The growing construction activities are driving the requirement for more concrete. This is expected to push the demand for batching plants.
Concrete is a major constituent of infrastructure projects: mainly in real estate, roads and highways, railways, sea ports, airports, power plants, irrigation and urban modernisation sectors. Cement demand in India is likely to grow about 4.5 per cent in 2018-19 on the back of a pick-up in the housing segment, and a higher infrastructure spend, according to ICRA. This demand will largely drive for more concrete equipment like batching plants.
While high capacity concrete batching plants will be required to cater to the mass concreting demands in bigger projects, lesser capacity plants are suitable for small and medium scale construction projects.
Demand for construction equipment has seen tremendous growth recently with the spurt in infrastructure development activities. Requirement of more concrete for these construction projects has increased the use of concrete equipment such as batching plants, pumps and mixers. According to VG Sakthikumar, Managing Director, Schwing Stetter Sales and Services, the current construction equipment market in India is to grow at a rate of 25 per cent. The current size of concrete batching plants is about 2,000 units per annum of various capacities.
Debasis Bhattacharya, Head-Sales, Marketing & Product Support, Ajax Fiori Engineering (India), brings forth a similar picture on the industry scenario as he comments, "In the current scenario, the concrete batching plant market size could be between 1,750-2,000 units, with a combined capacity ranging from 20 cu m/hr to 240 cu m/hr."
Concrete is required in almost all major construction projects, be it roads, railways, power plants, irrigation, ports, airports or buildings. And the use of concrete equipment such as batching plants is on the rise. Schwing Stetter batching plants are in operation at many construction projects in India. Sakthikumar names a few, such as Kaleshwaram irrigation project, Statue of Unity, Eastern Peripheral Expressway, almost all the national, state highways, rural roads, and metro construction.
According to Bhattacharya, Ajax batching plants are widely used in major infrastructure projects in the country. These plants find their place in various metro rail projects and roads and irrigation projects in the country.
Sakthikumar sees road, irrigation, ports, RMC, railways, metro rail, power (nuclear, thermal, solar, wind, hydro, gas-based), real estate and other community buildings as the major demand drivers for his product line. Government of India has announced the Rs 5.35 trillion Bharat Mala Pariyojana to construct 34,800 km of highways. This outlay of Rs 6.92 trillion is for building an 83,677-km road network over the next five years. He adds, "The concrete road construction is one of the best examples, which helped the growth of concreting equipment. Roads are number one sector in pushing the business growth. More and more of these roads like national highways and expressways are becoming concrete roads from asphalt roads. So, the road sector is the number one in pushing the growth of Schwing Stetter India's business. Similarly, India has metro rail construction going on in cities such as Delhi, Pune, Nagpur, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, etc, which is again driving the concreting business. In future, real estate is expected to grow further from its recent slowdown."
Saroj Kumar Jha, Deputy General Manager, B L Kashyap & Sons, sees demand push from RMC sector for concrete plants. He says, "There is a growth in sourcing RMC concrete for smaller projects where viability for installation, operation and dismantling is not feasible. The number of commercial RMC plants in the country is estimated to be over 500 at present, and expected double in another five years' time, given the continued impetus to infrastructure development. The stricter quality controls diktats and pressure to stick to tight project deadlines has been the driving force behind the growth in the RMC usage. Though demand is tremendously high and rental availability is good, it needs to be sourced or booked well in advance."
According to Bhattacharya, the biggest demand drivers for batching plants segments have been the Indian government's large-scale infrastructure projects, especially the Bharat Mala Pariyojana project in the roads sector. "The NHAI projects demand high capacity plants starting from 100 cu m/hr. State governments are focusing on irrigation and road projects and hence the demand of 30-60 cu m/hr plants are seen in this segment," he adds.
Batching plant types
Bhattacharya elaborates on the classification of batching plants, "The batching plants are normally classified as small, medium and large capacity plants based on the output/hr. The small capacity plant comes within a capacity of up to 20 cu m/hr and medium capacity plants are usually between 30 to 60 cu m/hr, while the large capacity plants are between 90-240 cu m/hr. The capacity of the plants is determined by the capacity of the mixer, as normally they range from 0.35 to 3 cu m per batch."
According to Sakthikumar, the plants up to 60 cu m are considered as small capacity plants and plants bigger than that are considered as higher capacity batching plants. "This understanding is also likely to change when more and more bigger capacity batching plants sells in India," he says.
On selecting a specific batching plant for a project, Jha explains, "Project concrete quantity, schedule, type of structure, placement location, the rate of pour required, the speed of construction, availability of technical staff to upkeep this equipment etc are some of the major factors we take into consideration while selecting a concrete batching plant."
BLK is a major contractor with a fleet of concrete equipment. Jha elaborates, "Since 2005, we have a number of batching plants at our projects sites in Bengaluru and Chennai; three batching plants with a capacity of 60 cu m and six 30 cu m capacity plants. We also have a 15 cu m/hr plant."
With the evolution of construction industry over the years, technology has taken a step forward in the recent past with new features being added to increase the efficiency and productivity of the equipment. According to Sakthikumar, digitalisation is the future. He adds, "Construction industry projects are instilling the change to futuristic technologies of digital sensors, intelligent machines, mobile devices adaptabilities, and new software applications - increasingly integrated with a central platform of Building Information Modelling (BIM)."
Schwing Stetter is a leading player in offering advanced machines in this space. Sakthikumar adds, "Schwing Stetter India consistently works on delivering products that are user-friendly and robust. When we talk about user-friendliness, the first thing that comes to our mind is software and Schwing Stetter India has the in-house team for both panel building and software development, and to that extent, the customisation is done based on the customers' requirements."
He further elaborates on the technology that goes into the whole process chain, "Our advanced control systems help the customer right from initial quotation to production planning, the production of the concrete itself and the management of mixer and pump fleet, right through to the issuing of the invoice for the concrete delivered. Besides this, the system can be integrated with peripheral equipment like weigh bridge, cement feeding system etc, which helps the customer in correlating of various statistics for production and accounting management inventory management/control etc. We have not only the capability of linking our system with the customer's ERP system, but also we provide own ERP solution for smaller customers. All these are possible because of our in-house capability."
Presently, Schwing Stetter India's focus is on providing cloud service and leveraging the usage of IoT for all its range of equipment. "As of now these IoT features has been provided to some of the corporate customers and we are still working to make it available for all the customers. With this technology, the efficiency, utilization and proactive maintenance of the equipment can be done effectively. Still there are some challenges that we face due to lack of resource and infrastructure at some of the customer's site. Still there are places where our equipment reaches but the network does not," Sakthikumar adds.
On the ideal features and technology in concrete batching plants, Bhattacharya explains, "Ideally, a batching plant should deliver two things: batching accuracy and quality of concrete, which means cohesive and homogeneous mix. These could be achieved by efficient mixing technologies and advanced control systems. There are different types of mixing technologies viz, pan, planetary and twin shaft mixers. Customer preference of mixing technology is purely based on his application requirement. The control system is an integral part of the batching plant. The accuracy of the plant will also depend on the robust control system."
Sakthikumar elaborates on the environment-friendly features in Schwing Stetter batching plants, "Stetter batching plant comes with a silo top filter to filter the dust particles, and airbag system which prevents the dust particles from entering into the environment. It has automatic batching after power recovery and has automatic and manual calibration possible."
Increasing use of concrete over the years in various construction activities has prompted the introduction of new and feature rich equipment and machinery to meet the stringent requirement of project schedule. Leading players introduce new machines with updated technologies on a regular basis. Schwing Stetter has been a front runner in the process. "Stetter M3 and M30 Z concrete batching plants are our newer range of products. Both are mobile and suitable for frequent shifting," says Sakthikumar.
Ajax Fiori is the global leader in self-loading concrete mixers and a major force in India for batching plants, transit mixers and concrete pumps. Bhattacharya elaborates,"At Ajax, we always understand customer needs and provide solution to their concrete requirement. We have a wide variety of batching plants to offer, ranging from 30 cu m/hr to 240 cu m/hr." According to him, the Compact Reduce Bin Batching Plant series (CRB series) and Inline Reduced Bin Batching Plant series (IRB series) from Ajax stable is the result of understanding customer needs and their site constraints. The plants are available in capacities 30 cu m/hr and 60 cu m/hr.
He adds, "Our CRB series batching plants come standard with planetary mixers, which is the most ideal mixer for producing all grades of concrete and all types of slumps."
World over, the planetary mixers have replaced the turbo mixers for most applications, owing to its capability of producing high quality concrete of different types. "The CRB plants of 30 cu m/hr capacity were designed to fulfill the need of its customers in the RMC and infrastructure segments. In today's competitive world, capital and operational cost plays a vital role in the success of the business," Bhattacharya observes.
He describes the advantages of CRB range:
Skid foundation also available as optional, which eliminates the need of a foundation.
On the other ranges he elaborates, "The IRB series batching plant is designed for sites where loading of aggregates cannot be done from both the sides of the bins due to site constraints. These batching plants are best suited for customers who need 4 to 6 bins for different aggregate sizes. The Inline Bin Batching Plant series (IBP series) is the large capacity batching plants ranging from 120 cu/hr to 240 cu m/hr and predominantly used for NHAI road projects and major dam projects. These plants come with twin-shaft mixer technology for handling bigger aggregates (above 40 mm).
Energy efficiency and productivity
Fuel and maintenance costs are the two major factors that determine the efficiency and productivity of an equipment. Sakthikumar claims, "Maintenance cost is low in Stetter concrete batching plant as this is a trouble-free plant which enables high productivity in continuous production during concrete paving. The mixer is designed to reach maximum homogeneity at the lowest power consumed. That makes the plant highly efficient."
Bhattacharya elaborates on the efficiency and productivity features of batching plants offered by Ajax Fiori, "Ajax batching plants of capacity 30 cu m and 60 cu m/hr come with a planetary mixer as standard feature. The power requirement in the planetary mixers is ~ 20 per cent lesser compared to turbo mixer. The technology of planetary mixer is superior than turbo mixer as the starting load required is always higher and also during the mixing of aggregates. The optimum output of the batching plant is directly proportional to the cycle time. However, there are standards confirming suitable mixing time for getting homogenous mix."
He further adds on the productivity features, "Ajax batching plants are designed to get optimum output and the following productivity features makes the plant in the top of the list: The aggregates are weighed in a conveyor rather than the skip unlike other plants, thereby reducing the cycle time; Water and cement batching is done parallel to reduce cycle time and optimise productivity; and A waiting hopper is provided in our IRB series batching plants which will help in reducing the cycle time as the aggregates for the next subsequent cycle will be weighed and discharged to the hopper while the aggregates are being mixed in the mixer."
With more highways and expressways are being concretised, and many construction projects are in the pipeline where a lot of concrete will be required, there is a positive outlook for concrete equipment in the coming years.
Benefits of planetary mixers over conventional turbo mixers