Thanks to the ever-expanding world of events, many plant hire companies have dodged the recession. Emma Hudson reports.

The last few years have been testing for the events industry. But with signs of growth across other sectors, Access dug into the plant hire sector to find out how it’s holding up.

“We managed it well,” said Jeff Schofield of plant hire specialists Hewden. “Whilst tough decisions were made, we’re now best placed to invest and grow as the economy begins its recovery.”

Hewden supplied equipment and access platforms for the London 2012 Olympics and has placed itself in a good position. The company recently made a £75 million reinvestment that brought in approximately 900 new machines.

“£75 million investment is significant in any year, but more so in 2014,” Schofield said. “We do expect the economy to grow this year and be sustained in the medium term. Quite simply, with these [new] machines ready to go, we can say yes to more customers.”

For ACE Plant, the recession actually has done the company good. They decided to focus on providing a wider and more complete range of equipment for their customers.

Those challenges should be easier to face with the investment of 25 new tractors to ACE’s fleet, as well as new utility vehicles, telescopic handlers and staff. Managing director Frank Cundell is particularly passionate about ACE’s own-designed litter picking machine, “The Oblitterator”.

Lee Austin of Winner Events told Access that some sacrifices had to be made to keep the company running. “We just didn’t pay ourselves,” he laughed. “Our marketing and reinvestment had to carry on, so we cut back on certain other things to make sure that the plant [equipment] was what the customer expects.”

The strategy paid off for Winner, who lived up to their name at this year’s Event Production Awards by winning the Best Plant Company.
“It felt amazing,” Austin said of the company’s award. “It was probably the best day of my working life.”

The win capped off 12 months of steady growth for Winner. The company – originally a construction firm – grasped hold of the events industry. With a constant reinvestment program and a new electric four-wheel drive utility vehicle, the company is set for the future. Winner is small, though, with only four to five people permanently on the events team.

Their collaboration with the Goodwood Festival of Speed, then, is such a coup. Winner inked a three-year deal with Goodwood as the preferred supplier for the Festival of Speed, Goodwood Revival and Glorious Goodwood events.

“We’re all doing what needs to be done,” Austin said. “Dave [Wase, Winner’s events manager] just kept knocking on [Goodwood’s] door. A couple of years ago we had a little bit of plant there and they seemed impressed. Last year, they gave us the option to have a go properly and off the back of that we signed the three-year deal.”

Hewden has also lined up exciting projects for the year. The company supplies plant and equipment for the Farnborough International Airshow and are returning this year. They’ll also be spending a fair amount of time in Scotland, as they are involved in both the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

Cundell at ACE cited working on the CLA Game Fair and the Great Dorset Steam Fair as his favourite jobs, where the company is the principle provider of infrastructure of equipment hire.

“We’re hugely excited about the International Mining and Quarrying event at Hillhead in Buxton this year,” Cundell said. “We’re again supplying infrastructure equipment to help out the running of the show and assisting with other exhibitors’ demonstrations.”

These various events will challenge Hewden, ACE and Winner. Schofield said that Hewden’s major headaches are all linked to logistics: getting the right kit to the right place at the right time. “Delivering the kit on time in full requires both the latest route planning software, PDA devices and – last but not least – the very best people to deliver a memorable customer experience.”

All three companies cited their 24-hour, seven days a week services as essential to putting out whatever logistical issues come up during events.

Being on call 24/7 may make keep them on their toes, but no one ever said being busy was a bad thing. With returning contracts, reinvestment plans and expanded fleets for hire, it appears that the plant sector is doing just fine.

This was first published in the April issue of AAA. Any comments? Email Emma Hudson