Interview: how Avesco Rent created a new water treatment rental business

IRN’s Murray Pollok talks to Vincent Albasini, CEO of Avesco Rent Group, about the company’s growing water treatment rental business, and gets an update on its wider rental operation.

Avesco Rent in Switzerland is to double the scale of its water treatment rental business in the next two to three years following the success of the new division over the past 18 months.

The company has developed a new business to treat wastewater from construction sites, such as water pumped from excavations or water used for concreting activities or cleaning on site.

Vincent Albasini, CEO, Avesco Rent Group. (Photo: Avesco) Vincent Albasini, CEO, Avesco Rent Group. (Photo: Avesco)

A combination of tanks, washing basins and digital control technology can reduce sedimentation levels and neutralize pH levels, allowing site wastewater to return to natural water courses or be fed into wastewater systems.

“We see that water gives us the possibility to be on different job sites”, said Vincent Albasini, CEO of Avesco Rent Group, speaking to IRN in December, “If you are excavating and you pump the water, and if the water is in connection with concrete, pollution is going to be a challenge.

“Here in Switzerland the regulations are quite strict”, says Albasini, on a video call from Avesco Rent’s head office in Puidoux, close to Lausanne, “If you have a requirement to discharge water, you need to have a pH value between 6.9 to 6.5 to nine. And, also, you need to have 30 centimeters of visibility in the water.”

To solve this problem, Avesco Rent has developed a modular range of sedimentation and neutralization tanks as well as a cloud-connected control system that will automatically and remotely doze the wastewater with the small amounts of CO2 necessary to neutralise the pH.

Example of a large Avesco treatment tank (Photo: Avesco Rent) Water sedimentation and neutralisation tanks come in a variety of sizes, and are made in Switzerland for Avesco. (Photo: Avesco Rent)

In addition, a washing tank can be attached to the top of the main tank to allow for the cleaning of tools and buckets, with that water then fed to the main cleaning tank.

The system can be used throughout the construction phase, from initial excavation through to the concreting and building phases.

Avesco Rent already has 250 tank systems in the fleet, and Albasini tells IRN there was scope to double the number within the next few years.

Big business
“It’s a big business”, he tells IRN, “And the demand is really growing. For example, renovating a bridge using high pressure water. You need to collect all the water, complete the sedimentation and pH neutralization, and then discharge it. Or for a hydroelectric project, where you need to treat all the water that you are using for the job site.

“I can say that, more or less, in the next two or three years, we need as a minimum to double the size of today. The market is now ready to assume that.”

One benefit of the system is that it gives the company something different to offer contractors, and particularly at the start of a contract.

“We are really trying to offer to the customer a full solution for job site installations”, he says, “That means, when a customer starts a job, he has a complete solution from containers and fences to toilets. To be able to recycle the water, to bring the power. So, it’s part of the job site solution that we are now providing.

“And yes, it’s profitable. There are not a lot of competitors in this market, and it’s not easy to understand and manage that business.

The Avesco system monitors pH level pof wastewater. (Photo: Avesco Rent) The treatment plants have technology to monitor and normalise water pH levels using small dozes of CO2. (Photo: Avesco Rent)

Specialized rental
“It’s really a specialized business, so that helps us to be recognised as a specialist on water treatment solutions. Sometimes that helps open the door for the customer.

“And you know, in Switzerland the construction market is sometimes is a little conservative, more connected to ownership than renting machines. So, we have the possibility to offer an additional solution for rental.”

And, of course, there is the sustainable aspect. Preventing pollution is in itself a welcome outcome, but Albasini makes the point that preventing of pollution is an aspect of sustainability that can be achieved relatively quickly, in contrast to the sometimes slow process of switching to low-carbon construction machines, for example.

“We always think about electric equipment and low carbon machines when we talk about the rental contribution to sustainability, but rental can do other things as well.”

Driven by regulations
He says the water quality issue has been growing in importance in Switzerland. The regulations have been in place for more than 15 years, but Avesco noticed that enforcement levels had tightened up over the past five years or so.

“At the moment, we are helping construction companies describe correctly [in their tenders] how they will manage water treatment. And after that, we are installing our system.”

Albasini says Avesco Rent is now looking at introducing the technology to its recently opened rental businesses in the Baltic States and Finland, and is giving consideration to producing the tanks in the Baltic States rather than Switzerland, although they will maintain production of the more sophisticated control modules in Switzerland.

Avesco Rent also has a relationship with Zeppelin Rental in Germany – both being owned by Caterpillar dealers – and Albasini confirms that they have been discussing the technology with the German renter.

A major point will be how water quality regulations are policed in different countries. Albasini emphasizes that it was enforcement in Switzerland that created the demand; “The main driver is regulation. If regulations are not changing or not be applied, you don’t have the possibility to develop the business.

“I visited a lot of customers in the Baltics. Everybody says it’s a great system, great for sustainability and the environment, but they are not able to pay for it if the government or the municipality or the end customer is not asking for it.”

pH levels of wastewater being checked (Photo: Avesco Rent) Checking the pH of water as it is discharged into the wastewater system. (Photo: Avesco Rent)

Business plan ‘on target’
Albasini says the business plan is on track; “We have reached more or less our target in terms of volume of turnover. Now the question is, because of inflation, can we reduce the cost?

“For example, if you’re producing the boxes in Switzerland, maybe we can have a different solution to have the standard product at a reduced cost and not to have the high inflation.”

The tanks themselves can vary in price from €5000 to €40-50,000, depending on size and flow capacity, so the investment in fleet is significant. That said, the tanks themselves will have a longer economic life than many of construction machines found in Avesco’s fleet.

“I think the lifecycle is much longer”, he says, “but the challenge is not really the equipment, it’s the service you are able to provide to the customer, because it’s not easy. It’s not with some basic training that you are able to do it - you really need to understand the technology, because each jobsite is a little bit different.

“It depends on the size of the project, the configuration, the pressure of the water, and the expectation for the regulations, because there is a standard regulation, but if you are working close to a lake the expectation is much higher.

“So, you need a different system [from normal rental]. A system able to export the data to prove that you are treating water correctly. We have built up a team dedicated to that, and they are really specialist.”

Avesco’s other businesses
Of course, Avesco Rent’s main business is in Switzerland, along with its growing operations in the Baltic States and Finland, where the company recently announced the acquisition of family-owned rental business Vatupassi.

Avesco water treatment tanks on a project at Vallée de Joux in Switzerland. (Photo: Avesco Rent) Several Avesco water treatment tanks on a project at Vallée de Joux in Switzerland. (Photo: Avesco Rent)

Albasini, who was speaking to IRN before the announcement of the Finnish deal, says Finland is an interesting market, despite the presence of major players such as Cramo (Boels), Ramirent (Loxam) and Renta.

“We see some opportunity to develop a business model….If you want to compete face-to-face with the big players, you need to invest a lot of money. At the moment, we are trying to concentrate on our core segments. So, heavy equipment for construction, and power systems, especially the heavy power systems up to 50 kVA, because there is a lack of knowledge and capability on that. And we have developed a traffic safety solution for infrastructure customers.

“So, we try to be not face-to-face with the big players, trying to be different in terms of equipment and solutions.”

In the Baltic states, the company now has three locations in Lithuania, five in Latvia and three in Estonia. “The markets continue to grow”, says Albasini, “in terms of big projects, and especially for infrastructure, like Rail Baltica.”

The residential market is more difficult, partly because of higher interest rates, but inflation rates of 22% in 2022 in Estonia also made life difficult; “It’s quite difficult to manage that.” Avesco made a small power rental acquisition in Estonia last year in support of its business.

Defense work
In Lithuania, the company is also investigating portable accommodation rentals for defense-related projects, related to NATO activities in the region following the Ukraine invasion; “NATO is building a lot of temporary camps for the military….We have the chance to make some tenders, and now we are starting really to develop our business in that defense sector.”

Meanwhile, back in Switzerland, Albasini says he is noticing a slowdown in the authorisation of big public projects; “Each project, when we see a timeline, we can sure, since Covid, we see a minimum of 12 or 18 months added, compared to the past, so we have to be a little bit more patient.

“At the same time, for our customers, and especially for construction customers, now they need to be really fast in terms of reaction, maybe to change and assign resources in a different way. I’m quite confident for the future. If I look at the ERA figures for the year, maybe it will be small growth, so we need to be patient until 2025.”

Avesco to buy Finnish rental company Deal gives Avesco five extra rental stores in Finland

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Ollie Hodges Publisher Tel: +44 (0)1892 786253 E-mail: [email protected]
Lewis Tyler
Lewis Tyler Editor Tel: 44 (0)1892 786285 E-mail: [email protected]