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Trust your mates

Martin Plant Hire is in positive mood, following an upturn in business and the successful launch of a new marketing initiative. Alan Guthrie reports from Glasgow.

Like many other hirers that EHN has spoken to recently, Martin Plant Hire reports a steady upturn in business - and in the outlook of customers - since the start of the year. Indeed, MD Andy Martin says that, “As a result, we have been increasing our spend on new items for the fleet, particularly bread-and-butter equipment such as Stihl cut-off saws and Wacker Neuson compaction plates, and this reflects the higher level of construction activity that has been taking place.

“Obviously, we have had to re-appraise our

Andy Martin reports a steady upturn in business.

activities in the light of the recession. We have closed three depots,

namely Inverness, Stirling (it was near to our Falkirk branch, which can now serve its customer base), and one of two Edinburgh depots - reflecting an overall decrease in business in the region, following the difficulties faced by banks based in the capital. Nevertheless, we are leaner and meaner as a result, and we have 13 depots that, between them, can cover the whole of Scotland.

Hire rates issue

“The issue of hire rates is still a challenge. Some competitors are cutting prices left, right and centre to try to win business. However, we have a loyal customer base, appreciative of the fact that we are a proudly independent Scottish hirer, serving chiefly independent contractors,” said Andy. “Many customers hire equipment more frequently but for shorter periods in order to reduce costs. This generates more transactions, more paperwork and we have to ensure our systems can cope. It also puts pressure on our workshop staff to turn equipment around quickly and to the highest standards. There is no room for complacency. Following the Which? report into tool hire in April, our Health & Safety Manager had every piece of equipment and procedures re-checked, and I hope all other hires have done likewise. It should be a disciplinary matter if any fitter should let a machine go out on hire with, say, a chafed or loose power cord. It is simply not acceptable, especially when hirers may


have reduced their fleet investment and are seeking to maximise the useful life of equipment.”

While Martin’s Plant Hire’s administrative headquarters are in Motherwell, its largest depot is at Govan, in Glasgow. The fleet profile encompasses everything from hand-held power tools and light construction equipment, up to 32ft scissor lifts and Bobcat 1.5 tonne mini excavators. The customer base has broadened considerably following the adoption of a new marketing strategy based on the slogan ‘Your mate Martin’, to emphasise the company’s friendly and helpful approach.

“We used to hand out a plain, printed pricelist to customers, but we realised that we could tell them much more about our operation if we produced a full catalogue explaining the entire range we offer, as well as our consumables, sales items and services like training and equipment repairs,” said Andy. “We approached several agencies, and decided to go with one that devised a bold, eye-catching design that could be adapted to all our corporate materials. Our new colour catalogue was very well received, definitely winning us more business, and we rolled out our re-designed website in January. The Internet will become an important business tool for us, and we are exploring ways of driving more traffic to the site.”

The hire fleet includes a comprehensive selection of welding equipment, which has proved a successful specialist activity. Products available include diesel and petrol welders, Mig and Tig welding machines, plasma cutters and other items, from established names like ArcGen Hilta and Lincoln Electric, and some perhaps less well-known brands such as Murex and Oerlikon. “Welding equipment is available at all our depots, although most customers hiring it are located in and around Glasgow,” said Martin Plant Hire’s Buyer, Willie Greig. “The tradition of

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