Hewden choice: the UK rental company explains its choice of new IT system

By Murray Pollok09 May 2012

Kevin Parkes, chief executive of Hewden.

Kevin Parkes, chief executive of Hewden.

Famous rental name Hewden has just chosen a Microsoft solution from UK software company Maxima as its new rental management system. Murray Pollok spoke to the company's CEO, Kevin Parkes, about the decision.

Software implementations often turn out to be harder work than they should be. Kevin Parkes, chief executive of Hewden in the UK, tells IRN that he has been through three in his career; "80% are not as successful as planned, and the ones that do go to plan are ten times better than the others."

Speaking to IRN at Hewden's recently opened depot in Grangemouth, Scotland - just yards from the massive oil refinery that provides much of location's business - Mr Parkes is now getting ready for his fourth, with Hewden embarking on a project to replace its five year old Lawson MOVEX rental management system with a new "multi-million pound' Microsoft Dynamics package being supplied by Maxima, a newcomer to the equipment rental sector.

If it seems strange to be replacing a system only installed in 2007, remember that Hewden was a different animal back then: almost two-thirds bigger, still with the tool hire business that was subsequently sold to Speedy, and still part of Caterpillar dealer Finning UK.

Now, 18 months after the break with Finning, Hewden has decided that the time is right for a change. "The separation from Finning was not the catalyst for the decision", he says, "MOVEX needed upgrading, so we had to make a decision."

He says the existing system is no longer appropriate for the new, slimmer Hewden; "It's about the system being fit for purpose and the direction were heading. The current system is holding us back. To break through to the next level of customer service and of accuracy, we need a new solution...five or six years is a long time in technology."

Hewden has opted for Microsoft Dynamics AX, an ERP system for financial, human resources and operations management, together with a Microsoft Dynamics CRM system. Maxima will supply these packages modified to provide rental functionality, including re-rentals.

The system will be installed in Hewden's own servers, rather than using a remotely hosted or ‘cloud' solution, with Maxima giving the option of moving to the Cloud in the future.

Although not professing detailed knowledge of the technical decision not to go down the Cloud route, Mr Parkes says the ultimate aim is to have a "stable and sustainable" solution; "The key is having a robust system that makes it easier for customers and our team members."

Crucial to the ERP package is having the right management information at the right time, something that goes hand in hand with Hewden's new ‘lean depot' philosophy, under which depot operations are being made more efficient and reactive, and more linked to other depots. Operational data such as times for repairs or equipment preparation times will be measured and communicated using the new system.

"The system will give us much better visibility of assets", he says, "There is a level of [IT] support you need when the market isn't going to help you."

He says Hewden is already matching the revenues that the company previously had with a bigger depot network and more equipment, something that reflects its increased efficiency.

Maxima, which is headquartered in Cheltenham, UK, has more than 1400 customers in the UK, India and the USA, and has some experience of the construction sector through clients such as Amey, Balfour Beatty Rail and Severfield-Reeve. This, however, is its first major rental project. As Kevin Parkes says; "it is a flagship implementation for Maxima."

Hewden is not too worried about setting a date for when the system is operational, although Mr Parkes hopes it will be before the end of this year. Maxima has already supplied a ‘sandpit' version for Hewden to play with, and when the work is completed the system is likely to go live across the country at the same time - a "big bang" implementation, although that is not set in stone.

"Our customers are all national now, so we can't be sending them invoices from two systems", he says.

And what about managing the implementation internally, how will Hewden ensure that it is one of the successful IT projects? "We've put our best people on the project", Kevin Parkes tells IRN, "I've made a commitment to our CFO that we will provide the very best people to get the job done."

Wouldn't it have been easier to just update the existing system? "Hewden hasn't taken the easy option ever since I have been with the company", he says, "Sure, it could have made life easier, but it's about making the right decision. We're not scared of hard work."

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