Special Report | In ‘Hire’ Demand

Special Report | In ‘Hire’ Demand

Finding tools, plant and equipment at an affordable rate is set to get easier with Trade Plant Hire. Construction Plant News Editor, Lee Jones reports on how technology could streamline the rental experience for both tradespeople and stockists.

“Even a cursory examination of the rental industry will reveal that it is a highly fragmented market,” explains Ivan Yardley, managing director of Trade Plant Hire. “Not only will different hirers only supply certain classes of equipment – which can equally be limited to specific sectors – but the level of visibility of the product portfolio through digital tools is invariably quite patchy. For a time-poor tradesperson, finding the right tool for the job for exactly when they need it – and, more importantly, at the best available price – is not a straightforward proposition, and that’s where Trade Plant Hire comes in.”

Trade Plant Hire is effectively a website but, from the point of view of an end user armed with a smart phone, it behaves just like an app. From an icon on the home screen tradespeople can access an advanced interface where they can search for kit by entering a specific product, the postcode of a job site, as well as the duration of the hire. The app will then generate a list of options based on location and the dates required, including description, price, VAT breakdown, deposit, and insurance. It will then list items that are available from stockists who will deliver to that area within the required timeframe, with the default factor based on price.

The functionality doesn’t end there, however, because, using the well-known and secure Stripe service as a gateway, it’s also possible to make deposits and payments through the app. Multiple transactions can be made, with delivery on different dates and to specified addresses. Crucially for the plant or tool hirer, the builder is required to accept the rental provider’s terms and conditions prior to the final processing of the sale, which eliminates the need for the stockist to change their established processes in any way. Once checkout is completed a VAT receipt and order notification is emailed to the builder.

In addition to facilitating the sourcing of equipment Trade Plant Hire is designed to benefit both sides of the rental equation. Former England and Lions rugby union international, Tim Stimpson is part of the consortium behind the app, and he explains its guiding principles. “The ambition is to help the smaller players with only one two depots to compete for local custom with the nationals and allow them to demonstrate that they are focused on a quality, customer-centred approach in the process. It’s about creating a fairer market for all parties where the service and equipment that the independent operators provide is more accessible, and the builder can be satisfied that they have got the best deal.”

Trade Plant Hire is structured to manage the hire experience from end to end. As an illustration, account holders have the facility to administer active, past, and future orders. Contractors are alerted the day before the end of the hire period by email, for instance, and, in the event they would like to extend, a new invoice is then generated. Orders can be cancelled up to 12 hours before, whilst records of all previous transactions include digital copies of VAT receipts, which are then easily retrievable when tax return time arrives.

At every stage the developers of Trade Plant Hire have thought carefully about how they can promote best practice in the supply chain. “Should there be an issue with what has been delivered to site, it’s possible to report this on the system,” continues Ivan. “If a machine is damaged prior to its arrival, for example, that can be communicated to the stockist through the app, together with evidential imagery. Not only that, at the end of every hire period, a builder is asked to rate the service. Tradespeople set great store in reliability, and we have found that the provider with more positive ratings from previous users is more likely to get the hire, so it becomes a useful tool for a stockist who is championing high levels of service.”Any supplier can create an account and list equipment on the app for free, whilst they can also decide how detailed they want those listings to be. It may be that some hires will only want to upload the everyday and most popular items, whilst others might want their entire catalogue to be accessible, and the Trade Plan Hire team provides full support to rental firms in every instance. Delivery options, such as pick up or collect, can be specified, whilst items can be listed on the basis of day rate, or for a fixed price. As a result, the stockist can maintain their margins through complete control over the service offered and pricing structure.     

“It’s about choice, control and ease of use,” adds Tim. “We want to make it as easy possible for construction professionals to source the right equipment. A good example of just how effective it can be is when a builder is working away in an area not covered by their established suppliers. Finding anything from a cut-off saw to scaffolding or a micro-excavator is then just a few clicks away.”  

With it is in sport or business Tim Stimpson has always been focused on improving performance. “Success is about finding a system that can hone your productivity and in this case that’s an app”, concludes the Lions star. “Builders are ideally placed to be able to use their phones as aggregators to find the best product at the most competitive price – and that’s what the Trade Plant Hire app can achieve. It automates everything that would have previously taken time-consuming research.”  

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