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Speedy takes plunge into pump hire sector

PLANT HIRE

With a launch into the pump hire sector, Speedy Hire has embarked on what could be its toughest challenge yet.

Ian Brown reports

SPEEDY Hire clearly relishes a challenge.Having already cleaned up in tool hire, generator hire, lighting set hire and most of the rest of the nonoperated market, it is now aiming to take on one of the acknowledged dinosaurs of our industry. Pump hire.

Depending on whom you ask, the UK pump hire market is estimated to be worth between £50 and £60 million a year, with the vagaries of the winter weather playing a significant part in the fluctuations.

The hire market is dominated by a few big players, including Selwood, Andrews Sykes, ITT Flygt (with its submersibles) and SLD Pumps, part of the Longville Group.

Speedy's theory is based on the dual facts that the market has changed little in the past 10 or even 20 years and that a lot of the available kit has been around a long time.This means environmental friendliness is often not a strong point.There has been some consolidation, but mostly the sector has been relatively unspoilt by progress. Speedy believes this is one market that is seriously ready for change.

The pump hire customer base consists of a wider spectrum than one at first might think.Of course, water companies use lots of pumps for extracting water from rivers and lakes and for transferring it from one point to another.Other utilities, such as gas and electricity firms, also spend significant amounts on pumps to keep trenches and underground ducting clean and dry.

Agriculture requires lots of pumps for irrigation and water transfer, with large sums having been spent recently on excavating reservoirs, which need filling when river levels are high.

Building and construction obviously makes huge demands for sites - usually in winter but, given the British weather, any large excavation could need pumps at almost any time.Not to mention dewatering, which is a science in itself.

All of the above was made clear to Speedy as the results of a big market research project on expanding into different aspects of the hire business.

Particular focus was placed on pumps because a dialogue had started between Speedy and GenSet, the south Wales-based generator and welding set specialist, which had itself embarked into pumps with a new product called the Liquidator.

Andy Owen, GenSet's pump specialist, says the manufacturing project evolved out of a chance remark five years ago.'A hire executive remarked that it should be possible for GenSet to design a piece of kit that was a generator when necessary but which could have its alternator swapped for either a pump or a compressor as required.'

The project started as a joint development between GenSet and APlant, one of its big customers. Cranfield University played an important part in the development too with engineering input and the latest advances in engineering techniques.

However, during the development period, A-Plant underwent a muchpublicised restructuring, leaving GenSet with a product that was nearing completion but with no hire partner to help take it out into the market.

Step forward Speedy, having completed its market research. It knew that there is a market, but did not want a 'me too' pumpset, just like its competitors.

Andy Carter, managing director of Speedy Power, the power supply arm of Speedy Hire, has taken the pump division under his wing.Having built up Speedy Power to account for a large slice of Speedy's turnover in less than five years, he has also developed a strong working relationship with GenSet, as it is one of his main equipment suppliers.

'Although Speedy came in relatively late, we were able to have an influence on some aspects of the final product designs, ' says Mr Carter.'We wanted significant noise reduction, for example, plus easy access for servicing and cleaning radiators and suchlike.These are all very important in the hire industry but are aspects that are often neglected by some manufacturers.'

Speedy is offering the new pumps from all its national branches and has decided against setting up any sort of key branch network on the grounds that 'pumps can be needed anywhere'according to Mr Carter.

Spring may not be seen as the best time to launch a pump operation but he is confident nonetheless.

'We know all that, but we've talked to most of our big customers and have realised that to launch now will give us some business immediately, ' he says.'But we'll also be able to fine-tune our systems to help cope with the busier times in the autumn and winter.We have huge faith in this product and we've negotiated a two-year exclusivity deal with GenSet.

We've invested more than £1 million in this deal and we've taken a stand at SED and we believe we've sprung a considerable surprise on the opposition.'