RMC continues to trace a growth curve as players carve out new markets.
India manufactures around 35-40 million cu m of concrete annually from around 1,000 ready-mix concrete (RMC) facilities spread across the country, according to the Building Materials & Technology Promotion Council.Overall, the RMC industry has shown signs of recovery this past year.
¨Demand for RMC has been on a slow recovery path for 12 months, although markets down south are doing better,¨ says Anil Banchhor, Chief Executive, ACC Concrete Business. ¨Market volumes are up 4-9 per cent in different cities with an average growth of 6 per cent over last year. Growth in 2016 is expected to be 8-10 per cent.¨
Real-estate accounts for about 76 per cent of total RMC consumption. Large real-estate developers, especially, prefer RMC over traditional batched concrete. ¨We pour RMC on all our project sites for improved quality of concrete and to save time, and in turn to gain cost benefits on large pours,¨ says Ashok Kapoor, Director-Operations, Okamura Homes Pvt Ltd.
How large are large pours?
¨We are pouring 4,500 cu m on an average per month at the project site, Revanta,¨ responds Kapoor. ¨Its 3-m-deep raft foundation alone necessitated 13,500 cu m of RMC, which we accomplished using both mobile concrete pumps and static concrete pumps.¨
So far, infrastructure and industry account for only 20 per cent of total RMC consumption. But takers are growing as the advantages become better known. ¨It is advisable to use RMC - whether captive or commercially operated - to ensure quality, avoid logistic problems and increase mechanisation for safe industry practices at the construction site,¨ says Pankaj Agarwal, President-EPC, GVK.
¨Buying RMC makes sense because it reduces man hours on site and operating costs,¨ opines Mahesh Gawade, General Manager, P&M, Capacite Infraprojects Ltd. ¨It eliminates the setup cost for own production of concrete. As RMC units are system-operated and can maintain strict control on recipes, RMC is of better quality than concrete made by mixers. Also, most RMC suppliers can supply various grades of concrete at a short notice.¨
¨In 2016, major demand is expected to come from large real-estate and infra projects across India that will depend on the use of RMX to be completed on time,¨ says Banchhor. Takers are also growing for concrete blocks and plants making these, ¨to save about 15-18 per cent of their cost,¨ estimates Ashwani Tandon, Sales Manager, Masa Concrete Plants India Pvt Ltd.
Traditional and emerging markets
Demand for RMC and concrete blocks is not spread equally across the country. ¨Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru are the leading markets for RMC because of the relatively higher concentration of urban areas, and they are expected to continue to lead,¨ says Banchhor.¨Southern and western India are more accepting of better construction technologies like RMC and concrete blocks,¨ says Tandon. ¨Awareness and demand in eastern India are practically nil while northern India is too price-conscious and focused on cost-cutting.¨ Consequently, demand for allied concreting equipment also varies and is higher where players recognise their benefits.¨Tower cranes, concrete pumps and placer booms ensure fast and safe RMC pours, and minimise the need for manual labour,¨ says Kapoor. ¨Demand for pumps is higher in southern and western India because demand for RMC is higher in those geographies,¨ agrees Wilfried Theissen, Managing Director, Putzmeister Concrete Machines Pvt Ltd. Still, he feels the brightest opportunity for concreting equipment is various infrastructure projects.
Tier-II cities constitute an emerging market for RMC and concrete block machines. ¨Urban infrastructure in metros like Delhi and Mumbai will continue to be attractive markets; however demand in cities like Indore, Bhopal, Kochi, Guwahati and Nagpur is increasing,¨ says Frederic Guimbal, Managing Director-RMX, Lafarge India. ¨Builders in Tier-II cities are turning to ACC RMX to achieve high-quality construction, as they are realising that the cost differential vis-a-vis conventional concrete is virtually zero,¨ says Banchhor. ¨We have served such builders in Raipur, Bhubaneswar, Mangaluru, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Surat.¨
¨Demand for concrete block machines is growing in Tier-II cities,¨ says Tandon.
Demand for eco-friendly products is expected to spur the next wave of growth in the RMC sector.
ACC is big on R&D, which is driven by the growing number of consumers who are more aware about the lifecycle costs of products and want to use greener and more sustainable products. ¨This encourages us to come up with environment-friendly products, products customised for specific applications, value-added solutions and allied concrete products,¨ says Banchhor. ¨Our central R&D facility in Thane and regional ones in Greater Noida, Kolakata, Bengaluru and Mohali are kept busy.¨
Value-added solutions from ACC launched last year include Imprintcrete (decorative concrete), Permecrete (eco-friendly concrete useful for water conservation) and Thermocrete (concrete for thermal insulation). New allied concrete products include Fixotile (a highly adhesive mortar for quick renovations), Accoplast (dry plastering mortar and jointing mortar), Acconex (a silent demolishing agent) and Accoproof (waterproofing admixture).
All these innovative value-added solutions are on display at a newly inaugurated Centre of Excellence. Green also defines consumers´ preference for concrete equipment. ¨Customers are more conscious of machine economics, in terms of features that reduce operating costs, and the advantages of automation and safety features,¨ says Theissen. ¨They are also asking for machines that create less noise and feature better ergonomics and user-friendly features.¨
To cater to this growing need, Putzmeister has introduced new generations of both stationary and boom pumps. The new BSA 1405D eSmart pump comes with advanced safety features, a high-tech human machine interface control panel and an ergonic graphic display, which allows the operator to determine the real-time operating status of the machine and diagnose faults. It uses just 70 litre of hydraulic oil, that´s almost five times less than equivalent machines, in a system designed to cut the restrictions in hydraulic oil flow and the resulting heat generation, to cut maintenance costs. Also, the oil lasts for 500 pumping hours or 1,500-2,000 engine hours.
The new boom pump M36-4 NG is built of aluminium and high-grade lightweight steel to weigh over 2 tonne less than other models. Its hydraulic tank capacity of just 275 litre is 30 per cent smaller than competitor machines, which makes it more economical to run. Also, all Putzmeister boom pumps feature ´Big Mouth´ delivery cylinders of 230 mm diameter, which makes them 32 per cent more efficient in filling the pipeline than pumps with cylinder of 200 mm diameter. Now, Putzmeister is gearing up for the launch of the ultimate batching plants.
Offering a countrywide sales and service network is passT. Most pan-India players are going the extra mile to differentiate themselves.
¨To stand out in the market, we also offer customers competent advice, customised concepts and training on all aspects of concreting technology with special emphasis on the advantages of mechanisation and automation,¨ says Theissen. Some overseas RMC vendors in India are capitalising on the experience they have gained on the ground to come up with localised solutions.
Lafarge India has collaborated with the Construction Development Laboratory, Lafarge´s R&D centre in India, to develop InstaMix ready-to-use bagged concrete, which is delivered to job sites. InstaMix can be used for columns, slabs, roofs, floors, screeds, plastering, brick laying and even small repairs. It is easy to use, helps minimise waste, speeds up construction and ensures outcomes of consistent quality.
Also, in all the 40 cities in India
where it is present, Lafarge offers customised construction solutions for residential and commercial buildings, roads and metros. ¨We have offered unique solutions to Lodha World One in Mumbai and the Delhi and Jaipur metro projects,¨ says Guimbal.
Indigenous vs. overseas
With so many players in the market, it is not surprising to hear Tandon say, ¨Concrete block machines is a very disparate market in India. On the one hand, you have Indian companies with a pan-India network. On the other hand, you have European and American companies.¨
The price differential between Indian and overseas machines in the concrete block making segment is enormous. ¨Overseas machines can easily cost up to 20 times the cost of domestic machines because they offer a completely different configuration, automation and different set of parameters. So, only very discerning quality-conscious customers who think of the long term go in for the models we offer,¨ shares Tandon. Despite this huge cost differential, Masa Concrete Plants India has recently switched its supply source from China to Germany. ¨Naturally, this has increased the cost of the plant somewhat, but it has improved the quality of after sales and support we offer,¨ he adds. Growing takers for quality machines and services is surely a good sign.
Miles to go
Consumers offer their wishlist
Faster delivery: ¨RMC delivery delays are a major issue as concrete has a use-by time associated with it,¨ says Mahesh Gawade, General Manager, P&M, Capacite Infraprojects Ltd. ¨Using RMC in India is associated with transportation delays owing to bad road conditions and traffic, particularly in urban areas,¨ says Pankaj Agarwal, President-EPC, GVK. ¨Delays compromise the quality and workability of concrete.¨ And Ashok Kapoor, Director-Operations, Okamura Homes Pvt Ltd, says, ¨RMC availability is an issue. It requires a lot of scheduling. Any delay causes major problems at site.¨
More plants nearer sites: ¨Sometimes, it is hard to find a nearby RMC plant,¨ says Kapoor. ¨We maintain high standards of RMC workability and consistency to ensure quality outcomes. Managing these aspects is even harder when the RMC plant is located far from site.¨ To tide over these challenges, Raheja maintains a concrete batching plant of a capacity of 60 cu m per hour on site. ¨This gives us the option of producing quality concrete supply round the clock and reduces our dependence on an external concrete supplier,¨ adds Kapoor.
Options for the delivery of smaller quantities: ¨RMC does not work out when only limited quantity of concrete is needed,¨ says Gawade. ¨It is more expensive than site-produced concrete.¨
Better supply: ¨Using multiple grade of concrete in the same structure leads to practical challenges and non-optimal usage of transit mixers,¨ says Agarwal.
Better services from RMC vendors: ¨Some RMC vendors in India don´t adequately support the pouring and/or placement of concrete with equipment like concrete pumps as is the practice overseas,¨ says Agarwal.
More responsible RMC vendors: “Leakages of concrete from the transit mixers on the public roads spoils the road,” says Agarwal. “This is generally not addressed by commercial RMC operators.”
The future shape of the concrete industry
A Chennai-based construction firm engaged in infrastructure projects wanted to build a complex structure in concrete.
The structure was the fatade of a memorial, a replica of the two-leaf emblem. Two 15.9 m high columns, serving as the entrance, were built with reinforced cement concrete (RCC). Then, the firm built a 6 m high beam that would serve as the stem of the elevated emblem. The leaf structure, with a span of 10.2 m for each leaf, was to be a metre higher than the nearby towering columns.
To tide over the challenge of constructing the complex architectural shape, the firm contacted ACC. ACC proposed the use of ACC Flowcrete, a solution that can be implemented fast and is flexible enough for complex shapes. ACC Flowcrete makes a flowable concrete, which is easy to handle and yields a good surface finish. It also needs minimal manual intervention for placement.
Nazrul Tirtha, an iconic cultural and educational landmark in Kolkata, features an 8.5 m high inscribed block of concrete over the main gate, elevated on stilts. It was made of 754 cu m of Lafarge AgiliaÖ Vertical delivered over seven months. ¨Consistency of concrete was a key requirement for providing superior performance to the museum´s exterior facade,¨ says Frederic Guimbal, Managing Director-RMX, Lafarge India. ¨In addition, the execution of the embossing was challenging because Bengali alphabets trace curved lines and sharp, tapered edges.¨