With more than 60 per cent of the cargo movement done by India's large network of roads, the road-building sector in the country has offered major growth opportunities for the construction equipment industry. Agith G Antony trains his thoughts on the compaction equipment segment.
For over a decade, the road-building sector in India has offered major growth opportunities for the construction equipment industry. With more than 60 per cent of the cargo movement being handled by the road network, the focus will naturally be on road infrastructure. India has a huge total of 3.3 million km of roads to develop, which includes 70,548 km of national highways. The national highways constitute two per cent of the total network but carry 40 per cent of the traffic, while state roads comprising 13 per cent of the network, carry another 40 per cent. Rural and other roads account for 85 per cent of the road network and carry the remaining 20 per cent traffic. However, the country's road network needs a major upgrade since even in the national highways, 27 per cent is single-lane/intermediate range; 54 per cent is two-lane and only 19 per cent is four-lane or more.
The government is encouraging private sector participation by working out Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) deals in the road sector, in order to be able to meet the growing need of road development. To meet the demands of planned investments, the market will more than double between 2009 and 2014, with a noticeable increase in sales of all types of construction equipment used for road-making, according to Off-Highway Research reports.
According to Off-Highway Research, the growth rate of compaction equipment from 7.6 per cent in 2009-2010 would reach to over 60 per cent by 2014. (The total volume of compaction equipment in 2009 was 2,787 units, which in 2010, crossed 3,000 units (a growth rate of 7.6 per cent) and the forecast is a growth in volume of around 4,800 units by 2014, a growth rate of 60 per cent.
Speaking about the main drivers for growth, Samir Bansal, General Manager, Off-Highway Research says, "It remains the most important sector and will act as a demand driver in the near future. A detailed work plan has been developed by the government to award around 12,000 km of national highway projects every year until 2012, to be able to achieve the targeted completion in 2015. This entails construction of 7,000 km of national highways every year for the next five years. Other main drivers for the road sector are the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sarak Yojna (PMGSY), Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for the North Eastern Region (SARDP NE) and the state highway development programmes that are being undertaken in various states of the country.
As per reports, the Union Ministry for Surface Transport has ambitious plans to put a hundred highway projects (part of Phase III (four-laning) and Phase V (six-laning) of the National Highways Development Programme (NHDP) up for bidding in this fiscal, which will connect 11,000 km and require an investment of over Rs 100,000 crore. That will be more than twice what was awarded in a public-private partnership basis in the last fiscal, four national highway projects traversing 4,425 km and requiring an investment of Rs 40,000 crore. The current year's performance itself is 31 per cent more than the 3,360 km paved in financial year 2009-10, which was worth Rs 33,300 crore.
"The market potential for compactors and motor graders shows a positive sign for the next four to five years. The estimated market potential for the current year is expected to be over 3,000 units for compaction equipment comprising soil compactors, tandem rollers, pneumatic tyred rollers and light tandem rollers, and around 500-plus units for motor graders," says Pankaj Dara, Associate Vice president, Construction, TIPL. "The growth enablers are primarily the road projects announced by the NHAI, the state highway projects and also the rural road projects. As per estimates, around a hundred new projects are likely to be awarded this year by NHAI alone," adds Pankaj.
"The demand for compactors and motor graders have gone up, therefore the return on investment (RoI) on these equipment is high; however, this also depends on the utilisation factor. Normally for road projects, these are required for the 60-65 per cent of the total duration of the project, hence they promise a healthy RoI, says Pradeep Kathuria, Head - Essar Equipment Bank, Essar Projects India.
"The market for compactors and motor graders are in the growing phase, and it would continue to be in the same trajectory for near foreseeable future barring one or two year aberration because of change in guard at the centre. The road building equipment industry would see a CAGR of minimum 25 per cent year after year," says Jitendra Sharma, Chief Executive Officer, Action Construction Equipment.
Speaking about the evolution of grading and compaction technology, SM Roy, Chief Executive Officer, Lanco Infratech points out, "The first road roller was horse-drawn; this was followed by steam and diesel rollers. For a long period, static compactors of various sizes were used. The introduction of vibratory compactor in 1946 opened a new era in construction industry. A few decades ago, grading was done manually or with tractor dozers where operator skill was important for accuracy. Advanced technology has made grading work simple by offering the option of automatic slope and elevation offsets. GPS navigation and machine guidance systems have reduced the amount of external surveying required. Almost every construction project or site preparation requires some kind of grading and compaction. The Indian contracting community extensively uses the graders and compactors for various purposes based on size and extent of projects."
"In the initial years, the compaction using static rollers, which are about 5T capacity was prevalent but thereafter from early 1990s when the specs got amended from standard proctor density to modified proctor density, the static rollers gave way to vibratory compactors of 10T capacity for usual layer thickness of 250 mm. Globally, the technology was available but since government's policy was to encourage the local manufacturing industry, it took time to adopt this technology but now it has come to stay. Things have improved further and now we are using heavy-duty vibratory rollers of 18T capacity. Also, use of dynamic compaction analyser fitted to vibratory rollers helps to measure the level of compaction achieved, says Dr B Sivarama Sarma, Joint General Manager & Head - R&D, L&T Construction Research & Testing Centre, L&T ECC Division.
Vipin Sondhi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, JCB India, states, "Vibratory compaction today is a must for building any road; however, this is not adhered to in some cases. A contractor involved in building roads today has a lot of choice as far as construction equipment is concerned. It's a competitive market and several world-class products are available off the shelf. Of course, there is always scope for improvement, and products will keep getting better with more R&D and technology going into their design and manufacturing. These machines have been helping build India's rural and urban roads, and highways. The contractors use these machines at various sites across the country like various yards, access roads, residential streets, car parks, roads, highways and airports."
According to Pradeep of Essar Equipment Bank, the technical reason for adopting advance technology is to cut the cycle time of the compaction or grading activity with far better quality, complying with the standard specification. It also makes for better business economy, and reduces the labour manpower to a large extent, which is currently a major concern in the construction industry. By adopting advanced equipment like vibratory rollers and graders, the contracting fraternity can increase its productivity, which will give a better return to the contractor, with desired quality and workmanship.
Speaking about the advantages of vibratory compactors over static ones and what is the vibration effect in compaction over the static loading, Pradeep says, "In static compaction, it is simply the deadweight of the machine, applying downward force on the soil surface, compressing the soil particles. The only way to change the effective compaction force is by adding or subtracting the weight of the machine. Static compaction is confined to upper soil layers and is limited to any appreciable depth whereas in vibratory compaction, it uses a mechanism, usually engine-driven, to create a downward force in addition to the machine's static weight. The vibrating mechanism is usually a rotating eccentric weight or piston-spring combination (in rammers). The compactors deliver a rapid sequence of blows (impacts) to the surface, thereby affecting the top layers as well as deeper layers. The vibration moves through the material, setting particles in motion and moving them closer together for the highest density possible. Based on the materials being compacted, a certain amount of force must be used to overcome the cohesive nature of particular particles."
"High technology machines are designed to achieve optimum compaction with a minimum number of passes to reduce the overall operating cost. The new technology trend is faster compaction by achieving the required density at lower operating cost. Also, the latest equipment are designed with features to improve the operator safety, comfort and maintenability," says Girish Dixit, Head - Engineering and Design, Wirtgen India.
"Technology is the absolute need of the day. The Indian market is gradually maturing and we have made inroads into the same. The technological trends, as compared to conventional grading and compacting methodologies, are apparent in the increased use of GPS guidance and laser control techniques," says Sunil Sapru, President, Liugong India.
"Two types of forces generally utilised for soil compaction are static force and vibratory force. In earlier days, compaction equipment utilised static force delivering less bearing capacity for compaction of soil. However, with the passage of time, it was understood that the vibratory force is more successful, delivering better bearing capacity; it affects the top as well as deeper layers of soil giving better compaction. Grading has also undergone a lot of changes right from manual grading, dozing till hydraulic motor graders capable of providing better surface, says Joy Saxena Group Chief Financial Officer, ERA Infra Engineering
"The advanced methods of compaction refer to vibratory compaction of soil/asphalt. In simplest terms, compaction is the process of mechanically increasing the density of a material by reducing the voids between the particles that make them up. More dense or more compacted material is able to support heavier loads without deforming (bending, ing, moving). The advanced methods provide a better compacted road surface thereby leading to a smoother ride, saving in fuel costs and maintenance costs and most important of them all i.e., saving time," says Pankaj of TIPL. He adds, "Vibratory soil compactors produce a rapid succession of pressure waves which spread in all directions. The vibratory pressure waves are useful in breaking the bonds between the particles of the materials being compacted. When pressure is applied, the particles tend to re-orient themselves into a more dense (fewer voids) state. In static compaction, weighted loads applied by rollers produce shear stresses in the soil or asphalt that cause the individual particles to slide across each other. Compaction happens when the applied force causes individual particles to break their natural bonds to one another and move into a more stable position within the material. With vibratory compactors one is able to achieve a much higher density compared to a static roller."
Sondhi sums it up on a positive note, "India's infrastructure has to go a long way but the government is trying to move this agenda forward in a very positive manner. Good roads not only connect people but also connect businesses and are vital for India's growth."
Variants in Compaction
Major factors affecting compaction are static weight, number of drums, roller speed, and number of passes, drum diameter, frequency and amplitude.
Small jobs are best suited for project method. Fill material is moved into the area and spread in lift thicknesses depending on the compactor's capabilities. Then, compaction proceeds over the entire area until density is reached. Another lift is spread and compacted. This alternating process continues until the correct grade line is achieved. On this type of project, compactor manoeuverability and speed are important as the hauling and spreading equipment sits idle during the compaction phase. If it is possible to break up the job into adjacent fills, the hauling and spreading equipment can be kept working.
The progressive method is often employed on large jobs, especially in highway construction or in landfills. Here, there is continuous operation of the equipment as material is spread progressively in front of the compactors. This goes on for some distance before additional lifts are spread. Therefore, it is necessary for the compactor production rate to match the production rates of the other units.
Machine manoeuverability is not as important because the passes tend to be long and straight. But, it is important for the compactor to be very reliable so continuous operation is possible. Also, ease of operation and operator comfort are desirable features due to long periods of operation.
A Powerful Machine
The new compactor 311 by Hamm is specially designed in Germany in co-operation with Indian engineers for Indian market. The German Hamm AG along with Wirtgen India has developed a product premiere. The type 311 compactor manufactured at the new production facility in Pune is a powerful machine, specially designed in Germany in co-operation with Indian engineers for Indian market.
The compactor with 11 tonne operating weight impresses with numerous technical highlights. The three-point pendulum articulated joint is particularly noteworthy. It gives the machine excellent driving and steering characteristics, an unsurpassed directional stability and offers the best driving comfort. At all times, a modern display informs the driver about the machine condition and guarantees simple operation. The construction site and all important points of the machine are always in the compactor driver's view from the platform.
Hamm, one of the largest compactor manufacturers in the world, has optimally motorised the new compactor with a high-quality water-cooled Cummins unit (performance: 76 kW). The engine is easily accessible from the appealingly designed carbon fibre bonnet, a significant advantage over the heavy bonnets usually found in India until now. The relevant service points are all easy to access for regular checks.
The new machine has been completely homologised and complies with all aspects of the Indian laws and guidelines from the engine to the lighting system and the dimensions.
The vibrating compactor is available in three variants: in the standard version with rear-axle drive as the 311 model, the 311D model with additional driven drums and the 311P model with padfoot drums.