number of training days to 1302 – for its 348 employees – and has reduced the number of personal injury and road accidents by a third compared to 2012.

Its commitment to safety extends beyond its own workforce. During the year AFI launched an updated version of its SmartZone system, which controls and monitors the use of powered access machines. SmartZone uses a smart card recognition system to only allows operators with valid training to operate a machine.

GAP Group (UK)

GAP Group’s diversification project continued successfully in 2013, with the Glasgow, UK-based company investing further in its specialist divisions.

Its new lifting division was a prime driver behind its growth last year, with six new depots and revenues more than doubling. The non-mechanical plant division also grew, by 95% in revenue terms. These specialist businesses helped GAP grow its annual sales by 22% in 2013.

In support of the lifting division, in 2013 GAP established a dedicated Test, Inspect and Certify team. This led to the company winning significant inspection and rental contracts for the Ministry of Defense naval base at Portsmouth and with Southern Water.

The company is committed to an apprenticeship scheme that it has been running for several years. In 2013 it recruited 14 new apprentices, taking the total employed to 61. Every depot in the network employs at least one apprentice and all apprentices have the option to be employed by GAP when their training is completed.

Loxam (France)

Despite difficult market condition in its home market of France 2013 was something of a ‘year of action’ for Loxam.

It shifted to the single Loxam Rentals brand for its general rentals operations (merging the Laho Equipement, Loueurs de France and Locarest operations in France), continued the expansion of its city-centre LoxamCity stores with five new openings, and expanded its Loxam Laho Tec business, which offers suspended access, access towers and formwork.

Loxam also opened up a potentially significant distribution channel through partnerships with DIY and builders merchants networks Leroy Merlin and Weldom. By the end of 2013 it had established 81 ‘corner stores’ in Leroy Merlin locations and 32 in Weldom branches.

The DIY stories and LoxamCity initiatives were part of a wider plan to be ‘closer to the customer’, with other initiatives including LoxamDrive, which allows customers to reserve equipment by phone or online and pick it up at the branch of their choosing.

Loxam remains Europe’s largest rental business, with revenues of €805 million in 2013 and EBITDA profits of €239 million. It continued to expand its international operations in 2013 with the acquisition of Dansklift, and aerial platform business with depots in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Small/Mid-sized rental Company of the year (revenue <€15m)

Crestchic (UK)

Crestchic Loadbanks is a UK company that rents loadbanks for testing power supplies, primarily in sectors such as oil and gas, marine, data centres and power generation. In addition to its UK depots is has offices in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Dubai, Singapore, North America and Brazil.

During 2013 – the company’s 30th year – Crestchic invested heavily, opening a new £2.5 million rental facility close to its headquarters, providing a single base for its international loadbank rental operation.

The facility – which has reduced lead times by 50% - can deploy units from 30 kW for a day’s rental up to a 50 MVA high voltage package to the other side of the world for an extended project. The new rental yard has helped Crestchic increase customer retention rates to 95%.

The company also added new products to its range, including a 6 MW, 20 ft containerised loadbank; a ‘first of its kind’ microprocessor controlled DC loadbank for testing battery banks and UPS systems; and the Modus control system, allowing customers to control a loadbank via their own on-site control system.

Revenues increased by 5% during the year, and the company says it is targeting double that growth rate this year. “The investment made in 2013 into new facilities, products, technologies and the team has expanded Crestchic’s presence on the international stage”, says the company.

Dromad Hire (Republic of Ireland)

The winner of this award last year Dromad Hire has had another successful year, expanding its Fitness4GHire brand, adding parts supply to its activities and reporting a 32% increase in revenues in 2013.

In the face of Ireland’s severe downturn following the financial crisis, Dromad established a new operation renting fitness equipment to sports centres, hospitals and other customers.

Last year it further expanded this operation by establishing a franchise for the Fitness4Hire brand, and now has three independent franchises around the country offering next-day delivery.

The company has also established a parts supply operation by joining forces with UK parts supplier IPS. Dromad is now offering 10000 parts to the Irish rental market through IPS Ireland.

GGR Group (UK)

This specialist mini-crane and vacuum lifting specialist continues to expand its business, with revenues in 2013 growing 12% to £8.5 million and a 26% increase in the number of customers to more than 1300.

The family-owned business added to its range of niche products during the year, offering for the first time the new Unic Eco-095 – offering fume-free, zero noise lifting in enclosed spaces – and also the 20 t electric Galizia F200E pick and carry crane.

The company’s fleet now comprises 155 spider cranes, 55 pick and carry cranes, 470 vacuum lifts, 85 cladding lifters and 50 glazing robots.

2013 also saw the company implement some initiatives to improve customer service and satisfaction levels and now uses a third party online feedback system called Trustpilot to gather customer responses. Around 75% of its business is repeat business.

The company’s professionalism is highlighted by the number of important projects it has been involved in, including London Crossrail, the SSE Hydro Arena in Glasgow and the Olympic Aquatic Centre legacy project.

Hotmobil (Germany)

Hotmobil has exploited the shift towards a rental culture in mainland Europe to rent a range of mobile heating, chiller and steam units. The company, which employs 80 people and has a fleet of 1000 rental units throughout Europe, also has expertise in product design, manufacturing some of its own units.

Its range of heating units spans ratings from 40 kW to 2.5 MW, suitable for supplying hot water during a renovation project or for temporary structures such as marquees. For example, it rented hot water for showers for the Formula 1 race at Silverstone in the UK and during the Tour de France.

In meeting the needs of a growing rental market Hotmobile has been able to develop products specifically designed for rental applications, including the 150 kW MHZ 150 trailer mounted boiler, the smallest trailerised unit in its range. Weighing just over 1500 kg, it can deliver up to 2580 litres of domestic hot water per hour at 10 bar, or deliver heating water at up to 90 degrees at 3 bar.

Industrial Access (Romania)

Faced with the challenge of a depressed Romanian construction market Industrial Access reported “the most challenging year in the history of our company”.

It responded to the crisis in several ways, but mainly by improving on its internal processes and increasing the amount of work done by computer systems. This allowed it to streamline its staffing from 55 to 43 people.

It integrated all its computer systems into a single Smartrent system, giving instant access to all its processes, from asset management to customer service. Automaton of processes was important: for example, the service department now has five automated key performance indicators, while sales staff have online decision making tools allowing them to take swift and effective decisions.

The company maintained its presence in four countries – with seven depots in Romania, two in Bulgaria, and one each in Serbia and Moldova – and despite the challenging conditions managed to keep reductions in profit at less than the market slowdown and maintained a strong cash position.

Rental Product of the Year

Firefly (Cygnus hybrid generator)

Firefly launched its new Cygnus Hybrid Power Generator (HPG) I April 2013, offering customers an integrated power solution that can combine with a range of power sources such as solar, wind, battery and mains grid. It will also connect to a conventional diesel generator to manage variable load requirements, reducing diesel fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The new 24 kVA, 48 kWh Cygnus HPG offers automatic switching between single and three phase power, and can integrate with genset up to 60 kVA (full back up) or 100 kVA (part load back up). Firefly says trials have shown that genset fuel use can be reduced by up to 50%, with a 60% decrease in genset runtime.

Firefly says that what sets it apart from other hybrid systems “is its ability to provide both single and three phase power in one unit. Meaning the contractor or the plant hirer does not need source two units to provide both forms of power. The contractor benefits from being able to use both types of power at the touch of a button from the HPG.”

Niftylift (HR28 hybrid access platform)

The Height Rider 28 (HR28) is a hybrid four wheel drive articulated boom platform powered by a diesel engine supplemented by battery power when required, allowing the use of a smaller engine and thereby reducing fuel consumption, engine emissions and noise.

The HR28 can operate on battery alone for indoor, quiet or clean applications, and the diesel engine then recharges the batteries without a mains power source. Niftylift says it is the highest reach electric-powered aerial platform, offering a maximum 19 m outreach.

Weighing 14.5 t it is also one of the lightest platforms in this reach class, meaning that it can be transported on a 26 t truck rather than a larger ‘low loader’, leading to savings in transportation costs.

The platform also incorporates Niftylift’s patented SiOPS safety system, a secondary guarding system that prevents the operator being crushed onto the controls. Niftylift was the first manufacturer to develop this technology and has now been followed by others in the market.

Power Towers (Pecolift access platform)

Power Towers’ Pecolift is a 3.5 m working height vertical mast platform that uses a

patented “stored power mechanism” in the mast that makes it very easy for the operator to manually lift the platform using a handle. This means the platform has no need for an engine, battery, hydraulics or electrics, making it a low maintenance, rental friendly platform.

“We call it ‘Non-powered Powered Access’”, says UK company Power Towers, “This is clearly also a very Eco-friendly alternative to traditional batteries, hydraulics and electrics….This has clear advantages over both existing mechanical forms of access and existing traditionally powered low level access platforms.”

The manufacturer says it is intuitive to operate. The operator pushes the Pecolift into position, steps into the platform (no climbing steps). The machine sinks onto its front rubber feet and is braked and the gates close behind the operator, who then turns the handle clockwise to lift, anti-clockwise to descend.

Launched in the UK in January 2013 the Pecolift has been an unqualified success, with over 2600 machines sold. Many of the UK’s major rental companies have purchased Pecolift in large quantities, including Lavendon/Nationwide Platforms, Hire Station, HSS, Brandon Hire, A-Plant and Select Plant Hire. It is also now being sold in mainland Europe, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.

SDMO (Rental Compact generators)

During 2013 SDMO completed the launch of its new Rental Compact line of gensets for the rental market, comprising models in the 16 to 550 kVA power range.

The sets have been developed specifically with rental in mind with SDMO saying that the “revolution” was the realisation that rental sets are often used by people with little knowledge of power equipment; “This was an important change that has led to a complete rethink of the functions to make it more accessible, safer, more robust and easier to use.”

In addition to features that make the sets easy to handle on site, SDMO has also developed the technology – the sets use Stage 3A engines and there is a new, patented cooling system that reduces noise, makes the machines more compact, and allows them to be operated effectively even in very hot conditions.

These features have helped the Rental Compact range find rapid acceptance among rental companies in Europe, including in major power rental markets such as France and the UK.

Tower Light (VTLED lighting tower)

Tower Light is well known in rental markets around the world for its lighting tower products. In 2013 it built on its reputation for innovative products with the launch of a LED lamp version of its well-established VT lighting tower range.

The VTLED can be fitted with either 300 or 450 W LED lamps: the 300 W version provides similar light intensity to 1000 W metal halide lamps, while the 450 W unit offer a higher illumination factor.

The use of LED lamps means that the less power needed to light up the lamps and therefore Tower Light was able to replace the standard 9.0 kW engine with a 5.0 kW unit. This lowers fuel consumption from an average of 1.8 l/min to 1.0 l/min.

Other benefits of LED lamps, says Tower Light, include zero maintenance, longer life, lower disposal costs, and the ability to be restarted when hot, unlike metal halide lamps that have to cool first.

Rental Safety Campaign of the year

AFI (UK)

AFI is shortlisted for its development of the SmartZone, a device that controls and monitors the use of powered access platforms and ensures that machines cannot be operated by anyone who has not been properly trained and authorised to use them.

The system recognises a smart card – such as an IPAF PAL card – and will only unlock the machine if the operator has the required licence category and if the card is not out of date.

In addition, the system builds up a profile of what each operator has been doing and will prompt familiarisation training if the operator has never used a particular model. Similarly, it will prompt the user to carry out pre-use checks if he or she has not operated a machine for the previous 24 hours.

In addition to these features the system can also be used to create a geofence, with the machine unable to restart in areas outside the prescribed zone. Also included is an autolock capability, if a machine is left without being locked.

The system successfully completed trials with a major client, BAE Systems at the Portsmouth Naval Base. AFI says BAE is now looking to use the system at a major site in the UK.

Lavendon Group (Europe)

Europe’s largest powered access rental company created a ‘Your safety, our priority’ campaign targeting both its own employees and external customers.

The campaign, including printed, digital and video content in four languages, aimed to provide straightforward and consistent way of informing and engaging its customers on key areas of health and safety.

A key part of the initiative was to involve employees in the development of the tools, with staff at five locations in the UK, France, Brussels Germany and the United Arab Emirates participating. This also served to show customers that its employees played an important role in maintaining safety on their jobsites.

Lavendon says the all 1500 of its staff have a copy of the ‘Your safety, our priority’ guide, helping codify high standards of the group to all new and existing staff, and that the programme as raised awareness with its customers about the importance Lavendon places on safety and demonstrates the high standards that must be met.

In the process, the online health and safety sections of Lavendon’s websites have been transformed from a static, seldom updated page to “a six page journey featuring videos, downloads and health and safety guidance.”

Ramirent (Finland)

Ramirent’s safety campaign was firmly targeted at workers on construction sites in Sweden. It set up a trailer equipped with safety information, equipment and videos and went on a countrywide tour visiting 28 major construction sites during the year, providing advice and information to more than 5000 site workers.

The trailer would arrive on site at a pre-arranged time, giving workers a welcome break from the routine while doing something useful. As part of the programme Ramirent developed a TB Safety Guide (TB stands for Tryggare byggare – Swedish for safer construction workers) for use on smart phones.

The guide provides guidance on issues such as working at height, dust control, vibration levels on hand-held equipment and lifting.

As well as improving safety knowledge on sites, Ramirent also used the trailer to visit its own depots and improve its staff knowledge on safety and related products. The programme has led to an increase in demand for safety-related products, led customers to ask for more training, and made an obvious connection between machines, safety knowledge and Ramirent.

Rental Marketing Campaign of the Year

4-punto-1 (Italy)

Facing extremely difficult economic conditions, four of Italy’s biggest rental companies decided to work together to create an alliance that would provide customers with a single point of contact for a wide range of products.

The four - Venpa (access and earthmoving equipment), Milantractor (power rentals). Tecnifor-Fae (portable accommodation) and E-Mac (cranes and scaffolding) - created a rental alliance called 4punto1desighed to offer equipment to large customers working on major projects.

The alliance was launched in March 2013 with a joint marketing and promotions plan, which included the alliance presenting the concept to 100 of the largest contractors in Italy.

The concept has already paid off, with 4punto1winning work on major projects, including the new Metro 5 line in Milan, the Hotel Marriott project on Sacca Sessoly Island in Venice, and the Expo2015 site in Milan.

Hewden (UK)

Hewden created a Core Fleet of its most popular 30 products - excavators, telehandlers, dumpers, rollers, scissor lifts and telescopic booms – and guaranteed that any orders from the Core Fleet placed before midday were guaranteed delivery the following morning, while orders place between midday and 5.00pm would be delivered before 5.00pm the next day. If it failed to deliver customers would receive a £100 credit note, no questions asked and a written apology from our CEO.

The initiative has succeeded. It has broadened Hewden’s appeal to the small and medium sized contractors and builders, with business to these customers increasing by 11%, and it has increased time utilisation on the core products from 53% to 62% (on a now larger fleet).

As of 20 February this year, Hewden had made 35145 Core Fleet deliveries, of which 35074 were on time, giving a success rate of 99.8%.

The success of the programme has led Hewden to invest heavily in the core fleet, spending £35 million on more than 500 new machines last year and plans to invest more than £40 million on the core fleet this year.

Nationwide Platforms (UK)

Nationwide Access created an extensive marketing campaign around the new Pecolift low-level access platform that it added to its fleet in 2013.

The effectiveness of the campaign can be measured by the fact that the company attained 70% utilisation on the fleet of 1000 Pecolifts.

The campaign, undertaken during the first six months of 2013, included 30 trials and demonstrations around the UK, internal communications to Nationwide staff to familiarise them with the machine, a professional video, leaflets, web content (a special Pecolift landing page) and digital communications with customers.

In addition to the high utilisation rate reached for the fleet, Nationwide says it managed to get the Pecolift rented to prestigious projects and major industrial sites, including St Barts Hospital in London, Heathrow Terminal 2, Hartlepool Power Station and Heysham Nuclear Power Station.

BOX STORY

Event details

European Rental Awards:

Wednesday 25 June, 2014

Elicium Centre, Amsterdam RAI

www.khl.com/rentalawards

ERA Convention:

Tuesday 24 – Thursday 26 June, 2014

Elicium Centre, Amsterdam RAI

www.erarental.org

Booking

To book your place at the awards dinner visit www.erarental.org.

Organisers:

The European Rental Awards are jointly organised by the European Rental Association and International Rental News.

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