Infrastructure service vehicles, especially vehicles meant for cleaning and maintenance, have yet to get their due share and recognition. The use of these lesser known vehicles is a must if the country needs to achieve the target of ´Swachh Bharat´ resounded in the Red Fort. EQUIPMENT INDIA finds out the market scenario of cleaning equipment.
Compared to the well-documented growth story of the construction equipment (CE)industry, the lesser known equipment used for road cleaning, collection and transportation of solid/liquid wastes, and sewage cleaning equipment - despite having played a stellar role - have not got its due. However, the trend is changing towards more mechanisation. With infrastructure maintenance gradually getting the much-needed focus, civic and road maintenance authorities are keen to mechanise the cleaning process.
Infrastructure vehicles can be of two types: ones that are used to create capacity and the ones used for its maintenance. The former segment has [indeed] grown in leaps and bounds due to project execution deadlines being greatly compressed and also due to increase in the number of projects that are being simultaneously executed these days. However, for the maintenance equipment, the growth has not kept pace, primarily due to low priority given to maintenance of assets, unavailability of skilled manpower, and absence of any statutory compulsion on the health and safety of these workers.
Says Ashok Nagpal, Executive Director, TPS Infrastructure, ´The current demand is not very high but reasonable and our manufacturing capacity is not only more than enough to the current demand, but we are geared to meet demand for more than next five years adequately. We have good production capacity and we alone can fully meet the total requirement of Indian market, effectively, efficiently and fast. Our machines are adapted to Indian work conditions and offered at competitive price compared to imported machines of same class and capacity. Being an indigenous player, not only our delivery is faster but also we are well-equipped to render effective after-sales service, in much better way compared to those offering imported machines.´
He adds, ´For SEZ, IT and township segments, the use of mechanised road sweeping machines is also expected to take-off in a big way.´
Says Saumil Shah, Director - Business Development, Kaushik Engineering Works, ´When we started business five years back, we were supplying to only road construction and infrastructure companies. Now in almost all industries - be it ports, cement, power, or any other manufacturing segment - mechanical sweeping is the preferred option over manual sweeping. Even in residential sector, mechanised sweeping has started to pick up. The demand is growing steadily and the fruits will be visible in the next 3-5 years.´
Speaking on services, Shah avers, ´We are into hydraulic road sweepers and our market share is about 10-15 per cent. Our hydraulic sweepers are used by construction and infrastructure companies, ports, manufacturing companies, townships, municipal corporations, etc.´
He further adds, ´Due to slowdown, last year was not good for us in terms of sales. However, the future looks quite promising. In the next 3-5 years, people will have no other option but to go for mechanical sweeping because of labour shortage and cost-effective advantages.´
Says UK Arun, General Manager - Sales, Roots Multiclean, ´Sanitation and waste removal have become more mechanised in developed countries. However, with the growth in infrastructure and social awareness, this concept is [now] slowly picking up in India.´ He further adds, ´With all the busy streets and fleeing automobiles, it is absolutely impossible to maintain the long stretch of highways and large cities clean with manual workforce. The practical problems involved in maintaining a highway or large area starts with managing the large manpower required, and then comes the question of cleaning efficiency and time management. Therefore, the usage of a road sweeper makes more sense.´
Speaking on the usage of road sweeping machines, Arun had this to say, ´Road sweeping machines are used in a wider application area than just road sweeping. Their versatility allows them to be used on large construction sites as well as industrial sites where the collection of debris is important, for both safety and aesthetic reasons. The reason why the majority of road sweeping machines are truck-based is to allow for extended time sweeping and to accommodate the resulting larger volumes of debris. Road sweeping machines are available in different designs and debris feeding mechanisms to allow usage in different applications and terrains.´
Compared to manual cleaning, how cost competitive is the use of mechanical sweepers? Shah avers, ´Mechanical sweeping is much more cost-effective as compared to manual sweeping, because one mechanical sweeping unit can do the cleaning work equivalent to that of 10-15 labourers. One can recover the cost of the sweeping unit of tractor attached with the brooms/brushes within a year, if he/she is using the unit for 4-5 hours daily.´
´First advantage is savings in labour cost. Nowadays, it is hard to find labourers who can do the cleaning work, and on top of that labour cost is continuously increasing. So, mechanical cleaning is definitely a viable alternative. Another factor is the speed as mechanical sweeping can do much faster cleaning as compared to manual sweeping. Also, the cleaning process is perfect and complete in the case of mechanised sweeping,´ adds Shah.´
Highlighting the limitation of manual sweeping, Nagpal says, ´Manual sweeping has never been effective anywhere, as the dust is invariably pushed into open drains or heaped and collected later, by tractor trailer, which is an additional cost. Since almost 60 per cent of dust gets air-bone during manual sweeping with brooms, it settles back not only on road but also on street furniture, light poles and fixtures, which is a health hazard for the cleaner. Further, air-borne dust may continue to increase/add to already and usually high SPM levels, which is neither desirable nor acceptable.´
Nagpal feels mechanised sweeping is a far better option as compared to manual sweeping. Speaking on the advantages of mechanised sweeping, he further adds, ´Sweeping machines are equipped with centrifugal blower and filter systems, which ensure that the dust removal is positive and the dust is collected in the machine container, without emitting it back to the atmosphere, as happens in case of machines relying on wet sweeping. In manual sweeping, the dust is pushed aside on roads and it gets air-borne again adding to the SPM level.´
Says Shah, ´On asphalt roads, hydraulic cleaning equipment can provide almost 100 per cent result, but on concrete or ready-mix concrete (RMC) roads, the results will be a little lesser. But keeping in mind the labour issues, mechanical sweeping with these machines will provide far better results and the process will be consistent.ö According to Nagpal, ´For road infrastructure companies, the authorities must ensure use of sweeping machines, while building/repairing/relaying of roads. There has to be a nodal agency, who relates issues like, how saving of few lakhs in building road by not deploying sweeping machines; is causing the damage to environment and vehicles, wastage of fuel in traffic snarls and burdening the national exchequer as a consequence besides compromising on road quality and safety. ´
Nagpal says, ´Financing options are not encouraging much for road cleaning equipment, although we have worked with few finance companies. We expect more financing companies to come forward for sweeping machines. Some awareness is also needed to make financing companies understand that sweeping machines have a good market in India and trends are encouraging.´
He further adds, ´TThe situation presently is similar what it was with construction equipment like excavators/dozers years ago. But today, these get financed easily. We feel once population increases and demand rises, it is the financing companies who would feel that they should not loose out on this business opportunity and should come forward.´
Usually, the concept of mechanised sweeping is introduced on a truck as chassis mounted units are easy to build, operate and maintain. So starting point of sweeping machines in any country is truck-mounted and small ride-on machines. The next level is compact self-propelled machines of higher capacity - up to 5,000 litre, which also has a good market. These are compact, besides being fuel-efficient.
According to Shah, presently ports and bigger municipal corporations are using imported sweepers, which are vehicle attached. ´We are now developing a new model sweeping system, which can also do suction. We are also developing a push-behind model mechanical sweeping system, which can attach to a small backhoe loader or a forklift. This system can do the job at a much cost-effective way.´
Says Shah, ´We are supplying hydraulic road sweepers, which are attached to a tractor. One can also attach the unit with other vehicles like backhoe loaders. Generally, people find tractor easier to use. Cost-wise, tractor is a viable option as compared to backhoe loaders. If a person is using a tractor 3-4 hours a day with sweeper, the remaining time he/she can use the tractor for something else.´ ´Our sweepers do not use any kind of power. The hydraulics our sweepers get are from the tractor. So whatever fuel the tractor uses is the fuel usage. As far as environment-friendly aspect is concerned, we are using special polypropylene brushes, which are imported from Europe and are environment-friendly,´ adds Shah. Says Nagpal, ´We have always stayed ahead of the times. When the concept of sweeping machine was nascent stage in India, we started manufacturing sweeping machines (in 1999-2000). We now offer self-propelled/ride-on type and truck-mounted road sweeping machines. These are priced depending on their capacities and features. All three variants have their own unique market. And we are moving ahead towards the next level, as Indian market is now ready for next generation of sweeping machines, which are self-propelled, compact and are designed for higher sweep rate.´
According to Nagpal, the most important thing is the change in mindset of the people. They now understand the importance and need of cleanliness. The government and various environment bodies are becoming stricter with industry and other sectors. Besides the budget, is set aside for such equipment.
He adds, ´We feel the concerned bodies/authority should review and update SWM 2000 rules for sweeping machines, keeping in tune with changing needs and expectations. Besides for instance, NHAI stipulates mechanised sweeping during building of roads, but it is hardly followed, as it simply states that roads should be cleaned mechanically. This broad description does not help, as even a rotary broom attached to a tractor is also considered mechanised sweeping. So, it should be specified that the machine should be able to remove dust positively and effectively, before next layer is laid. NHAI and concerned municipal bodies should specify that sweeping machines should be capable of dry sweeping, without the need to spray water and it should have dust filters to achieve PM10 dust emission norms, as stipulated/accepted world-wide not only for sweeping during construction of road but also for its upkeep.´
One mechanical sweeping unit can do the cleaning work equivalent to that of 10-15 labourers.