Use of job-centric attachments converts conventional construction equipment into multipurpose machines, making them more productive, thereby ensuring better utilisation and job site economy.
As rightly mentioned by industry veteran, Vipin Sondhi, Managing Director, JCB India Ltd, ¨India is a country where jugaad is a way of life for providing engineered solutions for achieving desired objectives which are seemingly impossible many a time.¨ This DNA of our country refers to modifications in construction equipment or by devising an attachment for an equipment to achieve capability to perform a desired purpose. Globally, it is no different. In fact, this is a multibillion dollar industry. There are numerous organised and small-scale industries which are totally dedicated to designing and developing innovative, robust, versatile, state-of-the-art and cost-effective attachments for various types of construction and mining equipment, to augment their capabilities. The scope of attachments extends to practically all categories of plant and machinery.
Having said that, it is interesting to note that equipment like skid steers, telehandlers, etc., are being designed with multiple attachments which can be used on the same basic equipment. As observed in a recent launch event of JCB at Delhi, one could see over 50 attachments usable on the same equipment and the story extends to other countries, brands and applications.
Attachments transform CE into formidable work tools
Not surprisingly, hydraulic excavators emerge as the most popular generic equipment, for using attachments to convert them into multipurpose tools. All players in this space offer numerous options with variants, to match the machine specifications, thereby converting them into formidable work tools to meet the requirements of small and mega contractors alike.
Piero Guizzetti, CEO & Director, MB Crusher India Pvt Ltd, informs, ¨MB is an Italian multinational company into attachments for the construction and earthmoving industry. We have been present in India since 2012, when we incorporated a local subsidiary. Since then we have been growing, with our sales reaching the market via exclusive dealer relationships that we have across India. We have direct presence in almost all the states of India with excellent partnerships to assure a local presence from a sales and after-sales point of view. By the end of 2016, we expect to cover the entire Indian market.¨
He adds, ¨One certainty is the versatility that our attachments can provide. Traditionally, you can see that excavators are compacting, picking up, loading and unloading materials. Now we are adding a very critical function which is usually the next step. In the demolition segment for example, a building or whatever structure you are looking to demolish is first broken down. Then you have to lower and put the materials into a static crusher and then reload and re-transport the material to the site where you want to use the crushed material. With our solution, within the same site where you are taking up the material, you are able to crush the material to the length and size of the requirement and you are able to use it on site. So in this particular instance, you have evident savings on time and transportation costs.¨ Neeraj Gaur, Managing Director, Fine Equipments India Pvt Ltd, confirms, ¨Attachments convert the basic machine into a multiple machine that can do multiple jobs without changing anything. Just an attachment change can convert the machine into a different machine. So there are multiple advantages in terms of investment and maintenance of machines. There is no need to own, operate and maintain multiple machines and the manpower to operate and maintain them.¨
P Royston, Business Line Manager, Construction Tools, Atlas Copco (India) Ltd, very articulately explains, ¨It is always commercially viable to use different attachments on a single excavator because of several reasons. Firstly, single adaptation kit is required for any kind of attachment. Secondly, the utilisation of excavator gets maximised. Our attachments are designed so that the load on any particular excavator is minimised. Even if any of the multiple attachments are mounted on a single excavator, our attachments are designed to be light in weight to minimise any impact/stress on the structure of the excavator.¨
Sunil Newatia, Chairman, Suretech Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, confirms, ¨World over, excavators are used as a multi-purpose machine and not like in India where they are used only for either digging or for rock breaking.¨ He goes on to say, ¨Attachments provide versatility in the usage of excavators and also optimise their productivity. For e.g., when an excavator has performed its digging operations and is idle for a while, it can be used for material handling on the site with grapplers, grabs etc. Excavators can work tirelessly for more than 20 hours in a day but are not used as much due to lack of work on the application they are currently being used. If the customer starts using them for multiple works, the utility of the machine can be optimised.¨
Attachments are always developed with a specific purpose in mind by the innovators. By using a quick coupler fixed at the nose of the boom or front linkage of a machine and using its inbuilt hydraulic system for powering, many attachments can be mounted on the equipment. The output of the hydraulics in terms of pressure and flow rate can be suitably adjusted. Use of snap on- snap-off type pipe connections enables quick change from one attachment to the other.
Guizzetti explains, ¨Mainly, we have two product ranges - one is the crusher bucket which is for crushing and demolition of construction materials and another one is the screener bucket essentially for screening out material from a particular site. In mid-2015, we launched a product range of grapplers for picking up, moving and disbursing of construction materials. In the crusher buckets and screener market, we have used our world leadership to expand and penetrate the market. Our products can be termed as purpose-built attachments and we have a certain level of customisation.¨
¨We have excavator mounted-rock breaker, rock drill, bucket crusher, quick coupler, bucket, auger, grappler, pulveriser, concrete mixer bucket, sweeper, fork and many other attachments. Most of our attachments are purpose built to suit Indian conditions and usage habits. The design and special material selection makes it special and different from other generic offerings. But some products are unique from the utility point like the excavator-mounted drill and excavator-mounted crushers,¨ highlights Gaur.
Royston elaborates, ¨Our product range includes the entire range of hydraulic attachment including hydraulic breakers, drum cutters, combicutters, multi grapplers, hydraulic compactors and bucket crushers. In the hydraulic breaker range, we promote product offerings based on the customer´s product requirement. For each category, we have three to four units available to be mounted on a particular excavator for a specific application. We also offer the most powerful HB breaker which is mounted on a 140 ton excavator. We have introduced a new series of bucket crushers which are designed for special applications required to be done at remote locations where big crushers cannot be installed. These new bucket crushers are environment friendly and are in line with the customer requirements for onsite crushing solutions.¨
Newatia informs, ¨We offer the widest range of attachments in the country. Through our tie-ups with the world´s leading attachment manufacturers and Digga, we offer attachments for road development and maintenance, ground improvement, solar panel installations, erection of electric poles, road signage, crash barrier fencing, rock cutting and drilling, demolition, plantation and forestry, dimension stone cutting, rock quarrying, mining, underwater works.... you name it, we have it. People are currently using rock breakers for breaking anything and everything. Breakers are not the most efficient tools in demolition and mining. We offer very robust attachments for primary demolition, secondary demolition, rock splitters and rock wedges for rock excavation, Vibro ripper and drum cutter head for mining of limestone, laterite, lignite, sandstones etc. These attachments give much higher productivity and far greater efficiency in execution of the job. We have the capability to get designed special attachments for special applications as all our principals are very strong in R&D and custom made solutions.¨
Accelerated infrastructure development projects in the country emerge as the primary drivers of the market for CE attachments. Since the construction landscape has become very competitive, contractors need to optimise costs and deliver speedier completion of work at hand.
Royston points out, ¨Growth in road construction projects will result in increased demand for aggregates which in turn will result in more quarry activities. Rise in real estate projects in urban areas will require foundation activities which will in turn result in increased demand for breakers. Underground Metro/tunnel work in hilly areas will lead to rise in tunnelling activities.¨
¨The use of attachments is widespread with no geographic or application limitations. Both contractors and the rental segment use attachments. But generally, rental business, specialised applications, demolition, remote areas, trenching and pipe laying and city applications are major users of attachments. The most important factor is work availability and fund availability. Recycling, demolition and redevelopment will also contribute to the attachment business. Any infrastructure development will help the business grow. The export potential is there, but there are a lot of challenges in terms of acceptability of Brand India in other markets,¨ pontificates Gaur.
On the other hand, Guizzetti says, ¨Education on today´s market is a major factor for awareness about solutions. We are doing roadshows and a lot of presentations to show live examples in India about our equipment used in demolition and infrastructure projects, to provide awareness among the customers here in India.¨ Newatia joins in, ¨Product awareness is the only factor that will determine the growth of this industry. The faster more players enter the fray, faster will be the development. In 2007, we pioneered the introduction of quick couplers in India. Not one company was willing to touch this product then. After we educated the customer and created a market, everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Today there are hundreds of players selling quick couplers here. However, we have moved on to more complex and unique products.¨
The industry as a whole is bullish and expects the good times to continue. Most have ambitious plans to capitalise growth in the years to come. However, their approach is cautious and they are taking one positive step at a time.
Newatia shares his vision, ¨The speed at which our industry or for that matter the entire world is undergoing a change, is mind-boggling. The technology which appeared a couple of years back is already being made irrelevant by new products doing the same job more efficiently and economically. We have survived being a leader in the industry due to our vision of bringing the latest into the country and moving on from the products which are at the end of their lifecycle. Reluctance to change is resulting in companies withering away. The only vision needed today, and in 2018 and 2020, is to keep pace with the changes and relate to them as fast as we can.¨
Guizzetti is very positive. He says, ¨By 2018, we expect the market to take the next stage of growth, where it will shift from purely concept selling. We see the market still small, but growing by leaps and bounds. It is a very capable market, because India is a dynamic market that grows at high speed. So things will change rapidly, and of course, a lot of interesting things are happening in the downstream level, with the public sector investments, and the efforts the new government has put in. So probably with the larger policies and programmes being implemented by the government, there will be a lot of applications for our equipment.¨ He adds, ¨With a lot of public sector investments, we can explore a lot of private sector investments (too), and overall infrastructure initiatives at the macro level. We are looking forward to consolidating our presence in India, and being a partner to India and its stakeholders´ growth.¨
Gaur comments, ¨2018 needs to bring increased market and multiple attachments with a better bottom line. 2020 will be a time to consolidate on the product and market position and focus on export potential.¨
¨We have been in the premium segment for breakers. With the launch of the EC series in the Atlas Copco portfolio, we now intend to penetrate the value segment of customers. This range of breakers is more focused on rental and small quarry owners and hence we will be able to fill in gaps in the market demand,¨ joins in Royston.
In essence, the overall capability of even generic construction equipment like a hydraulic excavator, wheeled loader or a crane can be substantially augmented by use of one or more suitable and purpose-specific attachments. As a result, the equipment owner benefits substantially in terms of better machine utilisation, more types of operations can be performed with the same machine and operators can reduce the dependence on one machine for one type of operation, thereby optimising equipment fleet size and lowering overall operation costs. The attachment industry is continuously developing more versatile and efficient attachments for the benefit of the users. All in all, it´s a profitable proposition for the users.
It is difficult to attribute any authentic figure to the size of this innovative industry, because in addition to many established players, the main OEMs and above all numerous local players (even in villages) are present in this space. However, it would suffice to say that the size or the type of equipment is not a limitation for making suitable, purpose-built attachments for any equipment.
On a precautionary note, successful utilisation of any attachment on construction equipment depends on the users paying full attention to all associated aspects like matching the unit with equipment performance parameters, equipment adjustments required, maintenance changes, safety and manpower skills, etc. On the other side, the vendors need to provide best-of-breed aftermarket support, training and sales guidance to their buyers.
- Shankar Srivastava