LiuGong, manufacturers of construction equipment, globally produce over 60,000 units annually, having an extra manufacturing capacity in India with an annual production of over 3,000 units; they are constantly considering expansion for product lines and its technology up gradation, says Sunil Sapru, President, LiuGong India. Excerpts from the interview.What is the demand-supply scenario for motor graders for different tonnage and horse power? Also tell us about the growth enablers.The growth in demand has been significant in the Indian market. At LiuGong, we were always confident of this growth. We enjoy a significant share of grader market today backed by the world class in-house facility, world class dealer network, complete focus on the product support, backed with in time parts availability and state-of-the-art training facilities. Our focus is to march ahead in graders and other equipment complementing our product range of tracked excavator, wheel loader, etc. The growth enablers are primarily the road projects announced by NHAI, the state highway projects and also the rural road projects. As per the estimates, we are quite optimistic about many more new projects that are likely to be awarded this year by NHAI alone.Tell us about the range offered by LiuGong in motor graders, and the value addition incorporated in terms of environment friendliness, safety, energy saving, and fuel consumption?LiuGong offers graders in 150-215 HP range in India for construction and mining applications, the most popular model being the 414BSIII and CLG418 which is used mainly in the construction projects. LiuGong’s motor graders are set to redefine performance, fuel efficiency, and operator comfort. The machine, used primarily for highway construction and road maintenance, offers the new, powerful, water-cooled BSIII Cummins engine. As with all LiuGong machines, operator comfort, accuracy and safety receive the utmost attention. For operators comfort and safety the machine is equipped with an enclosed FOPS/ROPS cab, standard heating, air-conditioning, a fully adjustable seat, etc. Our efforts have always been to build most fuel-efficient machines and environmental friendly.What are the product /technology trends in motor graders?The Indian market is gradually maturing and we have made inroads into it. The technological trends, as compared to the conventional grading and compaction methodologies, are apparent in the increased use of GPS guidance and laser control techniques.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 and how do you address these issues?Worldwide, it is a picture of light and shadow. The rise in the interest rates, high raw material cost and devaluation of the rupee directly affects the infrastructure project viability. Therefore, the construction equipment market may pass through the challenging phase in the short term but we are confident about the overall outlook in the medium/long term.On the long term strategy, we have already started localising the product here in a phased manner. We have developed the supply chain management and are trying to give the benefits to our customers in terms of localisation so as to have a control on the cost.Tell us about the total market in terms of units and value.The market for motor graders is in the growing phase, and it would continue to be in the same trajectory for near foreseeable future. The approximate growth rate of motor graders from 32 per cent in 2009-10 will reach over whopping 160 per cent by 2014. The estimated market potential is expected to be over 800 units for motor graders.Has the latest emission norms brought any design changes in the product? If so, please brief us.The emissions standards have been phasing in number of years, gradually reducing the legal level of emissions for various sizes of diesel engine. To remain competitive manufacturers have to develop a product that will deliver higher performance, longer life, lower operating cost and at the same time with low environmental impacts. To comply with these standards, engine manufacturers have invested in the research and development of new cutting-edge technologies aimed at lower diesel emissions level. LiuGong has already come up with its BSIII engines in the graders to maximise fuel efficiency. However, the engine is customised for Indian conditions and emission norms.Is your plant fully utilised and are there any plans for capacity augmentation?LiuGong, manufacturers of construction equipment, globally produce over 60,000 units annually, having extra manufacturing capacity in India with annual production of over 3,000 units; what’s more, we are constantly considering expansion for product lines and technology upgradation, and will make the announcements soon. LiuGong has plans to invest in upcoming projects and expansion within market demand and is ready to capitalise with additional production capacity and customised customer requirement.Tell us about your service back up and training facilities.LiuGong is a technology leader and has a long history of product innovation and development. LiuGong India is focused on having an extensive sales and service network across the country as well as in its neighbouring countries. We have already established a strong dealer network with 20 dealers operating in different parts of India and neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. LiuGong India yet endeavours to keep expanding its network and moving closer to its customer. Training is a very significant part of LiuGong’s corporate culture, whether applied to improve the skills and knowledge of our own employees, our dealers or our customers. A recent example of LiuGong’s commitment to training can be highlighted when LiuGong organised the sales training in Pithampur an Indore, for their sales personnel. This type of training adds to skill levels and improves return on investment for the customer in India. Apart from this LiuGong also conduct classroom training and provide hands in training at our Pitampura plant as well as at our training centres in Indore.What are the parameters to achieve optimal grading, and to what extent is the performance correlated to the machine and the operator?Grading in civil engineering and construction is a work of ensuring the level base, or one with the specified slope and grade, for construction work such as a foundation, the base course for a road or a railway or landscape and garden improvements. The grading also ensures uniform spreading of heap of earth being dumped by tippers; the motor grader ensures the compactor is effectively used with minimum load on it. The effective grading depends upon the skill of the operator, size and quantity and the alignment system of the blade. The shortage of skilled grader operators is a cause of concern. However this problem can be mitigated by ensuring regular training to machine operators.To what extent has the use of IT (GPS or laser-based) enabled the user industry?With GPS or laser-based technology, the sub-base levels are optimised to specified limits and hence there is tremendous savings in laying WMM, DBM/DLC, AC/PQC. The market is quite upbeat about the technology and we are sure with the cost of projects going up, the technological advancement viz GPS or laser-based controls will become mandatory.