GROUNDFORCE’S decision to align three distinct brands into one attachments division has been credited with bringing a range of benefits to customers.
Work started earlier this year to combine Mr Cropper, Piletec and Sandhurst as one collective brand, known as Groundforce Attachments.
The process has taken longer than expected due to the Covid-19 situation, but James Burchell, director of Groundforce Attachments, believes customers are starting to reap the rewards of having one point of contact and easier access to a wide range of attachment products.
He told Project Plant, “What we had with Piletec and Mr Cropper was two very reputable and established businesses in a piling sector, really concentrating on that area. With the acquisition of Sandhurst, it widened and broadened our horizons. If you look at all the pieces of equipment we supply, 95% of them are attachments, whether they go on an excavator or whether they go on the end of a crane.”
James said that with so many synergies between the three brands, it made sense to centralise key functions and make life easier for customers. Instead of potentially talking to someone from Mr Cropper or Piletec about a product one day, and then someone else about a separate product from Sandhurst the following day, customers can now get all the information they need from one source.
What Groundforce hadn’t taken into account when they started the task of aligning the brands was a global pandemic! James explained, “It’s been really challenging. We set the ball rolling in terms of starting to align those brands and then Covid came along. We started the process in January/February and by March we were in a Covid situation where we were having to temporarily furlough people.
“Actually, I think the positive thing which came from that is it cemented the thought process around the decision because it proved to us that we were doing the right thing. We had experienced fitters who now didn’t work solely on Sandhurst, solely on Mr Cropper, or solely on Piletec. They were able to flex and manoeuvre around the different brands because those three individual brands were affected at different points by Covid. It just allowed us to be a lot more fluid around delivering to the customers.
“The integration process has taken a little longer than it ideally should have done but I think we’re seeing the benefits of it at just the right time.”
Like most companies across the UK, Groundforce Attachments has had to adapt to new ways of working over the past eight months. The use of technology has increased, and social distancing has become part and parcel of the way people operate. James believes some of the changes which have been introduced will still have their place once the Covid-19 situation is over.
“We will never replace being in front of customers,” he said. “The construction industry thrives on social interaction and people seeing people. I don’t think we’ll move away from that per se, but we will move to a more technological world, which construction has needed to do for a little while. Do I think Zoom and Teams will live on? Most definitely. Will we carry on with the social distancing? Yes, we’ll carry on with that as much as we need to. I think there are some challenges around that, such as working on big pieces of equipment where you need more than one person to be able to do something. In terms of the things we’ve learnt from tablets and being able to work smarter and more efficiently, definitely we’ll keep on doing. There’s no desire to move backwards.”
For Scottish customers, the Groundforce Attachments products are available from a depot in Livingston. James said the Scottish market is one which remains hugely important for the overall business.
“We’ve been in Scotland for a while with Piletec and Mr Cropper. That was always part of the Groundforce depot in Coatbridge. With everything that’s going on in Scotland, we see a great opportunity, hence why we’ve invested in a long lease at Livingston because we believe it’s a great place for us to be strategically.
“There are some really good projects coming up in Scotland, some really good work and I think now we are Groundforce Attachments, there’s a lot more ability to invest in the fleet and grow that.
“Scotland has adapted to the tiltrotator very well, I would say much more than the rest of the UK. It seems to be more accepted there and that presents some opportunities for us to find products which work well with that, which haven’t historically done so.”
One thing which won’t change post-pandemic is Groundforce’s determination to find new solutions and provide customers with more innovative products.
Recent additions to the portfolio include the MotoCut concrete cutter and the Articulator 5000. The MotoCut features twin diamond 500mm-diameter circular cutting blades and can be attached to an excavator via a quick hitch system and operated from the cabin, eliminating the risks associated with falling piles, dust or Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
The Articulator 5000, meanwhile, boasts four adjustable feet and telescopic legs and is described as being capable of manipulating, manoeuvring and rotating sections, poles, masts and posts up to 20m in length.
James added, “We’ve always looked to find more cost-effective or cost-efficient, productive ways for customers to do things. We’ve done that over the last 15 years. There are lots of products which float across my radar on a weekly basis. Some of them you have to take a step back and consider whether they’re a rentable product or not, because not everything is a rentable product. When we find the right things, or we believe we’ve found the right pieces of equipment, then we will invest and try to change the market perception around that.”
James described the attachments sector as being competitive at the moment, which he welcomes because it keeps everybody on their toes and forces firms to be agile and search for differentiators.
“It’s about service, investment and looking after our customers so that they know that we are constantly trying to find something else and give them the easiest way to order equipment, deliver it on site, fit it, get it right first time, and select the right products.
“Cheapest isn’t necessarily always the best in a rental market. It’s about investing in value, proven products that will stand the test of time. It’s about buying quality equipment that will do the job.”
James concluded by revealing there are ‘lots of things in the pipeline’ for the business at the moment, including a desire to develop even more of its own people.
“We’ve got some really good people who have been with the business 20-25 years,” he explained. “They teach us a lot day in and day out. They are our experience. It’s about bringing in the next generation of those people, which is a challenge. We’ve got to do that as it will allow us to continue to grow and invest in the products, invest in the depots, and continue to serve the customers at the level they’ve grown accustomed to expect from us.”