Award winners in Oslo, from left: Xavier du Boys (Kiloutou), Vesa Koivula (Cramo), Nina Aasland (Nab

Award winners in Oslo, from left: Xavier du Boys (Kiloutou), Vesa Koivula (Cramo), Nina Aasland (Naboen Utleie), Erkki Norvio (Intera Partners & Ramirent), and Gerhard Gasser (Hilti).

Kiloutou won the large rental company of the year award at the European Rental Awards ceremony in Oslo organised by International Rental News (IRN) magazine and the European Rental Association (ERA).

The audience of more than 280 delegates at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel on 15 May also saw Norwegian rental company Naboen Utleie win the small rental company of the year award.

Scandinavia was equally to the fore in the two individual awards of the night, with Vesa Koivula, Cramo's CEO, winning the Rental Person of the Year award, and Erkki Norvio, the veteran Ramirent executive, presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by ERA president Gérard Déprez.

The Product of the Year accolade went to Hilti for its TE 3000-AVR breaker.

The awards - given for a company's performance during 2011 or for a product launched during the year - were held during the European Rental Association's annual convention in Oslo, Norway on 15-16 May.

French rental company Kiloutou - larger rental company of the year winner - was described as a deserving winner because of the scale and number of major initiatives launched last year; "In a market that isn't growing, Kiloutou continued to open new branches, made big moves in acquisitions and started initiatives like in-store operations in DIY stores...it is not standing still, but always moving, always innovating."

The judges said lifetime achievement award winner Erkki Norvio was being recognised for his pioneering work in rental over several decades; "He is a man with a remarkable talent for foreseeing trends and of adapting an organisation to the changes ahead. He stands for an entrepreneurial and international culture in the rental industry - embracing initiative and daring to do things differently."

Of the Rental person of the Year, Vesa Koivula, judges remarked that he was being recognised not just for his leadership of Cramo in year in which it acquired Theisen of Germany, but for the company's consistent track record of growth.

The judges said that Naboen Utleie, the small rental company of the year, brought to its business the structures and mentality of a big company; "It has adopted a realistic growth strategy, and the judges liked very much its central concept of being a good neighbour."

Hilti's TE 3000-AVR breaker, winner of the product of the year award, was meanwhile described as being a product that would help rental companies develop their own businesses; "In the case of the TE 3000-AVR, they have shown that they can take a well-established, important product - the hand-held breaker - and make a difference."

The awards judges were Geert Follens (President, Atlas Copco Industrial Air), Magnus Rosén (CEO, Ramirent), Murray Pollok (Editor, IRN), Kevin Minton (Senior Manager, Construction Plant-hire Association) and Gérard Déprez (CEO, Loxam and ERA President).

The awards were sponsored by Ritchie Bros (Gold Sponsor) and Silver Sponsors Caterpillar, El-Bjorn and Husqvarna.

A full report on the awards, and the ERA convention, will be published in the July-August issue of International Rental News (IRN).

List of Winners

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

Small Rental Company of the Year (<€15 million revenues)
Naboen Utleie (Norway)

Rental Product of the Year in 2011
Hilti for the TE 3000-AVR breaker

Rental Person of the Year
Vesa Koivula, CEO, Cramo

Lifetime Achievement Award
Erkki Norvio, former CEO Ramirent and current board membe

Full List of Shortlisted Companies

Large Rental Company of the Year (>€15 million revenues)
WINNER: Kiloutou (France)
AFI-Uplift (UK)
GAP Group (UK)
Nixon Hire (UK)

Small Rental Company of the Year (<€15 million revenues)
WINNER: Naboen Utleie (Norway)
Johnny Servis (Czech Republic)
NRC (Russia)
Rentforce (Russia)

Rental Product of the Year in 2011
WINNER: Hilti (TE 3000-AVR breaker)
Caterpillar (300.9D mini-excavator)
Hinowa (IIIS system for aerial platforms)
JLG Industries (1500SJ aerial platform)
TowerLight (VB9 LED Battery Ibird lighting tower)

Rental Person of the Year
Vesa Koivula, CEO, Cramo

Lifetime Achievement Award
Erkki Norvio, former CEO Ramirent and current board member

Details of the shortlisted companies and individual award winners

Rental Person of the Year: Vesa Koivula, CEO, Cramo
The winner of the Rental person of the Year award for 2011 is Vesa Koivula, Cramo CEO. Last year Cramo made one of the most historically significant acquisitions of the past five years, buying Theisen of Germany.

Already a proven leader 2011 saw him lead his company, Cramo, into a major new market, representing a significant step not just for Cramo, but in the development of rental in Germany and Europe.

Since he joined Cramo in 2004 our Person of the Year has overseen consistent growth at the company, and this award is given in recognition not just of Cramo's activities in 2011 but for his personal track record of growth.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Erkki Norvio, board member and former CEO, Ramirent
The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award this year, Erkki Norvio, has been a pioneer of rental in the Nordic region and eastern Europe since 1986.

He was a true pioneer when in 1988 he established a Russian joint venture for equipment rental in Moscow. He took a bold approach to leading and shaping the equipment rental sector in Finland and started actively taking rental services to other countries in Europe, especially Eastern Europe.

He led the Ramirent group from being a national operator into an international leading player in Europe from 1986-2005.

In the 1990s, our winner was one of the founding fathers of the machine rental section of the Association of Finnish technical Traders, which today operates today as an active member of the European Rental Association ERA. He also held a seat in the ERA Board between the years 2006-2010. Today, he continues to contribute to the industry as a member of the Ramirent board.

He is a man with a remarkable talent for foreseeing trends and of adapting an organisation to the changes ahead. He stands for an entrepreneurial and international culture in the rental industry - embracing initiative and daring to do things differently.

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

AFI-Uplift (UK)
An aerial platform rental company in the UK, AFI-Uplift managed to produce a robust financial performance in 2011at the same time as it was making major investments into two important safety initiatives.

The company invested £5 million during the year to boost its fleet by 500 units and saw its revenues increase by 15% to £26.5 million and operating profits increase by 69%.

However, beyond the successful financial numbers, 2011 was a milestone year for AFI in its development of two safety projects aimed at preventing deaths and injuries among its customers and staff.

The first of these is the Sanctuary Zone basket attachment which will prevent an operator from being crushed against overhead obstructions. The second is a Smart Zone card reader system on the platforms - developed with Infobric - that allows contractors to limit access to a machine to those who are properly certified as platform operators.

The company's commitment to safety and quality was also demonstrated during the year when it gained accreditations for both the ISO 14001 environmental management standard and the OHSAS 18001 occupational health and safety standard.

GAP Group (UK)
Despite difficult business conditions GAP Group continues to expand its plant and tool rental business throughout the UK, establishing new rental divisions and improving its financial performance.

A decision in early 2009 to focus on repaying debt led the company to half its debts and give it the financial flexibility to invest in the fleet in 2010 and 2011 - capital expenditure in the 2011/12 financial year was £35 million.

The businesses' financial performance has also been strong, with revenues growing again to a projected £82 million for the last financial year following two years of falling turnover. Gross profits have increased by 50% to £3.4 million.

Already with national coverage for its general plant and tool operations, 2011 saw the company establish new Lifting and Non-Mechanical Plant rental operations. The Lifting division was launched in January 2011 with a £2 million investment and products made available from six locations, and a successful start to that operations means that the number of locations has now doubled to 12. This division alone has created 31 new jobs at the company.

The Non-Mechanical division - renting items such as props, fencing and steel road plates - started from two locations and the good start made in 2011 means that the division is on course for a further six locations by the end of this year.

During the year, the company also expanded its GAP One account management services, adding training, health and safety and environmental support to the services offered to major accounts.

Kiloutou (France) - WINNER
For Kiloutou, 2011 was a milestone year in which it made major acquisitions, launched several growth initiatives, and still managed to produce good financial results.

The company made the news with two big acquisitions in France, of regional player Top'Loc and national renter BM Locations. The latter deal gave Kiloutou a major in-road into heavier equipment rentals.

Although the acquisitions were headline news, the company also made significant moves elsewhere. It started renting from 25 in-store locations at two French builders merchants/DIY chains - a further 150 openings are planned.

In addition, it launched an online MarketPlace dedicated to rental using 650 partner suppliers offering everything from specialist large truck mounted aerial platforms to car rentals.

At the same time, and despite the financial crisis, Kiloutou successfully organised a leveraged buy-out with new private equity shareholders. All staff were offered the option of investing in the company and around half did so, allowing staff to share in the fruits of the company's success.

Financially, the company saw revenues grow 50% from €281 million to €435 million, with sales up 13% on a like-for-like basis. Kiloutou's pre-tax profit margin last year was more than 10%.

Nixon Hire (UK)
One of the most progressive regional rental companies in the UK, family-owned Nixon Hire invested in its business in many ways in 2011, including new IT systems, additional depots, new site welfare equipment and a significant amount of re-rentals business.

With revenue growth of 16% last year to £24.4 million - and profits more than doubling - Nixon says it is benefiting from its investment in new fleet (£12 million over the past 14 months) and a campaign to increase pricing, which has led to an 8.1% increase year-on-year by the end of 2011.

The company continues to embrace new technology, launching in 2011 its Mobile CRM system, allowing its sales team to have instant access to customer information in the field. A new customer portal gives customers access to their account information and E-Sign technology means that customers can sign contracts via e-mail, reducing the time between quotation and contract. The company is now preparing to offer online ordering.

In terms of its fleet, Nixon Hire launched a new range of site welfare products in 2011, including welfare vans, hybrid powered cabins and low fuel-use lighting towers.

The company opened its 15th depot last year, in Inverness in the north of Scotland, and late in the year it acquired a new 10,000 ft2 office building that will house central support staff. The company continues to expand its rental operation in Doha, Qatar where the company hopes to benefit from work linked to the 2022 World Cup.

Finally, the company said it generated significant growth in its re-rental operation, which it says provided its range of small re-rental partners with £2 million in revenues.

Small Rental Company of the Year (revenues <€15 million)

Johnny Servis (Czech Republic)
Based in the Czech Republic, Johnny Servis used 2011 to expand its product line to include innovative flood protection equipment and also developed its existing toilet rental business with a new focus on non-construction customers.

The company is best known in the Czech, Slovak and Hungarian markets for renting toilets to the construction and events market. In 2011, it launched a 'luxury' toilet that gained it more business in private events or large public festivals or sporting events. Demand has been so high that it is further expanding the fleet this year.

Just as significant was the introduction of the new 'Tiger Dam' mobile floor protection tubes that replace traditional sand bags. Johnny Servis is now able to offer clients a flood 'service pack', covering the rental of mobile toilets, offices, generators, mobile dams, tanks and sanitising stands. The company says this "unique" offering allows it to target a very large market.

Also last year the company expanded its toilet re-rental offering to other rental companies, offering portable toilets in the colours and branding of other companies. During the year it established a toilet re-rental partnership like this with Ramirent.

The company has also been successful in growing its business, with 2011 revenues up 13.3% compared to 2010. It has also reduced its reliance on the construction sector, with business to private event and public sector clients increasing from 35% to 39% of its business.

Naboen Utleie (Norway) - WINNER
This small rental company has a big ambition - to be the 'best neighbour', and best rental company, in Norway.

Founded in 1996 the company has a track record of growth that has accelerated in recent years. Revenues have grown by 85% since 2009 and increased by 40% between 2010 and 2011 to reach NOK 39 million. Operating profit margins rose to 19.5% last year.

Naboen means 'neighbour' in Norwegian, and the company's strategy to is be a good neighbour in the widest sense: helping its customers, contributing to its local communities, and being a good employer by creating an "open, generous and joyful" working environment.

This working environment is shared with customers - the company holds regular 'neighbourhood events' at which customers and suppliers meet for a mix of business and pleasure.

Initiatives in 2001 include establishing a new health, safety and quality management system, ensuring that all staff get the training they need. To provide training it has established the Naboen Academy.

Privately owned by its managers, Naboen currently operates from two locations in western Norway, with a third location planned for 2012.

NRC (Russia)
National Rental Company (NRC) is one of the Russian rental companies benefitting from the increased interest in rental in the country, and is also one of the fastest growing.

The company opened eight depots in 2011 - expanding its operations outside of the Moscow region - and more than doubled the size of its fleet to 240 units, investing in new machines including Doosan excavators, Terex backhoes and Bobcat skid steer loaders. Revenues more than doubled to €7.6 million last year.

NRC began its rental operations in 2009 and 2010 by renting machines 'hot', with operators, but last year started to rent 'cold' for the first time. The company says renting equipment without operators will become a major part of its business in the future as the Russian market matures.

One of the challenges faced by NRC is bad debts, which have run at the levels of three months of revenues. To combat this, the company last year started a debt-reduction strategy, including fixing pre-payment terms for new customers; improving the payment discipline of its key customers; and more stringent analysis of potential clients. By the end of the year NRC has switched the majority of its existing clients on to pre-payment terms and cut its bad debts to a third of previous levels.

Rentforce (Russia)
Another player in the Russian market, Rentforce is a shortlisted company by virtue of its continued growth in 2011, with revenues doubling and EBITDA profits rising by more than 60%.

The company achieved its growth organically, by expanding its fleet and by obtaining higher prices for its equipment.

Rentforce has grown by renting equipment to contractors working on the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, and successfully expanded its operation there last year by adding compaction equipment, wheeled excavators, telehandlers and aerial platforms to the bulldozers and tracked excavators that it was already supplying.

Now, to prepare for the slowdown in Sochi when the Games are completed, the company is successfully increasing its focus on other markets, such as Voronezh, 400 km south of Moscow, and Moscow itself, where it has invested in a fleet of JCB backhoe loaders, telehandlers and compaction units.

Rental Product of the Year

Caterpillar (300.9D mini-excavator)
Caterpillar's Cat 300.9D, a sub-1 t mini excavator, is the company's smallest piece of construction equipment and the first excavator to come out of the under 3 t mini excavator manufacturing alliance with Wacker Neuson of Germany.

The 300.9 has been designed with the rental customer in mind, which means that it is robust, powerful (it has a 13.7 kW engine) and simple to operate. Its compact dimensions (width is just 0.73 m) allow it to be used inside as well as outside, and it is equally at home working with a hammer on a demolition site, digging out a basement garage or landscaping a garden behind a house.

Cat says the machine a proven a hit with the rental sector, where rental prices earned by the machine have reached those of larger 1.5 t models. It is often rented out with attachments such as augers, hammers and buckets - maximum digging depth with bucket is 1731 mm.

Production has been ramped up to keep up with the demand, says Caterpillar.

Hilti (TE 3000-AVR breaker) - WINNER
Hilti's new 30 kg breaker, the TE 3000-AVR, takes the performance of electro-pneumatic (EP) to the same level as that of air breakers powered by compressors, giving the opportunity for customers to benefit from the advantages of electro-pneumatic technology without compromising on performance.

The TE 3000-AVR offers an impact energy of 68 joules with triaxial vibration levels of 7 m/s2, which means that users can operate the tolls for up to 245 minutes each day.

Rental customers will benefit from lower costs - no compressor is required - and because it is versatile. For example, it will be ideal for indoor breaking where electricity is usually available.

Renters will also benefit from the attention that Hilti has paid to operating and maintenance costs. Brushless drive technology means there are no motor brushes to replace, and a detachable power cord makes it easy to service and also means that damaged cords can be replaced easily.

Hinowa (IIIS system for aerial platforms)
Hinowa's place on the shortlist is to acknowledge the intelligent way in which it is developing its atrium type aerial platforms to be easy and safe to operate.

The company's IIIS system, now available on its entire range of tracked platforms, helps simplify the use of its machines by using a single button to automatically level all four outriggers. Self-levelling also prevents the machine from being used if the maximum slope is exceeded.

Other features include an automatic cage capacity selection. The two weight capacities (with our without fly jib) are now set automatically depending on whether the jib is used or not.

In developing its IIIS system Hinowa continues with its track record of innovation, including the option of using lithium-ion batteries rather than engine or mains power.

JLG Industries (1500SJ aerial platform)
US manufacturer JLG Industries has filled a product gap and created a new rental market with its 1500SJ, a self-propelled telescopic boom with a maximum platform height of 45.72 m and full horizontal outreach of 24.38 m.

The dimensions of the machine - now the largest telescopic model on the market -have been minimised so that it requires only a weight permit for road transport. The unit's 7.62 m telescopic jib provides users with a wide working envelope.

What also makes the 1500SJ and manoeuvrable and productive large boom are its dual platform capacities of up to 450 kg, three steering modes and standard four-wheel drive.

Much ingenuity in recent years has been focused on low-height access equipment. JLG has shown that there is still room for innovation in the very largest machines.

TowerLight (VB9 LED Battery Ibird lighting tower)
Long an innovator in the lighting tower market - and a winner of this competition two years ago with its Dustbuster mobile dust suppression machine - TowerLight returns to the shortlist with its latest lighting tower, the VB9 LED Battery Ibird.

This is the first TowerLight product to use LED lamps, which offers advantages over conventional lamps. For example, 150 watts of LED power yields the same light output as a 400 watt metal halide lamp, and the LED lamps offer a 70000 hour working life compared to the 6000 hours of metal halide.

The unit uses a hybrid battery/diesel engine system, which means that it runs silent for 50% of the time and saves around 85% in fuel consumption. TowerLight says users will only need to refuel after 500 hours of operation, making them cheaper and easier to operate on sites than conventionally powered units.

TowerLight remains at the forefront in developing products targeted at the rental sector, and this latest machine demonstrates that it's talent for identifying and adapting new technology for rental products remains undiminished.

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