With a myriad of attachments, truck-mounted cranes have created niche applications segments with faster, safer and more productive solutions.
Construction industry has been witnessing a shift towards using safer, more advanced technology, especially application-oriented equipment and machinery. Industry demand for quicker turnaround time, safer, efficient and versatile lifting solutions has assumed greater significance which has resulted in increased demand for truck-mounted (telehandlers/knuckle boom cranes/truck loaders). Many companies are replacing, or rather moving towards latest methodology of material handling where the range, mobility, reach, stability, maneuverability, utility, and more importantly safety are given priority.
Explaining the concept of integrated load handling solutions Rajinder Raina, General Manager - Marketing, Escorts Construction Equipment says, ´Integrated load handling as also customised load handling, as a concept, has been around for a while now. However, the market size has not grown the way one expected it to. With emphasis on safety and upgradation in material handling practices, these products will find increasing traction in the market place.´ With regard to the response from various end user segments Raina had this to say. ´So far it has been a mixed bag as initially this product was promoted by pitching it against the regular loading equipment. That was a wrong thing to do because all products have unique application areas with a very minimum overlap. But with the year on year growth in sales of these products and new application segments being identified, this concept is catching on steadily.
These cranes have found use in power, (electricity distribution organizations) process industry, railways, construction sites, ((mainly metro and bridges), municipal corporations and marine applications, palletised material handling, workshop logistics, brick manufacturing, pipe handling, that much for the versatility of the crane. With a variety of attachments such as various types of standard grabs, buckets, hooks, special lifting attachments like spreaders and customised attachments for specific job applications make these cranes all the more versatile. Says Santosh Rao, Managing Director, Palfinger India, ´We are trying to find out new application areas to our customers. Our loader cranes can load onto the truck, carry the load, then unload the truck with the same crane. So, three different activities are being done by one machine. Customers from different segments have appreciated these cranes and their activities. Primary reason being, that they could transport the load to a long distance, unload there and then come back with some load with them to the point of origin. So it is not simply for lifting and transportation, but is for lifting, loading, transporting, unloading and to be back with another load. That is the basic positioning of these machines.´
For general construction sector, these machines have wide-spread coverage now. Here the customers are willing to invest in machines where productivity and accuracy is paramount and safety is a major factor. Apart from that, we have customers in various segments for instance; in the brick industry our cranes provide a very acceptable solution which is really economical and safe. In other markets, we are still in the process of market creation as there is a need for greater awareness. In many Government agencies and in the defense sector this is an established concept. In the general construction sector, except for certain big infrastructure companies, this is not known to most of the players. But, the way we are progressing, it is certain that this is going to be the product of the future.
According to Sudhir Chaudhary, General Manager - Sales, Hyva (India), ´The basic function of a crane is lifting. But since there is a hydraulic moment available at its end, one can fit certain attachments to it to perform specialised jobs. For example, with certain attachments like earth auger, this crane can be used in installation of electric poles. The earth auger can drill the earth deep down. Then the crane can lift the pole and install it in the pit. With the help of a basket attachment, one can complete the installation work. The same truck can carry the pole and all other fitments. Thus, with one single crane, one can do the complete installation of an electric post.´ He adds, ´These cranes with the clamshell attachment can be used to lift debris from drains along the roads and clean the drains effectively and hygienically. Major application areas of these cranes are in cement, construction, pipelines, power distribution firms, municipal bodies, mining etc.´
´In terms of volumes, the total numbers are still less than 900 units. The value of the machines ranges from Rs 8 lakh (knuckle boom cranes) to Rs 250 lakh (slew-able-telehandlers). The versatility of these cranes makes them suitable for any and every type of material handling however the price will define the application areas that will drive the market. It is gradually catching up with the hiring segment as well,´ says Raina. According to Rao, the supply level is absolutely adequate with the demand. He says, ´The market is still to grow as the rental segment is still not caught on to this concept. Rental companies are the ones who could drive this concept in a big way. Currently this is more of an end-user market.´
Says Chaudhary, ´For Hyva cranes, we have always kept a balance between the demand and supply because these are imported machines. Many companies have banned the use of pick-and-carry cranes in their projects due to safety issues, which has increased the requirement of knuckle boom cranes. Also, for certain special applications, knuckle boom cranes are versatile machines, where pick-and-carry cranes cannot do such works. With the labour cost is increasing, mechanisation is also growing. For all these reasons, there is definitely awareness in the market. So the trend towards the use of knuckle boom cranes is increasing, but the only issue is affordability. Right now, rental companies are not much into this equipment segment. Once they come, there will be a sudden boom in the industry.´
According to Raina, globally rentals comprise more than 40 per cent of market share in this category of cranes. The scenario in India is going to be no different, in fact it is moving towards the rental model. Rao supports the view. ´Rental segment has a major role to play in loader cranes. Currently the rental segment is yet to evolve for these cranes. We already started selling a few machines to rental customers. But they may not be dedicated rental companies.´
Product and tech trends
´Earlier, the cranes were more of hydraulic and less of electric and electronic. But today´s cranes are more of electric/electronics and less of hydraulics. These cranes are more tech savvy and need the service back up of the manufacturer. So today, most of the major players have their own service and maintenance set up in India. After-sales is a very important aspect of these cranes and fortunately most of the OEMs have that set up here,´ says Amar Singh Bedi, Partner, Barkat Hiring Co. He adds, ´Also there are a lot of safety measures come with the new generation cranes. There are equipment with safety locks for overload tipping, where the crane will not function beyond the maximum load capacity.´
´Since most of these cranes are imported, the technology of these cranes is contemporary,´ quips Raina. He adds, ´However, some low spec localised cranes have been developed too. The Indian variant of truck mounted stiff boom cranes is a product that is finding good acceptability in the market. As the norms and practices of material handling change, the demand for these cranes will accelerate. These cranes are surely the product of the future.´ Chaudhary is on the same page. According to him, the cranes used in India are currently all imported ones. These are already engineered to the best of specifications and are complied with the European specifications which are best-in-class today. They have most of the features, but affordability on certain features is a concern. For example, radio remote control is standard in most of the European cranes, but here we don´t because of the affordability.
´Palfinger is the world leader in truck mounted loader cranes,´ claims Rao. He adds, ´Technology trends vary in terms of special materials required for boom, welding packages, and special profiles of the booms. At Palfinger research is on in a big way for these special requirements.´ Palfinger has wide range of cranes to cater any lifting requirement commensurate with the capacity of trucks in the market. The company supplied a 100 tonne-metre crane to Bhutan for a hydroelectric project.
Rao further adds, ´We manufacture stiff boom cranes in India at our Chennai works. Knuckle boom cranes are being imported as of now. We have invested in India since 2008 and we have a full-fledged manufacturing facility in India for these cranes. Our network of branch offices and dealerships across the country ensure an industry leading customer support infrastructure.
The Palfinger group is committed to support the Indian market in whichever manner appropriate.´
Escorts offers the widest range of knuckle boom cranes, imported from Fassi, Italy. The load handling capability of these cranes ranges from 0.8T m to 195T m. For truck cranes, Escorts has a tie up with Zoomlion, one of the leading brands from China. Hyva offers cranes in mono boom and knuckle boom ranges. Mono boom cranes come in 1 tonne m to 22 tonne m range. Knuckle boom cranes are offered in range of 1 tonne m to 80 tonne m. Says Chaudhary, ´Our cranes are available in various capacities.´
Palfinger has a wide range of cranes to offer globally. Says Rao, ´We can offer any type and range to the Indian market. However, we are closely watching and developing the market here in India. We are carefully going segment by segment with varied applications towards developing the overall market. We have selected a few cranes for Indian market as of now.
´Cost is a major factor because today we are comparing these cranes with the traditional pick-and-carry cranes in the domestic markets. Both the machines are not equal in quality, but we are comparing these based on their common applications areas. We at Hyva have understood the cost factor and embarked on a solution to make the cranes in India itself. In this direction, we have already started assembling cranes in India for the past one year. In the next level, we are in the process of producing the complete unit locally. The first unit is already produced at our Pune plant and testing and validation is underway. Even if we produce the complete unit from here, the specifications will remain the same as it is produced in Europe or any other location. We will strictly adhere to the European specifications,´ says Chaudhary.
Raina is on the same page. He says, ´Cost certainly is an obstacle. These cranes need to be sold purely on multiple use basis. The customer needs to find deployment for more than 250 hr per month to make the purchase a viable proposition. It is purely concept based/application selling. Currently it is purely a push market. Price is another obstacle in for the end users who prefer low cost solutions. The users of these types of cranes are highly satisfied with the utility of the machines.´ Raina adds, ´At the time of introducing new products in the market place, Escorts introduces these to the financiers as well. It is for the sellers to create a buy in with the finance companies where after it is another case of equipment financing. Initially NBFC are that much more careful which is understandable.´
There are many other optional features that take care of man and material safety. These cranes come with features like load indicators, audio-visual type and in higher capacity/value with an auto cut off. Foolproofing is there to avoid abuse/operational mistake by the operator. Load movement limiters, Stability/interlocking outriggers, cylinder holding valves to avoid accidents related to any hydraulic circuit failure. Says Chaudhary, ´We have load limiting devices built-in in our cranes; if the load goes beyond the limit, the crane gets locked and the crane will only retract. When descending the crane, the movement is smooth rather than a jerky fast movement. In case the crane system fail when a person is working at height, there is an emergency hand pump built-in which can bring the crane down slowly and safely.´
Palletised load handling: Palletisation is largely confined to industrial and warehousing material handling. According to Raina, the growth of these cranes is not too dependent on palletised load handling. These cranes use multiple attachments that make them versatile and forks are just one of the attachments.
According to Chaudhary the trend of palletisation is gradually taking pace. Primarily, two factors are driving it: labour cost and productivity. Palletisation also helps transportation of goods safer and faster. All put together, palletisation helps improve productivity, safety, transportation, etc.
With increase in palletisation, requirement of such equipment is also growing. He explains, ´For example, in handling fly ash concrete blocks, the bricks can be palletised and handled with the help of brick grapple attachment. The crane with necessary attachments can provide unparallel safety in the whole process. Also the whole process is much faster compared to manual or pick-and-carry crane operation.
´Palletised load handling is the biggest segment where we are selling our cranes and this segment has grown over the last couple of years. Also, there is immense potential for this segment to grow in the light of some of the initiatives taken by the government. This is mostly connected to building construction and real estate. Going forward, with townships and smart cities coming up, there is immense potential for truck loader cranes. There are distinct advantages of using truck loader cranes which offer a clear value to the customers,´ avers Rao.
According to Raina, the market promises to go up from here on between 10 to 15 per cent. He says, ´We at Escorts are targeting a growth in excess of the market CAGR, in terms of volumes as well as value. We have products and strategy in place for the expected growth of the market.´
Says Rao, ´Compared to last fiscal, this year is going to post higher growth. In the years to come we see continued growth as all initiatives announced by the government would support growth of these products.´ Says Chaudhary, ´We expect by end of this fiscal the volume will cross 300 units and by 2016-17, the volume will go up to 1,000 units. With the awareness among customers increasing, I am sure there will be growth in the coming years.´
Pick-and-carry shall continue to cater to low capacity, retail rental market. However, for all the major projects, special applications and high capacity and reach, cranes other than pick-n-carry shall find use. Once the projects announced by the Central and State Governments are on, these specialised cranes are sure to grow immensely.
Palfinger is also the world leaders in a segment called forestry cranes. Apart from knuckle boom cranes, Palfinger has a separate division for timber cranes branded Epsilon. Today, every paper manufacturing company in the country uses Epsilon cranes for handling logs. This is a very special application entailing round the clock operation hence necessitating robust customer service infrastructure.
´Palfinger is the world leader in truck mounted loader cranes.´
´There are a lot of inter-state border issues in moving the equipment.´
Earlier, the cranes were more of hydraulic and less of electric and electronic. But today´s cranes are more of electric/electronics and less of hydraulics. These cranes are more tech savvy and need the service back up of the manufacturer, says Amar Singh Bedi, Partner, Barkat Hiring Co. Excerpts from the interview
What is the current demand-supply scenario for truck-mounted cranes?
Currently due to limited demand, the demand-supply level is almost balanced. Industry was not doing well earlier, but since past few months things have become relatively positive and we are almost reaching 100 per cent productivity.
I think in another 2-3 months, demand will overtake supply, especially in the telescopic cranes segment. In the smaller capacity segment, already demand is more and supply is less.
What is the capacity range offered by you and which are the brands you deal with? We have cranes in capacities ranging 100T-650T. Our cranes are from P&H, Terex, Leibherr, Manitowoc, American, and Zoomlion. We own the largest and youngest all-terrain crane in India, the Demag AC 650. And this is the only crane available in India in its class. This crane is working at petrochemical and refinery, power plant, and other erection projects.
Which are the verticals that drive the demand for truck-mounted cranes?
Particularly, Reliance refinery project has taken up in a big way. There are many cement plants which are going to expand in future, petrochemical plants are coming up in Kochi and in Rajasthan. Also there are many general projects like metro, bridges and dams are underway. So many EPC companies are looking for cranes for their projects and all put together there will be a growth in demand.
What are the major challenges you face as a rental firm?
Rental rates are not very rosy, but sustainable as of now. Buying new machines and sustain in the rental market will be a little difficult in the current condition. There are a lot of inter-state border issues in moving the equipment.
What are the growth prospects of truck-mounted cranes market?
There is a decent demand expected in the near future. Ultimately, if the country grows then everything will grow. The demand was not good a few months back, but now it is improving. I see a lot of optimism by 2015.
How many truck-mounted cranes do you have in your fleet?
We have about 30 units ranging 100T-650T capacity.
Are you planning to buy more truck cranes in future?
We may buy a couple of bigger and smaller capacity cranes in future.
- Rajinder Raina, GM - Marketing, Escorts Construction Equipment.
´Escorts offers the widest range of knuckle boom cranes, imported from Fassi, Italy.´
75 T: Rs 3-3.5 lakh
100 T: Rs 4-5 lakh
150 T: Rs 6.5-7 lakh
200 T: Rs 8-9 lakh
250-300 T: Rs 13-14 lakh
400 T: Rs 18-20 lakh
The rates can vary depends on the period.
Source: Brakat Hiring Co
Sudhir Chaudhary, GM - Sales,
´Hyva offers cranes in mono boom and knuckle boom ranges in various capacities.´