Commitment towards infrastructural development and faster implementation of road projects to desired specifications are driving the growth of the motor grader market in India.
After a volatile market scenario for the past few years, the demand for motor graders is registering a steep upward rise, thanks to the new momentum in the infrastructural segment - especially roads - and mining projects.
Industry stakeholders are bullish on the way the market for motor graders has been picking up during the past eight months and are busy ramping up their manufacturing processes and product delivery systems to meet the market demand. For a change, it has become a seller´s market for new, used and rental equipment suppliers as well. According to AK Haldar, Executive Director Marketing (Mining & Construction), BEML Ltd, around 580-600 motor graders of various capacities were sold during 2015 in India. Nischal Mehrotra, Director - Sales, LiuGong India Pvt Ltd, is also on the same page as he says, ¨In volume terms, sales were around 600 units last year, while this year, it can go up to 700-800 machines.¨
Sanu George, Business Head, SDLG India, says, ¨The current market for motor graders is up significantly over last year and while that is likely to normalise later in the year, we are still expecting sales for the year to be up over 25 per cent for 2016 overall, and it could be significantly more than that.¨
Schwing Stetter is a relatively new entrant in the Indian market for motor graders through the XCMG range of machines. VG Sakthikumar, Managing Director, Schwing Stetter Sales and Services Pvt Ltd, says, ¨The market for motor graders has grown by 35 per cent over the previous year. This good growth is expected to continue. The machine requirement will increase even further when the speed of awarding contracts goes up in the near future, which is directly connected to land acquisition, government clearances and project funding.¨ According to him, the total market growth in 2015 over 2014 was around 50 per cent.
When we spoke to some used equipment and rental companies, who did not wish to be named, we found that any brand or model of motor grader simply vanishes from their stocks at attractive prices.
Due to the change in construction specifications introduced by government agencies such as NHAI for execution of projects, new and improved machines - especially use of motor graders with specific requirements - have been gaining sales traction. Haldar comments, ¨Motor graders used on highway projects are now expected to meet CMVR with engines conforming to BS-III CEV norms. Graders in the past used to be predominantly supplied with canopy. In recent times, ROPS compliant cabin with AC is being sought by customers to enhance operator comfort and productivity. While graders with 12 ft mould board are suitable for most construction projects, there is a need for compact graders with 10 ft blade dashboard instrumentation, upgraded programmable digital display with data storage and retrieval capabilities. Vehicle health monitoring by way of data storage is an invaluable tool to keep track of events and ensure periodic maintenance and avoid costly breakdowns. BEML is offering BG405A with 10 ft blade, BG605I and BG605A motor graders with 12 ft blade for this application.¨ He adds, ¨Higher-powered graders with 16 ft blade are likely to be used on the major national highway projects in the future to cater to the need for accelerated pace of road construction projects. BEML is offering BG825 motor grader with 16 ft blade and 290 HP engine for this application.¨
Sakthikumar elaborates on the technology trends, ¨Engine with electronic control for easy troubleshooting, GPS systems for remote monitoring of the location and performance of the machine, mould board material with improved wear resistance and automatic blade levelling systems are considered to be the emerging technologies or features that have to be made cost-effective to be afforded by any end-user.¨
On using higher capacity motor graders, he says, ¨The existing range of machines does satisfy the current project requirements and government standards, but the penetration levels of these machines in the district roads and village road project contractors are still lower. Maybe the emerging technologies should consider this particular point so that some optimisations with respect to the blade width and operating costs will give a chance for such contractors to think on mechanisation for grading.¨
LiuGong is comparatively a new player in India for motor graders, and is keen on updating the technology on its range as per customer demands. Says Mehrotra, ¨Most of the manufacturers are coming out with GPRS systems as well as laser-guided blades. This means they want to introduce automatic levelling system in their machines. As the quantum of work increases, there can be a shortage of qualified grader operators in India. We are opting for more and more sophisticated machines so that most of the work will be done by the machine itself without depending much on the operator.¨
Mehrotra comments, ¨As per NHAI norms, if the axle load on the road is not increased, the 150 HP grader will be sufficient for the road application. But in mines we are going for higher capacity of graders, as between 220 HP and 280 HP graders are required for maintaining the haul roads.¨
SDLG is keen on expanding its range in the Indian market as George explains, ¨At SDLG, we´re certainly looking forward to expand our range of motor graders available to Indian customers. At present, we offer our G9190 model in India, which offers a powerful 8,386 kg blade down force in a blade that measures 3.65 m in width. Our view is that there is demand for smaller units from SDLG so this is something we´re looking to address. Our products are best-known for their excellent reliability and robust design and that´s a combination that contractors find reassuring as they look to meet ever more demanding project deadlines.¨
Safety and operator comfort are major factors along with productivity related changes when it comes to product innovation. Haldar explains, ¨BEML motor graders offer ROPS-compliant cabin as standard feature while the AC fitment or canopy versions are offered as optional. Auto lubrication system and auto fire suppression systems are optional while fire extinguishers are provided as part of the standard package. For grading on hard strata option of tungsten carbide cutting edges are available, while for most road construction projects standard cutting edges suffice.¨ Sakthikumar elaborates on the features incorporated in the XCMG range of graders. ¨Our motor grader comes with a load sensing circuit, dual circuit braking system and AC cabin as standard features. Wider side shift and shoulder stretch of mould board enable the grader to grade wider ground space which will reduce the number of passes that the grader has to make to cover a given area. Forward and reverse speeds are higher, so the manoeuvring of vehicle at the project site is quick. Hydraulic load sensing system judiciously utilises the engine power only when there is a load requirement in the circuit, i.e., only when the grader is operating and not when idle.¨
Operator comfort is also taken care of effectively. ¨GR150 provides a three-way adjustable seat, air-conditioned cabin, ergonomically designed accelerator pedal, cruise control, anti-slip platforms and gear shifting by means of a joystick to ensure utmost operator comfort. The operator cabin is designed with a good visibility and sufficient lights are used to aid the same while operating at nights. Hydraulic pull pin for adjusting the swing frame for canal grading greatly reduces the operator fatigue,¨ Sakthikumar explains.
Mould board is considered as one of the key parts in the machine and it is the one which constantly engages with the ground. According to Sakthikumar, in order to protect the mould board from any damages when it encounters boulders in the grading path, GR150 has a special slip disc mechanism that enables the blade to automatically slip and avoid the boulders so that no impact load is transferred to the blade directly. Emergency engine shutdown switch, reflectors and horns also form the standard feature with respect to safety of the machine.
Sakthikumar further elaborates on more features in the range, ¨The swing frame made as conventional box sections and all the parts have undergone finite element analysis process to detect and arrest all the possible weaker locations in the structure. Oscillating rear axles smoothen the vehicle´s manoeuvring over uneven surfaces. Greater front wheel lean angle minimises the side draft forces on the vehicle and improves stability while grading slopes. The hydraulically operated engine hood makes engine maintenance easier and ground level greasing and tapping points reduce operator fatigue. The operator cabin behind the articulation points provides easy access for maintenance of pivots and articulation cylinders.¨
On the features incorporated with the LiuGong range, Mehrotra says, ¨We are using Cummins engines and ZF transmissions in our range. We are also coming up with automatic levellers and GPRS system in our machines.¨
George explains the advanced features in the SDLG range of motor graders, ¨Our G9190 is powered by an ARAI-approved Deutz Tier III BF6M1013C electronically controlled engine that delivers low noise and low fuel consumption, together with reliable operation and a long service life. Optimising engine power to the grader´s operations is a ZF single-stage single-phase three-element hydraulic torque converter, equipped with a ZF6WG200 semi-automatic electronic power shift transmission. Also included in the G9190 design are Arvin Meritor axles and electrical componentry from major branded manufacturers which deliver better reliability and performance. The spacious and bright cab is fully enclosed, providing a broad field of scope for the operator together with a comfortable environment in which to work.¨
Make in India
While many international CE manufacturers have already established their presence in India over the years, the government´s new Make in India initiative is attracting more global CE and component players to set up shop here. In motor graders, though there are a few players having manufacturing facilities in India, the momentum is still to pick up. BEML, being a government enterprise, already has a strong presence in the market. Says Haldar, ¨With the focus on self reliance, our plan is to indigenously design, develop, manufacture and supply products with the support of our R&D team.¨
LiuGong is also manufacturing its range of motor graders from its facility at Pithampur. On the XCMG range of motor graders, Sakthikumar says, ¨Currently, we will be selling the motor grader assembled in the final stages with an Indian engine at our factory in Chennai. However, our endeavour is to offer top-of-the-class specification and quality. We will launch a localisation plan to indigenise components in India to meet the customer expectations of high quality products at competitive prices.¨
On the company´s plans keeping in mind the Make in India initiative, he comments, ¨The plan will be executed once we have the clear picture of the dynamic Indian market and exact customer requirements. Indian customers dwell upon good quality at competitive prices. This is a major driving force for any manufacturer to go for localisation. Localising products will not only improve the value proposition for all the stakeholders, it will also enable us to have better quality control as well as provide better after-sales and services.¨
On SDLG´s plans for India, George says, ¨At present, we have no plans to manufacture SDLG machines in India. But we are continually growing our presence in the country, adding dealers and building our own team and resources. India is a major area of focus for SDLG.¨
Challenges & opportunities
All motor grader manufacturers see opportunities emerging, though there are a few challenges. Says George, ¨There are many opportunities for SDLG motor graders in India at present. The well-publicised increase in the road-building programme has seen a significant pick-up in activity levels. Contractors in the road-building industry are under greater scrutiny than ever before and are faced with growing challenges. In particular, they are under pressure to meet construction deadlines and that´s where having reliable equipment such as motor graders from SDLG becomes particularly important. The challenges are really to do with meeting customer expectations and ensuring on-time delivery. Reliability and uptime are more important than ever given the work pressures on job sites. We´ve worked hard with our extensive network of dealers to ensure we have the parts and the processes in place to provide necessary and timely support when our customers need it. This is a key point of differentiation for SDLG compared to other value brands and something that our customers appreciate about their relationship with us.¨
Haldar sees more competition from other existing players and low-cost Chinese equipment. Since the prospects for road projects are bright, he expects more numbers of graders to be deployed.
Sakthikumar also sees opportunities, especially in the roads sector. He says, ¨Currently, more road projects are getting awarded and the requirement of grader is directly connected to this development. This trend is expected to continue until 2020. Besides, 100 Smart Cities also require land development wherever they are greenfield projects. Further, it will add on to more requirements of motor graders.¨
Major players see a bright future in the next five years, at least for the motor grader market. According to Haldar, ¨Almost all types of equipment, particularly backhoe loaders, dozers, excavators and motor graders will witness very good growth by 2020.¨
Says Sakthikumar, ¨The market is going to grow from the current growth rate of at least 35-40 per cent, for the next three-four years. By 2020, Schwing Stetter India will be one of the major suppliers of motor graders in the Indian market. We will be playing a major role in understanding customer requirements and coming out with models to satisfy different types of requirements (national highways, state highways, rural roads, etc).
Mehrotra sees a major development in the CE industry as a whole, due to the shift towards BS-IV after 2020. He comments, ¨There will be a lot of changes in the machines by 2020, as in 2021, we have to go for BS-IV compliant machines for which manufacturing should commence after 2017. It will take at least three years to stabilise a new product with new technology and we have to shift from BS-III to BS-IV. So definitely in 2020 we will be busy in making available the BS-IV machines.¨ George expects the future growth in line with the government´s action plan in executing the projects. ¨If the government´s commitment to road infrastructure development continues, then we foresee a significantly bigger market by 2020. Within that, we expect to see a wider variety of equipment and also bigger and newer fleets among our customers, as the Indian market continues to mature.¨
Since the customers are climbing over one another to quickly acquire this fast seller in their equipment fleets for their road construction works, ready availability is an issue. As such, we advise all potential customers to plan their procurement of the same, well in advance to avoid grief.