Demand for piling and foundation equipment has slowed, which makes 'now' a good time for vendors to identify gaps in the market and prepare for big comebacks when the tide turns, writes CHARU BAHRI.
Policy paralysis has made a major dent in demand for piling and foundation equipment. A sluggish mood prevails over this industry segment. But the silver lining is that slow times are making construction companies more conscious about productivity and demanding of latest technologies.
According to Sanjoy Chakrabarty,Managing Director, Soilmec Foundation Equipments Pvt Ltd, "Demand for piling rigs has been very low in the past year because no new Greenfield projects in the steel or power sectors have moved during this period. We've been predominantly catering to the Delhi Metro, which presents limited opportunities for new machines. We have had takers for special attachments like the diaphragm wall and jet grouting, which hook up to the SM-14, one of our latest rigs."
Meanwhile, Anil Mani Tripathi, Vice President-Projects, Grim Tech, believes that extension projects of the Delhi Metro present major opportunities to companies specialising in piling and foundation work, including jet grouting.
"Much like the overall construction industry, the foundation industry is going through a huge slowdown," says Uthpala Suvarna, Director-Sales and Service, Suretech Infrastructure Pvt Ltd. "Demand is shrinking, though we're seeing some demand for vibratory hammers.
We expect the market to revive after a year."
"Demand for foundation equipment is currently shrinking," concurs DV Brahme, Regional Manager, Mait India Foundation Equipment Pvt Ltd. "We expect this trend to continue for a few more months, in view of the upcoming monsoon in the western part of the country. Some positive change might happen if the government takes favourable steps for infrastructure development in the next couple of months. Then, the market may see some revival in demand by this August or September. Of course, with the passage of the financial bill and more positive steps expected from the government in view of the upcoming general elections, we hope to see an upward trend in demand for foundation equipment soon."
Notwithstanding the slowdown, a few salient trends are influencing demand for foundation equipment. "Structural designers are progressively opting for bigger diameter piles," observes Brahme. "In favourable site conditions where ample open space is available, opting for piles of bigger diameter reduces the number of piles required for getting the same load-bearing capacity and, therefore, cuts down construction time.As a result, the requirement for bigger rigs is on the rise."
As an example, the medium-sized HR180 MAIT rig with 200 kNm torque used to be the company's most popular machine-for drilling piles of maximum diameter 1,200 mm and 1,500 mm. Now, however, MAIT is getting more enquiries for bigger rigs such as the HR260 MAIT with 260 kNm torque, which is suitable for drilling piles of 2,000 mm and even larger diameters.
Clearly, slow times are driving Indian construction companies to reconsider their choice of piling equipment, most often in favour of more productive and cost-effective models.
Major piling equipment includes auger piling equipment, bored piling equipment, driven piling equipment, vibro flotation equipment and sheet piling equipment.
Of these, auger equipment can be hand-operated, in this case it is mainly used for small buildings and structures. It includes CFA with hydraulic drilling rig, which is suitable for bigger piles used in soil but of no use in rocky areas.Bored piling equipment includes the conventional slow speed method employing tripod and winch with bailer and chisel. Truck-mounted rigs with boring arrangement are more productive but of no use in hard soil or rock. Also, they can work only with piles of restricted lengths and diameters.
Modern bored piling equipment, hydraulic drilling rigs of different capacity with various attachments, is by far the most versatile method of piling. With this machine, larger diameter and long piles can be installed.
Simplex Infrastructures Ltd makes use of hydraulic drilling rigs from all the major suppliers - Bauer, IMT, MAIT, Soilmec and Casagrande - and is the single largest hydraulic drilling rig owner (more than 100). As well, it makes use of driven piling equipment, but not much the slow speed and low-efficiency 'A' frame rigs with drop hammer.
"Nowadays, crane-mounted guides suitable for power hammers like diesel hammers, hydraulic hammers and pneumatic hammers are preferred for their higher yield," says S Ghoshdastidar, Technical Director, Simplex Infrastructures Ltd. "A variant hammer for sheet piling is the vibro hammer used in conjunction with high-capacity crane. Vibro flotation and sand piling and stone column equipment are employed for some projects too. We select piling equipment for its quality and suitability for a particular work. Also, the availability of prompt service, support and spares bears upon our choice as do the ownership and operating costs." At CCCL, the most widely used models of piling equipment and foundation equipment are the Bauer BG25 and MAIT HR180 machines. According to G Boopathi, Head, Corporate Resource Planning, CCCL, "These popular models in general suit various types of soil conditions in India. But the need may vary as per project-specific requirements.Features to be evaluated while buying are the nominal torque, depth of kelly bar needed, maximum possible drilling diameter and depth, engine make, capacity and the operating weight of the machine."
With construction companies demanding better machines for specific purposes, vendors are enhancing their range of offerings. Suretech Infrastructure has recently taken on the dealership of BUMA CE, manufacturers of reverse circulation drillings rigs designed for drilling piles of bigger diameters and greater depths in rock. "Next, we are considering expanding our range of excavator attachments such as vibro rippers, augers, planers and demolition tools," adds Suvarna.
MAIT launched several new models at the recently held Bauma in Munich. The new compact rig model HR40 is easy to transport on a truck. It can drill bores of up to 900 mm diameter and up to 26 m depth. New low head room (LHR) versions of the HR180, HR130 and HR120 rigs make it very convenient to work under existing roofs, structures, flyovers or even under electrical lines, with no loss of capacity. These rigs can drill bores of large diameter owing to the high torque available in their rotary.
Also, opportunities exist to fill in gaps identified by buyers. According to Ghoshdastidar, "The Indian market is well served by a variety of high-quality modern piling equipment. Gaps in the market include hydraulic drilling rigs for very large diameter and very deep piles and DTH-attached hydraulic drilling rigs suitable for boring into very hard rock."
"Components like kelly bar terminal joints and hydraulic pumps are long lead items and not immediately available," adds Boopathi. "Their supply could be improved."
Evidently, greater choice in piling equipment marks a step forward in the state of development of the construction industry.
Maximise your yield from piling equipment
G Boopathi, Head, Corporate Resource Planning, CCCL, shares a few tips to maximise yield from piling equipment:
Select equipment and tools (augers) that suit soil conditions.
Recondition tools, replace worn-out teeth, check the positioning of the angle of teeth and the hard facing of tools, etc.
Prioritise the upkeep of equipment; conduct periodical maintenance of the kelly bar and its locking system, hydraulics and engine, etc.
Deploy skilled and trained operators.
Free work space by periodically clearing the bored soil near the equipment.
Plan other supportive works well to minimise equipment idling time.
Capsule case: Buyer prioritises after-sales support
Product: Soilmec SR-60 series hydraulic drilling rig and Soilmec SM-14 jet grouting machine
User: Grim Tech
Application: Construction of Delhi Metro extensions
Reason for choice: "Spares for Soilmec machines are easily available and the company provides good after-sales services and support," says Anil Mani Tripathi, Vice President-Projects, Grim Tech. "In my opinion, their technology teams are quicker to respond than those of other comparable companies. This can save a lot of time in the eventuality of a breakdown, which makes a world of difference when you are executing projects under tight schedules. Our experience also shows that these machines are well suited to the kind of soil found in Delhi, the project site."
Capsule case: Buyer prioritises productivity and versatility
Product: MAIT rig fitted with hydraulic diaphragm wall grabs
User: Jindal Infrastructure Pvt Ltd
Application: Construction of underground stations for Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) projects
Reason for choice: "We are using MAIT HR 180 rig in diaphragm wall version fitted with 800 mm jaws for depth of 25 m for the Delhi Metro project at the ISBT (Kashmere gate) job site," says Rajesh Agarwal, Director, Jindal Infrastructure Pvt Ltd. "MAIT rigs are versatile equipment. Changing from piling version to diaphragm wall and vice versa is very easy; it can be done at the job site in four to five hours. With this flexibility, we can execute bored piles as well as diaphragm walls without deploying multiple equipment at one job site. Adding MAIT diaphragm wall rigs to our fleet of equipment has made us comprehensive solution providers in the foundation engineering field. Nowadays, our main thrust is the Delhi Metro where we are executing foundations for many major construction companies." MAIT rig-mounted hydraulic diaphragm wall grabs can help maintain verticality accurately, which is critical for project execution. More precise control over the equipment and grab helps to enhance productivity. Design features of the diaphragm wall grabs allow the machine to be operated in less space than lattice boom-mounted grabnd consume less concrete than rope-suspended grabs (by eliminating over cutting).
Product: BUMA reverse circulation drilling rigs
Vendor: Suretech Infrastructure Pvt Ltd
User: ITD Cementation India Ltd
Application: Drilling 1.5-m diameter piles up to depths of 43 m in Tuna Port, Kandla Reason for choice: "Reverse circulation drillings rigs make the best choice of machine for drilling piles of larger diameters up to greater depths in rock," says Jayanta Basu, Vice President, ITD Cementation India Ltd. "While these machines are new to India, they are commonly used globally for definite advantages. They are big time savers and assure smooth outcomes. Progressive construction companies are adopting the best technologies."
Capsule case: Buyer prioritises productivity and versatility
Product: Big diameter Piles of 2,500 mm in hard rock
Equipment: Bauer BG 36 PilingRig with Drill Axis Extension & Bauer Tools
User: L & T Geostructure, Chennai
Application: CMRL- Mannadi Station jobsite, Chennai
Reason for choice: Initiative was taken up by L&T Geostructure technology department with necessary feedback and support from Bauer technical team. The ground condition was mainly 29 m of hard soil layer followed by Grade III and Grade II rock with 89-104 MPa compressive strength. Project scope included 2,500 mm dia piles with 4 m rock socketing in Grade II rock. The soil drilling was done using 2,500 dia Bauer Soil Augur and Soil Bucket. Thereafter, drilling in rock of Grade II and Grade III was done by perforating rock socketing area with Bauer made rock auger in steps. Core barrel was used to cut the peripheral annular ring followed by cross cutter to crush the leftover pieces. Thereafter, Bauer Rock bucket was used for cleaning the pile. Finally, concreting of plunge column was successfully completed. Bauer Piling Rigs along with necessary Bauer tools performed excellently for their robust rock drilling capabilities, speed and dependability.
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