Kevin Parkes, CEO of UK-based rental company Hewden, has called on construction equipment manufacturers to provide greater price transparency, better lead times and improved breakdown cover.
Speaking at this year’s UK Construction Equipment Association (CEA) Signposts Conference in London on 4 September, Mr Parkes said Hewden had put huge effort into becoming more responsive to customer needs, and manufacturers now needed to do the same.
“We have changed, and now we’re asking you to change,” he told delegates at the CEA event.
“I realise we’re growing out of a very deep recession, but I’m sitting down now and I’ve got to try to guess how many machines I need for next year in order to have them delivered in the first quarter – its’ a real challenge for us.
“Shorter lead times are the Holy Grail, it’s really important to us. We need that flexibility and dynamism in the supply chain.”
Another issue Mr Parkes asked manufacturers to look at was the price of equipment. “It’s very difficult for us to sign off on longer-term three year deals that some of our customers ask for when we don’t know how much you [the manufacturers] are going to charge us for the equipment in 2016.
“I would really like to have some mechanism for understanding and agreeing pricing in the longer term,” he explained.
In addition, improvements could be made to liability and warranty terms, as well as breakdown responsiveness.
Mr Parkes said, “I can’t go to any dealer or manufacturer and get a breakdown response time that meets our customer requirements. We have to put that provision in place internally.
“The technology is changing, lap-tops are now required, and I’d really like you to think about how you provide breakdown response.”
Mr Parkes said Hewden based its transformation on looking closely at what customers wanted, resulting in a streamlined company that was highly responsive to their needs.
“We introduced our Core Fleet Guarantee,” he explained. “After analysing hundreds of thousands of transactions, we found that customers were realistically asking for the same 30 machines. We used to have 24 different sizes of excavator, and we now have six – and six is fine.
“We put our money where our mouth is – we said we’ll deliver those 30 products anywhere in the UK the next day or we give £100 (€125) credit. It’s gone brilliantly.”
Mr Parkes said Hewden had gone from offering 2500 products for rental to 250 products, and from 106 depots nationwide to 34 depots.
“Today we have about 1000 more machines on hire than we did when we had 106 depots,” he added. “The plant hire industry doesn’t get enough credit for the fact that we are extremely responsive to customer needs.”