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Kennards’ history of growth and commitment

Kennards Hire has provided hire equipment and solutions for 75 years.

Kennards Hire is driven by quality and a family culture. General Manager – Commercial, Tony Symons, paints the company’s picture right from the beginning, through to its exciting future.

The post-war economic expansion, following the devastating conflict of World War II, can be regarded as one of the most influential periods on modern civilisation.

Rapid economic growth and technological development led to the birth of new opportunities and business. 

Shortly after the end of World War II in 1945, a simple gesture by Walter Kennard laid the foundation for what is now one of Australia and New Zealand’s largest family-owned machinery and equipment hire providers. 

Walter Kennard was approached by a customer, asking if he could borrow one of Kennard’s concrete mixers. Walter Kennard said he wouldn’t lend the mixer to the customer, instead he would hire it out to him.

And so, in 1948, Kennards Hire was born. The company boomed in the early 1950s, moving from its original storefront in Bathurst, to Sydney.

Kennards Hire continued to expand, adding branches, new machinery and equipment as the years passed.

In 2023, the company is celebrating its 75th anniversary. General Manager – Commercial, Tony Symons says the milestone has been achieved through reliability and innovation.

“Being a family business has helped to ride the peaks and troughs of the economy, as well as the construction industry and other sectors,” he says.

“There’s been a consistent focus on quality as well. We’re a very customer centric organisation.” 

Symons says this notion started with Walter Kennard’s commitment in providing the very best on offer to every customer. In fact, Walter Kennard, and later his sons Neville and Andy Kennard, would often make changes to existing machinery, to increase the efficiency and safety of machinery for customers.

“We’ve gone from a business that was primarily focused on small trades and those keen on DIY, to include much bigger, broader and diverse sectors,” he says.

According to Symons, Kennards Hire is now the largest family-owned equipment hire business across Australia and New Zealand, with almost 200 sites and branches, as well as more than 1800 members of staff.

Kennards Hire can provide hire equipment options for infrastructure and road projects of all sizes.
Kennards Hire can provide hire equipment options for infrastructure and road projects of all sizes.

What’s in store?

Kennards Hire’s equipment range now spans across a vast number of commercial industries.

For the roads and infrastructure sectors, the company provides options for compaction, materials handling, access, rail, safety, concrete, generators, lighting, lifting, portable site equipment and much more.

Symons says Kennards Hire’s network of sites, as well as its reliability, have made it the provider of choice on some of Australia’s largest infrastructure projects, including the West Gate Tunnel project, as well as works on the Monash Freeway. 

“We have great equipment brands and a branch network that spans all states, including regional towns. Geographically, there’s extensive coverage, with a lot of our sites close by for works on large projects,” he says.

“In the last 20 years our range of products and solutions in construction and infrastructure has increased significantly. We expanded our equipment offerings and distribution, which led us to the infrastructure market.”

In the past few years, Kennards Hire has also developed a dedicated internal major projects business.

“This side of the business was developed in the last three to four years to focus specifically on larger projects, with a slightly different offer,” Symons says.

“Our business development team engages the client at an early stage of the project to understand their wants and needs. We then work with them on solutions on a day-to-day basis.

“Our team is highly trained and highly skilled and have a very good understanding of specific site requirements, as well as equipment compliance. We work closely with the project manager around equipment, repairs, technical advice as well as numerous other support services.”

Symons says the differentiator is Kennards Hire’s capabilities and service.

“We’ve got high quality and modern equipment, but it’s our ability to respond quickly to a client’s needs. Project managers need to make decisions on the go, so when they contact our branch or business development team, we can provide answers quickly,” he says.

Continued innovation 

A common theme throughout the company’s 75-year history is continual development and investment into its machinery range.

 “There’s been a huge investment in environmentally friendly products and greener machinery, primarily when it comes to the burning of diesel fuel,” Symons says.

“We’ve had people travel overseas to keep abreast of innovation. As a result, we’re now investing more in solar-powered equipment, electric equipment and hydrogen-powered equipment.”

Kennards Hire also has electric trucks within its Sydney branch network. The company has received orders for the first hydrogen-powered generators in Australia. 

“It’s been in the company’s DNA forever,” Symons says. “We have established a robust framework for addressing and progressing environmental and sustainability initiatives for many years. This commitment is significant not only to us but also resonates with the Kennards family and clients.”


 

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Tony Symons, General Manager Commercial – Kennards Group.
Tony Symons, General Manager Commercial – Kennards Group.

Continued Expertise

Symons adds that the company’s push for new developments is supported by the company’s expertise, “We have a lot of long-term people in the business. There’s team members who’ve been in the company for more than 40 years.”

Symons says that by using their expertise, the team at Kennards Hire can help to improve the smoothness of project delivery, from your weekend warrior, right up to tier one infrastructure developers.

“We can offer one point of contact in a dedicated account manager who is supported by technical experts and others within the business,” he says. “These account managers have a very good understanding of how a project works, site compliance, safety requirements and more. They know the lay of the land.”

He adds that getting ahead of the job at hand can often be key. And for every project stage, Kennards Hire is there to assist.

“Wherever possible we like to have early engagement to understand the clients’ issues and the sites complexities, to see what they’re looking for,” Symons says.

This model has kept Kennards Hire in great stead, particularly when it comes to establishing meaningful relationships within the industry.

“We’re responsive to the client and always evolving our business. People within the sector may change companies, might be working on different projects or may have changed their roles, but there’s a sense of familiarity,” Symons says.

“They know our brand and our people, so there’s long term established relationships. We’ve grown and expanded our business accordingly.”

Continued improvement

Another aspect that has remained consistent is continual improvement. 

“There’s certainly been investment in the units themselves and replacing of assets to keep them at a young age,” Symons says. “This helps from a reliability point of view and a technological point of view.”

This ethos not only accounts for machinery and equipment performance, but also for the internal functions of the company.

“We run an extensive internal quality audit program, which ensures there’s consistency across the business and that machinery is maintained,” Symons says.

“Company-employed quality auditors visit every branch across Australia and New Zealand – without notice – with a full day of quality auditing across procedures and equipment standards.”

Additionally, Kennards Hire conducts internal training programs to increase the quality of its service, while also providing opportunities for employees to expand their skill set. 

This improvement also extends to assisting clients to improve the efficiency and sustainability of their operations.

“For example, traditionally a lot of sites would have run a diesel generator 24 hours a day,” Symons says. “Now we can turn that generator on during the day to charge a battery that can then run overnight.

“There’s a lot happening in the renewable power source space that’s not only green, but can actually also save time and money. What was fairly pie in the sky sort of stuff is now readily available.”

“Continuous improvement is key.”

Symons says the future is bright for Kennards Hire, with even more products and services currently in development.

“Looking towards the future, we’ll be looking to grow, improve and expand our relationships with clients in the construction and infrastructure space. All while keeping those strong family values in place.” 

This article was originally published in the July edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.

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