Executive Hire News › Archives › September 2016 › Profile: Martin Plant Hire : ‘M’ is for Martin
Profile: Martin Plant Hire : ‘M’ is for Martin
Martin Plant Hire is in positive mood, as Scotland's business outlook becomes stronger, and the company is successfully evolving to meet changing customer needs and market conditions. Alan Guthrie reports.
Businesses throughout Scotland have faced a series of challenges affecting the economic outlook for the best part of a decade.
Like the rest of the UK and, indeed, countries throughout the world, it had to deal with the effects of the long recession that set in from 2008. When the global outlook finally improved, commercial activity north of the border lagged behind growth experienced in other regions and companies waited for the upturn to spread outwards to different parts of the country.
However, several other factors then transpired to disrupt the recovery, beginning with Scotland’s referendum on independence in September 2014. In the months leading up to the vote, uncertainly about the result led to many decisions on construction projects and infrastructure investment being held back, with an inevitable impact on hirers and suppliers. A similar situation arose preceding the General Election in May 2015, and again before the recent Brexit referendum, in which the majority of voters in Scotland voted to Remain in the European Union.
Nevertheless, Scotland’s economy is growing again, according to Andy Martin, MD of Martin Plant Hire, which describes itself as the largest hire company operating solely in Scotland. “Business is
non-stop at the moment. We first noticed a strong improvement in the last quarter of 2015. We are investing in our fleet, and one of our chief challenges is getting equipment quickly enough from suppliers, since many items, such as aluminium tower, are going out on hire almost as soon as they have been delivered. The economy has turned the corner and Scotland’s growth now seems to be catching up with other parts of the UK. The difficulties faced by the oil industry are obviously a consideration, but the effects mainly seem to be impacting on Aberdeen and other areas where that market is particularly significant.
“The market is still not back to pre-recession levels, but we grew our turnover by 6% last year, which was pleasing. Our customers are busy and we are opening more accounts regularly. Not surprisingly, some contractors have downsized during the difficult years, but many are telling us they have healthy order books for 12 or, even,
24 months ahead.”
Adapting in the downturn
Like other businesses, Glasgow-based Martin Plant Hire had to adapt during the downturn. Four depots were closed, giving a total of 12 throughout Scotland, and the business was cautious about spending on new equipment. However, the steady upturn now has brought a change in outlook. “We have been buying more equipment across our fleet, including mini excavators up to 3 tonne and compact dumpers, and we recently added a Dust Layer on-site dust suppression unit from Western Global. The demand for this kind of product shows that more house building and construction sites are opening up. This is in addition to large, on-going projects such as the second Forth Road Bridge and work associated with upgrading the motorway network across the central belt.”
The company, formed in 1974, has steadily diversified to encompass equipment to target several specialist markets, and this is now enabling it to win more business. This includes products for concrete laying and finishing, railway work, and lifting. A comprehensive welding equipment fleet is also offered, and Martin Plant Hire is a distributor for Shindaiwa welder generators throughout Scotland. “Demand for welding equipment received a boost when the Ferguson shipyard operation on the Clyde was bought out of administration in 2014 and our sales team are constantly on the lookout for news of projects in the pipeline.”
“Big in categories customers need”
A major step in Martin Plant Hire’s evolution to ensure customer needs are being met is a recent re-branding operation. “It was time to refresh our image,” said Andy Martin. “Our previous branding was based around the slogan ‘Your mate Martin’, emphasising our friendly and helpful approach. The new message is based around a large letter ‘M’, which will be used on corporate literature, vehicles and on our website. “We want to tell people that we are big in the equipment categories they need to get their jobs done, and have a significant presence in their area. We will adapt this to reinforce both the breadth of our fleet and our local service. Significantly, our vehicles will be sign written to say, for example, ‘Big on welding equipment in Glasgow’, or ‘Big on tools in Dundee’. The strategy is to convey both the scale of our operation and our flexibility. All our depots are being upgraded with new signage, with the first having been Falkirk, which recently re-located to new premises.
“In addition, we are shortly to re-launch our website, which will be designed to enable customers to do more business with us over the internet, as well as adopting a new mobile app. Hire will always be a person-to-person industry, but new technology complements this. Increasingly, busy tradesmen work out what they need for their next jobs after going home for the day, or at weekends, and so we want to make it easy for them to hire from us.
“We have also derived significant benefits from adopting the Syrinx hire software system, which we introduced a little over two years ago. This is enabling us to control our assets more effectively. Basically, each depot is responsible for an element of the depreciation of each asset it holds, so they have an incentive to get it out on hire. We also plan to adopt Syrinx’s workshop and servicing modules in the future, as part of our on-going development.
“We added new members to our sales team this year, some of
whom previously worked for larger national hirers and are relishing working for an independent company that can make decisions quickly about equipment procurement and other issues.
We plan to
take on more apprentices in September, as it is very difficult to recruit suitably qualified people. It is a sad fact that, since the recession, a lot of good fitters and sales people have left our industry.”
Andy Martin, who is half-way through his two-year tenure as HAE Chairman, believes that the Association’s Future Hirer’s initiative can make a positive contribution to our industry, targeting young people
at schools, job centres and other agencies to promote the career opportunities in hire. “We need to find the hirers of tomorrow.
Young people typically do not regard hire as a high-tech or modern profession, yet a lot of sophisticated equipment and technology
are now incorporated on machinery, and computers are used increasingly for fault diagnostics. We may have missed a generation of technicians during the downturn, but Future Hirers is a good way of reaching potential new people.
“Overall, the outlook for hire in Scotland is very strong. The last thing we need now is panic following the Brexit result, and the Bank of England’s decision about more quantitative easing and lower interest rates could just cause anxiety. What we all need now is stability and cool heads going forward, and I am very positive about the future.” •