As head of the team responsible for managing all Coates’ assets throughout their entire lifecycle, Peter Davis needs to stay ahead of the curve. The executive general manager of Asset Services explains how his team’s proactive approach to safety, sustainability and innovation translates to better choices and benefits for customers. Significantly, he discerns why orange is the new green for the market-leading equipment solutions provider.
Within Davis’ team there is genuine fervour to create a greener fleet at Coates.
“It’s more than a commitment, it’s a palpable enthusiasm that I feel across the Asset Services team,” he says. “We’re primed to work with our customers and suppliers to reduce waste, reduce energy use and lower the emissions coming from all our equipment.”
With such a comprehensive portfolio spanning capital planning and investment, maintenance, service operations, asset utilisation, equipment compliance as well as the disposal of assets at end of life, this may seem a formidable goal. Yet, Davis knows Coates will deliver because innovation is in the company’s DNA, and a customer-driven focus is embedded in its operations culture.
“Asset Services is essentially about the lifecycle management of assets starting with the development of products, which is based on both customer expectations and innovation,” Davis explains. “As we’re purchasing this equipment, we have to be in front of the game. We’re constantly reviewing and investing in new equipment that’s come to market, with the aim of providing high performance products that are more eco efficient. It’s imperative that our evolving product portfolio provides customers with greener choices moving forward.”
While Coates is strongly committed to investing in new equipment, Davis notes that it’s equally important that equipment is maintained successfully to ensure assets can be used by many different customers over their lifetime.
“When you think about it, the equipment rental industry is inherently sustainable – it is the perfect example of the circular economy where resources are circulated, and waste is reduced,” he says. “We are now building on this to enhance how we keep assets in use for longer, including their responsible transition to a second life with another owner.”
Importantly, Coates is able to leverage its relationships with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to achieve its vision to be the market leader in safe, smart and sustainable equipment solutions.
“It starts with the compliance of the equipment design and we’re proactive in feeding information back to our suppliers,” Davis explains. “Because we share such transparent and productive relationships with our OEMs, a lot of our input is implemented.”
In terms of safety, Davis provides some examples of features that have been incorporated into equipment because of Coates’ feedback.
“For instance, the reversing cameras on all our mobile equipment is now a standard feature. This came about as a specific request from us, as there had been too many incidents with people being injured as a result of equipment reversing without safe vision,” Davis reveals. “Another safety feature we’ve had added to mobile equipment is pressure sensing systems in the operator’s seat. This ensures that a person has to be seated or the machine won’t drive.”
The fact that Davis sits on a handful of Australian and international standards committees and industry associations, including acting as technical director – Operations for the Elevated Work Platform Association (EWPA), is acknowledged by the OEMs he works with. He was also awarded the Dave Single Award by the EWPA in 2019 in recognition of his work in safety standards on access equipment, a fitting complement to over 38 years’ service in the equipment hire industry.
“My compliance manager and I are on a few of these committees, so we are able to provide input into the design of equipment through Standards,” he says. “That means we can see these product developments right from the beginning, in the design and manufacturing process.”
Of course, once equipment enters service under Coates, it must be maintained effectively to ensure it stays compliant and safe for customers. This is where some of the new “smarts” Coates has adopted will play a role.
“We have a very structured, world-leading maintenance system for all our equipment, and I don’t say that lightly, but again, it is world-leading because of our innovative approach, particularly around the technology we use,” Davis says. “All inspections and routine maintenance are scheduled and recorded through our ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software.”
These maintenance schedules apply to every Coates asset and are tailored to the exact make and model of the equipment. Davis’ team carefully review manufacturer’s instructions to ensure everything is covered in the system.
“Our ‘myFleet’ service application, which was developed in-house, produces service checklists in digital format making it easy for our maintenance teams to know exactly what is required regardless of the equipment being inspected or serviced,” Davis expands. “This not only guarantees our equipment is safe and reliable for our customers but also ensures we maintain our equipment consistently across our entire branch network of over 150 locations.”
Additionally, Coates have recently started using telemetry on their assets.
“The telemetry technology helps us establish the location, utilisation and any potential safety defects with all our assets, essentially allowing us to perform condition monitoring on our assets,” Davis said. “It adds another layer to our already high-level maintenance system and we are poised to expand this dramatically.”
Another example of how Coates is investing in smarter technology is in onboard diagnostics.
“We have some compaction rollers that we’ve provided for use on one of the large airport developments,” Davis reveals. “The customer asked for a compaction monitoring system to provide the project management team with the information that the runways and surrounding earthworks will be been compacted to exact specifications.”
Moreover, Davis notes that smarter equipment is greener too, which is essential to Coates journey forward.
“We have our own net zero emissions target to reach, and asset services is instrumental to us achieving that, which means looking closely at our supply chain,” Davis says. “It’s important that we work with suppliers and customers who have the same aspirations as us when it comes to sustainability.”
From an equipment standpoint, there have been some pleasing customer responses to Coates’ greener offerings. One notable category that has seen substantial growth is the solar lighting towers.
“Coates has been able to provide alternative lighting solutions to our traditionally, diesel powered units,” Davis explains. “These have been especially suited to background ambient lighting, so they are commonly used on building sites, roadworks and at events. The growth we’ve seen in this category has been phenomenal. We’ve probably tripled our investment in the last 12 months.”
The company is also developing its battery-electric equipment portfolio.
“Coates has had a large fleet of electric Access Equipment for decades, but we’ve trialled some other electric mobile equipment including forklifts and mini dumpers and we’re excited about the developments we’re seeing,” Peter says. “Lithium-ion batteries have been a game-changer when it comes to ‘fast’ charging equipment, and there’s going to be significant technology leaps in the upcoming years. We will absolutely be growing our portfolio in tandem with those developments.”
Furthermore, Coates is currently working on a “Greener Choices” catalogue for customers which will include information about how equipment is powered, and how they compare in terms of fuel or energy use and emission reduction.
“This will be a practical resource for our customers, giving them the information they need when choosing equipment solutions,” Davis says. “This is also where Coates can again deliver benefits to customers by leveraging our relationships with suppliers. The more demand there is for more sustainable equipment and alternate fuel sources, the better the choices will be, and as the largest general equipment rental company in Australia we can work with our suppliers in delivering on this.”
Davis cites Coates’ recent announcement that customers can use blended Biodiesel – up to B7 – in all its diesel engine-powered plant and equipment.
“Biodiesel has proven that it is a viable, reliable alternative fuel source that produces less emissions than standard diesel fuel,” Davis expands. “However, many of our customers have asked where they can purchase this fuel. Sourcing it has been a bit of an issue, so we’re working with our fuel suppliers to make this more available to customers.”
It’s this type of information that will be included in the “Greener Choices” catalogue and will ultimately enable Coates and its customers to reduce their emissions and waste.
“We certainly welcome feedback from our customers as to what type of equipment is of interest to them, and what they need to achieve in terms of reducing their emissions,” he says. “This is why it’s critical that we have transparent conversations with our customers on their requirements and the associated costs. We can then work with our suppliers in providing more sustainable solutions.”
To summarise, Davis reiterates that while the path towards sustainability is a journey, he believes that “with shared aspirations, it’s one we can forge together with our customers and suppliers to confidently achieve.”