India's reliance on labour has seen a gradual decrease over the past few years owing to a considerable shortage of skilled workers. Such a scenario calls for an urgent need for mechanised processes. However, despite modernisation, India has fared poorly in the verall use of machines. With the construction industry expected to grow at 9 per cent per annum through 2018, the demand for construction equipment is rising. The growing number of housing and infrastructure projects with a more quality-conscious approach along with tight project timeframes beckons mechanisation. MONISHA RAO speaks to infrastructure players in the industry to analyse their demand for construction equipment for the year 2014.
Ajay Chitnis, Head-Plant and Machinery, IL and FS Engineering and Construction Company Ltd
´We are currently focussed on projects involving high-rise towers; hence, we require equipment such as tower cranes, passenger hoists, placed boom and internal cladding equipment. We are also looking to hiring earthmoving and other equipment. We propose to replace them with our own equipment in a phased manner. These include equipment like wheel loaders, backhoe loaders, excavators; we have been hiring these but now want to buy them. We are also currently working on road projects, tunnels, irrigation and power projects. However, with an inventory worth Rs 460 crore, we have sufficient equipment for these projects. Overall, there will be limited addition to this bank, but replacement is definite. Concrete equipment like batching plants and pumps are evergreen and required for almost all projects. We have always bought branded products for reliability and will continue to do so. Our preference when it comes to cranes is Liebherr or Potain because we believe in tested and proven equipment.´
Arjun Gupta, Whole Time Director, Technofab Engineering
´We traditionally carry out electromechanical works. The equipment we need is fairly routine for welding, lifting and weighing. In the past three to four years, we have ventured into the water sector and have had a significant increase in our construction equipment requirement. As we have undertaken a lot of projects abroad, it is more conducive to have our own construction equipment bank. We have bought excavators, batching plants and mixers. On our water-related jobs, we need equipment for civil works excavators, batching plants, bar cutting machines, vibrators and transit mixers. For piping, we require welding and grinding equipment. We look for value for money, and not all the equipment that we have bought is necessarily brand new. In recent months, we have bought equipment from places like the UK and Dubai, where there is unused equipment in first-class condition.´
Sanjay Londhe, Director & CEO-Projects, Ashoka Buildcon
´Currently, we are working on a road project 50 per cent complete worth Rs 2,000 crore, which links Kolkata and Kharagpur and the four-laning of the 88 km road project linking Chambalpur to Chhattisgarh on NH-6 that is almost 70 per cent complete. We have undertaken a new project in a JV with GVR in Chennai. Hence, for 2014, we require a milling machine, mobile plant, and hot-mix plant arranged with the recycled asphalt product. We also look forward to getting more excavators and rollers either on a hire or buying basis as our strategy has been to lease 50 per cent machinery and lease or buy the other half. Hitachi, JCB, Kobelco, Atlas Copco and Caterpiller are our main preferences.´
Neeraj Kapoor, General Manager (Plant) Engineering and Construction Division, Shapoorji Pallonji Company
´The equipment we always look forward to buy are concreting set-ups as we do not believe in RMC´s quality. Hence, concreting set-up is definitely on the list for 2014. We have also ventured into the industrial construction recently, which requires mechanical fabrication. We have equipment for welding purposes, and crawler and mobile cranes. However, we will focus on buying more in case we fall short. We generally buy equipment that can be used and repeated for various projects. However, in case of limited requirement, we hire subcontractors as buying does not lead to return on investment. Our criteria for buying construction equipment are based on the after-sales services that equipment manufacturers provide. Overall, with various projects in hand and the election at the Centre that is expected to provide a fillip to the infrastructure industry, the demand for equipment is definitely on the rise.´
RM Kulkarni, Vice President, J Kumar Infraprojects
´J Kumar Infraprojects has secured two big projects with the Delhi Metro. Hence, machinery related to underground metro projects will definitely be in demand. We have already purchased four tunnel boring machines and all machineries related to the construction of the underground metro. We only require machines like forklift, transit mixers and batching plants. However, we will buy specialised equipment only if the need arises. The company´s investment on construction equipment is around 10 per cent of the entire turnover on a year-on-year basis. We buy 99 per cent of our equipment and lease the remaining 1 per cent when the occasion arises. Schwing Stetter is preferred for batching plants, Tata for heavy-duty trucks, excavators from Terex and hydraulic mobile cranes from Escorts. We foresee a substantial improvement for the demand for construction equipment in 2014 because of the acute shortage of labour.
Madhav Nadkarni, CFO, Unity Infraprojects
´Unity Infra is currently executing around 69 projects across India while many among these are techno-complex projects like underground drinking water supply tunnel, high-rise buildings, rail track laying, canal, dam, road construction and micro-tunnelling. Analysing our order portfolio and the machinery requirement, we have almost all state-of-the-art fleet of equipment that includes a tunnel boring machine, trenchless machine for micro-tunnelling and high-capacity cranes. Our capex for the past two years has been around Rs 100 crore. Leasing of construction equipment can be an option for fast-track projects depending on location and distance from the equipment workshop to save transit time and logistic expenditure. Although we do not have any fixed or particular equipment manufacturer from whom we buy our equipment, our policy is simple: best buy from the best manufacturer.´
Sista Prasad, Executive Director and Business Unit Head, Pratibha Industries
´We currently have Rs 1,200 crore worth of construction equipment. We do not want to venture into major equipment capital investment unless the market scenario changes. We are currently working on a major project, the Delhi Metro, which requires the construction of underground metro stations and tunnelling. We are also working on the Yamnua Expressway project and water supply projects in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Goa. Thus, we require large tower cranes and transit millers for transporting concrete. These include mini cranes and excavators, and major earthwork and lifting equipment. We generally buy small earthwork excavators from JCB while we buy cranes from Zoomlion. However, given the current economic scenario, major construction companies are shying away from capital investment and are leasing equipment to avoid maintenance and operating issues.´
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