Indian construction companies opening up to new lifting technologies spells good news for the crane industry.
crane use in India is pushing the envelope. Consider the following.
In January 2016, HN Construction of Bokaro Steel City took delivery of a new Terex Explorer 5800 All Terrain crane, India's first Explorer series crane.
WHY: Several other options were considered but the deal swung in Terex's favour because of the 220-tonne-class Explorer's versatility, compact size, technological features and the brand's reputation for quality and after-sales service.
Acknowledging this sale as a breakthrough order, Saeesh Nevrekar, Director-Sales and Service, Terex Cranes, is upbeat about the future prospects for the Explorer series in India. 'We expect more orders for these types of machines,' he affirms.
Last year, Everest Construction Equipment, a crane rental company, debuted Karnataka's first Potain MCT 85 crane, leasing it out for two years for the construction of a 27-storey residential project called Mangalore Bhandary Heights. WHY: 'We want to have a good night's sleep, so we bought a Potain crane,' says Raj Ranjan Moharana, Managing Director, Everest Construction Equipment. Despite working up to 22 hours a day, the all new MCT 85 has registered no downtime as yet.
'The location of the crane is quite remote, and for this reason, reliability was a key consideration,' he adds. 'I trust the brand and know all the people from Manitowoc Crane Care.' Also, the MCT 85's maximum jib length of 52 m is 2 m more than that of its predecessor, the MCi 85 A. 'As we look for more productivity from our machines, having that extra reach available means we can now cover wider areas with the same size crane, helping us do more.'
In 2015, Fagioli India successfully executed four shutdown jobs for the steel industry, and a number of jobs for the oil and gas, power and civil industries. Of these, the most challenging was the replacement of the old blast furnace weighing 1,560 mt at JSW Bellary with a new one weighing 1,795 mt - the total shutdown period was 90 days in all. 'One lift involved elevating the 600-tonne blast furnace shell to a height of 42 m, for which we used a skidding system and a specially made elevator system with self-propelled trailers axle for internal transportation,' shares Vishal Tondwalkar, General Manager-Operations, Fagioli India, a heavy lifting services company.
WHY: Fagioli's lifting solution is most useful where a space constraint prevents the use of a crane to lift equipment and parts weighing in excess of 450 tonne. 'We use strand jacks with the capacity to lift 15-1,000 tonne and higher,' explains Tondwalkar. 'Strand jacks are cost effective (vis-a-vis cranes), safe, fast and enable quality lifts. Fagioli India maintains singular jacks with the capacity to lift up to 600 tonne and more by multiplying the number of jacks in operation. We also fly in specialised jacks from our parent company. The Indian industry is opening up to innovative lifting solutions, including the option of bringing-in specialists for one-off lifting requirements as opposed to self-executing jobs with rented equipment.'
Alimak, the vertical access solution company, has received two orders for premium and midmarket high-speed construction elevators, jointly costing about Rs 132 million, to be delivered by June 2016. The new high-speed hoists will support the construction of high-rise commercial projects in different parts of India.
WHY: Alimak's construction hoists are modular in design, and hence flexible in size, capacity and application; safe; reliable; quick to erect; and reasonable to maintain. 'We are seeing continued high interest in Alimak's vertical access solutions in India, an expanding market with a high activity level in the construction sector,' affirms Fredrik Betts, Executive Vice President and Head of Business Area Construction, Alimak.
A single SANY SPC250, a 25-tonne truck crane, is enabling the handling of steel coil at steel yards where previously two cranes used to perform such operations in tandem.
WHY: 'This is because it offers higher lifting capacity in its class, with rated loads at 75 per cent of maximum tipping loads' says Deepak Garg, CEO, Sany Heavy Industry India Pvt Ltd.
Change in the air; but why?
Demand is definitely shifting from 'cheap and quick' equipment to 'well-engineered and reliable' equipment offering high productivity as well as safety features, opines Tushar Mehendale, Managing Director, ElectroMech. 'Clients are spending more time reviewing product specifications and performance parameters and suppliers' credentials. They are aware that the consequential project losses of equipment failure are steep.'
'We used to be price-sensitive, but are now more conscious about reliability and quality of products,' says Sanjeev Gupta, General Manager-Plant & Machinery, CEC Int'l Corp India Pvt Ltd. 'Our experience suggests that it isn't enough to evaluate models from different brands on features and price. Machines could be comparable in terms of features, but the usage experience and product support could significantly vary. Poor product support can seriously affect site activities. It helps to buy a product, for which product support and spare parts from an OEM are available in the project vicinity.'
One perception is that multinational construction companies are leading demand-side changes.
'In aiming for high standards of quality and faster completion periods, to start revenue generation earlier and thereby lower costs for clients and deliver healthy profit margins to operators, multinational companies have raised the bar for equipment and technology,' says Sanjay Desai, Independent Consultant, Industrial, Construction and Mining Equipment and Commercial Vehicles.
Key market trends
A key market trend is growing consciousness about safety, including compliance with site safety requirements. To this end, crane users are shifting away from less safe articulated cranes, says Anil Bhatia, Head-Marketing & Sales, TIL Ltd. 'In an articulated crane, the centre of gravity shifts as soon as the crane is steered with load, making it prone to toppling, especially when it handles loads sidewise. The safe load indicator works only when the boom is straight,' he explains. 'Safer pick-and-carry cranes are also in demand.' TIL offers Pixef in this space, a 360o slew, pick-and-carry crane with a rigid chassis and the safety features of a mobile crane. Growing availability of pick-and-carry cranes of 15 tonne capacity, differentiated on safety and application, is increasing their rental rates, a timely adjustment Bhatia expects to become more pronounced in future.
Among crane hirers, 'a visible trend is that they are opting for new cranes instead of used cranes to ensure higher reliability and uptime,' shares Bhatia. To this, Garg adds, 'Crane rental companies are increasingly seeking value-added modern models, as rentals have not increased over the past few years.'
Near-term market opportunities
Growing demand augurs well for the cranes and hoists industry. A fairly large segment on its own, it is seeing appreciable growth rates.
'India boasts a huge market for regular hoists, pick-and-carry cranes and small capacity cranes, about 5,000-6,000 units annually,' says Ajay Kumar Somani, Director, Mobile Crane Division, Liebherr India Pvt Ltd. 'Demand for above 200 tonne, tyre-mounted mobile cranes and above 600 tonne crawler cranes doesn't exceed 20 cranes annually.'
'Cranes and lifting solutions are the fastest growing construction equipment segment with annual growth of over 30 per cent,' opines Desai. 'The power, roads, manufacturing and infrastructure sectors are generating most of the demand for cranes.'
Demand depends a lot on government policies and priorities, according to Somani. Based on that, opportunities in the immediate term, in his view, exist in the windmill industry (it needs 15 high-capacity crawler cranes) and in the metro industry (it needs five 300 tonne to 500 tonne mobile cranes).
'We see major growth in demand for 600 tonne and above crawler cranes, especially those required for wind turbine installations,' says Nevrekar.
At space-constrained metro construction sites across the country, where underfoot conditions are difficult, companies prefer rough terrain cranes for their compact size, pick-and-carry advantage, shorter turning radius and four-wheel drive over mobile truck cranes, says Bhatia. 'Demand for new all-terrain cranes of 300 tonne capacity and crawler cranes is increasing in the power sector,' he adds. 'Companies prefer truck cranes of 40 to 80 tonne capacity for material handling.'
The increased uptake of cranes for the windmill industry has resulted in some product evolution. For instance, Liebherr now offers two additional upgraded configurations of the LR 1600/2 crane, the SL10DFB and SL13DFB, with modified booms specially designed for higher wind mill hub heights. 'Lifting height needs have increased from 120 m to 135 m or even 150 m,' explains Somani.
'Buyers of high-capacity crawler cranes look for lower transport cost as this forms a major component in the crane's operating cost,' shares Garg. 'This has led to the development of cranes needing fewer trailers for transport.'
Populated, differentiated market
According to Desai, reliable machines from Indian manufacturers like Escorts, Ace, etc, dominate the lower-end of the market. 'Mid-range heavy weights for the breadth of choice they offer include Tadano, Kato, Groove, Bendini, Zoomlion, XCMG, etc, while mid-range market leaders like Terex, Leibherr, Hitachi-Sumitomo-Linkbelt, Demag, etc, cover the heavy lifting or wider operating radius end,' he adds.
Branding as a concept is gradually gaining as construction companies become more aware of technology.
'The focus of construction companies on completing projects in time by deploying highly productive machines has helped weed out fly-by-night equipment manufacturers who won orders by cutting prices and cutting corners,' says Mehendale.
All considered, genuine players offering quality products and buyers driven by price over technology are indeed positive signs.
Chinese cranes: Boon or bane?
Strict regulations against the import of used machines, introduced in 2012, led to the import and then local manufacturing or assembly-supply of Chinese cranes and hoists. 'Chinese cranes of capacity as low as 25-tonne-class, all terrain/truck-mounted/crawler cranes, up to 200-tonne-class, self-propelled, truck-mounted/crawler/hydraulic/mechanical cranes are priced more competitively than Indian models and at even half the price of multinational products,' says Sanjay Desai, Independent Consultant, Industrial, Construction and Mining Equipment and Commercial Vehicles. 'Chinese cranes made recently, say in the past five years, are also technologically superior to Indian models. Chinese manufacturers are competing in developed markets with CE/US approval-certified machines; this is why Indian companies have entered into JVs with Korean, Chinese, European and US brands.'
Using gantry cranes safely
Elevated metro jobs involve lifting large, heavy structures like girders weighing 60 tonne, of width 25-30 m. 'One way to achieve such lifts is to use cranes of 500-700 tonne capacity, which are not easily available. An alternative is to lift the material by using two gantry cranes, each of 350 tonne capacity, in tandem. We prefer the latter mode,' says Sanjeev Gupta, General Manager-Plant & Machinery, CEC Int'l Corp India Pvt Ltd. He elaborates upon some technology advancements in gantry cranes that are helping to make such tandem lifts safer and more economical:
Now two similar cranes can be operated in tandem to lift such heavy structures with the use of a radio remote.
Gantry cranes with an AC drive motor allow variation of speed. Slow speeds of LT motors are useful when girders are lifted and transported. An AC drive motor with lower RPM running requires lower starting current.
Soft starters are typically installed in bigger motors. This reduces the starting current and offers higher starting torque.
Anti-collision devices activate when two cranes come close to each other, tripping operations for safety.
Gantry cranes with cantilever extensions, can significantly extend the reach of the machine. A 30-m-span gantry with 6 m cantilever extensions on both ends can serve up to 42 m. Both the extension segments are detachable.
- Charu bahri
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