Feature

Size, Safety, Versatility: The buzzwords in the crane market

August 2019
Suppliers are innovating to cater to customers’ demand for bigger, safer and more versatile cranes.

Mobile cranes in India have come a long way since being pioneered by Escorts about 40 years ago. 
Ajay Mandahr, CEO, Escorts Construction Equipment, reminisces that Escorts was the first to offer the Hydra range of cranes, which are capable of both lifting and carrying a load as against cranes that just lift and do not carry, and later introduced the Hi-PNC (new generation pick-‘n’-carry) crane. On the back of the great success of pick-‘n’-carry cranes, Escorts soon evolved into a leading player of mobile cranes globally.
Today, pick-‘n’-carry cranes and truck cranes are typically considered to make up the mobile cranes segment, which has been buoyant in the past two years, according to Pradeep Sharma, President, Action Construction Equipment. 
In the last year alone, he notes that mobile crane sales crossed the 11,000 unit mark, the highest ever in terms of volume. Sharma expects the demand for mobile cranes to touch all-time highs in coming years.
Mandahr reckons the annual demand for mobile cranes exceeds 10,000 units and expects this class to grow at a CAGR of 15-18 per cent over the next five to six years. According to him, infrastructure development, spanning roads, railways, etc, is the major driver 
of the market. “Mobile cranes also find use in the defence, industrial, housing and port-handling sectors. In future, we expect the housing sector to emerge as the next big driver to further propel this segment.”
Urban infrastructure such as metro projects across Tier-I and Tier-II cities; freight corridor, airport expansion and modernisation; Swachh Bharat and smart city projects; elevated roads, advanced rail networks and the upcoming bullet train project; infrastructure development including roads (Bharatmala), flyovers and bridges; and refinery expansion are driving the demand for mobile cranes, says Sharma.

Pick-‘n’-carry cranes
Essentially, India’s biggest crane subsegment is the pick-‘n’-carry category – according to Sharma, it represents almost 
90 per cent of the mobile crane industry. 
Anil Bhatia, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, TIL, estimates the annual demand for pick-‘n’-carry cranes of 12 tonne to 25 tonne to vary between 7,000 and 
7,500 units. The low cost of acquisition and high return from investment is what makes this the most popular subsegment, he explains, while acknowledging that the operational safety of these cranes is a concern.
While there are quite a few strong players in this segment, the pick-‘n’-carry crane from TIL stands apart for matching the safety level of a truck crane and all-terrain crane, according to Bhatia. 
“Our pick-‘n’-carry crane is a 360 slew crane.” By the end of 2019, TIL plans to launch a new pick-‘n’-carry crane, featuring new patented technology, to be produced in its factories in Kolkata and Kharagpur.
Escorts has a plant solely for the production of its pick-‘n’-carry product with a maximum annual capacity of 8,000 units.
Recently, ACE launched three NextGen multiactivity pick-‘n’-carry cranes – the NX360° slew cum pick-‘n’-carry (20-tonne) crane, the NXT 15-tonne pick-‘n’-carry crane combined with a telehandler and the NXP 15-tonne pick-‘n’-carry crane cum aerial work platform, which is hydraulically operated from the top.

Truck cranes
“India annually absorbs about 220-230 used and new truck cranes of 25 tonne to 80 tonne capacity,” observes Bhatia. “Truck cranes of capacity over 100 tonne are considered too long and un-manoeuvrable on Indian roads.” 
He lists irrigation, cement plants, metro, rail, flyovers and refinery projects among the leading sectors where truck cranes are deployed. TIL is a leading manufacturer of truck cranes in India.
Innovation is rife in the truck crane segment.
Today, Escorts offers mobile cranes of capacity 8 tonne to 55 tonne and this portfolio is expanding based on the changing requirements of customers. For instance, Escorts has entered into a JV with Tadano to launch truck cranes of capacity 60-80 tonne, shares Mandahr. “For this purpose, last year, we invested `70-100 million in de-bottlenecking operations, creating a new fabrication shop and introducing plasma or laser cutting machines in the second Escorts plant.” To make the machines more versatile, broaden their application base and enhance value to customers, the company offers crane hooks, forks and man baskets on its entire range of mobile cranes, he adds.
“We propose to expand our truck crane offering from models of capacity up to 50 tonne to 80 tonne and 130 tonne, to cater to 80 per cent of that market,” says Sharma. “We have launched a 45-tonne and 55-tonne truck crane on a dedicated chassis concept for the market. We also offer knuckle boom cranes and straight boom cranes mounted on truck chassis that are sold in India for assorted handling and lighter applications.”

All-terrain cranes
The market for all-terrain cranes in India is a niche one; typically, barely 12-15 new units from Germany, the US or Chinese manufacturers are sold annually, observes Bhatia. TIL markets the Grove all-terrain crane in the 
100 tonne to 450 tonne range. 
However, last year, demand for all-terrain cranes suddenly jumped to 20+ new units. And this year, Bhatia expects the demand to more than double with hirers placing most of the orders. 
“Mostly rental companies are buying all-terrain cranes,” agrees Andreas Cremer, Global Product Director for All-Terrain Cranes, Manitowoc. At bauma 2019, Manitowoc launched an impressive new unit in the five-axle category and two new three-axle models. 
The new GMK5250XL-1 includes a 78.5-m boom, the longest in the five-axle category. It appeared alongside the three-axle 
GMK3050-2 and GMK3060L, both making their first public appearance. All these models are manufactured in Europe but available in India. At the launch, Cremer said the new models underline the company’s ongoing commitment to building cranes that offer outstanding return on investment. “We believe in developing cranes our customers can use in a wider variety of projects for better return on investment,” 
he says.
Indeed, versatility is a key concern of crane rental companies for making the product appealing to a wider segment of users.
“An interesting feature of the demand for all-terrain cranes in India is that it is gradually veering from used models towards new machines, in view of end-users being more conscious of safety,” says Bhatia. “This is significant in view of the high ticket size of each crane, roughly over 1 million Euro.” He identifies the railway, flyover, metro, refinery, windmill and, in future, the bullet train project as key sectors driving this demand.
The AC45, a small all-terrain crane, also called a city crane for offering the most compact dimensions in its class, and the all-terrain AC300-6 are some newer crane models launched by Terex Cranes in India.

Rough-terrain cranes
“India demands 50-70 rough-terrain cranes of 20 tonne to 80 tonne annually, with the niche market populated by PSU companies and institutional buyers,” says Bhatia. “In cities like Delhi and Mumbai, rough-terrain cranes are being used for metro projects of long duration (12-18 months); being 4×4×4 drives makes 
them convenient to work with in tight spaces.”
Escorts offers rough-terrain cranes of 20-40 tonne capacity. Mandahr identifies the petrochemical, fertiliser, refinery, mines, seaport, power plant and defence sectors as key users.
ACE Cranes is planning to enter the rough-terrain crane segment by the end of 2019.

Crawler cranes
“In India, Terex Cranes offers all-terrain cranes and crawler cranes manufactured in Germany,” says Saeesh Nevrekar, Director, Sales and Service, Terex Cranes. “Investment in infrastructure spending has increased demand for cranes. Road, bridge, airport, metro, refinery, wind energy, steel and cement plant and fertiliser plant projects are fuelling demand for our cranes. Most of our customers are reporting 80-90 per cent capacity utilisation of their fleets.” The lattice boom crawler CC2800-2 is a newer crane model in India, he adds.
ACE offers crawler cranes up to 75 tonne capacity and will soon extend this to cranes of up to 160 tonne capacity, according to Sharma.

Tower cranes
ACE’s portfolio of tower cranes starts from 1.6-tonne capacity models to cranes of 25-tonne capacity, with a maximum lifting height of 300 m and a working radius of up to 70 m. This includes fixed tower cranes, travelling tower cranes, inner climbing tower cranes, etc.
ACE tower cranes are typically used for civil construction and erection jobs, says Sharma. Currently, he identifies high-rise projects in metros as well as in Tier-II cities as driving demand for tower cranes. In future, larger-capacity tower cranes will also witness demand from power projects, cement plants, etc.