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SMS Rents meets industry equipment needs

Operating an equipment rental business in the heart of one of the world’s biggest mining camps keeps Brett Moroso, regional manager of SMS Rents, on his toes. If an equipment breakdown occurs at one of the mines in the Sudbury Basin and there’s a frantic call in the middle of the night for 10 air compressors, Moroso and his staff swing into action.

A quick glance at the SMS Rents online inventory of equipment reveals the number of compressors available at the company’s Sudbury location, and at branches in Timmins, North Bay, Kapuskasing and Bracebridge.”We have $70 million worth of equipment in Ontario and Quebec and $25 million worth of equipment in Northern Ontario,” said Moroso. “If a customer has a need for a particular piece of equipment that’s not in a specific yard, we can check to see what’s available at other locations. We do a lot of transferring of equipment back and forth to meet customer demand.”

A subsidiary of Sumitomo Corporation, a giant Japanese company with 54,000 employees worldwide, SMS Rents operates a total of 15 stores across Canada. The company entered the Northern Ontario market through the acquisition of Ready Rentals and its three branches (Sudbury, Timmins and Kapuskasing) in 2003.

SMS Rents supplies aerial equipment such as man-lifts, earth-moving equipment, including excavators, skid steers and backhoes, as well as portable air compressors and a full line of home renovation tools.

The mining industry accounts for a significant percentage of the company’s business at its Sudbury location, but the financial meltdown that sent shivers through the global economy in 2008 and the current nine-month strike by Vale Inco workers “have had a huge effect on business,” said Moroso.

A deliberate strategy of diversification that focuses on serving other sectors of the economy has helped to moderate the effects of the downturn in mining, but just as important, said Moroso, is the company’s commitment to superior service, which he credits for helping to maintain customer loyalty in a fiercely competitive business.

“You don’t always have to have the best price,” he said. “You can also stand out by providing great service. I’ve surrounded myself with top quality guys who care about what they’re doing – from the store managers all the way down to our drivers. That’s a huge factor. I think we have the best staff out there – by far.”

Moroso knows the equipment rental business inside out, having snagged a part-time job as a driver for an equipment rental company while studying Economics and Law at Laurentian University, and stuck with it.

“I got it in my blood early and just continued, going from a driver to a rental co-ordinator to store manager and, now, a regional manager.”

Renting makes a lot of sense for mining companies and contractors because it frees up capital and eliminates headaches and costs associated with equipment maintenance.

“If you own a piece of equipment and it malfunctions or breaks down, you have to fix it,” said Moroso. “If you’re renting and there’s a malfunction, we either go out and fix it or exchange it for a new piece of equipment.”

Keeping the company’s inventory of equipment in good running order is critical to the success of the business and dependent on hiring, training and retaining skilled mechanics able to troubleshoot and repair everything from transmissions and electrical systems to hydraulics and engines.

Also important is safety training for customers, said Moroso. Before equipment is turned over to a customer, the company “makes sure end users are up to date and certified” to safely operate it.

SMS Rents has grown steadily over the years, more than doubling in size from seven branches in 2003 to the current total of 15 branches in Ontario and Quebec.


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