LeeBoy India has invested in an exclusive training academy where the Operator- Technicians (OT) will undergo intensive training not just on operating the equipment competently but will also focus on preventive maintenance and troubleshooting to ensure a longer lifespan of the equipment, higher uptime and lower maintenance costs says Amarnath Ramachandran, Vice President - Product Engineering & Knowledge Management, LeeBoy India Construction Equipment. In an exclusive chat with Equipment India, Amarnath throws light to the motor grader segment, and Leeboy's core strengths and product offerings. Excerpts from the interview.What is the demand-supply scenario for motor graders of different tonnage and horse power?Infrastructure is a key thrust area for India's 12th Five Year Plan. This is apparent in various economic initiatives like:• Infrastructure debt bonds and similar schemes by the GOI to encourage investment in the infrastructure industry; • Increased participation by the private sector in infrastructure – this participation is expected to grow to 38 per cent in the coming years;• Emphasis on expanding the availability of skilled manpower; Positive indicators toward simplification of the tax regime.These are all growth drivers to the construction equipment industry which has seen a growth of 22 per cent in 2011 with sales of over 72,000 units (As per Off-Highway Research reports).Specifically, with reference to the market for motor graders, there has been a growth of 55 per cent in 2010 with continued stable growth in 2011 with sales of over 500 units. The demand-supply scenario for motor graders is still at a nascent stage in India where power and productivity are the main drivers for demand. Since the main application of motor graders in India is in the roads sector, the market is dominated by the 125-174 hp which accounted for 68 per cent of the market share in 2011. While overall, the market for motor graders is expected to grow by 23 per cent in 2012, we expect that, as privatisation in infrastructure increases, this trend of demand for the smaller motor graders will change; this is seen, for example, in the demand for haul-road graders used in the mining industry.Tell us about the range offered by LeeBoy India in motor graders and the value addition incorporated in terms of environment friendliness, safety, energy saving, and fuel consumption.LeeBoy India launched the LeeBoy motor grader 785i in 2011 which has been engineered and manufactured in India to international standards. The 785i motor grader is a 12.4-tonne, 150-hp proven workhorse, designed to consistently level, rip, spread, cut and contour a variety of roads and other surfaces to exacting specifications. The 785i features operator comfort and safety, easy control and trouble-free operation, as well as productivity and value to the customer. All LeeBoy products are backed by the cutting-edge LeeBoy technology and proven expertise in the US for over four decades.LeeBoy India's range of products includes three models of the motor grader ranging from 145 to 175 Hp (BS III engines) suited for different applications. All these models come equipped with EH fan drive to minimise parasitic losses encountered due to continuous running and belt slippages; advanced automatic power shift with an electronic transmission control unit which continuously compares converter impeller speed, turbine speed and operator demand to make gear selection for optimal fuel efficiency. There is also an automatic lock-up clutch feature to ensure that the convertor is bypassed when the torque demand drops.What can you tell us about your service back up and training facilities?A comprehensive PostSales Care (PSC) is one of LeeBoy India's unique value propositions to its customers. As a starting point, customers are offered a direct single-window interface from within LeeBoy India as part of our customer engagement framework.LeeBoy India ensures availability of all essential spares for periodic and breakdown maintenance. The ORM Initiative (Operations, Repairs & Maintenance) provides the customer a professional and comprehensive solution for operation and maintenance of his equipment.LeeBoy India has invested in an exclusive training academy where the Operator-Technicians (OT) will undergo intensive training not just on operating the equipment competently but also focus on preventive maintenance and troubleshooting to ensure a longer lifespan of the equipment, higher uptime and lower maintenance costs. The Academy will also periodically upgrade the OTs' skills and knowledge.What are the parameters to achieve optimal grading, and to what extent is the performance correlated to the machine used and on the operator?Motor graders are fairly versatile machines used for a variety of applications. If we consider some key parameters of performance, they would include the draw-bar pull, control on torque output (to prevent wheel slips), high reverse speed to improve productivity, high blade down force and ergonomically designed cab and cab controls. On the whole, a well-engineered motor grader combined with a trained and skilled operator is essential components to ensure optimum productivity.What are the product/technology trends in motor graders?A significant trend in the current scenario is the shift from post breakdown maintenance of machines to a preventive diagnostic to monitor the health of the machine. This is apparent in the replacement of mechanical displays by all electronic displays which are increasingly becoming a part of the machine's standard features for monitoring and service reminders.Some other indications are increasing electronic controls of the motor grader to make operation more effortless. Also, the ideal driveline would have step-less control of torque and speed. This is possible with a continuously variable transmission. Awareness of the environmental challenges in today's world is also shifting focus around fuel consumption and emission norms. This is another area where more and more manufacturers are ramping up their features to make it more eco-friendly.Rising input cost, high cost of funding, and the recent increase in excise duty has put more pressure on OEMs. What is your take on this?Any parameter which raises costs for all OEMs will have a minimal impact on them but will eventually lead to increase in the cost of road-building.To what extent has the use of IT (GPS or laser based) enabled the user industry? What is the response so far for the machine control technologies?Laser tracking is mandatory only on critical leveling of large open spaces like airport tarmacs, parking lots, etc. While the advantages of tracking is appreciated by big companies who are involved in large-scale projects, smaller companies are yet to appreciate the benefits from these as there is apprehension around the return on this investment.Has the latest emission norms brought any design changes in the product?Tier III engines will require an additional charge air cooler. This includes redesign of the heat exchanger. Tier IV will call for additions of SCR&DPF which calls for more space in the engine therefore requiring some minimal redesign.Tell us about the plant facility and capacity. Is it fully utilised and are there any plans for capacity augmentation?Since our incorporation in October 2010, our unique proposition has been successfully tested and we are now looking to scale up. We have already set up our marketing, design and proto facilities in Bengaluru and our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility spread over 110,000 sq ft has come up at Electronic City in the same city This has been planned, keeping in mind our needs for the next three years. We will be looking at doubling this capacity soon.