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Executive Report : Alloa's additions
Established more than 20 years ago, Alloa Hire Centre continues to expand its operation and is targeting new customers by offering an HAV management system. Alan Guthrie reports.
When former engineer John MacPherson bought a grocer’s shop in Alloa in 1982, he little realised that the business would eventually become a thriving tool hire and sales operation supplying customers well beyond its base in Clackmannanshire, close to Stirling. “I knew I wanted to work for myself and the shop had a lot of potential. Besides the grocer’s, we turned a smaller, disused part of the building into a take-away serving filled rolls and baked potatoes. My wife and stepfather helped serve customers. In 1985 I added a video hire activity, which did well initially, but when the market declined I began thinking about branching out into tool hire, which no-one else in the area was offering.
“Alloa Hire Centre opened in 1986. Even though we were located in a primarily residential area amongst a network of streets, people soon became aware of us and liked our service. We steadily built up a typical fleet of equipment such as wallpaper strippers, carpet cleaners, ladders, power tools and the like, and we soon established a loyal customer base covering a rough triangle between Stirling, Falkirk and Dunfermline. We never said no and would buy more equipment as necessary. Eventually we bought an additional building on the other side of our yard to enable the tool hire business to have dedicated premises.”
John’s son Barry joined the business in 1991. Five years later, the grocery was sold and the hire business was subsequently expanded as much as the site would allow. “People called our shop the Tardis and joked that, if we were to move everything out we would never fit it all back in again,” said Barry. Eventually a car showroom and garage came up for sale on the main road in Tullibody, a couple of miles north west of Alloa, and after substantial refurbishment it opened for business in 2005. The original premises had less than 1,000ft2 of space, but the new building gave three times that as well as upstairs storage. The extensive yard accommodates 20ft and 40ft containers which are used to store certain fleet items.
Today, Alloa Hire Centre continues to serve customers chiefly within a 20-mile radius, occasionally supplying equipment as far afield as Edinburgh and Perth. It is also developing a power tool sales operation attracting customers throughout the UK. The company is a distributor of brands such as Bosch, Paslode and Festool, and is a service agent for DeWalt and Makita, amongst other manufacturers.
Proving particularly popular at the moment is the company’s fleet of four 1.5 tonne Volvo EC15B mini excavators and two 1 tonne Kubota U10-3 models. “We simply did not have space for equipment like this at our old premises,” said Barry, who succeeded his father as MD in April. “In 2007 we bought out first Volvo, soon followed by others. Customers ask for them by name and find them really easy to use. The zero tail swing Kubotas are ideal for work in confined locations. We also have two Wacker Neuson 1 tonne high-tip dumpers and two Cormidi compact tracked dumpers.
HAV monitoring system
A recent addition to the company’s portfolio is the HAVi battery powered meter from Real Edge for monitoring hand arm vibration exposure. It attaches to hand-held tools using a Velcro strip or cable tag and indicates when permitted exposure limits are reached or exceeded. The user keys in the vibration rating for the tool they are going to be operating and the meter display’s their dosage under the HSE’s points value system as they work. Details can be logged as a meaningful record of exposure.
“The HAVi is ideal for contractors, utilities and local authorities who want a simple, cost-effective means of controlling workers’ HAV exposure,” said Barry. “We have been appointed as a distributor for the product and we believe it will enable us to make contact with new customers in additional markets. We can also, of course, supply it with tools in our hire fleet.
“The HAVi was one of the new products we saw at the Executive Hire Show. We were also impressed by Midland Power Machinery’s concrete mixers from their Power-Mec range, which we have now added to the fleet. We attend the exhibition every year and it is one of the most beneficial events we go to.
“In January we launched a re-designed web site that we can update quickly, letting people know about new products and special offers. We encourage customers to sign up for our e-mail newsletter so that we can keep in closer touch with them. We are certainly busy at the moment. In fact, last month was one of our best on record. Perhaps people have been holding back, waiting for the economic decline to stop, and they certainly seem to be active now.” •