Executive Hire News › Archives › September 2009 › Market Report : Success on the surface
Market Report : Success on the surface
Supplying equipment for floor preparation and maintenance can prove to be a profitable market for hirers, including general tool and equipment providers as well as specialist companies.
The on-going need to maintain and refurbish floors in public and domestic premises means that there is a constant requirement for appropriate equipment. Given the considerable diversity of surfacings and finishes that can be used, such as vinyl, hardwood, tiles, cement, marble, slate and paint, several different processes can be involved, each requiring specialised machinery. In addition, because much of this work is carried out occasionally, people often need advice on the most appropriate machines and consumables to use for a specific application.
WH Surface Preparation UK Ltd, based in Newport, south Wales, hires out a very comprehensive range of equipment for all aspects of this market on a nationwide basis. “We offer products for every stage of a project, from removing existing coverings and preparing the new surface, to final coatings, cleaning products and sweepers, and many customers effectively take a package of machines from us,” said MD Nick Forbes. “Our line-up encompasses approximately 90 different product categories, such as shot blasters, planers, grinders, scabblers, sanders, polishers, surface strippers, scrubbers, paint sprayers and mixers, as well as consumables. We also provide dust control equipment.
“We succeed because we specialise. Customers often do not know what equipment they need and they seek advice on how to tackle a particular task. Our products are also subjected to a rigorous maintenance regime, many undergoing a 50% strip down and rebuild between every hire to ensure reliability. Because of our expertise in this field, many other non-specialist hirers, including national groups, crosshire machines from us and they often ask us to advise their customers with unusual projects. We reciprocate by using general tool and equipment hirers to supply items that may be required by our customers on certain sites, such as generators, transformers and other site equipment. Generally, there is a lot of business out there at the moment. Many organisations are quieter than normal, so they are pro-actively taking the opportunity to get work done that they have put off for too long, such as renovating floors in factories and warehouses.”
Similarly, Matthew Haddock, Director of the Cannock-based hirer, National Floor Preparation Centres, reports, “we are as busy as we have ever been, and virtually every day new customers approach us seeking a solution for a particular task. We offer a complete range, including grinders, strippers, mixers, shot blasters, vacuums, dust control machines and related equipment, from suppliers such as HTC, SPE and CFM. We also have wood floor care machines like Clarke drum sanders. Many building firms that have laid off staff come to us looking for equipment and techniques that require less manpower and get fast results.
“Because we are a specialist, contractors know we will have the right kit for whatever kind of surface they are removing, renovating or installing. At the start of the year we thought demand might decline, but the market has remained busy. During the summer holiday period, a lot of work has been carried out in schools and factories, since there fewer people in the buildings.”
Another hirer successfully targeting this market is Leigh-based Floorquip Tool Hire. “Business has grown annually since our company’s foundation four years ago,” said MD Steve Davies. “We serve contractors throughout the UK, supplying multi-use strippers, scarifiers, planers, polishers, triple head grinders and multi-purpose grinders, plus consumables for work on all kinds of surfaces. Suppliers include Blastrac, Dustcontrol, SPE and Trelawny. We also offer tools like Hilti breakers with blades for removing vinyl flooring, and wall chasers.
“A machine like SPE’s STR 701 rotary preparation machine is popular because it can be fitted with various cleaning and grinding heads for different tasks. Dust control is also becoming increasingly important, as some Health & Safety officers are now banning sweeping with brooms on sites. Some of the equipment is expensive but the returns are good because contractors know they need it. However, you have to be able to maintain the machines and to supply them quickly, together with any advice regarding operation. Much of this work is also typically carried out at weekends when premises are relatively empty, so staff have to be flexible in terms of delivery and collection.
“One future trend could be the wider acceptance of polished stone floors in public buildings, a technique which is far more common on the Continent than in the UK. Achieving the right result is time consuming because the surface has to be ground in several stages, but the finish requires no resin or paint, is easy to maintain and is aesthetically pleasing.”
As well as the specialist suppliers of floor care and surface preparation machinery, other hirers have been able to develop a niche offering equipment for this market alongside their general tool fleet. Alide Plant Services, which has depots in Bristol, Bath and Keynsham, has a substantial range of SPE equipment that is supplied on a nationwide basis. “We had always offered products for laying concrete, such as power floats and screeders, so providing machinery for contractors working with the hardened material was a logical step, and we have developed it from there,” said MD Gareth Hayward.
“Our range includes smaller, frequently used machines like compact scabblers and diamond head grinders, as well as bigger, higher work rate models that achieve very good revenue owing to their specialist nature. Products like the large BEF 320 floor scabbler can treat 1000m2 to a depth of 3mm per working shift, and it offers a maximum depth of 8mm per pass. We have diesel versions and also electric three-phase models that we have supplied to London Underground contractors. Also popular and very versatile is the MS 230 stripper, a powerful unit that removes a vast range of materials and coverings. We frequently visit sites to advise on the most appropriate equipment, and overall this has proved to be a successful market for us.”
Of course, one of the basic items in many hire fleets is the floor sander for wooden surfaces. Andy Hire, which has depots in Scarborough and Bridlington, has steady demand for its Hiretech drum sanders and edgers. “Much interest is still driven by home improvement television programmes, and we are finding generally that more people are tackling jobs themselves to save money,” said Brad Davison, Depot Manager at Bridlington. “The machines are very robust, and selling the consumables represents an additional revenue opportunity. We usually supply Dronco abrasive sheets, which are strong and give good results.”
Kougar Tool Hire, which has branches in Wandsworth and Isleworth, has more than a dozen Hiretech units in its fleet, including the HT8 drum floor sander and the HT7 edger. “They are very reliable and we have had some of our machines for more than ten years,” says Wandsworth Depot Manager, Paul Liffen. “There is steady demand for them from both homeowners and contractors, and there is invariably a surge in orders before Easter and bank holidays. We keep the machines regularly serviced and they are really excellent revenue earners for us.” •