Owing to the recent economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, many clients of heavy equipment solutions provider Bobcat Equipment South Africa are opting for short-term rental options, rather than the long-term commitment of buying.
The rental segment has contributed significantly to Bobcat’s activities of late, says newly appointed Bobcat national rental manager Siviwe Gushu.
“Since moving from Level 5 to Level 3 lockdown restrictions, we have seen a steady increase in demand for our rental options with more clients reopening for business. Demand also continues to grow, particularly in the mining sector,” he explains.
The company has ensured that sufficient stock of rental machines is available during the lockdowns. Bobcat’s extensive rental fleet includes a range of skidsteers, tractor loader backhoes, telescopic handlers and excavators.
He states that Bobcat’s skidsteer loaders are currently in high demand, particularly larger skidsteer models such as the S650 and S850. These machines also tend to be the preferred models in the local mining sector.
To deal with the expected increase in demand, Bobcat has ensured that its rental fleets nationwide were repaired, serviced and ready for deloivery.
The company’s service department was also mandated to ensure that all rental equipment was in ideal running condition.
“We are able to attend to any breakdowns. Should a breakdown be extensive and require that a machine be returned to our workshop, we have standby units that can be swopped out to allow for the necessary repairs.”
Bobcat also introduced a new standard operating procedure for when a machine leaves the company’s rental site.
“The client now receives pictures showing the state of the machine, and a completed checklist of everything that has been checked, before the machine is sent out. We are also introducing a live dashboard [that displays] where each of our machines are at any time.”
This will enable Bobcat to quickly identify which equipment is available for rental, what is out on hire and what is in the workshop for repairs.
“All of this is useful information because we can provide quick answers for clients, and [offer] the premium service we always strive to provide.”
The company’s rental solutions are a vital part of its commitment to cater for the requirements of essential-services clients during lockdown.
This includes certain power stations for State-owned power utility Eskom, the coal-mining clients supplying to Eskom, as well as clients in the food and beverage industry.
Given the importance of servicing these essential-service clients, and the importance of minimising downtime of Bobcat’s machines while on site, Gushu explains that the lockdown is causing several challenges.
“One of the challenges that we have experienced is getting our technicians on site to attend to breakdowns. Traffic is slow, as there are roadblocks, and when technicians arrive on site, they have to follow a number of lengthy safety procedures.”
He adds that, in light of this, Bobcat has emphasised the importance of proactive, preventive maintenance to minimise breakdowns.
In some cases, the company has placed a standby machine at certain sites. If a breakdown occurs, the client can use the standby machine and continue operations while Bobcat arranges for a technician to travel to site.
Meanwhile, Gushu emphasises that the company plans to leverage the exposure Bobcat has received, as a result of its rental solutions, to drive new-equipment sales.
He cites, for example, that clients ask a variety of questions before investing in new equipment. These include whether a machine is suitable for a specific application, the ease with which spare parts can be sourced, and whether reliable service partners are available locally.
Gushu says the company’s short-term rental solutions demonstrate that Bobcat “ticks all the boxes”.
“This also gives us an opportunity to show- case our aftermarket capability. We have shown clients that we have world-class technicians who can repair and service our machines, and that we keep a large stockholding of genuine Bobcat parts,” he concludes.