The future of material handling equipment is going to be about more automation and easier human control interface, says Tushar Mehendale, Managing Director, ElectroMech. Excerpts from the interview.
What is the overall demand-supply scenario for industrial cranes?
In the 12th Five- Year- Plan, the Indian government is looking at an 8 per cent growth rate in GDP and the construction industry which has registered a growth of over 5 per cent will play a key role. In this Plan period, $ 1 trillion, i.e., Rs 52 lakh crore, has been committed to infrastructure and construction. Government is looking to increase the industry that is around Rs 10,000 crore in size, to a compounded annual growth rate of around Rs 35,000 crore by the second part of this Plan period.
Government is promoting investment in construction and real estate sector for the reason that in progressing countries like India, China, Brazil and East Asian countries, construction business has seen a remarkable boom.
What are the latest product/technology trends in industrial cranes?
The current trend in the material handling industry is towards developing products that have enhanced levels of safety, coupled with high levels of productivity. Developments are also taking place in terms of making the products more energy efficient. For example, in the case of tower cranes, the trend is emerging towards having inverter drives on all the motions so as to provide safer and smoother handling while consuming energy in a most efficient manner. In case of gantry cranes, the trend is towards making the cranes more compact, lighter and much more efficient by utilising latest generation of drive motors and by employing sophisticated CAE technologies for structural designs. Ultimately, efficient and safer equipment helps in reducing the running costs of the equipment and the end-user benefits in the long run.
How do you assess the existing safety norms and standards?
Unfortunately, the industrial overhead cranes sector is not governed by any safety regulations by the government. As a result, there is a proliferation of an unorganised sector that puts together cranes that do not go beyond the scope of the IS norms to offer enhanced safety features. There is definitely scope for improvement. For example, in China, every crane manufacturer needs to be registered with a government regulatory authority before being able to sell any hoisting equipment. That is not the case here.
However, this scenario is changing slowly. The future of material handling equipment is going to be driven in terms of more automation and easier human control interface. Radio remote controls have already started to replace the traditional means of controls in a variety of equipment. PLCs have become the norm in several control systems of even the most mundane of equipment in order to automate some processes and/or to enhance safety. There are a lot of opportunities where important data points can be captured while a piece of equipment is in use and such data can then be subjected to various analytics to drive business efficiencies.
Tell us about the range of systems offered by Electromech for various verticals and it advantages.
The Indian industrial cranes sector lacks a structured after sales service infrastructure. Most of the manufacturers'end their involvement towards the customers with the closure of the commissioning of the equipment, thus perplexing the customer with regards to servicing and maintenance of cranes. ElectroMech understands the gaps as well as the need to pay attention to the customer's needs. This is why we have set up Cranedge, a subsidiary company with a focus on maintenance and service for industrial cranes of all makes.
To what extent has the present economic slowdown adversely impacted the growth prospects of industrial cranes for various sectors?
With the recent slowdown in the Indian economy, the market witnessed a drop in the announcement of new projects. This has reflected on the demand for industrial cranes. Our estimate is that the market size has dropped to Rs 1,500-1,800 crore, compared to Rs 2,200-2,500 crore a couple of years ago. However, we are slowly but steadily coming out of this phase. There will certainly be a rise in demand for cranes from various sectors in the next few months.