The Future is Digital
VG SAKTHIKUMAR explains how new-age technologies can facilitate the growth of the construction equipment industry.
In recent research by McKinsey, the construction industry was compared to key industries, most of whom are already on track when it comes to AI adoption.
While all of them are projected to increase spending on new-age technologies at a faster pace over the next three years, adoption of AI solutions remains quite low in the construction industry. While others have taken the first steps in benefitting from digitisation and using it as a competitive advantage, that is not the case with the construction sector.
VG SAKTHIKUMAR explains how new-age technologies can facilitate the growth of the construction equipment industry.In recent research by McKinsey, the construction industry was compared to key industries, most of whom are already on track when it comes to AI adoption. While all of them are projected to increase spending on new-age technologies at a faster pace over the next three years, adoption of AI solutions remains quite low in the construction industry. While others have taken the first steps in benefitting from digitisation and using it as a competitive advantage, that is not the case with the construction sector. Thus, providing advanced technologies through construction equipment has the potential to transform the concrete equipment manufacturing industry. The landscape for the Indian construction equipment market has been rather promising, with a major upswing since 2015 and sales growing by 24 per cent and crossing the 90,000 unit sales milestone for FY2017-18. However, this figure dropped down to 70,000 units for 2018-2019. Despite this upheaval, there is every reason to hope that the figure will soon get back to the initial growth trajectory. This has been greatly propelled by the current Government’s focus on infrastructure development. India is thus at the threshold of becoming one of the fastest infrastructure developing countries in the world with almost 27 km of highways being developed on a daily basis across the country. Given this great growth opportunity in the construction industry, deploying smart construction equipment would increase demand, apart from assuring resources for the future. Current challenges in the construction industry Lack of intelligence: While the retail supply chain and pharma companies have greatly utilised AI to reduce manufacturing downtime and oversupply and increase predictability of shipments, the construction industry is yet to follow suit, despite the promise that deploying natural language processing and robotics holds.Limited resources and financial limitation in R&D are another challenge. AI cannot flourish without sustainable digitisation. Therefore, one should understand what other industries are using AI for and consider if those applications can be translated to the construction industry too. Inventory challenges: Managing inventory is an existing challenge in the construction industry. This is because most customers do not plan their requirement in advance owing to many reasons, such as the Government’s project sanctions, delay in project completion, money inflow, etc. The lead time required for manufacturing equipment is more and, hence, you need a committed number of workforce. In addition, a sudden decrease in the market requirement would increase inventory at the manufacturer’s and supplier’s factories. For this reason, companies need to continuously manufacture equipment anticipating customer orders with knowledge of upcoming projects. Unplanned incidents and accidents: Unplanned incidents and onsite accidents are still a challenge in the present scenario but techno industries are working towards providing a safe work environment zone. For instance, innovations like digital fencing systems to alert upon the entry of unauthorised personnelat hazardous or dangerous work zones through a face recognition system are now being taken up for research. Digitising construction equipment to counter these challengesSafety: AI engines are beginning to emerge in the industry. Nowadays, a lot of unmanned equipment is being put into operation considering safety. Even a lot of heavy-duty equipment, like truck-mounted concrete boom pumps, is provided with radio remote to operate from a safe distance.Customer service: Digitisation has brought about a wide change in the customer service or support area. This has helped in tracking equipment with service logs, which helps provide proactive and easy service maintenance. For instance, we can track details like output of the plant, the number of hours put in operation per day, etc, from our factory though remote monitoring software.100 per cent uptime: There aresolutions to track the lifecycle of critical components and systems that trigger when service is due. The system automatically reminds you of the maintenance schedule when key components are overused. This, in turn, plays a vital role in reducing the machine’s downtime.Reduces inventory cost: Product developments are a continuous process with the modular manufacturing concept. We are following the theory of constraints (TOC) concept to manage our inventory to avoid dumping of components. It also gives a clearer picture for purchasing supplies to use resources effectively and helps us manage zero/excess stock. The concept also facilitates yard, space and spares management.Vehicle maintenance: The equipment process is monitored round the clock. The components received from vendors and usage in production are integrated with the ERP along with the orders flow with a forecast of the required material for production, helping plan the just in time (JIT) inventory. The equipment is not only tracked to evaluate the process but trace performance and efficiency, which shows consumption of oil and fuel with advanced sensors. The data is send to the Cloud at regular intervals.The answer is digitisation The data is send to the Cloud at regular intervalsThe answer is digitisation Considering the challenges of the construction industry, increasing digitisation allows us to deploy construction machines more efficiently, thus saving money and energy. Digitising will also provide equipment manufacturers more value in their attempts to make the construction site smarter. Given that India is at the threshold of major growth, it is imperative that the country analyse and be conscious of the niche demands in the space. The need of the hour is to be more cognisant of our choice of construction equipment–digitisation could be the answer to that. Currently, Schwing Stetter India (SSI) is one of the first and only players to deploy advanced solutions like virtual reality (VR)-based technology as part of its operator training course. In the past, trainees had to undergo rigorous manual training over two months to learn how to operate the machine and maintain it. This duration has now been reduced to just two weeks, thereby saving on time and cost. SSI’s VR-based technology makes them conversant and comfortable in controlled conditions. Also, by employing this innovation, the customers and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) eliminate spending on any safety challenges by the operator.The current age of automation will be driven by unprecedented technological advances. As technology is gradually transforming various industries, the Indian manufacturing industry is also taking great strides in this regard. The Government’s ‘Make in India’ and ‘Vocal for Local’ initiatives will do much to place India on the world map as a manufacturing hub and give global recognition to the Indian economy. Technologies like AI and VR will greatly benefit the job market and enable reskilling of employees. Other innovations like 3D printing, robotics, drones, self-driving trucks and Internet of Things (IoT) technology are boosting the industry like never before. Industry and the Government must therefore address these challenges, ranging from inadequate infrastructure and domestic supply chain and logistics, to the high cost of doing business and R&D efforts. .ABOUT THE AUTHOR: VG Sakthikumar, Managing Director, Schwing Stetter India Pvt Ltd, has been associated with the company since its inception in India in 1998. He has over two decades of experience in the ready-mix concrete business. He took charge as chief operating officer in 2006 and has since contributed significantly to building the brand. Having consolidated Schwing Stetter’s position in India, he now also handles the SAARC and ASEAN nations from India. Further, he is Convener of the Membership Panel of the Indian Construction Equipment Manufactures’ Association (ICEMA) and Chairman of the Mechanisation Committee of the Builders’ Association of India (BAI).