Employing the right equipment for the right application is important in its productive utilisation in a project. So, it is imperative to follow the productivity parameters while selecting an equipment.
In construction projects, the average cost of equipment is about 35 per cent of the total project cost. This indicates the importance of a proper set of productivity parameters for the appropriate selection of various equipment for a project. After procurement, timely mobilisation of these plant and equipment, their upkeep with scheduled periodic maintenance are also important in productive output of the equipment.
Productivity - a relative term
The quality and productivity parameters of a construction equipment can vary depending on the size and nature of projects and project sites. Hence, construction productivity estimation, even for an operation with popular equipment and work method, can be challenging. As the project execution within the set time frame and quality is becoming a norm, the assessment of productivity parameters for each construction equipment has now become a major factor in the construction project planning and execution. SP Rajan, Head - Plant and Machinery, RREC, L&T Construction - Transportation Infrastructure IC, explains, 'Productivity is a relative term. The equipment team (manufacturers) refers to this as production per hour under ideal circumstances. For users, it is the quantum produced by an equipment within acceptable quality standards under the defined duration with respect to application. Generally, the productivity of 80 per cent of its rated capacity from a machine is an acceptable norm for the industry.'
Commenting on the same line, Samar Ghoshdastidar, Technical Director, Simplex Infrastructures, says, 'We engage suitable equipment of required type or model and capacity, depending on the factors such as: the type of work to be executed, completion period, and optimum use of the equipment. Prompt after sales service by the suppliers is also an important factor.'
According to Soami Das, General Manager - Application and Commercial Engineering & Market Development, Hydraulics Group - India, Eaton, productivity is a function of time. He elaborates, 'Any equipment that can help accomplish the given set of tasks in shortest possible time would be the most productive for those given tasks.
Productivity of an equipment is tied to quite a few factors. Some of them being: size and power of the machine - typically high power machines tend to be more productive as they have more load carrying capacity; reliability of the machine - machines with more uptime and fewer failures can work harder and longer; precision of equipment - machines with greater accuracy can accomplish tasks with greater precision avoiding rework and multiple attempts for getting the work done; flexibility - machines that are versatile can accomplish different types of work faster. An example of flexibility increasing productivity is an equipment that is adaptive to different types of attachments that can be used for multiple tasks on a project such as excavation, dozing, loading, drilling, rock breaking, trenching etc.'
It is imperative to complete the execution of a project as per schedule, in order to avoid unnecessary issues such as cost overrun. A proper choice of equipment is of preliminary importance to achieve this. While there are versatile range of equipment available commercially in the market, there are few basic things that are considered in selection of suitable equipment.
The equipment chosen should suit the nature of work, soil/strata, working conditions and location of the project. It is ideal to keep a minimum number of equipment types to have uniformity in the type of equipment on a job site. Size of the equipment is a major factor. While larger equipment can be more productive on full load, smaller units working on full load can be less productive. However, this is applicable in earthmoving and similar type of jobs, where one can use one bigger machine in the place of two smaller machines. But in jobs such as foundation piling works this won't work. In foundation equipment, the correct size of the job is important. In order to bore a pile in a particular diameter in a particular soil to a particular depth, we need to have a piling equipment with a particular measurement. Two piling equipments cannot satisfy one job whereas two smaller excavators can fulfill the job of one bigger size excavator.
Use of standard equipment can bring down the production cost as these equipment are commonly available in large numbers and is readily available at moderate cost. Also, spare parts of standard equipment are easily available at reasonable price. After the work is over, disposing off standard equipment and its spare parts is generally easier than disposing off specialised equipment.
Many contractors give weightage to brand, while selecting an equipment. In the case of standard equipment which finds applications in multiple projects, they go for popular brands which offer prolonged life off the equipment with minimum maintenance. Thus, after the completion of one project, it can be redeployed at another project and make the machine more productive. In the case of local or less known brands, this may not be possible.
The economics of equipment is an important component in the total production cost. When calculating owning cost, all expenses including logistics, insurance, erection, commissioning, etc should be included with the price paid to the supplier. Importing an equipment can be from a soft currency region rather from a hard currency area, to save foreign currency reserves.
When selecting an equipment, availability of spare parts at reasonable costs during the entire working life of the equipment should be ensured, especially of imported equipment. Downtime due to shortage of spare parts can lead to equipment left idle for long periods which can affect productivity.
Machines which can perform multiple jobs can be added advantage at project sites, reducing the number of machines for different jobs. For example, an excavator or skid steer loader can do multiple jobs with the help of different attachments.
Another major factor is to have equipment of the same manufacturer on a project as far as possible and minimum number of different makes. This will enhance the effective support of after-sales service from a single source rather running after different players.
Equipment downtime and idle equipment adds to the production cost, leading to reduced productivity. Hence, proper maintenance of the plant machinery is extremely important. In maintenance, it is important to keep various components in their original form as far as possible to ensure the safety and production speed.
There are a few challenges faced by the contractors in equipment selection. Many a times, this arise in the case of speciality equipment. For example, in the case of a launcher for a viaduct project, contractors get it designed and fabricated as launchers are not available in standard specs. Sometimes in standard equipment space also, contractors face this challenge as Rajan points out, 'Availability of right equipment is one of the biggest challenges. There is clear knowledge and understanding among the users about the right equipment. But they refrain from buying specific equipment because of unpredicted future deployment and make do with general equipment.'
For imported equipment, the delivery time is a major issue. Ghoshdastidar explains, 'If it is an imported equipment, required for a particular work and not readily available in India, then the lag time between issuing order and actual availability at site for work is quite high because of many formalities involved like, financing, opening of L/C, inspection at their works abroad, shipping, port clearance, inland transport, presence of their service engineer (sometimes may be a foreigner) at site for commissioning etc. We can start all these procedures only after getting a confirmed order from the client for that particular work.'
Another issue is ease of service. Rajan elaborates, 'Unless there are sufficient numbers, equipment suppliers do not equip themselves with the capabilities to provide adequate after-sales support. They bank on the overseas support instead, which in turn increases MTTR, which adversely affects productivity.'
The infrastructure and construction market in India has picked up momentum in the last couple of years with a lot of projects underway while many are in the pipeline. Though awarding various projects have gone up, the pace of execution is still to come to the required level. There are still delays in many project executions which lead to cost overruns making projects financially unviable. This state of uncertainty also leads to cautious approach towards equipment selection. Says Rajan, 'The present market in India is still on the maturing curve with respect to productivity parameters. In fact, the 12-ft grader used extensively in India is one of the smallest in the international market. The rollers are still small ones while in the case of batching plants, there is reluctance to go beyond three cu m whereas in the US, these plants can produce six to nine cu m in one batch.'
In India, construction equipment market has taken a big leap in technology adoption with many global players consolidating presence in this growing market. Das explains from the perspective of a leading components and solution provider, 'Advances in hydraulics are helping the construction equipment industry move towards smarter machines. At the most basic level, a smart machine is one with a brain - a machine that can be programmed to do a simple or complex set of tasks, and that can communicate externally. With these basics established, machines can add capabilities, from sensors that find and alert operators about problems to advanced control algorithms that allow for optimised efficiency.'
Employing the right equipment for the right application is important in productive utilisation of the equipment and execution of the projects within the stipulated time frame. However, it is necessary to have a conducive environment for the contractors to acquire the desired quality equipment based on the mentioned productivity parameters and get the subsequent aftersales service for these equipment to make the successful execution of a project in its true sense.
Productivity Parameters Considered in Equipment Selection
Assessment of Equipment:
- Sudheer Vathiyath