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Expansive outlook

Alan Guthrie visits a hirer that has successfully added tools and equipment alongside its plant hire fleet and has plans for future growth.

Until a few years ago, Blackburn-based B & W Plant Hire and Sales Ltd specialised in hiring larger site machinery to customers in markets such as construction, civil engineering and agriculture. However, in 2007 it successfully expanded its operation to include tools and equipment, a decision that has substantially broadened its customer base.

Bill (right) and Will Whitwell have plans to open a fourth depot next year.

The business is run by Directors Will Whitwell and his father, Bill, who has been involved in hire since 1967 when he formed Whitwell Plant, chiefly supplying building contractors and farmers with site excavators and dumpers on both an operated and

non-operated basis. Bill sold the company in 1985 to pursue other business interests, which he did until 1994 when, noting an upturn in the housing market, he founded B & W Plant Hire & Sales. Will joined the company four years later.

Originally located in Clitheroe, the business steadily outgrew a series of premises before moving to its current 2.5-acre site in 2006, on the southern edge of Blackburn and close to the M65 motorway.

“From the early days of B & W Plant Hire’s formation, an important client has been a local business, John Reilly Civil Engineering, which has its northern office in Chorley,” said Will Whitwell. “We are their sole plant supplier. In addition to the Pel-Job minis, Benford dumpers and rollers we were supplying to them, they started asking us for other items, ranging from generators and compressors, to site mixers and bowsers. After initially cross-hiring this equipment, we decided to buy it for our fleet, realising that this would enable us to expand our offering to other customers as well.”

The business has also broadened its operation geographically. In 2004, a satellite depot was opened in Bingley, near Bradford, which, as well as serving customers in the local area, can reach


clients as far afield as Sheffield and Hull. Three years later, a third branch was established at Eastleigh, near Southampton, where John Reilly has a southern office. “Basically, they appreciated the quality of our service and wanted to take it with them,” said Will. “We have steadily invested in new machinery for the Eastleigh depot, and re-located to larger premises last March.We have plans to develop this operation substantially in 2011.” Overall, there are 29 employees throughout the B & W business.

The plant fleet currently comprises more than 900 items. The excavator offering chiefly includes Kubota micros, Takeuchi minis up to 7 tonne, and larger machines are mainly Hitachi. “When we expanded into tools and equipment, we decided to concentrate on established, trusted brands.We ordered a significant number of products from local dealership Seddons of Bolton, including Stihl cut-off saws, Belle Mixers and MBW compaction plates. Other popular items include Youngman Boss towers, Stephill generators and Hilti nail guns. This has enabled us to target other markets, such as small builders and tradesmen, and we can also offer these products to our established customer base.We also provide a dedicated fleet of trench shoring products, including drag boxes, manhole boxes, and accessories like edge protection and road plates. Contractors can now get everything they need for a job directly from us, from a cut-off saw and a ground support box, to a mini excavator and dumper.

The Blackburn headquarters are close to the M65 motorway.

“We have remained busy throughout the last 12 months. Many contractors are reducing their capital expenditure and are more interested in hiring their equipment.We also have plans to open a fourth depot, in the Cheshire area, to extend our coverage still further, providing we can find the correct location and staff.”

• 01254 54294

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