Scotland's emergence from lockdown has been more cautious than south of the border. Construction activity restarted in planned phases to ensure physical distancing could be maintained, beginning with essential sites.
The fourth phase out of five came into effect on 15th July, allowing controlled close working with full PPE use.
Some companies throughout industry have felt that the restart has been too slow. However, Eagle Plant Hire, which has depots in Glasgow and Edinburgh, reports that business has been booming since the restart.
"We are really busy and we have brought back virtually all the staff that we furloughed, except the sales force because of restrictions on site visits," managing director Colin Inglis reported. "Customers have been pulling out all the stops and getting back to work."
Eagle re-opened with a skeleton staff of four in May, adding more as demand grew. Colin estimates that turnover for June was around 60% of normal, which far exceeded expectations, and July could be 80-90%.
"Just before the lockdown in March we were expanding the fleet and targeting additional markets like surveying and safety, with new equipment from Topcon, Leica and Radio detection. That obviously had to be put on hold but the plan is still to eventually go ahead with that, and into other new product lines," says Colin.
"We had expected to maintain the growth we have shown in previous years and increase turnover by around 30% in 2020. The pandemic has just delayed this by a couple of months. It's been like pressing a pause button and then releasing it.
"A lot of our clients are involved in infrastructure work and utilities contracts that are long-term in nature. These contractors are able to socially distance their personnel more easily than, say, on a busy construction site in London. House builders are also back at work now."
Customers Want a One-Stop Shop
"There are many opportunities from our existing customer base. They increasingly want us to be a one-stop shop for all their requirements, and so we are expanding our fleet," adds Colin. "We have a very hardworking team and they build the strong business relationships that are driving this growth.
"As a result, we have been buying equipment throughout the Covid situation. We ordered more Kubota mini excavators, including 1.5, 3, 5 and 8-tonne machines. They immediately went out on hire on long-term contracts. And demand for items like small tools and alloy towers is also strong.
"In addition, we have bought two new vehicles, an 18-tonner and a 26-tonner," says Colin.
Clients South of the Border
Eagle's clients are primarily located in the Scottish central belt, although Eagle is now servicing some customers in the north of England. "We haven't actively looked for these contracts. It's simply people approaching us because of our reputation.
"We only take on business that we know we can sensibly service in terms of backup and journey times - we don't want to over-promise and under-deliver. But if this demand continues, we might consider opening a depot south of the border.
"We are looking to develop more specialist lines like safety equipment and non-mechanical products, and others will follow. We can hardly keep pace with demand and we're quietly confident about the future."