Plant on demand: scoping the rental sector

Rapid Access on the trends of the growing powered access market.

In the current climate of low oil prices, few companies have responded to questions about their expectations for 2016 with strong optimism, but the rental sector appears to be one market segment where positivity continues to be the rule. Though superficially counter-intuitive, budgetary constraints and a cautious atmosphere are strong drivers the rental sector — particularly because rental is more cost-effective than purchase.

In fact, the rental sector is currently benefitting from several trends in its favour. The oil price is one, but the region is also experiencing a more generalised growth in the preference for rental arrangements. A decade ago, contractors and fleet operators owned everything — today everybody rents something. As the region’s equipment owners have shifted towards a total cost of ownership perspective, it logically follows that you only retain the fleet you can definitely generate value on.

The most euphoric voice comes from aerial work platform provider Rapid Access, whose sales and marketing director Alexis Potter enthuses: “We experienced tremendous growth in 2015 in every machine segment of our business and across the region and we expect further growth in the coming years. During 2015 we invested around $28.5m into our Middle East fleet, growing it by 750 units.

Offering additional explanation for the strength of Rapid’s segment, Potter notes: “We are the region’s largest provider of powered access and benefitted last year from growth driven by two main factors. The first is our own expansion — both increasing our market share and opening new depots in Muscat and Riyadh. Secondly, the effect of an increasing recognition across the Middle East that powered access systems represent the safest way to carry out work at height.”

In the case of powered access equipment, the temporary nature of the application is a significant deterrent to purchase. “As working-at-height activities vary a great deal in scale and environment it is only through rental that clients are able to use the right machine for every application,” notes Potter.
“Clients are able to keep the machine for only as long as they need in order to safely complete the task at hand — ensuring that clients can focus their financial capital within their core business.”

In line with what one might expect in a cash-strapped business climate, many rental operators are finding favour with rental agreements that provide the greatest flexibility.

For Rapid, which rents machines for daily, weekly or monthly durations, Potter notes: “We are seeing growth in shorter-period rentals which points to the maturity of powered access systems in the market, and their increased use by a wider range of end users.

“Many of these clients are not working on major construction contracts — a key sector for us — and only require machines to carry out short-term working at height in industries such as facilities management.”
Alongside its continuous investment in new fleet, Rapid Access is also making significant non-fleet investments to adapt and develop its “most important asset”, its people.

Potter explains: “Our people deal with our clients on a daily basis and we believe serve as our main point of differentiation across the markets in which we operate. To cater to our client base, we have increased head count and invested in the training and development of existing team members.”

As part of the Lavendon Group, Rapid Access also benefits from the expertise of the group’s Blue Sky Systems research and development engineers — which tailors the group’s services to the needs of its customers in the Middle East.

The group’s support also ensures the delivery of the latest health and safety innovations, like secondary guarding devices and attachment, to help operatives’ better handle materials from the safety of the basket of machines.
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