We are focusing on making our wheel loaders versatile and suitable to meet various applications in roads, railways, irrigation, mining and industrial works by developing new attachments and variants, says Vivek Hajela, General Manager and Head - Construction Equipment Business, Larsen & Toubro Ltd. He elaborates more on the industry trends and the company's plans.
What is the current market size of wheel loaders in India? How is the industry progressing over the last few years?
The wheel loader market in India has been growing at a brisk pace over the last couple of years after touching a low in FY 2015-16. The 3 to 3.5 Ton-class wheel loader market has witnessed 17 per cent growth in the FY 2017-18 till now. This may improve further to 20 per cent by the end of the current FY. Major drivers to the growth are increased pace of road construction and the overall impetus to infrastructure development by the government. Going forward, we expect the growth momentum to continue at a healthy rate of 15 per cent with increased activity on Smart Cities, Metros, rapid urbanisation, and solid waste management initiatives through Swachh Bharat Mission.
Which capacity range is fast moving in the Indian market?
The most popular class of wheel loader in India is 3 to 3.5 T constituting over 75 per cent of the total requirement. As mentioned, this segment has registered a growth rate of 17 per cent in the last financial year and is likely to grow at 20 per cent in the current fiscal year. With the increase in the size of contracts, we also see demand growth in 5T wheel loaders in certain applications like iron ore mining and bulk handling at ports. However, 3 to 3.5 T wheel loader remains the clear favourite when it comes to general construction activities.
What are the opportunities for wheel loaders in the short-to-medium term?
We expect the wheel loader market to continue to grow at the healthy rate of 15 per cent over the short and medium term. The major drivers are roads, railways, irrigation, mining and industrial handling activities.
With the objective of making our wheel loader L&T 9020 versatile, we have introduced dozer blade attachment for light dozing involving railway and road construction and for handling solid waste in major cities. This application has already become very popular. Similarly, we have developed high lift arm so that the machine could load raw material into trucks with extended bodies effectively. Cane and log grab bucket is developed for material handling applications in sugar and paper industries.
Could you brief us about L&T's range of wheel loaders and important features?
L&T Construction Equipment Limited manufactures two models in the 3.5 T payload wheel loader segment - L&T 9020 and L&T 9020 SX, which is the premium variant. Both models are targeted at the growing aggregate handling at crushers, ready-mix & batch mix concrete plants, general construction and material handling activities in various segments.
Within its segment, L&T 9020 has one of the highest payload capacities of 3,500 kg and the largest standard bucket size of 2.0 cum for higher productivity. Ashok Leyland H6ETIC3RU23/3 Hino series engine provides best-in-class fuel economy. A multi-function hydraulic joystick allows easy operation of the attachments with precise control. Similarly, semi-automatic transmission helps in reducing operator fatigue in the demanding work environments. The machine is equipped with safety features like operators safety belt, FOPS Cabin etc. We have also provided optional features like ROPS and AC cabin, auto fire suppression system, and rear view camera for improved safety.
We have also launched the high-performance L&T 9020SX model recently to look into the needs of customers expecting higher productivity, faster speed, more digging forces and better operator comfort. The first gear speed has been enhanced by 25 per cent, tractive force by 10 per cent, and breakout force by 10 per cent. The operator's cabin has been improved to provide 60 per cent higher cabin space, better head room and lumber support. Overall, the productivity of 9020 SX is about 10-15 per cent higher than the standard machine.
What is your take on the growth of connectivity and other innovative features in these equipment?
With the advent of mobile connectivity in every facet of our life, we have added GPS and tracking features on the machine with an innovative feature called VisionLink. In addition to providing the location of the machine, this feature is capable of providing details like the total working hours of the machines and the break-up of the working hours in terms of the total loading time, idle time, travel time etc, to help customers optimise their operations. We have also introduced innovative payload monitoring system to help customers load the exact amount of material in tippers and wagon saving valuable time for them.
What is the expected growth of wheel loader market by 2020? What will be the growth drivers? What are the challenge you see in the growth path?
We expect the wheel loader market to maintain a healthy growth rate of
15 per cent in the immediate future.
In addition to road construction, infrastructure development and increased urbanisation, we expect mining and industrial activities to pick up in the coming years which shall provide further impetus. Regulations on emission standards can pose a challenge.
What are your future plans to meet the emerging demands?
L&T is focusing on in-house technology development of various equipment specifically catering to the growing demand from road construction segment, under 'Make in India' mission. Along with wheel loader L&T 9020, we have introduced different vibratory compactor models like 1190 soil compactor, 990 tandem compactor and 491 mini compactor. We will soon introduce hydraulic pavers, pneumatic-tyred rollers (PTR) and skid steer loaders. These will complement our present portfolio of Komatsu's excavators, motor graders and large-size wheel loaders. Soon, we want to become a one-stop solution for the road construction sector.