The revised target of highway construction has created new avenues of growth for road construction equipment such as compactors. However, the real growth will be visible if only the agencies promote machines of new features and technologies, and contractors use such machines maximum in their projects.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has set a target to build highways at a pace of 45 km/day in 2018-19. It had built highways at rates of 27 km/day in 2017-18 and 22.7 km/day in 2016-17. The highway construction rate has gradually improved from what it was in 2014. However, this growth rate is not enough to achieve the set target of 45 km/day for this year. What does this translate into the scope of using machines? It is imperative to use advanced equipment and technologies to build quality roads and highways faster. Compactors being the dedicated machines for roads and highways construction play a major role in achieving the ambitious target. What are the positive aspects and the negative factors in the current scenario of compactors?
The current industry trend focusing on roads and highways infrastructure development is definitely a boost for the growth of compactors. According to Ajay Aneja, Brand Leader, CASE India, the new ambitious target set to build highways at 45 km/day in 2018-19 is difficult but surely not impossible. This highly demanding situation in the construction industry has increased the need for precise, transparent and verifiable results of the compaction process. A compactor is the most important equipment in road and highway construction, assisting in flattening and compacting road or a piece of soil and land. He says, 'CASE, as an active player in the industry, will try its best to deploy its best-in-class offerings when it comes to road and highway construction. When we talk about road construction, compactors, graders and dozers are the prime equipment used for different job works.'
Ramesh Palagiri, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Wirtgen India observes, 'The current government has done an excellent job and we are already close to 30 km per day in highway construction and considering the number of projects awarded and the work which is pending, there is a good chance to reach the target of reaching 45 km per day in the next 2-3 years.'
Compaction is one of the most important processes in not only road construction but also in airports, railway embankments, ports and irrigation projects to achieve the desired load bearing capacity of the soil. However, most of the current demand for both soil and tandem compactors is for road projects. In addition to other equipment, compactors with advanced features like GPS, compaction metre should be used so that optimum compaction takes place.
According to Palagiri, compactors which are currently being used are with the right technology. Improvements could be done in using GPS tracking and the compaction metre.
According to Jasmeet Singh, Head-Corporate Communications and Corporate Relations, JCB India, the roads and highways sector is a growth driver in India. The government's focus coupled with the announcement of large-scale projects will lead to a rise in the demand for road construction products. He adds, 'For the past 3-4 years, the roads sector has been performing well, including rural roads and national highways and still continues to generate the demand for the construction equipment industry. JCB is prepared to leverage the opportunity with its world-class range of road compaction equipment, which also includes a class leading range of compactors. With project sizes growing, customers today are not only demanding maximum output from equipment but are also looking for specialised, intelligent and innovative construction equipment.'
Productivity remains the single biggest focus for road building contractors. Dimitrov Krishnan, Vice President and Head, Volvo CE India elaborates the scenario, 'As the Government of India looks to raise road building levels from 23 km a day, we currently have to be closer to 45 km a day; the implications are clear. We need new equipment to handle these increased targets and not only that, the equipment has to offer higher levels of output and better reliability.'
On the revised highway construction target, Abhijit R Shinde, Head Sales, BHL and Compactor, Escorts Construction Equipment adds, 'The construction equipment industry has to play a major role in achieving this target along with the contractors by increasing the capacities to meet the demands of higher numbers of equipment and bringing in new advanced technology to improve productivity. We at Escorts are constantly working on newer things and we are set to bring few of them very soon.'
According to Vivek Hajela, General Manager and Head-Construction Equipment Business, L&T, the target announced by the Ministry of Road Transport can be accomplished by deploying machines which expedite the process. He adds, 'L&T 1190 soil compactor, L&T 990 tandem compactor and L&T 491 mini tandem compactor help in achieving compaction requirement with minimum number of passes. Machines, which are more productive, help in completing the job faster.'
According to Aneja, in the past years, the market has been buoyant for road construction equipment in general and compactors in particular. 'Against the backdrop of the government's focus on road construction, sales of compaction equipment grew 23 per cent in the first half of 2018, compared to the same period in 2017. Overall, the market is predicted to remain in the range of 4,700-5,000 units during 2019-2022,' he adds. Palagiri highlights the current market size of compactors in India as around 4,000 units a year. Says Krishnan,'In 2018, we expect soil, asphalt and mini tandem sales to grow 20 per cent and paver sales to grow 15 per cent.'
According to Shinde, in the last financial year the market size was around 4,200 units, which is expected to be 4,700 to 5,000 units in this financial year. The market size in India for compactors is growing fast. 'The current size of the annual market exceeds 4,500 machines,' says Hajela.
Measures for growth
Various stakeholders in the road construction industry are expediting ways to improve the execution speed and the quality of road projects. As the demand for speed and quality is taking the centre stage in road construction, agencies need to make it mandatory for using machines of advanced technologies and features. Krishnan adds, 'In the recent years, we have seen some state governments introduce proposals for Intelligent Compaction measurement systems to support quality monitoring programmes. However, the big challenge is still in improving acceptance levels among road contractors, primarily due to the additional cost involved in these systems. We have developed a series of initiatives to build awareness of Intelligent Compaction, partnering with various road authorities through our centre for road technology- RASTA (Resource Centre for Asphalt and Soil Training Academy).
However, our understanding is that while many authorities are currently assessing options to make implementation a key requirement, in reality it is likely to be sometime into the future before we see the real change.' According to Shinde, compactor technology has settled down over the years and to meet higher targets set by the government, the need would be to increase the capacities of production and produce reliable products. Hajela says, 'Compactors are already mandatory for all highway projects, as use of a compactor is the fastest and proven low-cost method of achieving the required density.'
Roads and highways is emerging as the most happening infrastructure sector in India. Aneja elaborates on the potential for compactors, 'Currently, there is demand for both soil and tandem compactors for road projects. As the government is offering incentives for rural projects, there has been an increase in demand for soil compactors. Soil compactors are not only used in road construction but also in compaction of soil in irrigation canals, roads and landfills, land development, ports, airports, etc. As per reports, soil compactors accounted for 57 per cent of the compaction market in 2017.'
Vibratory tandem double-drum compactors, primarily used for asphalt compaction, top's road construction. 'CASE is proud to be the only company to achieve the milestone of rolling out 11,000 vibratory compactors. With dual-drum drive technology, multiple amplitude and frequency combinations and impressive manoeuvrability, CASE compaction product range is of top class quality and perfectly suited for various applications,' claims Aneja.
Explaining the industry trend, Palagiri adds, 'The compactor market in India has been stagnant for a long time. However, in the last three years, the market has been growing at a rate of 15 per cent per annum. We expect the demand for small tandem compactors to increase.'
Singh adds, 'Focus on building roads (rural and urban) and significant budget allocation in consecutive Union Budgets has propelled the growth of construction equipment. Now with large-scale infrastructure projects, such as SagarMala, Bharatmala and Jal Marg Vikas in the pipeline, we are expecting an exciting phase for the Indian construction equipment industry, including compactors.'
According to Krishnan, the drive to improve infrastructure will unquestionably facilitate further growth in the economy and the construction equipment industry. He adds, 'We remain the only major manufacturer present in all equipment sectors: mining, road building or general construction. We offer high quality and productive equipment that delivers the best levels of fuel efficiency in the industry. With Volvo CE, our customers can do more with their equipment and downtime is minimised.' 'Soil compactors constitute 60 per cent of the total compaction segment and looking at a shift towards concrete highways, the soil segment is expected to show the highest growth, followed by mini tandem and 9T tandem rollers,' observes Shinde.
According to Hajela, the growth potential of compactors is assessed based on the project requirement. He adds, 'It is possible to accurately workout the number of machines required to carry out a job. The work planning method determines how much of the job would be done by the contractor and how much of it would be sub-contracted or completed using hired machines. The number of hired machines deployed on a project is likely to increase in percentage terms, as availability improves.'
Electronics and digital
The new age construction equipment bear a lot of electronics and digital technologies that help ease in operation and improved productivity. How far these technologies help compactors? 'Compactors are the main construction machinery range used in road and highways construction. It is imperative for private players to come up with versatile and latest technology equipped compactors, in order to ease the job work. CASE has come up with the compaction metre technology in its compactor range and EagleEye telematics is aiming for easier and before time job completion,' says Aneja. According to Palagiri, compactors with improved reliability and fuel efficiency, play an important role in the buying behaviour. 'In addition to performance and productivity, customers are also increasingly aware of operator safety and operating and maintenance cost. New technologies like Intelligent Compaction, HCQ system for HAMM compactors, three-point articulation and edge-cutting option are also some add-on features as new trends.
Singh elaborates on digital and electronics involved with JCB compactor range, 'In the process of compaction, critical aspect is to know the level of compaction that has been achieved. At times, the operator has to take a decision based on his experience. However, to make compaction more efficient, JCB India has come up with a new concept known as IntelliCompaction in JCB116, another industry first from JCB India. It provides a relative compaction value, which helps in achieving consistent and uniform compaction throughout the patch. The digital display shows high and low frequency and amplitude values for compaction control. This versatile system is suitable for both asphalt and soil surface. With this, we are moving towards a more scientific way of working, away from human judgment.'
JCB has also introduced a compaction monitoring system, which monitors all the compaction parameters of a machine and ensures consistent uniform compaction with a precise measuring system. It also takes weather conditions into account. All these details are transferred to the contractor or the owner on his smartphone, through the compaction monitoring system and the gathered data is then integrated with the telematics system, JCB Livelink. This technology also enables users to get SMS alerts on their mobile phones or smart devices regarding service alerts, operations and security of their machines. The information is available in real time regarding the health of the machine including engines and gives vital information to the customer in terms of the number of hours the machine has been operational, service intervals, fuel levels, malfunctions if any, etc.
Volvo also offers Intelligent Compaction on its compactor range. Krishnan explains, 'The Volvo Intelligent Compaction for select Volvo asphalt compactors is available in two packages: Volvo IC and Volvo IC with Density Direct. In addition to offering the pass mapping, temperature mapping and data storage features of the Volvo IC system and Volvo IC with Density Direct includes the industry's first real time density mapping technology.'
Density mapping has been described as the holy grail of Intelligent Compaction. For years, contractors have relied on IC systems with stiffness calculations instead of density, which is not the true metric by which contractors are evaluated and paid. With Density Direct, operators have real time access to the metric that ultimately determines the success of their work density.
Within the Density Direct system is a calibration screen, the user sets the target density for the project. Once fully calibrated with data specific to the application, the Volvo Intelligent Compaction with Density Direct system produces a density calculation that is accurate to within 1.5 per cent of core sampling, providing a real time reading of density values over 100 per cent of the mat.
With this real time data, the operator is given the chance to make any necessary adjustments while asphalt is being paved. This not only reduces the occurrence of inadequate densities that drive up project costs but reduces time spent taking core samples, improves quality, and leads to a much greater uniformity than nuclear gauge testing. Calibrations are also saved by the compactor, so operators can assign calibrations to certain elements of a job and quickly switch back and forth between calibrations to meet the demands of specific job elements.
The user interface of Volvo IC with Density Direct depicts a density map, showing each square foot of rolled asphalt in a colour representing density and also provides a real time numerical density reading which is displayed in the corner of the screen. Both Volvo IC and Volvo IC with Density Direct offer real time temperature and pass mapping data. Using the 8'x10' colour monitor of the Volvo IC system, the pass mapping function captures each compactor pass and drum overlap with an individual colour so that the operator can easily see gaps and work to maintain uniform coverage. Temperature mapping provides the operator with a temperature map that shows the path of the compactor overlaid with the last recorded surface temperature. 'In addition, our CareTrack telematics system allows owners to get real time data on a variety of performance-related features for their fleet. The system generates a wide range of reports, delivering data on aspects such as fuel consumption, operational hours, geographical location and more. The reports are available via a web portal or can be received via SMS or email alerts,' adds Krishnan.
Shinde opines, 'At present, the demand of Intelligent Compaction system and GPS monitoring system is very limited and specific to work orders. This should go up in future.'
Machines are supplied with tracking devices, which help in knowing the machine parameters and locations. Hajela explains, 'Most road contractors appreciate these technologies and slowly the acceptance of these technologies has gone up. L&T has the technology to supply machines with Vehicle Health Monitoring Systems.'
Products with salient features
Most of the compaction equipment manufacturers provide new features and technologies in their product range. Says Aneja,'CASE India offers the most advanced technological products which are suited for the basic Indian requirements of high fuel efficiency and productivity. Our compactors are known for their excellent fuel efficiency, unmatched reliability, high centrifugal forces and all round visibility.'
CASE offers three models of vibratory compactor:
CASE 450DX, specialised for small job work, is another market leader in the mini tandem compactor segment in India. With 1,500 plus machine population 450DX is perfect for shoulder compaction, service roads and basement compaction with compact design.
CASE's soil compactor variants are well-suited for various Earth layers. They are technically equipped to provide information on amplitude, frequency and intelligence compaction value.
The Wirtgen Group's HAMM compactors come with more than 125 years of experience in the development and manufacture of rollers and compactors for soil and asphalt compaction. HAMM offers numerous field-tested extras for its 311 compactor and HD 99 tandem roller, allowing everyone to equip the machines to suit their individual needs. Options include the edge pressing and cutting equipment for the tandem roller or the working lights for the compactor. A number of measuring systems are available as well, such as the HAMM Compaction Meter, which can be used on both the machines to monitor compaction quality even while the work is being carried out. An additional option for the tandem rollers is the HAMM Temperature Meter. Via an infrared sensor, it measures the asphalt temperature in front of the roller and displays it on the dashboard.
HAMM compactors are equipped with isolated operator platform mounted on shock absorbers so that the vibrations are reduced. The operator platform is with antiskid material to ensure operator safety. The sliding seat console for operators and excellent drum edge visibility are some striking features which make the machines easier to operate.
HAMM soil compactors are built with patented design of three-point articulation joint. This connects the front and rear end of the compactor and enables excellent directional stability and provides driver safety on difficult terrains and also adds to drivers comfort. This also increases the operator efficiency.
The engine compartment is closed with FRP hood in HAMM compactors which reduce the noise levels. ROPS/FOPS requirement is currently not a mandatory requirement as per Indian regulations. However, it can be provided as an option, according to the company.
In India, we offer the HAMM 311 soil compactor, HD 99 asphalt compactor, GRW 15 rubber-wheeled roller, 3520 pad foot compactor and also the mini tandem roller HD 12VV,' says Palagiri.
'JCB India offers a range of road compaction equipment with three world-class productsû VMT330 (a 3T class mini tandem roller), VMT 860eco (a 9T class tandem roller) and JCB116 (an 11T class soil compactor).
'JCB compaction range combines performance, reliability and productivity. For instance, the JCB116 comes with an inbuilt Germany vibration technology which gives a desired compaction density in minimum number of passes. The front weight ratio of the machine is high which provides a high static linear load. Also, in order to make compaction operation as efficient as possible, JCB India has come up with the new concept of IntelliCompaction in JCB116, another industry first from JCB India. It provides a relative compaction value which helps in achieving consistent and uniform compaction throughout the patch. The digital display shows high and low frequency and amplitude values for compaction control. This versatile system is suitable for both asphalt and soil surface,' explains Singh.
The VMT860eco tandem roller is equipped with the latest hydraulics from Germany. The machine offers greater visibility for ease of operation and is equipped with an automatic water sprinkler system, which minimises the effort. The 3T class mini tandem roller, VMT330 is best suited for applications such as highway road shoulders, retaining the walls of flyovers, for the compaction of road shoulders, footpaths, trenches, service roads, industrial and residential columns and rural roads. Both these machines have an auto-dust removal system and provide unmatched operator comfort which ultimately increases efficiency and maximises productivity, according to the company.
According to Singh, all JCB compactors offer lifetime lubricated centre joints and also offer grease-free bearings. This saves the costs of lubrication and also reduces the possibility of failures due to any negligence in greasing the joints. 'In our range of world-class compactors, vibrations and heat levels are kept the lowest to provide a comfortable work environment. Moreover, operator-friendly and ergonomically located controls with joystick help in easy machine operation,' adds Singh.
The range of compactors offered by Volvo includes Volvo DD90B and SD110BA. The Volvo DD90B is built in India and engineered to deliver the compaction performance which is necessary to accommodate the heavy volumes of traffic that the sub-continent's roads carry. Using extensive knowledge and experience, Volvo CE built the new model to ensure that compaction rates and pavement final density are suitable for a variety of operational circumstances, delivering high quality output, according to the company.
Built for power and efficiency, the Volvo DD90B combines high centrifugal force, heavy drum weight and variable amplitude to produce the energy necessary for excellent compaction. With the choice of dual amplitudes and frequencies, the 9 tonne double drum asphalt compactor delivers a smooth, finished mat in fewer passes for optimum productivity and profitability.
The Volvo SD110BA provides equal measures of efficiency, versatility and stability to ensure superior compaction, shift after shift, according to the company. Delivering an efficient, powerful performance, the 11 tonne class SD110BA combines dynamic drum forces and a heavy drum weight to deliver material target density in fewer passes. 'Both DD90B and SD110BA are designed to deliver increased uptime and are durable by design to ensure a long service life. Built with high quality components, these latest compactors feature All Genuine Volvo Parts, which are extensively tested and approved, so customers benefit from maximum durability and long-lasting performance. Both units are sold and supported nationwide through Volvo CE's extensive dealer network,' says Krishnan.
Elaborating on the product offerings from Escorts, Shinde adds, 'The latest offering is our newly launched EC 3212 (12T category soil compactors), which is packed with features like better night operations with LED work lights, mobile charging point, water bottle holder and non-slip tapes for a better foot grip. The other features of Compactobar like Intelligent Compaction system and delay start operations are all available as options. Cold starting kits are also available for operations in cold climate areas. All the features are available as either standard or as options in our entire range.'
Hajela give an overview of the product range offered by L&T, 'We offer pneumatic-tyred roller L&T 2490 PTR, which is of indigenous technology. This 24 tonne machine is used for sealing the surface of a road. The machine has the best all-around visibility and all service points on the machine are easily accessible. We have launched hydraulic paver L&T 5590H, which is a 5.5 m sensor paver. The market size for these pavers is growing and this machine will meet the customer needs in a growing market.'
Adding on the demand trend, Shinde opines, 'The soil segment constitutes 60 per cent of the total volume. Most of the manufacturers are in 11 tonne category, whereas we are offering 9 tonne and 12 tonne category. In tandem, the demand is for 10 tonne and 3 tonne category. We would be launching 11T soil model soon. The machine is undergoing extensive trials and has received very encouraging results.'
Hajela claims that many contractors appreciate L&T 990 tandem compactor as a 10 T compactor is heavier than most in its class. This helps the machine to do better compaction. He adds, 'The mini compactor segment, where the machines are finding a lot of utility applications, is one of the fastest growing segments. The mini compactors, in addition to the traditional job of getting used in shoulder compaction, are now used in basement compaction of multi-storied building, layout road development, etc.'
New technologies for quality and speed
According to Aneja, new technologies like intelligence compaction system and telematics are getting popular among customers, mainly due to the pressure of completion of project on time and to monitor the quality of work.
'Intelligent compaction matched with more productive operational control systems is revolutionising the commonplace world of compaction. A contractor will always look for a machine which reduces human efforts and stress. Hence, they come to us for machines equipped with innovative technology,' says Aneja.
He adds, 'Currently there is a demand for both soil and tandem compactor for road projects. If we talk about soil, 11T class soil compactor for asphalt, 9-10T class and 3-3.5T class for mini tandem compactor are most popular among customers. We have a compactor range available in all these classes.'
Any technology is integrated in the machine to make life easier for the customer and to make the machine more productive. It is imperative to fully abreast the owners and the operators on the latest advancements so that they can derive the maximum output from the machine. Singh elaborates, 'When a new JCB machine is delivered, we conduct a series of focused training and handover programmes for the customers and its operators to ensure seamless experience with the product. Additionally, JCB has pioneered in operator training with 15 operator training centres across the country since late 1980s and till date, has trained over 25,000 operators in the country. These centres provide a one month certified course on machine operations and maintenance, which includes both classroom and practical training on how to operate JCB machines safely and productively. Moreover, many of our operator training centres are also accredited under National Skill Development Council and Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) schemes.'
Palagiri elaborates on Wirtgen's services in operator training, 'We are focused heavily on continuous training for operators, both existing and new operators and also we have an operator school, which trains fresh ITI students to become operators and we offer their service to our customers. We feel that these two programmes of training the operators on field and also the operator school will ensure that the machines are well-maintained.'
'We have developed a series of initiatives to build awareness of Intelligent Compaction, partnering with various road authorities through our centre for road technology- RASTA (Resource Centre for Asphalt and Soil Training Academy),' says Krishnan.
Shinde explains,'We do carry out detailed commissioning of the machine when it is delivered and then we have regular scheduled visits on the machine to update and train the operators for using the machine efficiently.' Hajela elaborates on L&T's initiatives on operator training, 'We have a structured programme of capturing the operators' database and communicating with the operators through L&T Maitri, a mobile app. The app helps the operators abreast of the latest developments. We have a training centre at Kanchipuram where operators are trained under the PMKVY.
Sales support is one of the key deciding factors in the overall buying cycle of a product. Since these machines work in far flung areas of the country, it is imperative that a well-connected product support is offered to the customers to minimise downtime and maximise productivity. According to Singh, JCB has ensured to provide an unmatched distribution network to its customers through 650 outlets and over 60 dealers.
He adds, 'Our dealers have made significant investments in setting up their product support network with over 6,000 trained professionals who are periodically trained on the operation and maintenance of the product. We have also strategically set up five warehouses at Pune, Chennai, Faridabad, Guwahati and Kolkata to support these outlets with parts supply.'
Additionally, JCB has also introduced a digital application called Smart Serve which enables the dealer in better resource management of service engineers. Through this app, the dealer can now keep a real time tab on machines and placement of its service engineers and accordingly distribute the manpower.
'With a range of innovative machines, advanced digital technologies, and bespoke service packages and product support, we are aiming to be as close to our customers as possible,' adds Singh.
In spite of the many positive factors of the demand growth, the industry is facing a slew of challenges in terms of various aspects. Aneja points out, 'The biggest challenge for the construction manufacturing sector in India, over the years, is the lack of research and development (R&D), which is necessary in boosting the vision and objectives, hence, moving towards innovation. A good R&D team will provide better performance and productivity out of products, which also is another challenge for sustaining in a competitive industry. CASE's R&D team constantly endeavours to develop clever innovations to make equipment more fuel-efficient for reducing emissions.'
Krishnan explains, 'There is still a big challenge in improving acceptance levels among road contractors, primarily due to the additional cost involved in these systems.'
Shinde points towards a different issue, 'Everyone in the industry is at par as far as technology is concerned, so the challenge remains getting the desired value of the products sold. The way new projects are being awarded and the targets set by the government show ample opportunities available in the market.'
Hajela highlights the rise in raw material cost as a major concern. He adds, 'Steep increase in steel prices, increase in diesel and oil prices and the higher rate of USD/Euro parity have all lead to cost increase. This has affected all the compactor manufacturers. Passing on the increase to the customers is the only option to maintain profitability. New opportunities are emerging in terms of exports and large-scale buying by corporates. Many road contracts have been awarded and this has led to a surge in equipment demand.'
The road ahead
The market has stabilised with more projects in the pipeline. Palagiri says, ôThe market for compactors in India would continue to grow and sustain as these machines are not only used for building new roads but also for the maintenance of roads, and HAMM being the world market leader in compaction technology would continue to strive and bring relevant technologies to the market.'
Krishnan elaborates, 'The outlook to 2020 is still very bright. India's potential is clear and the drive to improve infrastructure and energy supply will unquestionably facilitate further growth in the economy and the construction equipment industry. As a company, Volvo CE has deep roots in India and an established sales and support network. We are well-positioned to play our own part in the next stage of India's development and are excited to do so.'
Shinde is positive about the future of the industry as, he says, 'The compaction industry should show a good growth in the next five years and then it is expected to get stabilised at around 6,000-6,500 units a year. After sales support, reliable product is the key for consistent growth.'
According to Hajela, India has become a preferred manufacturing base for companies to roll out compactors. This augurs well with the concurrent development of vendors across the country in terms of capability and delivery. 'The development of the used equipment market, easy finance for purchase of used equipment and the development of service stations and workshops for machine repairs are some of the areas which would help the penetration to improve. L&T is geared up to take full advantage of the opportunities emerging in the growing markets,' he adds.
The roads and highways sector is growing at a bigger rate as compared to the other infrastructure segments. However, the recent slowdown in execution of projects is a concern at least for the short-term. Also the election phase may create a temporary slowdown. So it is imperative that more infrastructure segments will grow along with roads and highways, which will create a sustainable growth of construction equipment market including compactors.
- Sudheer Vathiyath