Top 10 words of wisdom from the rental industry in 2023
13 December 2023
As 2023 draws to a close, we gathered some words of wisdom from some of the most well-read reports published over the past year. Some quotes were prophetic, some rooted firmly in tradition, and still others simply a sign of the times we’re living in. Take a look back at the year that was, and take what you can from these statements as we start another new year.
Following are a selection of quotes taken from news reports and interviews in 2023. They cover a wide range of topics, but it’s easy to see distinct themes that were top of mind this year: alternative power, sustainability, digitalization, to name just a few. As we look back and take a higher-level view, it’s exciting to get a sense of the issues facing businesses the world over.
Following are our picks for the top 10 rental industry quotes from the past year:
Electricity as an alternative power source for equipment
Riccardo Magni, president and founder of Magni Telescopic Handlers: “I don’t think electricity is a final solution to all problems because now everything is electric but I don’t know where we will find all this electricity, especially in Europe. Hydrogen is under development, and this could be a solution because you get good power.”
The future of M&A activity
Larry Silber, president and CEO of Herc Rentals: “As long as interest rates remain where they are, perhaps we’ll see more [mergers and acquisitions]... I would say there are limited amounts of larger regional players available out there, [but] there are a significant amount of mom and pops available. Now we’re turning to specialty equipment, where there are additional opportunities. I think for the foreseeable future, and certainly the next three-year period, we’re not going to run out of opportunities to look at M&A targets.”
Working toward operational sustainability
Al Halvorsen, vice president of environmental sustainability at Sunbelt Rentals: “I would recommend taking some time and thinking about what you want to accomplish, and then considering your available resources. Don’t try to take on too much at once. Focus on those first few criteria or those few goals that matter the most to you and your company. That way, you’ll be able to get some early wins and drive some momentum going forward.”
Achieving net-zero decarbonization
Srikanth Padmanabhan, president, Engine Business, Cummins Inc.: “Destination Zero is the right thing for all of us to do in terms of how we decarbonize this world... We cannot afford to wait. There are going to be applications where zero-emission technologies work, but there are going to be lots of applications that are what I would consider hard-to-abate places.
“Our view is that we should start using lower carbon fuels as quickly as possible, and then, over time, if zero-carbon fuels could be used and the infrastructure is ready, then we should use zero-carbon fuels like hydrogen... It is going to take a long while before all of this is going to go to some form of zero emissions. Until that time, I think diesel and renewable diesel, natural gas, renewable natural gas, as well as other low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels are going to be used for a long while in reciprocating engines.”
Using data and analytics for optimal success
Josh Nickell, vice president of equipment rental at the American Rental Association: “We still don’t use enough data and analytics. Some of our members are certainly trying to do that, but it’s still not the way that the average North American rental company, or the average construction company, is making a lot of their decisions. Companies need to be running their reports for dollar and time utilization. It’s not just a free-for-all, buy-everything atmosphere anymore.”
Regarding the rise of rental under current economic conditions: “High interest rates are not bad for rental. Uncertainty is not bad for rental. Nobody wants to pay higher interest rates, but when a contractor is dealing with uncertainty and high interest rates, they tend to rent,
and that drives rental penetration.”
Artificial intelligence and the future of rental
Ben Garner, vice president, Equipment Depot: “I think artificial intelligence and digitalization are going to be life changing to how we do business, frankly, in every aspect of the world, but we already see it in rental. We’ve gone from preventive maintenance fault codes to predictive maintenance. As we gather more data and more experience in real-life situations, the OEMs will gather that data and rental companies will be notified that the machine has an error or is about to go bad before the operator knows. That’s exciting in what it means for the life of our machines, but it could also save people’s lives.”
Building an ecosystem of data for key markets
James Atkinson, vice president of Rouse & SmartEquip EMEA: “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...
“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.
“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.”
Modernizing slow-to-adopt markets
Sérgio Kariya, CEO of Brazil’s Mills Rental: “The mindset change is faster [in Europe] than in Brazil, but we want to push this, as long as we are on this ESG journey, and we want to make a difference in the future to our investments. The CapEx last year was electric or hybrids, every single piece of equipment. Of course, we did buy some diesels for the big, big access machines, where that’s the only option. But where we do have hybrids or electric, we invested in electric and hybrid.
“One of the things that we struggle with in Brazil is when you go to a jobsite, there is not that infrastructure for energy to recharge the batteries on sites. That’s one of the things that we face right now. But we want to push it. We want to be the leader in this movement. We don’t see customers, or just a small number, asking for this equipment. The majority, still, don’t care so much.”
Rental’s role in moving the world forward
John Smeets, technical manager at Boels Rental: “Our role as advisers is becoming increasingly important in order to serve our customers. That’s why we always need to stay one step ahead in terms of knowledge and experience, so that we can give our customers sound advice on all these innovations. By opting for rental instead of purchase, companies can speed up the transition towards emission-free construction. It often takes some getting used to. Our kids will have a lot less trouble with it later on. For them it’s almost natural to think and act green.”
A leader’s advice for the industry
Stéphane Hénon, managing director of Loxam and president of the European Rental
Association: “Celebrate yourselves, celebrate your people and celebrate your industry, whether you’re a big company or a small company. The rental industry is everywhere. It provides opportunities for people of all backgrounds, as well as essential solutions to businesses and communities. We should celebrate these things, make more people aware of the great things that we accomplish and we can have a bigger impact if we do it together.”