The spread of coronavirus in China has unsurprisingly impacted the utilisation rates of rental firms in the country, but it has also prompted the use of digital technologies to overcome some of the challenges.

Xiaoming Cheng, Managing Director of Hitachi Construction Machinery (Shanghai) and a board member and representative of the Japanese Construction and Rental Association (JCRA), recently told the European Rental Association (ERA) that the coronavirus had delayed construction work that was due to start after the Chinese New Year by a month or two.

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In response to the virus, many towns went into lockdown, with people’s movements severely restricted.

According to Cheng’s figures, utilisation of both earthmoving equipment and access work platforms (AWPs) was approximately 20-30% of last year’s utilisation rates in the same period; “We are expecting that machine utilisation rates will be back to the normal level in the coming two weeks,” Cheng said.

Restrictions on the movement of people have had an interesting effect though: companies have adopted new sales methods using the internet, including group purchasing and parts selling, and online machine maintenance training, sometimes using virtual reality.

Cheng added that demand for both construction equipment purchasing and rental could nevertheless increase by 10-20% year-on-year if the Chinese government confirms its plans to introduce a construction stimulus package.

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