Following on our recent overview of the reliance on rental driven by the uncertainty of our immediate future, this week we focus on Dawsongroup’s presence in material handling and how they are revolutionising rental to benefit customers.

The group last year had a record turnover of £236 million and the growth continues in 2019 as demand for rented assets keeps on rising, with close to 30,000 assets on rental in the UK supply chain.

Part of the wider Dawsongroup, material handling is at the forefront of bringing the ‘usership’ philosophy to the MH sector. Dawsongroup material handling was formed following the acquisition of the Liftrucs Group in 1995. The acquired business was the original concessionaire for Toyota Lift Trucks in the UK, setting up what became the Toyota Industrial Equipment UK dealer network.

Since then they have been a direct to market business as well as supporting the material handling OEM’s and the wider industry with specialist equipment such as portable dock levellers and articulating forklifts. The material handling business recently strengthened by their developing relationship with Combilift, as the provider of short term rental equipment for its UK dealership network.

‘Usership’ may be perceived by the cynics as just a fancy wording on traditional rental, however, it is more than skin deep with the focus on uptime and process flow shaping new, efficient packages of procurement such as:-

‘Availability Rental’

Highly suitable for high-intensity applications, including multi-shift operations upwards of 80 hours usage a week, we guarantee asset availability/uptime and manage useful life during the contract. Typically, this option can prove beneficial to companies running 24hr process manufacturing operations such as glass manufacturers.

‘Adaptable Rental’

The way in which we purchase goods has changed, and the need for faster deliveries increased, companies such as 3rd Party Logistics Companies have to adapt and evolve to suit the growing demands. It is where our Adaptable Rental option is ideal. Customers have the added comfort of knowing that equipment can be changed by type or specification during the rental period.

Seasonal Payment Rental

Seasonal Payment Plans allow for a more flexible approach to business finance. Dawsongroup Finance Hire agreements provide business customers who experience seasonal trading periods, the opportunity to tailor a finance plan to meet the specific demands of their business. At the start of the agreement, a repayment plan is customised to suit the requirements of your business cash flow. It allows you to make larger payments during your busier periods, and smaller payments when business is quieter.

To find out more about Dawsongroup material handling we spoke to the Managing Director, Paul Shires.

How long have the Dawsongroup been in business?

We can trace our routes back to 1935 since then Dawsongroup has developed and diversified through successful acquisitions and organic growth. The group’s customer base is extremely varied stretching across a broad spectrum of sectors, sizes and operational types.

What does your role as MD involve? Do you personally make sure you deliver the full Dawsongroup material handling service proposition?

Delegated authority is passed from the Main Board to the Managing Directors of each business unit, we are responsible for exercising and upholding the policies and procedures set out by the Group, directing operations through a senior management team to achieve individual business financial targets. We also ensure that all Group objectives and strategies are communicated to all staff through local management and the structure and processes in which these are to be achieved, established and controlled.

How would you describe your business as a whole?

Completely customer-led, we put them at the centre of everything we do.

What different types of rental solutions do you provide?

Companies can hire from us for a day, week, month or many years. We have some bespoke rental packages that support intensive operations where individual assets are used upwards of 80 hours per week guaranteeing uptime and availability, seasonal rental that adjusts the rental payments made against the customer’s cash flow which can help the financial gearing of companies with seasonal work, adaptable rental that allows companies to match the equipment used with an ever-changing operational demand. All of our rental contracts are a genuine rental, Dawsongroup material handling own the asset, the funding route, deliver service support and manage the disposal of the assets, put simply the customer only has one contact point for everything. In addition to our genuine rental, we can provide alternative finance. For large organisations, we offer a continuous support service: from initial consultancy and acquisition evaluation on any assets, through to tendering and analysis, on to transaction management through to the end of term, providing a bespoke in-house style of service. For SMEs, we find that, more than ever, companies seeking asset finance must be able to present a broad and positive picture of their business. Banks and manufacturers are often unlikely to help with that process, but Dawsongroup finance can… and does!

Which industry sectors are your materials handling customers in?

Wholesale, retail, airports, manufacturing, logistics, farming, growers we have a presence throughout the whole of the UK’s supply chain.

Can people rent materials handling equipment from you, using a phone app or online?

The short answer is no, we operate in a relatively low technology sector so we do not have to continually deliver technological advancements for our customers that are cutting edge today, and outdated in a few months. What we do need to achieve is an on-going gradual development, meaning we are relevant for the demands of our customers and comparable to the offering of our competitors. We have tested the markets we operate in to gauge whether app-based software or the ability to order equipment online would benefit them, the feedback we received was that they prefer dealing with people and look for us to offer the best advice for both equipment specification and contractual structure.

So what’s the latest news in your relationship with Combilift?

To strengthen our rental capability and complement our existing activities, we have recently placed a £1.3m order for a selection of Combilift machines. Designing and manufacturing equipment is Combilift’s core strength, which they supply through a network of dealers in the UK. “Combilift can’t support new lead times or short-term demand from this network and this is an opportunity gap we recognised. In a short period, we have built a good relationship with Combilift that has strong foundations and a huge scope for growth, we will provide short term rental support for the dealer network.

How many depots are in your local structure and where are they?

Within the group we have 46 mainland UK locations, the material handling business operates from three branches, Garforth in Leeds, Wednesbury in the West Midlands and Leyton which is inside the M25.

Which types of Combilift trucks have you bought in this latest deal?

AM15NE & AM20SHE Aislemasters, CS, WR4, WR-1500 pedestrian machines and CB-3000, C-4000 long load handlers with lots of masts options, all machines are highly specified with enhanced safety features, contact our rental desk for availability.

What kinds of businesses are your rental customers for the new Combilifts?

Primarily our fleet is available for the forklift OEMs and dealers to rent from us, all enquiries are handled by our rental desk who are supported by two of my senior management team as required, everything we do is confidential and the equipment has no Dawsongroup branding, so the trade can trust us with their customers.

How quickly can you deliver them?

We keep the fleet ready to go so should we have the availability of a certain product our only time constraint is transport, we use the well-known forklift hauliers so again no Dawsongroup branding or equipment can be collected from us.

Do you cover the whole of the UK?

Yes, we plan to grow our material handling branch structure further so that our equipment is closer to our customers.

Do you provide operators as well as machines?

As a group, all of our wheeled assets are self-drive rental only.

How quickly can you get engineers with parts to fix breakdowns?

We measure our response time and first fix rates every quarter, currently, our response time from call to engineer visiting the site is two hours 35 minutes, first-time fix rates on the first visit are at 98.2%.

How quickly can you provide parts?

Like the majority of the forklift industry, our van stocks mirror the equipment the engineer’s support in the field, we audit this every quarter. Stock is held at our three branches and we can get next day delivery for anything we don’t hold either to one of our branches or an agreed drop off location.

How would you sum up the service you provide?

Dawsongroup doesn’t manufacture anything so our total offer is about supporting the rental assets that our customers use, everybody in our business has a responsibility to deliver an exceptional experience for our customers. My role is to create an environment that encourages our people to thrive, where they can aspire to be the best and give our customers a real experience of service excellence.

Where do you see Dawsongroup going from here?

We want to be the supplier of choice for the UK’s supply chain and an employer that provides a fantastic work culture and workplace environment who attracts and retains superior employees. Dawsongroup – Delivering materials handling excellence.


01132 874 874



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