hanging a computer system is a big step for any plant company. But, for Land & Water Plant, the need for all embracing computerised support was particularly important as the company runs its specialist long reach excavators and marine plant all around the UK and overseas without having its own physical plant depot. Another unusual aspect of Land & Water Plant is its picturesque headquarters on the historic Albury Estate owned by the Duke of Northumberland in Surrey.
Located near to large fishing lakes (whose dredging resulted in the original development of long reach excavators and the start of the Land & Water Group), the picture postcard building is far removed from the cabins in yards typically associated with plant companies. Whilst the structure of Land & Water Plant’s HQ is ancient, the computer system housed within it is state-of-the-art. For the company has recently changed over to the latest Syrinx hire management system from Higher Concept Software Ltd.
Land & Water Plant Director Richard Maclean says that the company’s previous Unix-based computer system “could not accommodate us fully – it was more focussed towards the needs of agricultural dealers than specialist plant hirers.” So after only two years the search was on for “a more comprehensive and user friendly” hire software system. An extensive review of competing computer systems led Land & Water Plant to a short list of two. Ultimately, after further in depth evaluation, the Syrinx system was selected and the company is pleased with its choice.
Richard Maclean says Higher Concept quoted a competitive ‘package price’ whereas other contenders had “costly add-ons”. One of the main users of the Windows-based Syrinx software at Land & Water’s HQ is Service Co-ordinator Karen Martin. Her job is to control the servicing and repairs of the company’s plant and equipment – working with two in-house service managers and one service engineer (who is a marine equipment specialist) as well as arranging for work to be done by the relevant machine suppliers.
Karen Martin says that the Syrinx system scores by being very easy to use and because, unlike its predecessor, it is fully linked to Land & Water’s proprietary Exchequer accounting system. So now paperwork is greatly reduced and a larger number of reports can be generated more quickly. Accurately apportioning service and repair costs to individual machines is important – particularly when the work tends to be done in the field by engineers from the machine suppliers. Richard Maclean says that the Syrinx system has proved to be very adaptable on the maintenance side. He is pleased that the Higher Concept personnel have been keen to develop their system to meet his particular requirements.
Karen Martin says that the training provided by Higher Concept was good as it was carried out by knowledgeable people in manageable morning sessions. Both the old and new software systems were run in parallel for a month. And initially the information transfer to Exchequer was done into a ‘dummy company’ in order to test the accuracy of the link. Land & Water Plant places considerable emphasis on regular machine inspection and the information from its comprehensive Plant Checklists is fed into the system. Any necessary work is subsequently recorded so that the costs of parts and labour can be easily and accurately analysed for both individual machines and machine groups.
Another principal user of the new Syrinx® system at Land & Water is Hire Manager Mark Cowell. He likes the ability of the system to analyse the costs of a machine and an operator separately. Depending on the requirements of individual customers, costs can be readily quoted as an operated rate (with a weekly machine rate plus an hourly operator rate), a non-operated rate and, for extraction contracts, on a pence per tonne basis. Over a typical year the split of internal to external hire is roughly 50/50 at Land and Water Plant and around half of its hires are with an operator. Mark Cowell says he likes the ease of use of the Windows interface on Syrinx. He also praises the way he can use the system to work with Karen Martin to register any damage (and then apportion costs to the customer if necessary) when a machine is put off hire.
As part of Land & Water Plant’s policy of maintaining a modern fleet, Richard Maclean and his colleagues are planning to purchase a significant number of new machines next year. In coming to an informed decision on which models to buy, they will be greatly aided by all the cost and utilisation data now available to them on existing fleet machines through their new Syrinx software.