Rouse brings rental benchmarking to Europe

Vice president of Rouse & SmartEquip EMEA, James Atkinson, talks about why it’s important for rental businesses to participate in a benchmarking service

Rouse Services introduced its market intelligence platform, Rouse Rental Insights, to North American rental businesses in 2011, and since then, rental companies have been relying on the platform to bring an unbiased view of their performance, as well as market supply and demand, so they can make informed fleet management and capital allocation decisions, according to James Atkinson, vice president of Rouse & SmartEquip

We talked with Atkinson about what the rental market in the UK and Europe can expect when Rouse’s market intelligence for the European industry comes fully online.

Rental Briefing: Tell us about the effort to develop and release UK and European market intelligence similar to what Rouse Rental Insights provides in North America.

Atkinson: A big focus of ours is to launch the service across the UK and Europe. Rouse Rental Insights will empower the industry to make better informed decisions, which will only have a positive impact on bottom lines.

In the UK and Europe, rental rates are static and, in some cases, going down, which is a different environment than North America. Against that backdrop, we’re seeing machine costs increasing. Just over the last couple of years, machine costs have gone up by close to 18%. So while machine costs are going up and up, rental rates are static or decreasing. Interest rates on borrowing money and labor costs are

James Atkinson, VP Rouse Services James Atkinson, vice president Rouse & SmartEquip EMEA

increasing as well.

Something needs to be done to help rental companies better understand the performance of their assets, because it’s a very challenging environment. If you look at what Rouse offers in North America, you can see we’re well positioned to assist in the UK and Europe.

Rental Briefing: Where does the effort to build benchmarking data in the UK and Europe currently stand and how does Rouse Rental Insights work?

Atkinson: To be able to publish benchmark data, we need to have a critical mass of companies participating for each product at a regional level. Generally, we require a minimum of five rental companies in a given region to be able to present a comparison, so our number-one mission right now is to sign up as many participants as we can. We’re doing well in the UK, with about 30-35 companies already participating. We’re starting to grow across Europe, as well.

Regardless of us giving any benchmark data to our clients, how our service works is we plug into a client’s back-office rental system to pull their fleet list and invoice information. From there, we’ve got a lot of data... what the product was, what the rate is, who the salesperson was, who the customer was, where it was located. We pull all of that into our dashboard, and present that back to our client.

What they’ve got straight away is a nice, clean, intelligible view of their own business that they can cut and slice. They can see how they are performing by product, by customer, by salesperson, and so on.

After they’ve got a tool that gives them real-time visibility into their own business, we overlay benchmarks on that, and then they can compare their own business to the industry’s performance. The point is, we’re reporting on the participants’ business and we’re building the pool of data. Participants get value from day one, and then as the benchmark data comes in, it’s even more powerful.

Rental Briefing: What metrics are analyzed for the benchmarking service?

Atkinson: Rate and utilization performance by geography is number one. As we start to build the data within the platform, we’ll be able to provide a richer data set and more interesting insights around equipment supply and demand, disposition performance and ancillary fees, and then doing comparisons not just within the UK and Europe, but in North America, Australia and beyond.

Rental Briefing: Is there any reason why companies might be reluctant to sign up?

Atkinson: We’ve tried to remove as many barriers as we can by making it free to sign up and trial in Europe. We’re doing that because we need to build the pool of data. The more participants we have, the more insight we can provide the rental industry as a whole. We’re providing the platform and all of our services free of charge at first, and then at significantly reduced pricing, until we’ve got a richer data set.

The only barrier is whether the company is comfortable in showing us their data, because their data is the lifeblood of their business… who their customers are, what their rates are, what their salespeople are achieving, etc.

I spend a lot of my time explaining how secure the platform is, and how data integrity is a key part of it. Rouse intakes, cleanses, standardizes, aggregates and transforms data so that no single participant’s data is identifiable within the benchmarking data.

Rouse has done such a great job in the U.S. – we’ve got 350 customers, including United Rentals and Sunbelt - we’ve gone through it with a fine-tooth comb in an effort to design a compliant and secure solution. Businesses in the UK and Europe look at participants who are already in the platform, as well as the fact the platform has been going since 2011, and that gives them a lot of confidence to join.

Rental Briefing: Is there a message you would like to get out to potential participants?

Atkinson: We are continually investing time, money and resources into providing a solution that treats data security and integrity as fundamental components. The platform is for the betterment of the industry and markets being served. It’s a tool to help navigate the challenging economic backdrop of increasing machine costs and decreasing rental rate performance.

Companies should participate because they can’t continue to operate the way they are in this economic climate, with everything going in opposite directions. We can’t keep working the same way as we always have, thinking everything’s going to get better. Something needs to change.

Rental Briefing: Do you anticipate this platform will evolve to offer human-like suggestions based on predictive data? For example, alerting an equipment owner that a particular product line is not performing over time and divestiture might be beneficial? 

Atkinson: Definitely. That’s where it will go, for sure. We can’t get to that point, though, until we’ve got all of those data sources in one place. Then we can leverage those data sources to make informed decisions. And then maybe, as you’re saying, we can use the technology to not only automate but proactively suggest what products or assets to dispose of or invest in.

This can really help even the playing field for smaller companies that have fewer resources to draw from in terms of data analysis.

Rental Briefing: Where do you see the future for Rouse market intelligence going from here?

Atkinson: It’s definitely going into new markets like Australia. Japan is another area where we are out talking to people.

The vision is to pull all these different islands of data together to provide rental companies with a complete picture of their assets to increase the return on investment, and also decrease the lifecycle costs. When companies want to make a disposal decision, they’ll be able to make it based on data we’re providing around what the asset is worth across different channels.

The key thing is, with the economic backdrop as it is over here, you can either bury your head in the sand and go out of business, or you can do something differently. We’ve got a tool set that can help rental companies in the UK and Europe move past traditional business analytics to a cleaner and more informed view.

But not only that, it’s more than just rate performance and utilization when we start talking about the complete lifecycle of costs. Full equipment lifecycle management in this economic climate means we’ve got to do something now – to zoom in and zoom out to make critical equipment purchasing, sale and pricing decisions that affect profitability. The pool is building, the data is there and the journey to provide even richer content is on the way to bringing the UK and Europe up to speed.


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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]