With the demand for excavators growing in the market, OEMs are introducing new features to further improve the efficiency and productivity of the machines, helping in quick and qualitative project execution.
Excavators are the second-largest used construction equipment in India, after backhoe loaders.According to industry reports, sales of crawler excavator market in India is expected to reach 30,000 units by 2021, from an estimated 18,500 units in 2017. The market is expected to grow at around 20-25 per cent year-on-year in 2018. The growth is attributed mainly to the ongoing infrastructure development activities in roads and bridges, railways, metro, urban development and Swachh Bharat initiatives. Privatisation of coal mining is expected to improve the opportunity for heavy-duty excavators in mining. All these leads to the need for productive and efficient machines. Excavator OEMs are also focusing on new features and technologies that will push the boundaries of productivity and efficiency.
Major hydraulic excavator producers are bullish on the current market scenario as there is a growing demand for more excavators for various projects. Rajdeep Mitra, National Product Manager (Excavators), Liugong India, elaborates, "Excavator sector is the second-largest in terms of volume in India, after backhoe loaders. The current market size of hydraulic excavators is around 20,000 units per year. The 21 and 22 tonne class dominates in the market with a product share of 67 per cent. These are the mainstay for construction industry and can be found working in almost all the construction and infrastructure projects throughout India. The 8 tonne, 15 tonne, 36 tonne and 50 tonne and above class also find demand in the market with an average share of 8 per cent , 13 per cent, 7 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively. This year, we are expecting a growth of about 17-20 per cent per cent CAGR for hydraulic excavator market in India."
Dimitrov Krishnan, Vice President and Head, Volvo CE India, sees a renewed potential for Volvo excavators. He says, "India's push to expand connectivity among its population and business centres presents a huge opportunity for Volvo Construction Equipment. Infrastructure development continues to be the key growth driver in India's economy and while the country is making strong progress there is still much to be done." Volvo offers a complete range of equipment for various infrastructure development projects. Says Krishnan, "Volvo remains the only major manufacturer present in all equipment sectors: mining, road building and general construction. Whatever the demands of the job, Volvo's equipment offer the company's hallmark qualities: industry-leading fuel efficiency and productivity levels that customers love the world over-particularly in India. Customers in India love Volvo machines because they can deliver fuel savings without the need to take on newer hybrid systems, instead utilising proven designs."
Rahul Shah, Chief Executive Officer, Sumer Group, as a user of this equipment, says, "For more than three decades, hydraulic excavators are being used in construction industry for various activities. And day-by-day the demand is increasing since it
offers many advantages like improved work output, power and easy manoeuvrability."
According to Krishnan, coal mining remains the most important sector of the market, followed by iron ore and then limestone. In 2015 Coal India was mining around 550 million tonnes of coal a year and by 2020, it is planning to raise the production to one billion tonnes of coal. This has given a boost to the industry.
On the other mining markets, he observes, "For iron ore, the market is stagnant because of a lack of new licences for production. This is down to a delay in environmental clearances and ongoing lower commodity prices. For the limestone market, activity levels have been low over the past two to three years, with cement plants running at between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of their capacity. However, we are seeing some investment in this sector, which is translating into new equipment purchases."
However, the long-term prognosis for all sectors of mining remains positive. He adds, "Over the course of the next three to five years, we expect a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of between 5 per cent and 7 per cent. If you look at the subdued activity of the mining sector over the past 20 years and then compare that with the current projection, then it is a very positive outlook for this sector."
According to Mitra, the mining sector is closely related to the infrastructure development of the country. He adds, "As the major focus of the current government is on massive and rapid infra growth of the country, supported by the Make in India campaign, mining will play a crucial role in the successful outcome of the plan. Though there are steps towards privatisation in coal mining and iron ore mining, all will depend on the government agencies and government involvement. Excavators of bigger capacity are used in mining and the demand for excavators will be there in future."
On the privatisation of coal mining, he says, "Privatisation in coal mining will definitely lead to the demand for higher capacity excavators as private players will require this for completion of the jobs rapidly, meeting the market requirement. The 50 tonne to 70 tonne class excavator market is expected to grow from 5 per cent to 7 per cent within the product portfolio.
Demand growth to continue
Demand for capital equipment such as excavators will depend upon the policy initiatives by the government. Says Mitra, "The current government's policies are excellent with new cities are being built up, more road projects have been taken up at an increased execution pace, new ports and airports are coming up across the country, and so on. Projects like Swachh Bharat, DDUGJY, PMGSY, AMRUT and Smart Cities, Bhartnet and Housing for All, along with road network development projects like Bharatmala will raise the demand for coal and minerals, which in turn will lead to the growth of market for hydraulic excavators."
Krishnan is of the view, "In 2018, with the government's infrastructure push, we expect to see strong interest in the EC200D, which was designed specifically for general construction work. Volvo's EC200D is the fastest 20-tonne class excavator on the market. With shorter cycle times and outstanding lifting capabilities, it delivers significant productivity improvements for all types of general construction work.
Improving productivity and efficiency
Krishnan elaborates on the products and solutions offered by Volvo CE, "The new EC200D offers premium Volvo features including world-class fuel efficiency, productivity, quality, safety and service availability. The EC200D's exceptionally high swing torque and unique lifting capabilities make it the natural choice for general construction earthmoving work in India. The excavator cycle time includes digging, swinging loaded, unloading and swinging empty. The faster the cycle can be finished, the higher the productivity for the machine.
With the powerful Volvo D5E Tier 3 engine (with an output of 123 kW at 2,000 rpm), and compatible hydraulics, the EC200D is designed to operate fast
and with short cycle times."
He further adds on other features, "The EC200D is extremely well balanced, which gives the machine outstanding loading and lifting capabilities at any boom and arm position. The combination of a powerful engine, compatible hydraulics and precise controls in an exceptionally well-balanced machine makes the EC200D capable of lifting heavier loads, which translates into higher productivity. The operators feel right at home in the cab too as it features ergonomic design which provides the comfort and visibility synonymous with Volvo machines. The EC200D is extremely easy to control and the superior stability secures smooth and efficient operation of the machine."
The Volvo EC200D is a solid performer overall that offers excellent fuel efficiency and productivity in general construction applications such as road construction, building, landscaping and utility work. It is configured with a 5.7 m boom, 2.9 m arm and 0.8 cu m bucket, while maximum breakout force is 116 kN.
New generation machines come with the latest technologies and features. Says Mitra, "Today, the owner of an excavator is pretty much techno savvy. He knows the use of new technologies such as Telematics and monitoring tools. So technology and the excavator market are going hand-in-hand. All leading OEMs provide Telematics along with excavators in India. Arm regeneration and different modes have been used for ease in operation."
Being a multinational, Liugong offers the full range of excavators in India. Mitra elaborates, "Our motto is to provide a complete one-stop solution along with excellent service to the products to our customers. The product range we are promoting in India starts with the 908 range, the 8 tonne excavator, 921 series of 21 tonne excavator that is solely manufactured in India for the Indian consumer keeping the need, demand and working condition here. Then we have 922 range which is a 22 tonne class heavy-duty machine powered with a Cummins engine. We also offer the 39 tonne class excavator of 939 series and the 950 series machine of 50 tonne capacity. In India we have excavators starting from 8 tonne to 50 tonne, to cater customers from across the segments. Telematics used enables ease of reporting and monitoring of the product by their actual owners from far off locations. As HSD cost is one of the driving factors of the project cost, Liugong excavators are designed to boost the fuel efficiency in the latest range of excavators with a negative flow hydraulics. This optimises the main control valve and cylinders to improve the speed of the equipment while working and reducing down on the hydraulic system's pressure loss, which leads to increase in fuel efficiency. The synchronisation between pilot valves and main control valve offers precise control. Complete hydraulic system has been designed and manufactured by Kawasaki Japan and been calibrated as per the engine fitted in the Liugong excavators, which in turn provides better and optimised performance.
Technologies like Arm Regeneration at higher operational speed are also offered. For RPM setting, we have different operating modes and operating speed which can be set as per the application, providing better productivity and fuel efficiency. Today's hydraulic excavators are the finest and technologically the most advanced engineering works available in the market with a continuous endeavour of improvement carrying on regularly to make it more efficient."
Mitra elaborates further on other features, "Efficiency in LiuGong excavators is designed with a negative hydraulics that optimises the main control valve and cylinder to improve the speed of the equipment while working and reducing the hydraulic system power loss leading to increase in fuel efficiency. We do have a synchronisation between the pilot valve and the main control valve offering precise control. Complete hydraulic system has been designed and manufactured by Kawasaki Japan and has been calibrated as per the engine fitted in the LiuGong excavator, which in turn provides better optimised performance. In the case of 20 and 21 tonne class, we are using our own Cummins engine. The wide spacious cabin and the ergonomic position of the seat provide great comfort to the operator so that operator can work continuously for the longer period of time. High suspension and adjustable seat, which reduce the vibration due to machine working. The 360-degree visibility offers the safer and more efficient operation. Standard feature of AC in all machines which maintain the temperature of the cabin and maintain the comfortable environment inside the cabin in hot and cold ambient conditions. Apart from that, operating cost plays a vital role in the daily operations of site in which Liugong excavators are the most economically placed among its competitors."
Digital features: Going smart
Adding digital technology features have made excavators smarter and intelligent. Telematics remains the major digital feature. Says Krishnan, "Volvo CE offers Telematics in our range of equipment. CareTrack is a Telematics system that gives equipment owners access to a wide range of machine monitoring information that can help save time and money. The system generates a wide range of reports with data on aspects such as fuel consumption, operational hours, geographical location and more. These reports are available via a web portal or can be received via SMS or email alerts. CareTrack can also be used to manage machine servicing and wear parts. This allows fleet managers to reduce fuel costs, optimise machine and operator performance, as well as proactively manage service and maintenance to maximise uptime. CareTrack is offered not as a standard practice but as specialised packages designed to enhance customers' businesses."
The CareTrack packages offered by Volvo include:
CareTrack standard: Access machine hours and location and manage service plans and wear parts via the web portal.
Tracking and status: Notifications tell you when a machine goes outside pre-set location and time boundaries. A status report supplies fuel level, machine location and machine hours.
Operation: Reports highlight how each machine is used and if operators are working efficiently.
Production: On Board Weighing technology shows a machine's true productivity. Accessible information û including load efficiency and number of cycles - reduce fuel consumption and improve component life.
Anti-theft: Volvo crawler excavators can be fitted with an anti-theft tracking system.
Communication: Satellite communication is provided in areas where no/weak cell phone connection is available.
API: API enables CareTrack data to be incorporated into your management system.
Krishnan further elaborates on the advantages of CareTrack, "Customers say they like the insight CareTrack provides, which supports them with maintenance, invoicing, fleet management and operator training. With CareTrack, customers can monitor load efficiency, number of cycles, overload percentages and identify operator training needs. For example, CareTrack can tell owners what time the machine operation starts, takes a break, and ends. What's more, CareTrack allows owners to tap into a wealth of actionable data including fuel consumption, idle time, machine location, fluid levels and service alerts. With the time and labor savings CareTrack offers, customers say they view it as an investment rather than extra costs. As owners are pushed to deliver more with less, CareTrack is a great way to proactively manage machines and increase uptime by planning service and maintenance requirement in advance, avoiding potential problems. It is also possible for Volvo CE dealers to troubleshoot faults remotelyùminimising service and downtime."
Mitra explains, "The major digital technology remains Telematics where the customers will be able to track and monitor the machines remotely. Geo-fencing is an important feature that customers are nowadays using for a complete control of the machine at the mining or construction site. Telematics has a crucial role to manage and monitor heavy equipment operations, location and the actual working status of the machine. Liugong provides the GPS navigation, road side assistance, remote diagnosis and fleet management in all range of excavators. We can track the actual working time, ideal time, HMR and the fuel consumption for the whole working day. We can also trace the life time working and fuel used. If there is any fault or error in the machine, the notification is directly send to the owner. The special feature of the Telematics shows if these is any instant drain of the fuel."
As mentioned, the new range of excavators come with new features and technologies. The users need to use these technologies properly to take the benefit of optimum performance of the machine. According to Shah, there is an imbalance in the technology available and its utilisation with regards to excavators. "It's mainly due to lack of training to the operators and improper periodic maintenance of the machinery. Obviously it is diversely affecting on quantum of work and speed."
With the machines are becoming more and more technologically advanced, operator training is imperative for optimum productivity of the machine. Says Krishnan, "India will need around 76.5 million strong workforce for its building, construction and real estate sector, according to a report by National Skill Development Corporation. Shortage of talent in the construction industry is a long-term problem that needs to be addressed with better education and training. At Volvo, the last Operator Champion competition in India was conducted in 2017 to highlight the importance of skill development in the construction industry and the vital role equipment operators play. The three-day event gathered winners of the nine regional heats staged over the preceding 18 months. Each finalist competed in a series of challenges at the Volvo CE Customer Center in Hoskote, timed to test speed, dexterity, logic, and more."
Mitra elaborates, "As we are a dealer-centric company, we inform our dealers to select a few operators and we provide classroom as well as hands-on training. Our experts train the new operators on how to run the machine properly and maintain the machine which is very important from the perspective of the life of the machine. Thus, even we invite some of the operators to our plant to have hands-on training on how the service and maintenance part is taken care of so that they can take care of the machine themselves. We also select trainees from colleges and ITIs after an interview with our expert panel and short listing. We provide in-plant training with machines so that they get a first-hand experience with the machines. Then we train the candidates according to their choice of profession, be it R&D, sales or services. We also recruit graduate engineering trainees and absorb on various positions in the company after successful completion of the training.
Being a general working machinery, excavators are largely available for projects through rental market. So growth of rental market is important from the perspective of excavators. Says Krishnan, "The rental market continues to grow in India and we expect that the trend to continue for some time as the country's economy matures. Cost remains one of the most important factors for buyers in India, but the purchase price is only part of what constitutes a machine's overall lifetime cost. Equipment owners and contractors in India have developed quite sophisticated models for calculating æcost per tonne' or æcost per km' for equipment, and this considers a range of factors, including purchase price, operating costs, productivity levels, anticipated maintenance, depreciation, resale value and more."
He further adds, "Volvo CE is heavily focused on productivity and lowering the cost of operations, or cost per tonne, for customers - a big contributor to this is fuel efficiency. It's not unusual for a Volvo CE customer to report fuel savings of 10 per cent or more for one of our machines versus a competitor model. Our company is well-known for delivering some of the most advanced designs in the industry, which results in leading levels of productivity. And equally important
Mitra elaborates, "Rental players will always be a boon to excavator market because in today's scenario, contractors are getting bigger work orders. This will drive the rental players to have bigger fleet of machines, creating more demand for excavators in rental market. Due to this emerging trend, we are hopeful of creating more business from rental market as well. The boom in rental sector is mainly due to the road contractors who largely depend on rental players to use excavators in their projects."
According to Shah, in future the demand of hydraulic excavators will be huge because of the various major infra projects which government is planning. In the ongoing metro projects also, excavators have a major role to play. Due to existing surrounding structures, the proposed metro routing is underground at various locations, which needs to be done with specialised drilling machines. Therefore, in the future there will be extensive use of excavators for drilling and digging and other such jobs."
Says Krishnan, "Increasingly, our customers need to do more with less, which is why Volvo continues to push the boundaries in terms of delivering the best levels of fuel efficiency in the industry. Beyond that, we are also looking ahead to the future of the industry and investing heavily in concept technologies like our pursuit of electrically driven vehicles, which could be a game changer. Recently, our company unveiled the world's first fully-electric compact excavator, the EX2, which is equipped with electric drive systems and electromechanical linear actuators. While it is too early to say if there will eventually be a shift towards electric engines in the market, Volvo CE believes that going electric is the future of our industry. The EX2 prototype shows our determination to provide zero-emissions machines in the future which will have the same power and force as conventional equipment."
He further adds, "The EX2, however, is just one of a few electric initiatives we have. The LX1, while not fully electric like the EX2, is a prototype electric hybrid wheel loader. At a press event in the US in July 2017, we presented results from hundreds of hours of testing that show an average improvement of 50 per cent in fuel efficiency compared to its conventional counterparts. This equates to a reduction of 35 per cent in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. We also showcased the HX1, a prototype autonomous, battery-electric load carrier. It is one element of a project that aims to electrify a transport stage in a quarry-from excavation to primary crushing and transport to secondary crushing. It has already picked up industry awards for innovation."
Demand for hydraulic excavators is here to continue for at least the
next 3-4 years due to the ongoing projects. Since excavators are used in the basic construction and mining operations, the applications remain at various projects, irrespective of the project size. The focus will lie in the optimum utilisation of features and technologies associated with these excavators and get the maximum benefit of these machines.
- Sudheer Vathiyath