If there is a signal from the government for continuous development in the form of announcement of infrastructure projects, then equipment manufacturers will not shy away from further investments. A lot of manufacturers have come in, invested and are now waiting for such big projects to take off.
AM Muralidharan, Managing Director, Volvo India
Ajay Kumar Somani, DirectorùMobile Crane Division, Liebherr India
Ajay Shankar, Country Manager for India, Caterpillar
Anand Sundaresan, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Schwing Stetter India
Anuj Dayal, Executive Director, Corporate Communications, DMRC
Vipin Sondhi, Managing Director & CEO, JCB India
How has the equipment market for urban infrastructure fared in the past five years? What are the factors governing the movement?
When we talk about the past five years, we have faced two downturns, one in 2009 and the other that we are facing today. After the downturn of 2009, India was the only country to have bounced back in the very next year and we could see all round development.
Definitely in the last five years, metro and monorail projects, and high rise constructions have increased in urban areas like NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai, Jaipur etc, and most of our equipment are being used in such projects. These projects are time-bound and speed of construction is the key factor. Besides, when you work in urban areas, space manage¡ment and noise pollution are other critical aspects. The time window available for contractors to bring concrete from central plant is very small considering the traffic. Therefore, reliable high performance machinery supported with excellent service at the site is what the customers expect.
The equipment market for urban infrastructure has undergone tremendous change in the last five years. The growing awareness about the advantage of the latest state-of-the-art technology issues have encouraged many equipment manufactures to establish their base in India and today we have many equipment manufacturers who have their production facility as well as marketing and service base within our own country. Some of the leading Indian manufacturers have also adapted themselves to this changed scenario and have come forward to indigenise many of these machinery and technologies.
We have seen a sharp upsurge in the demand for construction equipment for urban infrastructure development in the past few years though the last 8-24 months has seen a slow down. Up-gradation and development of urban infrastructure and urban services is the need of the hour. Given the current level of infrastructure in urban India, we still have a long way to go to meet the demand of the existing urban population.
In India, a mix of old technology using more manpower and new technology with latest machines still exists. In overseas, the use of manpower is reduced and things are more mechanised. The emphasis on quality and timely completion of project has gone up but not to international level. The biggest reason is a very old orthodox system of selecting vendors. The technical parameters are very few and any one meeting the same qualifies technically. Then, it is only price that matters.
We have come a long way in the past five years in terms of connectivity in city limits. We have metros come in, many airports already completed and some are in the completion stage. We have seen a lot of elevated roads and toll roads operational these years. So the infrastructure sector has seen phenomenal growth especially in the last 2-3 years. In the housing sector, the residential construction is also growing, but only in big cities. We cannot keep on developing only the 5-6 big cities in India, but we need to develop more new cities and construct connectivity between the new cities and the existing big ones. Currently, projects are not happening at the desired pace due to the unstable market conditions. We are waiting for the market to be stable, more infrastructure projects to be happen and more equipment be utilised in those projects.
As a market for equipment and related technology, where does urban infrastructure stand in relation to other infrastructure sectors?
Awareness about the type of equipment is very important for faster development of urban infrastructure. The policy makers, developers and contractors working for urban infrastructure development should know about the latest technologies available so that they can choose the right equipment accordingly for cost effectiveness and faster completion of the projects. They should attend seminars, conferences and exhibitions of these products so that they will get an overview of the latest technological developments.
To develop and maintain sustainable cities, urban infrastructure development is of prime importance. Municipal services and infrastructure water, sewerage, drains, solid waste, roads, electricity, and telecommunications are essential to maintain efficient and healthy cities. Under the JNNURM, various projects worth Rs 2,428 crore have been executed in 34 cities across India. However, a lot of work still needs to be done under the ambit of JNNURM to ensure upgradation of existing infrastructure in Indian cities.
We need more specialised equipment for urban infrastructure development, because we always challen¡ged with the space for development of infrastructure. We are going towards more underground metros and such projects than elevated ones. So specialised equi¡pment that are suitable for the development of such projects are needed.
What innovative technologies are needed specially for building urban infrastructure?
The latest advancements in technology which help deliver timely and effective solutions to the customer at the right place and at the right time are required for building urban infrastructure.
For example, Caterpillar machines are equipped with a cellular-based Product Link. This intuitive user interface provides customers a mobile optimised web application, the ability to schedule automated delivery of reports, and remote access to on-board payload system information. The mobile application is available on iOS, BlackBerry, Android/Chrome and Windows operating systems.
Most of the infrastructure projects are time-bound. The projects have to be completed on time and should be cost-effective. In metro rail, there are elevated projects as well as underground projects. Now it is a big challenge to carry out these projects without disturbing the normal urban traffic. Tunnel boring machines with innovative techno¡logies are being used to complete such underground projects, without disturbing the normal day-to-day activities.
We are seeing major technological reforms in the industry as it not only ensures better productivity, but also ensures that the work is completed in a much safer manner. Safety has always been a critical component in the construction equipment industry.
Space constraints is again one of the biggest limiting factor in urban construction sites hence, we need machines which are easy to manoeuvre and are made for multi-functional applications. JCB has designed 2DX backhoe loader known as the "small" backhoe loader.
What new technologies have come into the urban infrastructure market? Have Indian manufacturers made headway in modernisation of equipment needed to build sophisticated cities? What proportion is imported?
Most of the Indian manufacturers are either 100 per cent subsidiaries or joint venture partners of overseas manufacturers who have set up their shops in India. Today, many of the products are imported and some of the products or their components are indigenised which are cost-effective.
A few of the Indian manufacturers have made some headway in modernisation of their products in line with the international technologies. However, today majority of the tunnel boring machines are imported and we still do not have the facility for manufacturing high capacity cranes in our country.
For underground constructions, we use tunnel boring machines which completely do the job without excavation. For the elevated structures, a lot of drilling and such jobs are needed as blasting is not allowed in urban areas. In the residential sector, a lot of tower cranes are in use currently which saves a lot of time and manpower, attain more efficiency in operations.
Most of the technologies come from foreign countries with respect to the local development. So it is a combi¡nation of international technology and local develop¡ment. In some areas like tunnelling, the tunnel boring machines are mostly imported. While, equipment such as drilling machines, piling machines, tower cranes, etc, are being produced or assembled in India.
What new monitoring systems are in place, especially considering much of urban utility is underground?
We understand that productivity and the customer's bottom line depend on moving material accurately, quickly, and safely. CAT Connect Solution is a solution with site positioning systems, construction asset manage¡ment services, powerful wireless and internet-based site communications infrastructure. With the use of this technology, contractors can gain greater insight into their operations, enabling them to lower operating costs and improve accuracy, safety and productivity. This will offer them a significant competitive edge in the market.
AccuGradeÖ productivity solution which supports both 2D and 3D GPS based solution is our primary offering within the CAT Connect Solution space and is available on Track Type tractors, excavators, motor graders and compactors.
Now, more and more machines are going towards electronic controls and communication devices like mobiles, etc. The machines are monitored wherever they are working, whether underground or on ground, in terms of managing efficiency, how quickly and efficiently the product is being used. So there are a lot of electronics in the machines nowadays which helps in monitoring and controlling the efficiency of the machines.
Overall, how prepared is our equipment sector to build seven new, world-class cities along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and elsewhere?
The Indian manufacturing industry has definitely improved and expanded in the last 10-15 years. Today, most of the leading manufacturers in India have set up their shops in India with either a licence agreement, joint venture or as a 100 per cent subsidiary. The DMIC construction project was done by Soma and they extensively used all our high-performance equipment like batching plants, truck mixers, and concrete pumps including boom pumps. If there is continuous development signal from the government in the form of announcement of infrastructure projects, then manufac¡turers will not shy away from further investments.
Our equipment sector is quite capable and prepared to build seven new world class cities along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and elsewhere, as the equipment for such construction are more or less available in the country though not very new. However, majority of these manufacturers have financial issues because of the competitive market of China, which has established its bases in India in a big way.
Urban infrastructure development is one of the key growth drivers for the construction equipment industry and the industry is absolutely prepared to meet the rising demand. Many global manufacturers have set up multiple world class facilities in India. JCB offers the widest range of construction equipment in the industry with 24 variants in seven product lines. Since the beginning, JCB products have led in performance, tech¡no¡logical advancement and reliability.
We are equipped as our country has over capacity with respect to various construction equipment as of today. If we need to manage the corridor, we just need to utilise the current set of machines. We have a lot of manufacturers come in, invested and are now waiting for such big projects to take off.