The crane manufacturing industry has witnessed a phase of restructuring with several acquisitions and joint ventures resulting in considerable international influence in the quality and use of better technology in the industry. Equipment India finds out the changing trends.India in the recent years has witnessed massive amounts of investment in the construction industry from both public as well as private enterprises. Multi-billion dollars spent towards constructing roads, ports, plants, urban infrastructure, etc opened up various opportunities for the crane industry. This resulted in creating a huge demand for the crane industry to grow. Says Tushar Mehendale, Managing Director, ElectroMech, “This boom in the construction and infrastructure sectors in India has resulted in a special demand for most of our cranes and hoists such as gantry cranes for precast segment yards and bridge constructions, specialised hoisting equipment for bridge launching girders etc. We have seen a huge demand for light weight cranes in auto sector. Hazardous sectors such as oil, gas and petroleum industries require safe and reliable modes of cranes. Other industries, such as steel and cement require a variety of cranes and hoists for their material handling needs in infrastructure projects.”“A real growth in the industrial crane market has been observed only in the last 5-7 years. When one looks at the installed base of cranes most of them are based on old design concepts that often ignore technological advancements achieved in recent times. A large portion of demand even today seeks cranes based on technology mastered more than 50 years back. The trend is changing, but very slowly,” says Suhas Baxi, CEO and Managing Director, Demag India.Power PotentialMehendale adds, “Today, the government has been promoting an expansion of power sector on several new projects that have further created a demand for a large range of cranes from this sector. The power sector requires cranes for a variety of applications like for requirements for 250 MT for windmill manufacturers, transformer manufacturers, TG Hall cranes, coal mill handling cranes, etc. The usage of tower cranes, particularly in the real estate sector is still in its nascent stage in India as compared to other countries. We expect demand to grow faster for tower cranes on account for growing adoption in the country.”Baxi had this to say, “Power is an important sector for all crane manufacturers. Power generation and power equipment are two distinct segments with unique requirements. Thermal power sector is facing issues relating to fuel supply and cost and hence are grappling with economic feasibility of their projects. Large investments that were announced last year are yet to take off. However once the policy issues in this sector are addressed this sector promises healthy potential in the long run.Equipment like transformers, motors, are surely impacted with new projects not taking off however they cater to replacement markets and have thus continued to drive demand for cranes. Wind power related manufacturing like gear boxes etc continue to drive demand for our products.”Says Mehul Patel, Managing Director, Anupam Industries, “The current market size of the crane industry would be around Rs 2,000-2,500 crore and is expected to grow at 20-30 per cent on a year-on-year basis. Broadly speaking, there are three segment of industries which will create demand for cranes in the coming years due to huge investments: steel, power and port, and our endeavour is to be a strong player in all these segments.”Demand-supplySays Baxi, “Over the past couple of years we have seen a robust demand from the automotive and auto ancillary sector. We believe that this sector has a good long term potential in India. The general engineering and fabrication industry too has been showing a positive trend. These sectors have been major markets for our standard cranes, light crane systems (KBK), and chain and rope hoists. The power sector for us has been a story of making entry with our Indian product; it is facing challenges on the macro economic front, though in the long run power Sector – both generation and power equipment will become lucrative. The infrastructure segment is showing sluggishness, possibly on account of certain policy implementation and the nature of their business. Demag caters to all the above industries and we are the only manufacturer that is a one stop shop for material handling and movement solutions. Our product range starts with an 80 kg hoist and extends to a 450T crane.Auto, steel, general and heavy engineering form a bulk of our segments and we have performed reasonably well in these sectors. In fact based on the promise shown by the auto and auto ancillary units we have introduced products in the chain and rope hoist segment which cater specially to the Indian buyers and are very competitive.Technology trendsSpeaking about the technology trends Patel says, “In recent years, there has been a lot of technological advancement and innovations in this field, particularly in the drive controls of the industrial cranes. Also, there has been advancement and innovation in the metallurgy as well as mechanical and electrical components of these cranes.”A major shift is in the industry is towards energy efficiency. According to Saeesh Nevrekar, Vice President, Konecranes India, energy efficiency is the crucial parameter while selecting any crane as it increases the operating cost. He elaborates, “Crane operation requires frequent starting and stopping and during each braking period and load lowering the generated energy is either wasted or fed back to the supply line. In regenerative network braking, which is a standard feature in the SMARTON crane, the crane’s braking energy is fed back to the power grid instead of just going to waste and raising the temperature of the facility. The regenerative multi-drive technology involved several parallel DynAReg network braking units eliminates the braking resistors used in traditional single drive technology. The greatest benefit provided by this technology is significantly reduced energy consumption. Depending on the customer process, up to as much as 30 per cent of cranes total power consumption can be saved via feeding the braking energy back to power grid for other uses.”Nevrekar further adds, “We have recently launched a new RTG crane for container handling application equipped with the Hybrid Power Pack Technology. The Konecranes Hybrid Power Pack turns a diesel RTG into a diesel-electric hybrid RTG. Whenever possible, the crane is operated with electrical power drawn from the energy store. Like a hybrid car, it takes the energy generated during braking and converts it into electricity to recharge the energy store. This solution can reduce diesel fuel consumption dramatically. The RTG can operate much longer on every tank of diesel fuel improving the productivity.”Intelligent cranesDemag cranes and hoists are available in two variants. The BAS range has simple contactor based controls. Our PRO range of hoists and cranes are based on CAN BUS controls. CAN BUS technology is very common in all the modern day automobiles. This technology enables multiple operations to be sequentially or simultaneously managed safely and efficiently through a central processor. This also enables reduction in electrical wiring and cabling required on the crane. The electronic system ensures that all operations of the crane are recorded and stored. This provides valuable insights when our Service experts are advising customers on preventive maintenance since their recommendations are based on a usage and performance pattern. The technology further offers benefits like remote monitoring capability which when engaged does not require a person to visit site. We can trouble shoot the equipment from hundreds of kms away.“Companies such as Demag have brought the latest technology that is available to our customers around the world, now with local manufacturing advantage. Safety is of utmost importance to us and this is reflected in our design principles and in the features that are thus offered in cranes. Companies that have used such products tend to adapt technologically advanced products very naturally. Many progressive domestic companies too have started recognising the benefits of better design and manufacturing. Factors like OEM support over the life cycle of the product and lower total cost of ownership (TCO) for cranes will become important decision drivers going forward,” adds Baxi.“The industry is becoming more and more customer oriented as compared to the past. Consumers have started giving importance to all aspects of customer service. Manufacturers today as a practice have to follow effective work modules to ensure minimum customer complaints,” says Mehendale.Impact of slowdownAs per the industry input the last two quarters certainly have been slow which has been attributed to various factors, including inflation and currency devaluation. The budget did not help in boosting investor confidence, which was already dwindling. The industry has been affected by this and companies and purchasers are being very cautious about new investments.Says Nevrekar, “The current economic slowdown both in India and globally could affect the business in the short term but in the long term, we expect to be on a high growth path.” He adds, “Our performance in the last two quarters has been quite good and we have a healthy order book for the next two quarters also.” Patel supports the view, “Business in the last two quarters has not been very encouraging. However, there has not been any direct impact from the current inflationary trends and the devaluation of Indian currency. The adverse impact is mainly from the weak economic scenario.”Safety notesIt is encouraging to see that the bigger players in the industry now a day have started placing a significant importance on safety on the shop floor. However, smaller companies are still basing their decision on pricing rather than safety features. In the future, we are expecting that even the smaller companies will eventually turn around and see the natural benefits of putting safety first during operations.“A lot of countries adhere to major safety methods. For example, in China, every crane manufacturer needs to be registered with a government regulatory authority before being able to sell any hoisting equipment. Japan also follows the same for selling any equipment having a SWL more than 3MT. These companies are then subjected to regular audits and their products need to be type certified before being sold. In India, there is a set of design standards under IS. Several crane manufacturers, especially in the unorganized sector, claim that their cranes confirm of the requirements of IS, however, if one scratches beneath the surface a lot of discrepancies can be found. These discrepancies are the reason for price reduction at the cost of sacrificing safety,” Mehendale points out.Says Baxi, “The safety norms are designed to ensure equipment, operator and environment safety. The challenge actually is in the interpretation and implementation of these norms and their translation in to safe working practices. We at Demag take this challenge and meeting it as our primary responsibility. Training of operators and engineers on various safety features, safe operating practices and instituting a preventive maintenance regime that ensure safety is our approach.”According to Patel, there is scope for improvement in the safety standards with the drafting and implementing of safety norms by relevant government agencies. USA and Europe follow the best practices in terms of safety standards. However, the top corporate customers give due importance to safety aspects and spend more for added safety features, and for such a customer base, safety works as one of the best selling points.He says, “We seriously emphasise the safety aspects of each crane. Our ladle cranes for the steel industry, which are very critical in nature from the safety point of view, are equipped with a lot of safety features. We provide complete redundancy for all mechanical and electrical parts and ensure that any breakdown due to operator’s error does not lead to any accident. Similarly, our tower cranes are equipped with added safety features like limit switch for all motions, overload limit switch, torque limiter, wind speed sensor, lightening arrestors, etc. All these safety features ensure accident-free operation.”Even though the demand for cranes has not been very positive in the last one year due to delay in project finalisation in power, steel, construction and other key sectors the industry feel that this scenario will change soon as the government takes the necessary step to curb inflation and release funds to activate various projects. Patel sums it up thus, “With infrastructure growth and increasing residential density, power will be in greater demand in the coming years, and this sector will see major growth in the coming years.