Digitalisation drives growth for Renta Group

By Belinda Smart14 March 2022

Digital tools including the rental and management app Renta Easy are driving business and customer relationships at Nordic company Renta Group. Belinda Smart spoke to Renta Group CIO Joel Särkkä.

Since founding in 2015, Finland headquartered rental company Renta has expanded rapidly into Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Poland, and now operates 103 depots across those markets. A full-service business with specialisms including scaffolding and weather protection, it employs over 1,000 staff and its proforma annual revenue for 2021 was €280 million.

Joel Särkkä, CIO of Renta Group. (Photo: Renta Group).

In late 2021, when it was acquired by European private equity firm IK Partners’ IK IX Fund, from its founding investor Finnish private equity firm Intera Partners, signalling a further phase of growth, CEO Kari Aulasmaa commented that previous owner Intera had helped the company “create a modern and leading rental provider in the Baltic Sea region.” He said the new ownership was key to developing Renta’s digital and sustainable rental services and driving its expansion into continental Europe.

As CIO Joel Särkkä confirms, this is a company whose growth has always been linked to its digital strategy.

“From the get-go we established that digitisation would be one of our core values,” tells IRN.

“We’ve always understood that growth was going to be rapid, and we were going to have to support several different areas; equipment rental, site services, scaffolding and weather protection and site huts. We also understood that geographical growth was going to be fast and that our digital capabilities would need to be easily rolled out to all the countries we’re operating in.”

The company’s most visible digital tool is the customer-facing rental and management app Renta Easy, which is supported by a number of internal apps linked to core operations.

Renta Group’s digital tools include Renta Easy and a number of internal apps supporting business operations. (Photo: Renta Group).

These include Renta Modules, which houses site modules design and VR modelling tools; Renta Pro – an ERP tool for the scaffolding business; Renta Task – an ERP tool for Site Services; Renta Connect, a cloud-based integration platform; Renta Tools - an app for fleet maintenance and equipment downtime elimination; and Renta One – an analytics tool that provides “360 visibility over everything.”

Scalability from the rental app

As its name indicates, Renta Easy is designed to simplify the rental process for customers. It houses features typical to many rental apps, enabling users to rent and return machines, view technical data and availability of machines in various locations and create lists of frequently used machines. It also harnesses telematics data and displays real-time locations of machines and hours of use, and can be used to view project-specific invoices and order automatically created equipment lists.

Savings and sustainability

Renta Group is now largely paperless and, says Särkkä, is also able to boost efficiencies through Renta Easy, for example in machine utilisation.

“For example, if a customer has looked at their customer specific pricing or has looked at a machine’s real time utilisation through the app, this means that they haven’t had to contact our depot and that has saved time. The return inspection process is in a digital format through Renta Tools, meaning we can immediately verify the condition of the machine.”

“We want our machines to be used. We want people to have the right machine at the right place. For larger contractors, that’s about management. We sit down with them to see how much their fleet has been used and where. Conversely, a customer involved with building a single house might want to be able to see if their machine hasn’t been used for a week.”

An important indicator of Renta Easy’s success is “how happy people are using the app,” he says.

“So far, we’ve seen rapid growth in Renta Easy’s use. Big and small customers use it for different use cases. We developed it so it works whether you are a large Nordic contractor with several work sites, or you’re running a small electrical company and once a month you need a crane or a scissor lift, or if you just need a pressure washer for your deck.”

Cybersecurity

One aspect of sustainability that is growing in importance is data protection, particularly for a fully digitalised company. “Data security keeps every self-respecting CIO awake at night, so this is an area we’re tackling actively,” says Särkkä.

“Luckily, we have the European Rental Association’s initiative to improve cybersecurity standards as a whole and we’re closely tracking that.”

“We are also vigorously auditing ourselves. When you digitalise everything and you’re vocal about digitalising everything, you need to make sure that you have sufficient building blocks in place to make sure you’re doing it securely.

The Renta Easy app shows the real-time location and hours of use for rental machines. (Photo: Renta Group).

Digitalisation drives growth

With digitalisation now driving the growth of rental at a sectoral level, Renta Group is aligned to the trend, says Särkkä.

“The big trend in equipment rental is penetration, so how much is rented versus owned, and this is growing towards rental. This is where telematics and apps like Renta Easy come in, because of the transparency they offer. Digitalisation is about bringing transparency to customers.”

In the near term, he says Renta’s focus for 2022 and 2023 will be to expand and enrich that transparency.

“A key benefit of actionable data is to have full 360 visibility in our fleet performance, where we have digitalised our machinery service and repair processes. We have better insight to machinery health when we understand the whole life cycle of the machine.”

“That’s really an area where it’s not just enough for us to say, ‘Here is the data, go and look at it.’ The discussion over the next months is about how can we make this even more available and accessible, whether that’s for 2000 or two people, to give businesses transparency and power over their operations.”

Renta and Trackunit’s telemetry partnership

Renta’s works with telemetry specialist Trackunit to capture value from data for customers, Särkkä says.

Trackunit’s system works in line with Renta’s in-house solutions. It is also connected across the mobile network and wireless Bluetooth technologies, which enables connectivity in diverse international markets. In particular Trackunit’s local capabilities have been important in product rollouts in different countries.

“Renta and Trackunit have developed a deep strategic partnership and we use Trackunit across our business,” he says. “Often our development paths are in parallel, and that is a benefit of working with a technology innovator that concentrates on the construction supply chain.”

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