While the paver market is gearing up for phenomenal growth, sensor pavers are expected to have a smooth ride due to the demand for quality roads in the future.
Sensor pavers play an important role in getting the right levels and grades when building roads. The final finish of a road depends to a great extent on the accuracy delivered by these pavers in addition to the mix quality and temperature at which they are laid and compacted.
Sensor pavers have intelligent operating technology that helps control the machine in terms of the mat thickness as well as the level of the mat and the grade required in the finished road. The paving quality of a road is defined by the ability of the paver to satisfy these three requirements in line with the highway design. Regular pavers without sensors simply follow the undulations of the road base and are therefore unable to give a smooth finish to a paved surface. In turn, this affects the traffic flow of a highway and increases maintenance requirements in the finished road.
The sensor basically controls the gradient along the road as well as across the road. It has two major advantages: it improves the quality of road in terms of levelling and gradients; second, in value terms, asphalt constitutes about 80 per cent of the road construction material. Proper levelling during the initial attempt saves a lot of valuable material, hence leading to cost savings.
Road projects: the major market
The major market for sensor pavers is really in roads and highways, so the current focus on infrastructure is having a very favourable impact on the growth of the industry. A well-developed road network is the basic infrastructure requirement of any country and naturally, various governments in the past have given special focus and budgetary allocations for development of road projects. The latest in the process is the increased allocation of funds for road projects in Budget 2017, apart from the announcing of new projects in rural areas and coastal regions.
Sunil Sapru, Region Director - India, Ammann Apollo India, says, “The government, through a series of initiatives, is working on policies to attract significant investor interest. The Indian government plans to develop a total of 66,117 km of roads under different programmes such as the National Highways Development Project (NHDP), Special Accelerated Road Development Programme in North East (SARDP-NE) and Special Programme for Development of Roads in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas, and has set an objective of building 30 km of road per day from 2016.”
According to Ramesh Palagiri, Managing Director and CEO, Wirtgen India, the last few years have been very good with respect to awards and constructions of road projects. He states, “We expect this trend to continue with construction of 19 km/day and the government working towards 30 km/day. With the infrastructure development polices of this government, there is good demand and growth (prospects) for the CE industry. The current government has ambitious plans to develop the road sector. Now the plans are being executed well, and due to this, there is an increase in demand for equipment. We being market leaders for road building and road rehabilitation, have benefited from this demand and expect this growth to continue.”
Dimitrov Krishnan, Vice President and Head, Volvo CE India, is very positive on the road sector. “The market remains very buoyant. Currently roads are being constructed in India at a rate of between 22 km and 23 km per day and we know that the Government of India has ambitions to increase that to over 30 km per day,” says Krishnan.
Paving the way
The latest Off-Highway Research report indicates a steady growth in the Indian construction equipment market. With road projects picking up, the demand for sensor pavers will also grow in the coming years.
Sapru tracks the market trend, “For sensor pavers with paving width 5.5 m (city paver class), the market size is 200-225 units. In the 7 m and above paving width class, the market size is 70-75 units. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is the main driving force behind increasing the demand for sensor pavers in India. With new projects going from approval stage to implementation, there is a positive outlook towards overall business and industry growth.” He says that the stability of the current government is also ushering in a culture of faster decision making and accountability. “Today, there are some good opportunities for all contractors. The efforts of the NHAI are also (being) well supported by state road authorities,” Sapru adds.
According to Palagiri, the market for sensor pavers is still smaller compared to mechanical pavers. He says, “The total market for sensor pavers is around 300 units per annum. The demand for the 9 m and above class is around 100 units and the rest is for the 5 m class sensor pavers. But the market for mechanical pavers is bigger — around 500 units — and we expect more contractors to shift to sensor pavers from mechanical ones in the coming years.”
Krishnan observes, “The demand for sensor pavers is very strong at present and it is quite straightforward to interpret demand, given (that) it is driven entirely by government investment in road building. This
has provided a level of reassurance and confidence to contractors, that has supported them in their investment decisions.”
The current market trend is positive for driving the demand for sensor pavers. Sapru says on a positive note, “Moving forward, the government may make the use of sensor pavers mandatory, even for rural roads. No doubt the increase in the award of road construction jobs will definitely drive the demand for sensor pavers, but this will not be directly proportional as there is a certain percentage of idle capacity as well. The demand for sensor pavers has been stagnant for a considerable amount of time, but with the spurt in the award of road contracts over the last 18 months, we expect the demand for asphalt sensor pavers will witness a steady increase.
Sapru says that the demand would be greater in the 5-6 m class segment, which would be catering to mostly state highway projects.
He adds, “Governments requiring the use of sensor pavers, even for municipal roads/ MDR/city roads etc., will improve the utilisation of sensor pavers. Besides, we look for airports, Smart Cities and racing tracks, etc.”
Palagiri concurs, “The demand for sensor pavers has been stagnant for a considerable amount of time, but with the recent spurt in the award of road contracts over the last 18 months, we expect a 25 per cent increase in demand for asphalt sensor pavers.”
He adds, “The introduction of the defect liability period in various road contracts should drive the demand for sensor pavers in addition to the contractors looking towards delivery of longer life and good ride quality.”
Krishnan says, “There are two notable elements which are also positive for sensor pavers in particular. First, the scale of the road building programme. It is not only major highways, but also rural and coastal development covering a range of locations and projects. Second is the speed of development. Contractors are under huge pressure to deliver major projects in relatively short periods of time. If we translate that to how it affects equipment requirement, it means contractors are looking for productive and reliable machines that are capable of delivering a high quality job in the fastest time possible.
He says that in such cases, contractors really need sensor pavers, rather than regular pavers, and they buy from manufacturers like Volvo, because of their reputation for reliability and productivity.
Product and tech trends
Considering the market potential, major players have introduced better and improved technology and innovations in the equipment range and offerings according to the market demand and requirements.
Ammann Apollo offers the entire range of sensor pavers in the wheeled and tracked segments from 2.5 m to 10 m paving widths, which are of the latest technology. Sapru elaborates, “In our fleet, we have offerings to suit the paving of rural roads to National Highways (expressways and super expressways) ideally suited for paving sub-base, base courses and the top asphalt layers. The company from the past four decades is quite focused on the domestic market and provides customised solutions meeting the current and future demands in paving technologies.”
Sapru adds, “With hydraulic extendible screed and easy coupling and decoupling extensions, pavers can be quickly brought into transportable mode. Most pavers with wheels make it easy to move a short distance within the site on transport mode. The pavers are designed for easy transportation in locally available trucks; with the hydraulically extendable screed, it is quite easy.”
Palagiri highlights the Vogele range of pavers that has consolidated its presence in the Indian market, “Vogele has been the industry pioneer over the past 50 years and has introduced several innovations like pressure bars and electric heating of the screed, Niveltronic plus operating concept and Ergo plus operator features. With our Dash-3 pavers, we also offer the Eco plus which helps in saving fuel, auto set plus, pave dock assistant, etc.”
He adds, “Vogele also offers several other innovative products like the Spray Jet paver which does the tack coat and paving with the same paver and mobile feeder which are now being used for building of airport runways and expressways, and also the in-line paving technology.” The most recent innovation from Vogele is the Road Scan which helps the operator of the paver to know the exact temperature of the mix as it is being paved.
Volvo manufactures only sensor pavers. In India, at its plant in Bengaluru, Volvo manufactures two models: the P4370B ABG and the P5320B ABG, both of which have a maximum paving width of 7 m. The P4370B ABG is powered by an 88 kW engine and has a basic paving width of 2.5 m. It is capable of delivering a paving output of 600 tonnes per hour. The P5320B ABG also has an 88 kW engine and a paving output of 600 tonnes per hour; however, its
basic paving width is a longer 4.75 m. “We also sell pavers from our German factory with widths of 9 m, 10 m, 13 m and 16 m. The most popular of these in India is the 9 m-width P6820C,” says Krishnan.
According to Sapru, the market for sensor pavers is expected grow at a CAGR of 7-8 per cent over the next five years. Krishnan comments on the market outlook, “We expect the market for sensor pavers to remain strong for the next three to five years. Because this work is so directly linked to government policy and investment, it is somewhat easier to understand. So long as there are no significant changes in the government’s approach, the market for sensor pavers should continue to flourish over the short term.”
From the market research reports and what industry players discussed, one thing is for sure that the market has woken up towards an expected spurt in infrastructure projects over the short and medium term. With major equipment players ready with advanced equipment, it is the customers who have to gear up to make use of this technology advantages for faster and quality execution of projects. Policymakers and other stakeholders in the process need to facilitate a conducive environment to achieve this.