Hydraulics industry in India is on a revival mode with new designs, materials, and manufacturing technologies are coming into the market. In the coming years, energy efficiency, fuel consumption, and the life-cycle of machines will become the major deciding factors for hydraulic systems.
It is amazing to see the arms of the loader and backhoe of a backhoe loader moving at various angles when at work. The movement of an excavator arm with its bucket or a breaker is mighty in digging the earth or drilling a rock surface. These movements are made possible due to combined and coordinated functions of various hydraulic parts. The hydraulic system is a key component for operating working devices such as the boom, arm, bucket, breaker, etc. Hydraulic equipment operates with the help of a vast range of valves, pumps, filters and actuators. The hydraulic system includes parts such as cylinders, control valves, motors, engines, pumps, seals and packing, tubes, etc.
Sanjay Wadnerkar, Vice President, LiuGong India, highlights the importance of hydraulics as he says, ´Hydraulics is the bloodline of any construction equipment, similar to our anatomy. We need to take care of the filtration, pressure, and replacement time to time for best performance. To get best efficiency of the system, all OEMs including us take care of the above and inform users to maintain the system for optimum performance. Owners should help the operator understand the importance of this and avoid the waste of resource when a system is designed for proper functioning over its life.´
According to Subhasis Chatterjee, Managing Director ´ India, Hydraulics Group, Eaton, the hydraulics industry is making major strides in the efficiency and performance of its products. ´Hydraulics always has been the best choice for high power-density applications, but new designs, materials, and manufacturing technologies are extending that advantage like never before. These new components are destined to be a smaller piece reducing the footprint and enhancing the power density. The latest trends point to customers looking for the best usage of space, better power density, energy efficiency, accuracy and quicker responses. The marriage of hydraulics and electronics will deliver smarter products that combine the intelligence of electronics with the power density of hydraulics to enable all of these applications and many more that have not ever been thought of yet.´
Chatterjee observes that electro-hydraulic solutions would bring on the table the benefits of mechanical muscle with an electronics brain, helping to deliver high reliability, and guarantee specified uptimes. At the same time, these solutions are quick, efficient, accurate, compact, safe, and repetitive and user friendly.
Upinder Razdan, Managing Director, Danfoss Power Solutions India, is of the view that the mobile hydraulic industry is majorly dependent on its OEM customers from industries such as construction, agriculture, mining, etc. ´The mobile hydraulics industry trend depends on the trend in which these industries are moving. Presently, due to economic slowdown in India, these industries are witnessing a slower growth rate, thus the hydraulics industry´s growth is impacted. However, with the initiatives of the new government, we are hopeful that things will improve during 2015,´ he avers.
From a historical perspective, Raj Dabholkar, Director, Tucson Hydrocontrols, feels that hydraulics has always been seen as a field whose systems lack the visual appeal of contemporary avenues such as mechanical or electronic systems. ´It neither had the allure of a crafted timepiece nor the sleek (look) and compactness of an electronic integrated circuit. However, as in the case of every industry, there were advances and developments. Traditional line mounted valves made way for a somewhat more compact sub-plate mounted setup with standard interfaces. The valves, which still retained their original bulkiness, were fashioned from the parts-in-body method of manufacture. While assembly time and piping were considerably reduced, the issue of size was still unaddressed,´ says Dabholkar.
´With the next quantum jump to screw-in cartridge valves (SiCVs), Hydraulic Integrated Circuits (HICs) will address the issue of size, piping as well as visual appeal. This will greatly reduce operating costs, system complexity majorly eliminate leakages while providing improved serviceability. Their compact size, low cost, reduced component requirement and a minimum effort towards customer end engineering would mean a much lower initial installed cost. Consumer interest and the initiative to invest in this new technology have only been energising rapid market growth,´ he adds.
Kapil Sehgal, Managing Director, Bucher Hydraulics, is of the view that due to slowdown in the market last year, OEM customers are not keen towards technology improvements. Instead, they are working on how to reduce cost, improve machine performance by reducing fuel consumption, etc.
´However, there are certain customers who are upgrading their machines and working towards introducing new machines in the market. So we are working with those OEMs on this front. But the fact is that though they were planning to launch these new machines in 2014, they had to postpone the plan to 2015 or even beyond due to the prevailing market conditions. So there is a delay in commercial production,´ Sehgal says.
Major equipment manufacturers are now keen on design improvements with special attention on reduced operational cost, improved machine performance by reducing fuel consumption, and low overall life-cycle cost of the machine. ´The equipment manufacturers and end-users are looking for complete solutions which can give them lower operating cost, higher productivity, ease of operations and reliability. In order to meet these customer needs, the entire hydraulics industry is graduating up the value chain from being just components suppliers to a sub-system supplier to a complete system solutions provider, says Chatterjee´
Innovative approaches visible in the market are uses of electronic controls to make the machines more intelligent, to deliver better performance more efficiently, according to Razdan. He adds, ´Also, we are seeing new concepts like telematics, where the machine performance and maintenance can be remotely monitored through mobile/GPS network on a laptop/smartphone. We at Danfoss are able to offer complete telematics solutions to customers wishing to install this innovative approach on their machines.´
Sehgal says, ´In hydraulics, customers are slowly moving towards reducing fuel consumption. Also, use of electronics will pick up in the coming years because when Euro IV and Euro V are in place, Indian manufacturers will have to be more efficient and electronic control units should be on their engines. So there could be several factors in the machines to communicate with hydraulic components, where electronics will play a major role. This should be the major driver of the hydraulics industry in the future.´
Energy efficiency is of paramount importance in the overall performance of equipment. Chatterjee explains, ´All hydraulic equipment essentially needs to fit into the prescribed energy efficiency norms by default. The end users, OEMs and consultants demand highly energy-efficient machines so that the running cost of power is kept low and consequently the total cost of ownership comes down. New designs, materials, and technologies are extending this advantage like never before.´
He adds, ´Very soon, the focus is anticipated to shift from components to integrated system solutions that merge hydraulics and electronics in increasingly innovative ways. The products from this kind of integration will combine the intelligence of electronics with the power density of hydraulics and enable all advanced applications.´
Dabholkar elaborates on Tucson´s initiatives towards energy-efficient products, ´Among the many cartridge valves and systems that we are indigenously manufacturing, we have a whole range of load-sensing products that monitor the required pressure and regulate it accordingly. This reduces a great deal of power consumption from the pump end. With systems that can be retrofitted onto existing pumps and motors, even a standard fixed volume displacement pump can be made comparable to a top-of-the-line load sense pump. With standard interfaces and mounting abilities, these can be used over a wide range of pumps.´
Efficient hydraulic system with low effort joysticks provides precise control regardless of a customer´s application. Ramesh Tipirneni, Country Manager, Caterpillar India, elaborates on the hydraulics system associated with CAT excavators, ´The 320D/D L Series 2 hydraulic excavators implement hydraulic system, with a main-relief pressure of 35,000 kPa (5,076 psi) and maximum oil flow of 2 x 202 l/min (53 gpm). This provides high hydraulic horsepower for digging and lifting, as well as for using heavy-duty, hydraulically powered work tools. Available couplers´including the Center-Lock´Pin Grabber´allow the operator to quickly change work tools and move from task-to-task for optimum machine utilisation.´
The pilot-type hydraulic system provides low-effort operation and precise control and maximises efficiency. Boom and stick regeneration systems save energy during boom-down and stick-in operations, reducing cycle times and adding to overall fuel efficiency.
Specific equipment segments
Many hydraulic equipment manufacturers provide products and solutions to specific equipment segments. Eaton provides hydraulics to large on-road and off-road mobile OEMs in the agriculture, construction, mining, material handling and marine markets. According to Chatterjee, Eaton is a major force in providing hydraulic components and systems to leading industrial OEMs in the stationary platforms. ´From world-class engineering capabilities in system design to after-sales service and technical support, Eaton is committed to both industrial and mobile users. We serve civil engineering, construction and earthmoving, forestry, highways, machine tools, material handling, metal forming, military, mining, moulding, oil and gas, port machinery, power generation, primary metals, truck and bus, turf utility, wastewater treatment and many more important and core engineering segments through our hydraulics solutions,´ he says.
Over these periods, Eaton has launched many products and technologies for specific equipment segments, which offer technical features and advantages over conventional systems. For example, Eaton´s ´Life Sense Hoses´ can be used in critical fuel conveying areas where time of hose-failures can be accurately predicted through continuous electronic monitoring, thereby saving users from unforeseen breakdowns of machines or pollution-related penalties and above all, saving big dollars by avoiding under-utilisation of the hoses and replacing those much ahead of the due dates.
Challenges & opportunities
The infrastructure and construction segments have been experiencing a slowdown for the past few years, however, the future scenario seems bright. Razdan feels that the economic condition of the country is a major challenge. He says, ´Our products are used in construction, agriculture, and material handling, whose consumption is directly linked to spending on infrastructure. Unfortunately, over the last 2-3 years, this sector has been facing major slowdown. However, we are positive that with the new government at Centre, the pace of economic activity will grow at a much faster rate in the near future and our opportunities would be linked to the same.´
´Very evidently, the market in 2014 was slow. Not just for hydraulics but for the entire mobile equipment fraternity. With low investment interest and problems in coal production, there was a lull in the market. However, the earthmoving, construction and mining equipment industry is definitely showing signs of recovery. With a large upward swing in the general sentiment due to a fresh government and with the polity taking positive measures to reassure investors, both domestic and foreign, that they are pro-industry and pro-growth, there is a definite mood for investment. The promise of bringing clarity and transparency to portfolios such as mining, housing and infrastructure has galvanised businesses, both big and small, to prepare for what could possibly be one of the most rewarding times to be in this business,´ Dabholkar elaborates.
He adds, ´The Prime Minister´s ´Make in India´ campaign is still in its nascent stages but we hope that indigenous companies like ours, who have developed technologies here in India, can have a platform to showcase our talent and quality in the global market. With the success of our homegrown Mars Orbiter Mission, maybe the world will start seeing India as the destination to outsource manufacturing. If we can launch a satellite into space for tenth of the cost as that of NASA, there is no reason we cannot dominate in almost every other field.´
Razdan observes, ´Over the last couple of years, we have seen a trend that many of the Indian manufacturers of construction, agriculture and mining equipment have started exporting to other countries. This was not the case earlier. We hope that this trend will continue to grow in the future and it would offer more opportunities for us specially, on high technology electro-hydraulic systems. The ´Make in India´ drive would further encourage this trend.´
He further adds, ´For 2015, we see
a steady surge of the trend line. However, we are not anticipating very high percentage of change; this should range between 5-7 per cent from the previous year for the entire mobile hydraulic industry.´
Wadnerkar is optimistic about the future of hydraulics industry when he says, ´For many years, the casting, forging and precision industry is well established in India due to large automotive product demands. This has helped many hydraulic system manufacturers to bring down their cost and upgrade quality to global levels. Soon, it may become a reality that most of the established players will start exporting in a big way to developed countries.´
Sehgal is hopeful of the years to come. ´In 2014, we had a 10 per cent growth in the domestic market. Hopefully, with the new government, we expect the year 2015 would be good with a growth of 15-20 per cent in the domestic market,´ he concludes on a positive note.
What is the selection criteria for the hydraulic parts of your range of machines?
Selection of hydraulic system is critical process where in the application needs, performance under extreme condition and reliability considering the operators tendency for equipment maintenance. We give importance to the supplier capability for technology, innovation, customer support and value for money as part of selection process.
We are in touch with all leading Tier-I and Tier-II hydraulic system suppliers to satisfy our needs.
What are the perceptible changes in the hydraulic systems of new range of equipment?
We designed the system which can accommodate wide variety and stability of hydraulic oil viscosities gradient over operating temperatures. For filtration capability and reservoir capacity, we have all aluminium hydraulic coolers designed for extreme pressures in modular construction. We have best-in-class hoses fitted to deliver long life of the system.
Could you elaborate on the hydraulics system in your range of machines? How efficient is the system with respect to energy and operational cost?
We have trade-off between the energy and operational cost to pass on the benefits to users. We also manufacture our range of cylinders and valves to assure the product quality and value being vertically integrated company in certain product range. LiuGong has one of the widest range of construction and mining equipment in the world, be it the pump, control valves, hoses, filters, actuators, cylinders etc. Besides our own, we source hydraulic system from globally reputed suppliers having presence in other leading brands of original equipment.
What are the factors that influence efficient hydraulics?
As informed before, the cleanliness in the system, oil quality, filtration quality and the material used to sustain the load demand in the whole life cycle are the major factors. While designing the system, we give importance for effective cooling, safety features, sub-supplier reputation for technology and process reliability.
What are your views on the future of hydraulics in India?
We see good suppliers making their footprint in India. Further, ¨Make In India¨ move will attract many leading global players to India through manufacturing roots. In the course of localisation, we started sourcing hydraulic systems from suppliers in India who are reputed international brands.
Our new products in pipeline are also being explored with local suppliers from initial stages so that customer will get quick response on their service calls and spares/maintenance needs.