India has witnessed an influx of new software-assisted multiple application-specific boom configured heavy lifters.
Despite the economic slowdown taking the wind out of the sail for the heavy lift cranes´ suppliers, there are positive signs as many big ticket projects in different verticals on the board have rekindled their hopes. India has witnessed an influx of new software-assisted multiple application-specific boom configured heavy lifters. In turn, OEMs are focusing on specific application-based solutions to meet the customers´ demand.
Liebherr offers specific configurations for wind mill erections. In wind mill erection, the need is operation at short radius with heavy load and high reach under hook. Such special configurations are available in both tyre-mounted and crawler versions. Ajay Kumar Somani, Director, Mobile Crane Division, Liebherr India, comments, ¨We also have some special tyre-mounted cranes for military operations and fire fighting. We have both types of crawler cranes, with lattice booms and with hydraulically operated telescopic booms.¨
According to Saeesh Nevrekar, Director - Cranes India, Sales & Services, Terex Cranes, ¨Terex offers wind turbine configurations for CC 2400-1, CC 2800-1, super lift 3800 and AC 1000. For larger crawler cranes working in the petrochemical industry, Terex offers heavy vessel lift configurations.
As the wheels of economy move faster, the demand for mobile cranes is expected to grow, especially higher tonnage cranes used in several application segments such as urban infrastructure, oil and gas, engineering industries, cement plants, major irrigation projects, and power sectors like thermal, hydel, nuclear, windmill, etc. For the industry, the next two years look very promising for the cranes business in India. Nevrekar says, ¨With the focus on infrastructure development, we see a big demand for our cranes both from crane rental companies and end users. According to Somani, the next two years should be really good. He says, ¨We expect a steady increase of 20-25 per cent in sale. Some industrial sectors are showing good results, which will push the demand of cranes.¨
Nilesh Bhorkar, National Manager - Sales & Marketing, Kobelco Cranes India, reiterates, ¨Currently, the major ongoing project is Phase 3 of Reliance Industries. Most cranes are deployed there. There are some movements in other sectors like wind energy, thermal power, infrastructure projects like metro rail etc. ¨For next two years, the market will be booming for sure as the government is dedicated to expedite projects. The proposed power projects and road projects give us the confidence about the India market,¨ says Joe Xiong, Regional Manager for mobile crane products - South Asia, Zoomlion Heavy Industry.
However, Sanjay Vasudeo, Director, Fuwa India, is a bit cautious. According to him, the demand growth depends on how the market will pick up in future. If there is improvement in power sector and once again new plants are coming up, there can be some improvement in business. It may take six months or even a year.¨ However, he confidently adds, ¨And once things are back to normal we can do the business of $20 million a year or even more!¨
When asked what technologies and features are preferred by users, Somani responded, ¨It is actually the buyers who inform us about their practical problems. Through our R&D, we have implemented many features in our design based on these suggestions. One of them is Blue Tooth Control for crane operations by remote. Joe Xiong also confirms, ¨Our machines´ loading performance are one of the best in the market, hence customers always put forth demands with extra safety features to avoid accidents caused by human errors. Our R&D department is always willing to listen, act and provide solutions to meet their unique demand.¨
Shift towards single engine design
Single-engine concept in tyre-mounted cranes is a new development. Somani explains, ¨Crawlers are equipped with one engine, mounted on the superstructure as it does not travel much. Rough terrain cranes always have a single engine but high-capacity all-terrain cranes, of 90 tonne capacity and above, were provided with two engines. Now, the trend is to use a single engine. Earlier, in case of one engine design, power transmission to superstructure was through hydraulics, resulting in high energy losses. Now, it is achieved through highly efficient mechanical drives. Also by use of Eco mode, power delivered from engine for crane operation is possible at low rpm thus saving fuel consumption.¨
Nevrekar confirms, ¨With a single engine, we are more fuel efficient, and we also have less maintenance efforts. In the end, for our customers, it means a lower total cost of ownership and a higher return on investment.¨
¨As stiff competition in the market price and maintenance cost is very important, TMC with single engine will help to bring down maintenance cost and overall cost of the crane,¨ says Bhorkar. He adds, ¨We have supplied one knuckle boom tyre-mounted crane in India which runs on chassis engine with PTO. I think, if the job is of a kind where there is a lot of crane travel, it becomes very convenient to operate. If the cranes have to be stationary for a long time, two engine cranes are better.¨
Advanced features make heavy cranes versatile
Terex has developed a new control system called IC-1 Plus which allows its customers to do more with less, to make it simple. The IC-1 Plus control system features an enhanced visualisation to provide the crane operator with additional information on capacity in relation to boom position and work area. Movement speeds reduce prior to auto shut off and enables auto shut off of movements prior to unsafe condition. It helps pre-calculation of maximum capacity for ¦30¦ slewing angle, luffing area (depending on boom length), and pre-calculation visible on control screen.
The IC-1 Plus control system calculates lifting capacities for every position of the boom, subject to the slewing angle of the superstructure. It increases lifting capacity, especially when lifting over the outriggers. The increase is even higher with reduced outrigger settings and reduced counterweight. Due to this real time calculation, the lifting capacity for a defined radius is no longer limited to the minimum value of a pre-calculated 360° lifting capacity: New load charts are calculated in real time in the cab. The crane can perform jobs where higher capacity cranes are typically needed. According to Nevrekar, the crane can work in confined spaces without losing its lifting capacity due to lifting with asymmetric outrigger set-up. It increases the crane´s versatility and enables to do more jobs. Liebherr has developed a unique new system called the Variable Supporting Base. With this, every individual crane support can be extended to any length and the crane operation is then made safe by the load moment limiter within the LICCON crane control. The variable supporting base also ensures higher lifting capacities and a larger working range. The software and hardware of the mobile crane control is developed by Liebherr in-house. The centre is the LICCON computer system (Liebherr Computed Control) with the integrated LML load moment limiter. Liebherr guarantees the spare parts availability for the crane control. The second control generation LICCON2 is the result of a continuous development by the Liebherr specialists and enables the adaption to the constantly increasing demands of the markets due to its modern and future-oriented control. For more efficient mobile crane operation, Ecomode assists in load sensing, reducing fuel consumption (-10 per cent) and noise level.
The operator cabin is equipped with all crane operational controls, safety system, lumber support seats, cabin inclinable backwards to 20o, sky opening with bullet-proof glass to have better view of job at height etc. The operator can see all vital parameters on a screen provided in cabin like, capacity, load, height of sheaves, operating radius, wind velocity, crane leveling, winch movements, etc. An emergency switch is provided to stop all operations of crane.
¨We have an SLI which tells the entire function of the crane like how much load lifted, the radius, boom length and everything. There are three more displays, on boom which displays the condition of the boom, then another is at the back which tells about the status of the winches, and on the top there is another display which shows the details of load taken. Then there are joysticks for all the controllers,¨ says Vasudeo. He adds, ¨Today there are two types of controls, a main hydraulic circuit and an auxiliary circuit which controls the main circuit. The auxiliary circuit operates at a lower pressure and that is very easy to control. All the joysticks are at low pressure. The latest development is the hydraulics coupled with electronics which has a better control over things which saves fuel and energy. The operator cabins are designed as per the latest requirements. The sitting arrangement, the controls, the displays and visibility, etc are all there as per the requirement.¨ Says Bhorkar, ¨Our cab is totally enclosed full vision cab with safety glass, fully adjustable, high backed seat with a head-rest and arm-rests and intermittent wiper and window washer, air conditioner, convenient compartment for tools, cup holder, ashtray, cigarette lighter, sun visor, roof blind, tinted glass, floor mat, foot rest, shoe tray, four adjustable levers for front drum, rear drum, boom drum and switch controls and boom hoist pedal.¨ He adds, ¨Kobelco cranes´ cabin is equipped with hydraulic safety lever which is very helpful in case of operator going out of cabin since it obstructs his movement while going out. Operator has to operate that lever while going out so that all hydraulic operations are blocked and it avoids any accident although engine is in running conditions.
¨After time to time improvements, we are trying to provide the operator a safe, comfortable, user-friendly crane. First of all, we are complying the crane with CE standards; secondly, using the latest technology - for example, computerised boom system is used in those truck cranes and safety devices are used for both truck crane and crawler crane,¨ says Joe Xiong.
Import duty, a dampener
According to Somani, import duty is exempted for projects like EPGC, power generation, oil & gas exploration etc. However, 70 per cent cranes are imported by rental companies, who are not eligible for duty exemption. He recommends that for cranes with lifting capacities not manufactured in India, the customs duty should be much lower. This change will help the entire industry. Somani suggests, ¨The duty structure for used machines older than ´X´ years should be much more than new or younger machines. This will encourage people to bring good machines improving the quality of job and also timely execution of projects. The ´X´ year can be decided by government, like five or seven years.¨
According to Nevrekar, customs duties on imports do make cranes more expensive but in a competitive landscape, this does not make a difference since most of the cranes in Terex´s product basket are imported. Says Joe Xiong, ¨The customs duty is considerably high in India, other than that, the currency rate is very weak at the moment, so customers are paying more for less rental nowadays. As of now, we are sending our machine to SEZs where the duty can be exempted.¨
Vasudeo draws a different picture. According to him, there are certain exemptions for some projects, but with lots of restrictions. He explains, ¨Suppose you declare a purchase under a World Bank aided project, you can use it only for that project. What happens after that? There is no provision in the law. For example, there had been a number of road projects for equipment was brought with duty exemption. However, when the project got over they had to pay full duty for the equipment to move out of the project. So exemptions under these schemes are not viable for contractors unless there is a provision to use the machines for other projects as well with the same benefits.¨
The level of back up support provided by an OEM can well influence the purchase. Aftermarket support comprises manpower and spare parts support. Liebherr has a full-fledged service centre with fully trained service engineers and spare parts depot to meet day-to-day requirement. Somani avers, ¨Our cranes also have an error detection system and the same system for a particular crane is loaded on our service enter computer. Hence, if a problem arises, we can either resolve it over phone using this system or can visualise the type of spares needed to resolve the problem. It saves travel time and is also quite economical to customers.¨
Similarly, Terex is able to support its customers in India. Says Nevrekar, ¨Moving forward, we look at strengthening our aftermarket support in India by adding more resources to ensure that our customers will get good local support.¨
Fuwa India has 36 dedicated service engineers who work for the entire sector. The company has a spare parts inventory of over $1.75 million and office at Sanpada in Navi Mumbai.
¨We are getting the support from our dealers while we are having more than 10 well qualified Chinese engineers based in India. We stock more than $1 million spare parts in our Mumbai warehouse for our machines,¨ says Joe Xiong.
Bhorkar says, ¨We have our service engineers located in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Nagpur and Jamnagar and have enough manpower to cover all the regions in India.¨
Moves to ´Make in India´
According to Bhorkar, Kobelco is little ahead of the Make in India initiative. ¨We have set up a manufacturing unit in India in 2010 and started operation in 2011.¨ For Joe Xiong, setting up a manufacturing facility in India has always been on the agenda. However, due to the economic slowdown they have taken a cautious approach. He says, ¨We are very cautious on such investment activities in today´s scenario.¨ Vasudeo is on the same page. He says, ¨In the current market trend, it is not viable for us to manufacture in India. If the market grows to such a level where we can afford to invest, then we can think about, but it is unlikely in the near future.¨
For brands such as Terex and Liebherr, the idea of setting up manufacturing facilities is not there. According to Somani, it needs volume which is still missing and for Terex they will be investing in Jinan, China.
Most heavy crane suppliers are bullish in their predictions for 2020. Somani visualises, ¨By 2020, we must have high development in power generation, thermal, nuclear and wind power.¨ Xiong proclaims, ¨India is one of the fastest growing country and the biggest market in the world.¨ Nevrekar aspires, ¨Our ambition by 2020 is to be the number one crane company in India, with the highest market share.¨ Bhorkar states, ¨Our company´s vision 2020 is to make/produce good quality cranes and become a global supplier for cranes.¨ Expectations are high that heavy lifters will soon be busy across all sectors.
THE NUMBER GAME
PRODUCTS GALORE ON OFFER
Tyre-mounted cranes: Requirements of such cranes in precast, metro, refinery and power projects is quite good and the capacities in demand are 350T to 500T range. Refineries need cranes of 350T to 400T capacity and they will buy such cranes time to time. However, major buyers are rental companies who offer turnkey, long and short term solutions.
Crawler cranes: Currently, the demand is subdued. This segment is expected to register good growth once the new projects are taken up. India is a huge market for crawler cranes, especially higher capacity crawlers. This is mainly due to increasing demand in thermal power sector, nuclear power sector, steel plants, refinery expansions and wind power sector. Crawler cranes of up to 100T capacity are needed for general purpose. Cranes of 100T to 250T are needed in industries especially for break-down services and metro projects. The cement and steel plants have been buying cranes to meet their regular maintenance requirements. At the time of setting new plants, the crane is provided by turnkey contractors. For maintenance purpose, the requirement is for 100T to 200T capacity of cranes.