Talking to contractors

24 April 2008

Brian Sherlock, Hewden's managing director.

Brian Sherlock, Hewden's managing director.

UK rental company hewden is investing € 20,5 million in new IT infrastructure, and a prime aim is a strengthening of its relationships with its contractor customers.

“Rental is about three things - [equipment] availability, reliability, and proactive contact with the customer”, said Brian Sherlock, Hewden’s managing director.

Although the initial phases of the project will be about integrating Hewden’s internal operations, the longer term aim is to provide customers with information on their accounts on-line, and eventually to go several steps beyond that. For example, Mr Sherlock says that on major projects Hewden could act as a kind of ‘rental consolidator’ in the way that building supplies companies manage the delivery of materials to sites. “You can’t do that unless you provide up to the minute information on what’s on hire, where it is on hire - and the ability to get equipment off site if it is not being used”, he said.

Closer links to customers will allow it to do other things. “We need to be able to predict what equipment they need”, he said, referring to the kinds of analysis that supermarkets apply to buying patterns, and which influence the types of products stocked at any location, store layouts, and what special offers, or ‘loss leaders’, to offer.

Closer links to suppliers, through the use of IT, will also be part of the future strategy, and current projects are underway to improve the efficiency of its dealings with its major supplier, Caterpillar. Hewden buys between 700 and 1000 Cat machines a year direct from the factory.

However, Mr Sherlock emphasised the importance of links to the customer. “If everyone else has got [the same equipment], then what’s the primary difference?”, he asked, “It’s the ability to be proactive with the customer...that’s not phase one or two, that’s phase three, where we maximise returns for us and our customers. This is a pretty long journey we’re setting out on.”

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