Already the largest provider of heavy equipment rentals in the South-West, Bristol-based Plantforce is looking to further secure its leading position after receiving a £4.7m growth capital investment from BGF to further upscale its operations. The company, which has a client base that includes the Kier, Costain, Balfour Beatty and BAM construction groups, and has seen its machinery used on such notable projects as Hinkley Point, plans to use the funding to support its growth plans in expansion, acquisition and geographical locations.
“We have enjoyed significant growth over the past two or three years and the funding will allow us to keep that momentum going,” explains Sam Mercer, Operations Director. “The business is expanding at a very rapid pace and the investment from BGF enables that to continue, while also bringing in other expertise that they have to offer us. With major projects coming up, such as HS2, we want to try and grab as much of that work as possible. This investment will help us with that.”
This proactive approach has been something of a cornerstone for Plantforce, which was created at the turn of the century and is still going strong nearly 20 years later with four depots in Bristol, Exeter, Bridgwater and Birmingham. “We have continually evolved as a business and after starting life providing a range of mobile cranes and dump trucks, in 2010 we began concentrating on more specialist equipment, such as long reach excavators, telehandlers and rail industry off track equipment in addition to now a wide range of forward and larger rear tipping dumpers, dozers, demolition spec excavators backed up by a large attachments range,” adds Mr Mercer. “Although we now tend to specialise more in the larger side of plant hire with our machines running from three tonnes up to 50 tonnes.”
This evolving forward-thinking has provided the template for Plantforce’s success over the past two decades, allowing it to overcome the leaner times in the process. “We’ve proven to be very resilient, primarily because we’re such a well-rounded business. Some plant hire companies are all about low pricing, whereas some specialise on service and the quality of the equipment. We, meanwhile, look to offer both value and quality. Our service levels are second to none, as we have always been a company that is dedicated to its customers. We spend a great deal of time branding the business in a way that suits our customers and we specialise in equipment that is specific to them.
“We also have a large sales team and have avoided going down the call centre route where companies try to haggle with customers. Instead we have a sales team of 11 that allows us to provide a more personalised ‘one on one’ experience for our customers, which is very popular.
“From a quality perspective, we have a very modern fleet as the maximum length of time we will keep a machine is just three years, while most are just six to 12 months old. This ensures that our customers have access to more premium products. What’s more, we have 12 engineers on the road so that any issues can be quickly addressed, while we also have a suite of complementary services, such as utilisation and fuel consumption reports for customers. Even as a predominately regional supplier we have been able to deal with national accounts on the back of the service we provide. It’s all about going that extra mile.”
In addition to its customer-focused ethos, Plantforce’s success also owes a great deal to its supply chain, as Mr Mercer outlines: “Our suppliers have been instrumental to our business and we’re continually looking to build on our relationships with them. Whether it is our hire software or our machine suppliers, we try to give as much positive and negative feedback as we can. This helps and improves them as well as improving us. We have been dealing with the same people for a very long time and we recently had a supplier in that has been with us since Day One, which is a great achievement.
“One of the main areas of focus currently is GPS machine control, we have been working closely with SITECH UK & Ireland. We have been really impressed with their technology and service options. All our new machines will now come Trimble Ready and we have committed to investing in a large fleet of cab kits to give our customers access to the latest machine control technology.
This is vital as the industry is evolving rapidly and becoming ever more technologically advanced. It will also ensure that we’re ideally placed to capitalise on the large projects that will be coming through in the coming years, such as HS2, as we look to replicate the success we have seen at Hinkley Point.
“This is backed by a state-of-the-art simulation programme to train all our operators in machine fuel efficiency, height and slew restriction, and GPS machine control, putting us at the forefront of innovation within construction.”
With the investment plans it has in place and the robust supply chain it has behind it, Plantforce looks all set for another successful year ahead.