Boels shines through
21 September 2021
The pandemic could hardly have come at a more testing time for Asif Latief. In January 2020 he joined Netherlands-based Boels Rental as managing director of its UK operation; by March the country was in lockdown due to Covid-19.
Asif, pictured below centre, who had previously spent 18 years in senior management and Board positions with A-Plant (now Sunbelt Rentals, of course), found himself facing quite a different set of challenges to address.
“The immediate priority was the people in the business, some of whom were initially furloughed, while others were at depots which quickly re-opened to meet demand from those customers and contractors who were allowed to keep working with proper preventative measures in place,” he told me.
“I also had to manage issues such as people who I’d been talking to about new jobs or roles with the company and were perhaps just about to join.
“It’s often said that certain people shine through during difficult times. We all worked together: the team here in the UK and the Boels senior team at the headquarters in Sittard.”
Something particularly noteworthy that Asif organised on social media as soon as the lockdown was announced was an initiative to help people find or fill positions in the hire industry as events unfolded. Using the hashtags #HireTogetherJobVacancies and #HireTogetherJobSearch, hire professionals could quickly alert others about new developments and opportunities.
The Boels Rental operation in the UK currently has 38 locations. “There are certainly plans to expand this. Growth is in Boels’ DNA and we are constantly on a path that is onward, upward, bigger and better. We also intend to grow our specialist Survey & Laser business which operates from nine locations.”
Indeed, despite the Covid-19 disruption, Asif says the business has maintained progress. “We created a new ‘super’ depot in Newcastle as planned by merging two smaller locations, and we did the same in Birmingham. We continue to look at opportunities that our network presents.”
Another priority has been in evaluating the overall fleet profile. “We have carefully assessed what our core offering is, including popular, fast-moving items, and what are more appropriate as re-hire items like larger plant and access machinery.
“Previously, some of the diversity in the fleet had resulted from acquisitions. As well as reflecting what our customers need, streamlining in this way increases the efficiency of our workshops, our spares stockholdings and our depot performance overall.”
Asif says that analyses of this kind are greatly assisted by Boels' software systems which he describes as “the most comprehensive and integrated that I have ever seen during my time in the industry.” Without divulging details, this can give in-depth insights into many aspects of utilisation, revenue, demand across specific product groups, depot performance and how well targets are being met, as well as identifying potential growth areas.
Not surprisingly, the issue of sustainability has great significance throughout the Boels Rental operation. “We are working closely with our supply chain partners to explore new products that are available. It is also important to see what particular demands emerge from different markets, such as construction, house building and waste management.
“This is a very new area and some of the technology is largely unproven, so the hire industry as a whole must see how it evolves.”
One of Boels Rentals’ slogans, and which reflects the company’s well-known livery, is ‘Orange is the new Green’. Indeed, the business has invested in many environmentally friendly fleet products, from LED lighting towers and electric compaction plates, to battery driven compact tracked dumpers and cordless garden tools.
Sustainable alternative products are now highlighted during the procurement process and this is just one area in which we can expect more news from Boels Rental in the UK moving forward.
Asif has always maintained that the rental industry is nothing without its people. “Boels has established its UK presence through a series of regional acquisitions and we knew that we needed to unify those teams – the Covid-19 lockdowns and the inability to bring people together only served to strengthen that objective. So we held our ‘Boels As One’ conference earlier this month, where for the first time ever we had the entire operations and sales teams under one roof.
“We were able to share our vision and strategy for the UK, and we recognised exceptional performances through an awards ceremony. We had some fun, too – for our teambuilding challenge we had 10 groups take part in a real-life Robot Wars activity; construction and demolition all in one afternoon!
“We wanted people to put faces to names, learn more about our journey, and have some fun at the same time. We certainly achieved that.”