We expect the market growth to accelerate with growing awareness about the machine and more focus coming up on infrastructure development, clean India campaign, etc, says Amit Bansal, Sales & Marketing Director - Building Construction Products, Caterpillar India.
Where do you find the applications of skid-steer loaders the most?
Skid steer loader (SSL) is a utility machine which is highly versatile. Mostly the machines are used in general construction: residential, commercial buildings for moving materials like sand, bricks, cement, crushed stone aggregates etc. They are used for material handling and movement in heavy construction like construction of bridges, elevated roads, metro rail infrastructure, tunnels to name a few where the space is restricted and SSL is an ideal option. These machines are also used in various process industries like cement industry, brick industry, paper, sugar, glass, steel industry, recycling industries etc. These machines offer a practical solution for waste collection and solid waste management and find favour with governmental bodies like municipalities and corporations. They are very popular in agriculture and dairy segments as well. Besides bucket, they can also be fitted with attachments like pick-up brooms also called sweepers, augers, pallet fork, grapple bucket, hammer, planer and many more depending upon requirement.
What are the major advantages of skid steer loaders in terms of design, use and maintenance?
In terms of design and use the advantages offered by SSL are versatility, compactness, maneuverability and visibility.
Versatility: The SSL comes standard with a mechanical quick coupler and auxiliary lines. This makes it highly versatile as it can be fitted with a lot of attachments easily with little effort and time. A work tool can be changed in less than five minutes with a reasonably experienced operator without any additional help or tool.
Compact size: The machine is very compact in terms of length, width and height and is light weight. So it can work in very narrow and confined spaces without any trouble.
Maneuverability: The turning radius of a SSL is very less. It needs just 1/8th space compared to a standard 7 ton backhoe to make a turn. SSL can rotate about its own envelope. It comes in very handy in multiple applications requirement. Compared to mini hydraulic excavators, these machines can move faster within the job sites.
Visibility: The cabin is closer to the work tool and the operator has excellent visibility to the work tool edges which is way better than other machines.
Maintenance: Due to Caterpillar's design philosophy, accessibility to the components is very easy in 216B3 making it an easy to maintain machine. The cooling package can flip up giving easy access to cleaning and servicing. It also gives better accessibility to engine compartment and other parts like filters, batteries etc. This machine has hydrostatic transmission comprising only hydraulic components and chains which is different from conventional transmission that has a lot of moving parts. Canopy can be lifted up giving lot of room to access and service hydraulic components. The chains are also adjustable as chain case area can be accessed from side of the frame. Cost of maintenance is significantly lower for Cat skid steers.
What are the range of skid-steers you offer? What are the distinguished features inbuilt?
Currently in India we have 216B3 skid steer loader having 635 kg of rated operating capacity. This model belongs to the category which constitutes approximately 70 per cent of the SSL industry in India. But we have several other models in our SSL portfolio. Distinguished features include:
Hydraulically operated joystick controls: This is a standard feature in 216B3 which makes it easy to operate and also requires less effort. All the machine controls like drive, tools and loader arms are controlled by hand controls. Many competition models are fitted with mechanical controls and have both hand and foot controls for operating which makes it difficult for the operator.
Anti-stall hydraulic system: This ensures the engine does not get stalled when the load is high and ensures the hydraulic power requirement does not exceed the engine power. The swash plate in the pump adjusts itself accordingly by reducing the flow but maintaining the torque to match the operator command.
Unique side-by-side cooling package: The engine radiator and hydraulic cooler are placed side-by-side which vastly increases the cooling efficiency. This allows the machine to operate longer hours without over heating complaints.
Product Link: The machine comes fitted with the Product Link technology which gives information like machine location, number of hours clocked which can be monitored through a website by the customer. It also helps customers plan for the periodic service interval.
Hand-foot throttle: The engines rpm can be adjusted in two ways - either by hand lever or foot throttle. The operator can vary the rpm on the go as and when required. This allows the operator to perform tough jobs, at the same time saving fuel in the process as the rpm reduces once the foot has been taken off the pedal.
What is the current market size of skid steers? What is the growth trend?
As per industry data, the current market size for SSL in India is estimated to be about 500 units per annum. In the past, though the market growth has been slow, we expect the growth to accelerate with growing awareness about the machine and more focus coming up on infrastructure development, clean India campaign, etc.
What are the skill sets required for operating this sophisticated equipment and how are they being made available?
Compared to other machines having mechanical controls that require the operator to use both hand and foot controls it is very easy to operate the Cat 216B3 skid steer loader. This is because the machine comes standard with pilot operated joy stick controls which are easy to operate and less tiring for the operator. The entire machine operations like drive, tools and loader arm can be performed by the operator using just hand controls.
The dealers have operators who are Certified Dealer Instructors. They go and train the operators every time a machine is sold to make them a customer familiar with machine controls. The training is also imparted by conducting operator training meets.
What are the safety features inbuilt in your range?
In Caterpillar, we take safety very seriously and the machine has a lot of features in terms of safety for the operator. Few of the features are enumerated below:
The canopy/cab of the machine is ROPS (Roll Over Protection System) compliant
Arm rest bar - Unless it is pulled down the engine cannot be started. When it is raised the machine's parking brake automatically engages and hydraulics lock out.
Spring activated hydraulically released brakes ensure effective and fail safe braking.
Operator presence seat mounted sensors automatically engage the parking brake if it does not sense a minimum of 22 kg after a few seconds.
Dead engine lower valve helps in bringing down the loader arm in the event of engine shutting and hydraulic system malfunction.
Optional beacon (to show the machine is in operation during day/night)
What are your future plans in terms of product development and market reach?
Product development is a continuous process in Caterpillar and we ensure the voice of customers is captured and translated into design of our machines. The products are being distributed through our existing distribution channel and we are expanding the network as per market potential and customer requirements.