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Housebuilding driving hire market

Despite the challenges the construction industry has faced as a whole this year, the hire industry seems to have remained relatively buoyant.

The recent economic predictions of improved industry growth and the latest purchasing managers’ index have been largely reflected in the pace of work.

Despite reports showing a slight 0.1 per cent dip in construction output figures in August, our figures showed a strong growth in hire turnover across our three depots last month – up almost 13 per cent per day since July – and a record hire figure overall.

Our new east London depot has also seen growth per day of 25 per cent.

Fully utilised

We have now been operating at full capacity for a number of months, with several of our tools running at 100 per cent utilisation – bowser pressure washers being one example.

As a result, we have been cautiously increasing stock levels to meet demand, recently placing new orders for generators, concrete poker units, podiums, towers and pressure washers.

“Housebuilding is undoubtedly the biggest growth sector”

Although autumn has always traditionally been a busy season for the hire industry, we have seen a number of trends emerging from the tools we are currently hiring out, and the projects and sectors they are going to.

Housebuilding is undoubtedly the biggest growth sector. Dry lining companies, RC frame contractors, interior, fit-out and concrete restoration are all backing up recent reports that housing is driving recovery.

Puiblic sector uplift

In addition to private sector residential projects, we’ve also noted an increase in hire for public sector projects, such as schools and hospitals.

In terms of tools, we’ve seen a huge focus on the hire of cordless tools, particularly flex dry-wall sanders, such as the Flex WST 700, which are mainly used for wall partitioning and refurbishment.

“The railway sector continues to hire at a steady rate, with ongoing projects such as Crossrail and Tube works”

We’ve also noticed a spike in the number of generators and compressors going out – most likely to be used for site power onto new sites, which again is a positive indicator that the industry activity is picking up.

The railway sector continues to hire at a steady rate, with ongoing projects such as Crossrail and Tube works, with tools mainly going out for maintenance and demolition work.

Breakers are popular – particularly Hilti – and specifically lighting products, such as LED work lights.

These lights are cordless and rechargeable with an eight-hour battery, which make them well suited to rail and underground projects.

Generators for power supply are a huge risk underground as there is no ventilation for them, and the fact that they are cordless reduces trip hazards.

Both our central and west London depots have also seen a huge surge in mobile access equipment and the number of towers and podiums out on hire – particularly Euro Towers products.

The vast majority of them – the podiums in particular – are being hired to dry-lining and fire-protection companies for residential and office block redevelopment.

Staff shortage challenge

A challenge we face is having enough staff to take the orders. Recruitment into the hire office has always been difficult, and we have decided to take a different approach.

Rather than target the job to trained and experienced hire controllers, we’ve now introduced a management training programme to try to attract graduates into the company.

These people will be trained up to become our next managers and so far we’ve seen some success – both in the hire office and our workshops.

Neil Graham is managing director at The Hireman

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