We offer different machine control and guidance systems to our customers ranging from cross slope/laser all the way to total stations. Using these systems, our customers can achieve twice the productivity at half the cost, says Gurman Reen, Sales Manager, Caterpillar India. Excerpts from the interview.
What is your take on the renewed focus on road projects by the government?
Road construction activity in India is currently suited to motor graders in the 12-14 tonne weight class, and around 150 hp range. This size class, equipped with a 12 ft blade, is sufficient to execute anything from rural roads to 4-lane national highways. However, going forward, an increase in 6-laning works and awarding of mega highway projects will drive an increased demand for 190-200 hp class graders equipped with 14 ft blades. Caterpillar today offers both these required models for our customers, namely Cat 120K2 and 140K2.
Has the current mining fiasco negatively impacted the sale of motor graders, especially for the haulage roads?
Yes, in the coal sector, where private mining demand for haul roads maintenance has been severely impacted due to hold on coal block allocations. The impact is lower in the iron ore sector, as most of the bans have been on small sized mines, which were not using motor graders for haul roads maintenance. Government demand through Coal India, however, continues to be strong.
What are the models offered by Cat with specific technology?
Caterpillar offers a variety of models suited to different applications, starting from Cat 120K2, which has been the workhorse of the Indian road sector for many years, all the way to Cat 16M/24M, which is predominantly mining equipment. The common feature across all Cat motor graders is the ability to provide the highest production, with the maximum fuel efficiency and lowest lifecycle cost for our customers. We achieve this through our world-class PPPC hydraulics and revolutionary ACERT engine technology.
Are these models manufactured in India? If not, is there any chance of commencing production soon?
These models are sourced from a variety of Caterpillar plants across the globe in Brazil, USA, China, etc. Currently, we are able to meet the Indian customer demand by importing these products and by employing very efficient and robust forecasting and production planning techniques. Manufacturing in-country will be a function of demand, which currently is still in the nascent stages compared to some of the major growing economies.
Is machine control technology a standard option in your range?
All our motor graders are equipped with Accugrade Ready Option (ARO). This makes it very easy for our technical teams to plug-and-play machine control and guidance systems at the customer's site. We offer different machine control and guidance systems to our customers ranging from cross slope/laser all the way to total stations. Using these systems, our customers can achieve twice the productivity at half the cost. We make an effort to promote these systems to all our customers and are confident that this will become a standard offering in the near future.
How do you look at the shift towards health monitoring aspects of the machine?
All Cat machines are designed with product health and maintenance as one of the top most areas of focus. Our machines are equipped with ground level access to all major maintenance points on the machine. We have ECMs and sensors which can be monitored remotely through our Product Link technology. This enables both the customer and Caterpillar service teams to regularly monitor machine health, track maintenance schedules, plan for parts and major overhauls. Another critical feature which is unique to our motor graders is that they are equipped with Scheduled Oil Sampling ports which enable our service engineers to take oil samples and conduct thorough diagnosis, preventing failures and saving our customers money.
According to you, what are the product/technology trends in motor graders?
With the recent economic scenario, we have seen an influx of technologically inferior and limited life products. These products basically last for one project duration and are written off by customers after 2-3 years of use. We are confident that the customers will go through this cycle and return to world-class products which offer great life cycle value and much lower owning and operating costs. As the pace of road construction activity picks up, motor graders will continue to evolve and the best of technology will come to India.
What is the scenario regarding the import of motor graders?
As I said earlier, with the current market size of 500-600 units, the volume does not justify in-country manufacturing. However, going forward, we are expecting to hit 1,000+ units in the next 4-5 years and that will be a very exciting prospect, which will drive different sourcing strategies for all players.
Is there any more investment planned, or any new product on the anvil?
In April, 2011, we were one of the first manufacturers to launch our world-class Cat 120K2 and 140K2 motor graders. These graders meet BSIII emission norms and are equipped with all the technologically advanced features which Cat graders are renowned for. These products will continue to drive our business in the near future.