Fair Share: machine rental app launched

Mark Watters founder of Shareplant
Mark Watters

WORK is often put to one side and forgotten about whilst on holiday, but for one construction worker a trip away spurred an idea which could prove to be a money spinner and saver for firms in the plant and construction industry.

“I’ve been frustrated with the situation with construction plant and equipment for many years as a project director, and I was always walking around my project saying ‘why’s that here, we’re paying for that – why’s it standing doing nothing?’ but I couldn’t really think of a way to sort it – until I started using Airbnb to go on holiday. I was just sitting there one day and thought this Airbnb model where people can rent out an underutilised asset, i.e. property – could that model work in the construction industry?  And that’s where the idea came from,” explained founder Mark Watters.

Shareplant has now been in operation for eleven months. The application allows users to list operated or self-drive equipment priced per day or hour. Listings are free, with Shareplant applying a 15% commission to transactions.

“Really, Shareplant is about utilising idle or underused equipment.  I’ve noticed as a construction guy over the last few years that quite often you see very expensive construction equipment – of all shapes, sizes and values – sitting doing nothing. That is wasting money – someone is paying for that. The idea is to increase utilisation of construction equipment and provide a platform to do that. Shareplant allows people who have equipment that is occasionally sitting idle to list it on Shareplant where other people can rent it.”

Users can provide photographs and videos on their listing and add a description. Shareplant view themselves as a ‘connector’ between parties and place the onus on both sides to ensure that the deal is as described – this can be further managed using the in-app messaging system, before payment is made through the payment system.  Background checks can be carried out by Shareplant to ensure people are who they say they are, and users are encouraged to check IDs when handing over and handing back equipment.

“In terms of liabilities, we’ve tried to keep it really simple,” Mark added. “Obviously pre-rental, the owner is liable for all equipment. At the point of exchange the liability transfers to the hirer, and the hirer then comes liable for any damage or loss. The hirer must have adequate insurance cover for renting in equipment, and most contractors have that. We encourage our owners to check that insurance policy is in place before they hand the equipment over.”

Conscious of the premise being new to the UK market, Mark developed a system designed to show the worth of renting to equipment and machinery owners, as well as ensuring realistic prices are listed.

“Our Rental Calculator is a really simple tool for people to work out how much they could earn if they rented out their equipment, because not everyone understands the size of the opportunity. We just made it really simple – they can just type in what their daily rate is, what their current utilisation of machinery is, what they’d like it to be in terms of percentage and then it just works out the amount that they could earn per week, month and year using Shareplant.”

Products listed on the site range from fencing at £1.50 per day to a telescopic leader rig at £2,149 per day. Mark sees the application as allowing machinery and equipment owners to effectively run a rental company through the application, and the diversity of product on show certainly points towards a new-age type system in the construction industry.

“We monitor the age profiles of our website visitors, and most users are between 24 and 55 – so we are seeing a pattern where young to middle-aged people are showing the most interest. It may be that some of the older generation perhaps aren’t IT-savvy or maybe just won’t use it, but we’re targeting the younger generation who are coming through; the millennials and the younger generation demand this sort of technology in their lives.”

Given the scope of products available on the Shareplant application, one might be curious as to which listing impressed the founder the most.

“There’s a product on there called Gap Bar,” Mark answered. “It’s quite a novel window opening protection system, where if someone is replacing windows, rather than building scaffolding outside, they can install one of these gap bars from inside the building and it prevents people from falling out – so that’s a really low-cost solution for quite an expensive problem.  That’s £24 a week to hire that item. It’s really simple and a great idea – that could save someone hundreds and hundreds of pounds in scaffolding costs.”

Still deeming the application a start-up, Mark is comfortable taking developments one step at a time.  He is in the process of launching a paperless construction management application, called Shareplant Toolbox, which provides paperless construction and equipment management tools to increase construction team productivity and efficiency.