As affordability of skid steers becomes more attractive with respect to loader backhoes, its popularity will increase among hiring segment that will up the demand curve.
Skid steer, the little cute machine, is steadily carving a niche amidst the Goliaths of construction equipment space. Such a versatile piece of machine when clubbed with a variety of attachments, still has not got its due yet. What limits the growth of the skid steers is the over-dependence on run-on-the mill concept. Here, innovative thinking is the key. EQUIPMENT INDIA trains its spotlight on the current market scenario, technology trends and product offerings from major players.
Backhoe v/s skid steer
The exponential growth of the backhoe market in India, to a great extent, has been fuelled by the innovative use of the machine, especially by the hiring segment; whereas skid steers that are a step above the loader backhoe in its range of applications, is still at a concept selling phase. Backhoes too, were a concept selling for almost a decade, but the increase in demand has come by the ingenuity of few customers who have made a business proposition by entering into hiring market. The customers who bought the machines expanded the scope of application by finding new ways of using machines which led to expansion of market. Since the return on investment was good, others followed suit, increasing the sale volume over the years.
The current demand for skid steer is not quite promising. Says Amit Gossain, EVP - Sales, Marketing and Business Development, JCB India, ´The current demand for skid steers in India is on the lower side; however, we are certain that coming years will see an increase in the demand of this product. A leading research firm, Off-Highway Research indicates that demand for skid steers in 2015 is expected to be around 600 units. The demand for skid steers in the long term remains positive and the industry is expected to reach a level of 1,000 units in 2018.´
Gupta says, ´The market size for skid steer loaders in 2014 was about 400 units and looking at its growing popularity along with the growth sentiment intact to be above 500 units in 2015 and close to 1,000 units in 2020.´
According to Manjunath, the potential for skid steer loaders is good in the country and currently the growth rate is hovering around 8-10 per cent per annum year on year basis. The demand v/s supply is at par as of now. However, we predict a moderate to high growth in the demand in the next few years due to rising infra projects.´ ´Skid steer market by 2018 is expected to grown at a CAGR of over 23 per cent,´ says Sunil Tiku, Senior Director Sales & Marketing, Terex Equipment. He adds, ´The current market demand in 2014 was at about 500 units, this will grow to more than 600 units in 2015. Innovative sales and marketing efforts by Terex are expected to yield good results and help us retain our 40 per cent market share in 2015.´ BV Raisinghani, President (Purchase), Jaiprakash Associates, has a different figure to offer. According to him, the present market size of skid steer loaders in India in terms of volume is estimated to be about 900 units and is expected to reach 1,100-1,500 units during 2015.
Fuel efficiency is a major parameter that both the OEM and the customer give much focus; for the OEM higher fuel efficiency means better sales figures, whereas for the customer it means better productivity at lower cost. This very factor has fuelled the manufacturers to innovate to the extent possible. According to Gupta, ´Case SR range benefits from improved fuel efficiency and a larger 60 litre fuel tank. The result is that all day running is now possible without the need to refuel: an additional boost in productivity, thanks to reduced downtime for the operator.´ He says, ´Case SR 130 is fitted with the Japanese ISM engine which is the right blend of power and fuel efficiency. The high flow rate pump (59 lpm) increasing productivity, allows the use of a wide range of attachments, facilitated by the standard proportional auxiliary hydraulics.´ He further adds, ´The Case SR130 radial lift model is built tough with more power and torque. This multi-purpose unit boasts of outstanding power and high productivity together with best in class operator comfort and visibility and superior stability.´
Manjunath elaborates, ´The new M-Series in Bobcat skid steer loaders feature a non-DPF (non-diesel particulate filter) engine solution. This is an ultra-low particulate combustion (ULPC) engine, a specially designed engine combustion chamber that significantly reduces the amounts of particulate matter. The new engine used in M-Series loaders has increased torque allowing operators of all skill levels to better utilise the machines´ maximum performance. He adds, ´Bobcat skid steer loaders are designed to serve a wide and challenging spectrum of tasks. The Fuel filtration system with the non-DPF engine solution gives is an increase in auxiliary hydraulic pressures. Hence, operators won´t spend time cleaning the filter, completing the regeneration process or replacing the filter. The hydraulic systems and transmissions on M-Series loaders are designed for higher pressure that provides significant increase in attachment performance. It also features a long-life hydraulic filter that lasts longer than the previous models. Thus, hydraulic flow and engine horsepower are matched to the loader´s rated operating capacity, size and weight ù producing a loader that will improve overall fuel efficiency and also outperform the higher-horsepower skid-steer loaders.´
Gossain proudly says, ´JCB machines are the most fuel efficient machines in the market and continuing the trend, our skid steers are known for offering the best-in-class fuel efficiency as they are fitted with highly reliable Perkins engine with the JCB Power Management System. JCB Skid steers provide maximum performance with lowest fuel consumption and can save fuel to up to Rs one lakh per year.´ He adds, ´The hydraulic systems are at the heart of our Robot technology. The advanced auxiliary hydraulic system has been designed for an easy control of loader arm, transmission and attachments. For smooth and precise operation, independent transmission systems controlled through servo controls are provided for both left and right sides.´
According to Gupta, the new loaders feature the Case Power Stance chassis, which rides on a 21 per cent longer wheelbase for maximum stability and increased lifting forces. Front/rear weight distribution is split 30/70, allowing the machines to dig and carry more material. He explains, ´The Case skid steer loaders dominate the industry´s serviceability rankings with features such as easy, ground-line access for daily checks. The new range comes with remote mounted filters for ease of service and maintenance. With a tilting cab on the skid steers, Case takes access even further, allowing the technician to rapidly reach hydraulic and transmission components for service work.´
Says Manjunath, ´Bobcat skid steer loaders offer the easiest and fastest serviceability with reduced operating costs to improve productivity. They have the industry´s most convenient access to components such as swing-open tailgate and transversely-mounted engine that put daily maintenance within easy reach. Operators can easily check engine fluids and filters, examine the air cleaner and other components, access and clean the oil cooler and radiator components, inspect the battery and can even access hydraulic and hydrostatic components within minutes. The sturdy one-piece protective tailgate is constructed with solid steel and with no cooling holes, slots or other openings, operators can easily minimise the servicing time spent.´
Cab and operator´s comfort
The new Case skid steer cab is 25 per cent larger than on the previous 400 series, offering superior space and comfort for the operator. With larger windows and a new ultra-narrow wire side-screen protection, the cab offers improved all round visibility. Working longer days even in gloomy environments is now easier thanks to the new Case side lighting system, which has operating lights in the front corners of the cab roof that illuminate both the front and the sides of the machine. Operators can rely on the proven mechanical controls that provide them a better command in operating the machinery. Bobcat loader provides operators with improved comfort and performance used for working in tight jobsites. As a part of the M-Series line, the Bobcat skid steer loaders have the largest cab door opening on the market for easy operator entry and exit. The loader´s cab-forward design moves the operator closer to the attachment and provides unmatched visibility in all directions. Further visibility enhancements include larger side and rear windows to provide better visibility to the tires and back of the machine.
´A popular option for larger Bobcat loaders, air conditioning is a new option available to keep operators comfortable when the temperatures outside rise. A sealed and pressurised cab helps to keep operators clean and comfortable as they work, sometimes for an extended time, to improve productivity. Another popular option for Bobcat loaders is the optional deluxe instrumentation panel, which intelligently monitors key loader functions including fuel consumption,´ avers Manjunath. Says Gossain, ´JCB Robot comes with best-in-class cabin with low effort servo controls to provide an unmatched operator comfort ensuring their maximum productivity at all times. Moreover, due to the mono boom design, the visibility has increased to 60 per cent. The cabin is 46 per cent larger and the servo controlled joystick makes it operator friendly for longer working hours.´ Based on a simple design, the JCB Robot can give users maximum returns with the lowest maintenance cost. All daily check points are easily accessible and grouped together for quicker routine maintenance. The cab can be easily tilted to service hydraulic tubes and components. Gossain adds, ´The single boom has 20 per cent more tensile steel in comparison to the twin arm designed machines. It has an advanced fuel filtration system designed to work with even low quality fuel. It is also equipped with a specially designed water filter to prevent water entry into the engine.´
Gossain elaborates, ´Safety has always been our top most priority and our machines are specifically designed to give the operators a safe and comfortable environment to work in. The single boom with side door design in JCB skid steer makes it the safest one in the world. The unique side door entry allows operator to enter and exit the machine without having to climb over attachments or an unsupported boom. The cabin has also been equipped with grills on both sides and servo isolator switch for operator´s safety. Also, JCB Robot has three emergency exit options instead of rear window option in the traditional twin arm machines.´
According to Gupta, ´The larger side windows offer better visibility over the tyres and the forward cab design provide a clear line of sight to the cutting edge of the bucket improving both productivity and safety. To increase safety in any condition, cab is available with ROPS (Roll Over Protective Structures) and FOPS (Falling-Object-Protective Structure) configurations. Case skid steer loaders can also handle a broad range of attachments in a safe and easy way.´
´Innovation is an ongoing process with our customers benefiting significantly from each new generation of Bobcat machines. For example, the cab-forward design of the M-Series gives much better visibility. Being able to see the bucket better has been a big help. Bobcat continues making products with such improvements that help our customers to be even more productive,´ avers Manjunath.
The Bobcat loaders are designed to work long hours on demanding jobsites with minimal time needed for routine maintenance. Uptime protections on the loaders include efficient machine cooling, a constant tension drive belt, solid steel tailgate, improved tie downs; rear bumper extends past the tailgate to protect the loader from obstacles and related scrapes and bumps at worksites. Manjunath adds, ´With built-in standard safety and reliability features, it is a big advantage for operators. The seat bar which is an important safety advancement along with Bobcat Interlock Control System (BICS´) which requires the operator to be seated with the seat bar in place. Training for owners, renters and operators is a top priority and we provide ample safety and training resources, allowing customers and their operators to be informed before setting foot in Bobcat loaders.´
Suitable for a wide variety of applications, including mining, constru¡ction, landscaping and agriculture skid steers will find its niche also for working in confined spaces. As people will realise how convenient it is to employ these machines for specialised applications more will opt for these machines. Says Gupta, ´As an OEM, Case India continues to remain focussed on increasing the awareness of skid steers through concept selling in India amongst its esteemed customer base.´
The major buyers for these machines are the civic bodies; construction companies (housing), process industries to name a few. However, according to Manjunath, there is lot of scope for expansion in many such sectors for equipment utilisation by using right kind of attachments along with the machines. He says, ´Predominantly the machines are being sold with standard loader bucket thus limiting its application. By understanding the customer´s application and suggesting the right attachment to fulfill his need would certainly increase the sales volumes.´ Manjunath adds, ´We have more than 75 attachments and in India the fast moving attachments are sweeper collector, mucking bucket, combination bucket, grader, pole planter, brick handler, augur, backhoe, rock breaker, pallet fork, grappler to name a few apart from standard loader bucket.´
According to Gossain, solid waste management is another major application area that may spur the demand for skid steers. He says, ´JCB Robot is an extremely versatile machine that is specifically designed to work in a variety of applications. This machine also holds the potential to be an ideal machine for solid waste management applications. JCB Robot comes with a vast array of attachments like industrial grapple, fork, rock breaker, shovel, vibratory rollers, etc. which makes the machine suitable for many applications such as agriculture, industry, construction, demolition, material handling and maintenance. With the mechanical quick-hitch, one can easily switch between the vast ranges of attachments and can perform array of jobs with utmost ease and comfort.´
Manjunath observes, ´With efforts made to creating awareness of the national level campaign, ´Swachh Bharat Abhiyan´ (Clean India Mission) by the Government of India to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country, we believe that such equipment would complement to this drive.´
Tiku sums it up on a high note. ´Terex skid steers operate in a niche segment and its versatility is when it operates with various attachments. The hiring segment is small but growing. Urban infrastructure maintenance is an attractive segment and many operators have tapped into this potential. With smart cities concept it is further estimated to catch the attention of plant hirers and grow.´
- Agith G Antony
Amit Gossain, EVP - Sales,
´JCB skid steers powered by Perkins engine with the JCB Power Management System provide maximum performance with lowest fuel consumption and can save fuel to up to Rs 1 lakh/year.´
Abhijit Gupta, Managing Director, Case Construction Equipment India.
´The new Case skid steer cab is 25 per cent larger than on the previous 400 series, offering superior space and comfort for the operator.´
S Manjunath, General Manager Sales, Doosan Infracore
The loader´s cab-forward design moves the operator closer to the attachment and provides unmatched visibility in all directions.´
Sunil Tiku, Senior Director Sales & Marketing,
´Realty sector, and urban infrastructure maintenance works seem to be the biggest two verticals driving the demand for skid steer loaders.´