With the departure of Andy Wright to Dubai to head up international operations for Lavendon, new chief executive Mike Potts has now taken over responsibility for Lavendon Access Group, covering all its UK business.
Mr Potts is relatively new to the plant and access sector, although by trade he was originally a mechanical engineer. He has joined the firm from Vendia, a supplier of food and beverage vending service, he also has the pedigree of working for Shell on oil refineries.
Having begun work in his new position at the start of the year, CN caught up with Mr Potts to find out Lavendon’s plans for 2011 and beyond.
A cautious start
Underpinning business this year is a sense of “cautious optimism”, according to Mr Potts. “January has got off to a great start and people seem to be pleased with utilisation levels, which are better than this time last year and as good as they were towards back end of 2010,” he says. “However, the forecasts for 2011 are quite negative and public sector cuts will come to the fore in March. We’re very cautious about the year and will have to work hard at achieving the growth levels we want.”
As a result, Mr Potts says Lavendon will particularly concentrate on improving rental rates during the year. “Over the last couple of years, rates in the access industry have been forced down very significantly to a level, which for some players is probably not sustainable,” he says. “The spearhead for our strategy this year is to maintain or even improve rates.”
To justify this, Mr Potts says the firm is embarking on a two-pronged strategy to increase both the reliability and safety of access equipment. “One of the factors which makes us stand out from the competition is we have very strong engineering resources. Having come from an engineering background, I’m delighted to see the quality and volume of engineering we have in our company.” While he say that Lavendon’s equipment reliability is on par with the rest of the industry, his perspective as new blood in the business suggests more can be done. “Having come from outside the industry, I would like to see a step change in reliability. That means becoming even better, rather than correcting a problem,” he says.
Another important element Mr Potts is looking to grow in the business is the safety of the equipment. Lavendon has already introduced a range of attachments from BlueSky on its equipment and the plan is to highlight the impact these can have on productivity and safety. “We have developed a number of exclusively produced attachments which go onto the baskets. That gives us a very competitive advantage,” he says. “Having come from a background of oil refining, that seems a very strong and sensible approach.”
Mr Potts could not be drawn on whether Lavendon would be spending on any fleet expansions during 2011. “We have a certain replacement requirement, but the ability to do that during a recession is reduced,” he says. “We are still being cautious in terms of capital expenditure. However, we are expecting some growth. To achieve that, there will need to be some investment.”