Several years ago, Ashtead Technology was known as Ashtead Technology Rentals and specialized in hiring the latest technology for those with a short-term or project-based instrumentation requirement. However, many of Ashtead’s customers had a frequent requirement for the same instrument, so the company now also offers instruments for sale. Nevertheless, the decision on whether to rent or buy is affected by a number of factors, and these are discussed below.

Ashtead Technology supplies a comprehensive range of instruments for non-destructive testing (NDT), remote visual inspection (RVI), environmental monitoring and health and safety.

An Engineer’s Midsummer Night’s Dream?

The dream of every test, monitoring and inspection engineer is to have exactly the right instrument, employing the latest technology, in perfect condition, at exactly the right time and in the ideal location. However, these dream conditions only exist for a short while after purchase, because technology moves on and once an investment has been made in a specific technology, customers are less likely to be able to take advantage of newer technologies as they arise.

‘Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?’

When there is a requirement for new instrumentation, the first thought in most people’s minds (except perhaps the financial director’s) is generally to consider purchase. This is the best option when there is likely to be a frequent demand for the instrument, or when it can be shared among a group. It is therefore important when making the decision on whether to purchase or rent, to check that a purchase decision is not simply based on a personal desire to take ownership. This is because ownership comes with costs; instruments incur an annual cost because they are written off in the accounts over a few years and because they generally incur other costs such as maintenance, calibration and storage. In addition, money spent on purchases could have been utilized in a more profitable manner – this is the ‘opportunity cost’ of ownership. For example, the capital could have been used to reduce debt or it could have been invested elsewhere in stock, staff, training, marketing, etc. As the saying goes: ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’, so if a company with an overdraft purchases instruments, one of the hidden costs is the interest that will be incurred as a result of the purchase.

‘Having Nothing, Nothing Can He Lose’

Some of the potential problems with ownership are theft, damage and even loss. Renting avoids these issues and ensures that responsibility and therefore risk is confined to the rental period alone. Occasionally, justification for instrument purchase is made on the grounds of shared use, but this can incur problems – if one user has a requirement in Stratford and another in Bankside, London, they may need the kit at the same time, or one user may fail to deliver the kit on time or in the best condition.

As You Like It

Those that rent instruments are able to choose the instrument that best suits their needs. This means more than just having access to the latest technology, because renters have the opportunity to select the specification/model that best meets their needs. This is where Ashtead’s experienced and highly-trained staff are able to offer help and advice. For example, the choice of NDT equipment is influenced by the material to be tested, how thick it is, the type of flaw to be detected, the application, the skill of the operator, etc. Similarly, different gas analysers are required for different gases and different remote camera crawlers are necessary for different drain sizes.

‘Delays Have Dangerous Ends’

Having chosen the best instrument, it is essential for it to be onsite, in the right place, at the right time and ready for immediate work. This is because a delayed instrument or an instrument that isn’t ready for use (because the last user did not clean it down adequately or because it is out of calibration), can hold up work, waste time or extend downtime in production facilities. This is of spectacular importance in the construction industry – Ashtead Technology often supplies an array of inspection equipment when highways and motorways are closed (at enormous cost), to enable the inspection of bridges, for example. Under these circumstances, it is vital for engineers to have every piece of available inspection equipment onsite that might be necessary, in case it is needed.

A Comedy of Errors

In order to avoid the use of inappropriate equipment, or equipment being used in an inappropriate way, Ashtead Technology invests heavily in its fleet of instruments so that customers are able to choose the right kit. Some might say that this is ‘much ado about nothing’, but testing, monitoring and inspection is serious work, so Ashtead staff receive regular training from manufacturers so that they can recommend the best instruments and give advice on how they should be deployed.

Many customers regard Ashtead Technology as their instrumentation partner – responsible for constantly reviewing the market and investing in technology so that they don’t have to.

In summary, it makes sense to purchase when there is a frequent intended use and when the hidden costs of an in-house instrument do not outweigh the advantages of rental. With enormous experience across a wide range of products, Ashtead’s staff are able to provide unbiased recommendations on which kit to use and whether to buy, or not to buy.