Equipment selector community exhibit increasing maturity and systematic approach for this critical function.
Modern construction and mining activities in India need to be expedited with utmost focus on the highest possible productivity, operational excellence, emission compliance, safety and best-of-class economy. Over the past decade, the market for such equipment has substantially matured resulting in the equipment selectors mooting innovative and prudent ideas while selecting the most suitable equipment fleets commensurate to their company objectives and philosophies.
According to S P Rajan, Head - P&M, RREC, L&T Construction, value for money is the prime factor for selecting an equipment. Pradip Kumar Tripathi, Senior General Manager, Simplex Infrastructures Ltd is of the view that the selection of appropriate construction equipment is an important part of job planning. He adds, ´Selection of equipment for construction projects generally involves two classes of factors. First, the technical aspect of the equipment, physical dimensions of the site and construction facility and cost calculations. Second category of factors are mostly intangible, qualitative and informal in nature. Some examples are safety considerations, company policies regarding purchase/ rental, market fluctuations and environmental constraints.´
Manoj Choudhari, Managing Director, Sarens India, says, ´The selection criteria vary per category of equipment but the main aspect remains to select the best and optimum solution for the ´intended application´. We don´t really believe that cheap is the best. One needs to see which option provides maximum value and then to choose from the available options. It is not advisable to compromise on safety, schedule and higher lifecycle or failure costs to go for the cheapest option.´
According to Jigar Shah, Partner, Samrat Crane Service, buying equipment involves huge capital investments and therefore utmost care is need while selecting the equipment. Major aspects which we consider while selecting an equipment are: build quality, major components list of the equipment, overall versatility of the equipment, strong safety features, availability of spares and, of course, the brand image of the equipment.
Gauraw Tiwari, Assistant General Manager - Mechanical, Dilip Buildcon Ltd comments, ´We strongly believe in selecting the best global supplier of construction equipment required for our projects. We continuously nurture the relationship on a long-term basis and maximise the benefits for Dilip Buildcon to support our construction activities.´
Technology will most certainly drive the future of the industry. In their own way, the selectors are according priority to inducting new technologies, in their respective equipment fleets.
According to Rajan, it is important to focus on the latest technologies. ´But, understanding and applying these technologies is more important, else, we end up paying for the technology that we do not use,´ he observes.
´We analyse a few yardsticks before taking a final call. They are whether the performance is improved, technology is well established, whether we have trained manpower, reduce the time cycle, cost compatibility etc,´ says Tripathi.
Choudhari comments, ´It is definitely advisable to consider a product with the latest technologies while selecting each piece of equipment. The changes in technology are not very frequent in case of cranes but with every new acquisition, it is always better to go for the latest technology/product, unless it is a used equipment.´
´The newly emerging, complex, heavy lift requirements of today´s new challenging projects, equipment with latest technologies are required for the safety and timely execution of projects,´ relates Shah to his business challenges.
Tiwari is in a continuous mode but focuses on value, ´As we go along, we always buy the latest technologies offered by the vendor, provided they are required for our works and value propositions.´
On Standard Features
Irrespective of the equipment category, the suppliers are constantly offering much larger number of features as standard in every new generation equipment launch. Many of them had been offered as optional earlier. This phenomenon offers a greater choice to the selectors involved.
Chaudhari considers, ´The standard features need to provide the minimum necessary equipment to undertake intended application.´
Rajan says, ´My focus is high on standard features.´ He adds, ´The machine has been designed and developed through time-tested processes and thus the standard features are arrived at, so, understanding the specifications and applications.´
´Equipment must possess more standard features,´ says Tripathi. While Tiwari is happy and says, ´More the better it is for us.´
Considering optional features
With every passing phase, most manufacturers offer many operation- or application-specific features to augment the efforts of the users in non-standard mode areas. Many users select some optional features which catch their attention based on a job at hand. However, the focus depends on some factors, say most.
Tripathi emphasises, ´Yes, provided it should not hamper the performance of basic features and offsetting cost.´ While Rajan´s focus is low, ´These options are project-based matters and can always be added when required.´ Chaudhari is more considerate, ´The choice of optional features depends on long term plan but if there are any features which can promise additional safety measures, I would always advise to include them.´
On the optional features, Tiwari comments, ´It depends on whether required or not. Then again cost of such optional features matters a lot.´
Future upgradable preferred
Procurement of construction equipment involves high capital investments at all times. The vendors who recognise this major financial constraint, regularly offer equipment upgrades in the form of kits, which can be economically incorporated on an existing equipment. Obviously, such vendors are industry favorites.
Rajan has high preference, ´It is always preferable to have the clarity on upgradable features. There are many occasions where lack of clarity and understanding may have resulted in an equipment devoid of these technologies.´ Tripathi is positive as he agrees ´Definitely yes.´
Chaudhari concurs, ´This has always been one of the important factors. Upgradable products have longer useful periods as with upgradations over time makes them fit for new applications or changing requirements. In cranes, OEMs are constantly innovating to upgrade for enhancing capacity or configuration.´ Tiwari says, ´A good idea as it helps on long term.´
Multi Utility equipment
Equipment with multi-utility capabilities are steadily gaining acceptance in Indian markets. Prospective buyers prefer to use such equipment for reasons of rationalising and optimising the number of equipment deployed at a given job site. The added advantage leads to higher equipment utilisation factor, better productivity per equipment, reduction in the number of operators/maintenance technicians and less maintenance related variables.
Rajan and Tiwari have high focus on multi-utility. While Tripathi is cautious, ´Yes, but should be cost compatible and basic functions are not compromised.´ From Chaudhari´s viewpoint, ´Not always a decision factor, as most of the equipment are meant for specific purposes.´
Humans operate and maintain the equipment. They spend long hours performing their respective functions which require them to remain in one position and perform repetitive operations. This occupational hazard results in inducing many work-related ailments in humans to event the extent of permanent medical disorders. Ergonomics is the science which deals with this major issue and the manufacturers are striving to provide ergonomically designed operator stations and maintenance points in their equipment to adequately nullify the impact on humans. Consequently, this aspect is emerging as one of the major criteria for selecting equipment.
Chaudhari affirms, ´This is a very important aspect. After all, we are handing over an expensive piece of equipment in the hands of an operator. Ergonomics and comfort of operator stations is therefore an essential parameter to be considered while selecting an equipment.´
´Operator comfort generally translates to higher productivity,´ says Tiwari. Rajan confirms, ´Ergonomics is a highly important aspect. The machines like graders need better visibility and operator comfort. This improves the productivity.´
´Yes, user-friendliness or man-machine interaction should be smooth and easy,´ reflects Tripathi.
No compromise on safety
Safety is a key word in every aspect of modern life. It applies to equipment as well. Safety awareness in Indian buyers is high and they are willing to compromise on the same.
Tripathi says, There is no compromise on safety. Suppliers should adhere to all relevant regulations and IS codes.´
Chaudhari also confirms, ´Safety should never be compromised. If I have to choose between a product with cheaper option, lacking on minimum safety standard and a relatively expensive product with full safety features, I would always chose the latter.´
´Safety is a major consideration like never before. Strong safety standards help in overcoming manual mistake and execution of erection activities with the highest level of accuracy. Further, more stress has to be given towards the safety of the equipment and overall working conditions to avoid the huge monetary loss incurred due to mishaps and damages to the equipment,´ says Shah.
Both Rajan and Tiwari have safety on high priority.
Much to the consternation of most sellers, brand loyalty has steadily lost traction in the market. Instead, selecting a particular equipment brand is more a matter of strategy or deriving a specific benefit.
Rajan is moderate and says, ´Brand loyalty provides benefits towards fleet rationalisation, spare parts inventory control and even maintenance and operation skill sets.´ On the other hand, Tripathi comments, ´Sometimes yes.´
´This is an individual choice, but typically people prefer to stick to some brands mainly due to their past good experience and comfort with a particular brand and due to commonality of technology (ease of service) and spares,´ rationalises Chaudhari. Shah visualises some merits, ´Having a particular loyalty with good brands helps in creating strong image for the company. Also it helps in the after-market support for the equipment and gaining expertise in maintaining particular brand of equipment.´ Tiwari has a strategic approach, ´We have strategically been brand loyal. In fact, we are one of the world´s biggest customers of Caterpillar equipment. There are others too.´
Buying total solutions
Many users desire to fully concentrate on their core business. Therefore, they are trending to buy total solutions as against merely the equipment. To meet this emerging trend and challenge, many suppliers are coming forward with tailor-made solutions for customers.
Rajan shares his thoughts, ´In a competitive environment, the confidence of OEM to offer better performance parameters and supporting with PBG, leads to better deal. But, the users need to have a proper mechanism to track the performance and deal with the realities. With the surge in infrastructure projects, the scarcity of skill towards operations as well as maintenance has led to different thought processes.´
He adds, ´Possessing expensive and hi-tech machines without proper operational capabilities does not add value, instead, deteriorates our performance. So, it is always preferable to ensure that the OEM is associated with us till such certain period by when the internal capabilities are self-sufficient to handle the product on its own. Further, the OEMs, under agreement, do participate in reviewing the performance parameters and implementing the corrections.´
´Machines like TBM/PQC pavers come under this category where buying performance solutions can lead to better results,´ points out Rajan.
Tripathi explains his point of view, ´It is always dependent on our expertise in maintaining that particular equipment, analysis on differential cost for the performance solution and criticality of equipment.´
On the other side, Chaudhari explains the concept from the standpoint of Sarens being a solution provide, ´We are a solution providing company and our core strategy is always based on customer needs. Our basic principle is to select the most optimum solution for our customers. All our efforts are always in this direction. We have to understand the customer needs and strategise our selection accordingly. So whenever our client asks us to select equipment for them, we try to select the most economical but safe option for our customers.´
Thoughts on in-house analyses
Rajan explains, ´We primarily analyse the lifecycle costing and review various other aspects as discussed above. A visit to the working plant gives firsthand information on the technological developments and improvements. The machines that are not yet proven are deployed on rental basis and subjected to thorough on-field analysis.´ ´Apart from doing Capex, Opex, and cost comparison, we do total ownership cost, and time cycle analysis particularly for cost intensive, high technology equipment which are to be procured or engaged for specific special projects, to check and evaluate footprints of the vendor, spares and service support, population of equipment, feedback from other users,´ points out Tripathi.
Tiwari also confirms on in-house analysis, ´Yes, we do. We make a pre-analysis on the points stated above. We always give preference to our existing fleet if we get good after market back up.´
Shah pontificates, ´Being into rental industry, cost of the equipment is always going to be the major concern, but while selecting the equipment, the reliability, build quality of the equipment, safety features etc remain foremost points in our consideration along with the cost. Also, cheap machine would seem favourable at the time of initial acquisition of equipment, but if it cannot perform on actual site, it may turn into major cost for attending its break downs and day-to-day maintenances.
Further, regular breakdown and non-performance of equipment let down the company´s brand image which cannot compensate whatever so cost we may save buying cheap equipment.´ He goes on to say, ´With opening up of the overall crane rental markets and entry of new players in the market, the rental rates have been compressed. To negate this situation, we are progressively working to have extended availability of their existing cranes. To have extended utilisation of the equipment, we are increasingly resorting to suitable maintenance and equipment rehabilitation practices. Also, a lot of care is taken while going in for fresh capital investments for new equipment acquisition. Further, more stress has to be given towards the safety of the equipment and overall working conditions to avoid the huge monetary loss incurred due to mishaps and damages to the equipment.´
Choudhari explains his standpoints specific to high load lifting capacity cranes offered by Sarens, ´For the intended application, the broad selection parameters include basic details of object to be handled (weight, size, placing height etc), availability of equipment, space constraint, schedule/productivity desired and budget.
Taking example of lifting application, one can use crane or can choose from a host of alternate lifting methods such as strand jacks, gantries etc. If one has decided to use a crane, it is important to select the least possible capacity and the best possible configuration for the job. We at Sarens typically request our customers to provide information on the following critical operational parameters so as to select the most suitable crane option for them:
Tripathi lists out, ´The specific decision variables for a particular class of equipment selection are: Economic Considerations; Site-specific; Equipment-specific; Client-specific; Manufacturer-specific and Labour Consideration.
On one side Technology and safety will drive the future of the industry and TCO or TLCC will ensure fiscal discipline for CE users. As such under no conditions will these aspects be compromised. On the other side having personally spent over three decades in the CE industry, I was involved in the equipment selection process, in many ways. During this long journey, I was exposed many emerging concepts which were in vogue at the material time. It is very heartening to note that the selector community has greatly matured over time and equipment selection has emerged as process under continuous change.
´Value for money is the prime factor for selecting the equipment.´
- S P Rajan,
Head - P&M, RREC, L&T Construction
Chaudhari opines, ´While selecting the best option, all of the above factors are important and need to be considered. The individual weightage can vary based on case-to-case, but typically the most important factors are TCO, CAPEX, OPEX and economic life expectancy and resale value.
´If I have to give weightage to each factor just to indicate preferences, following can be considered (though this is not necessarily correct for each case), I would give about 70 per cent to TCO (I prefer to call it as Life Cycle Cost) which in my opinion includes CAPEX and OPEX, 10 per cent to economic life expectancy, 10 per cent to resale value and 10 per cent to balance factors,´ he adds.
Shah prioritises, ´We would like to put the weightage we consider towards the factors while we select equipment in ascending order, as: Total Ownership Cost; Economic Life Expectancy; Opex; Capex; After Market Support; Performance Guarantees by Vendors; Resale Value; Vendor Image & Footprint and Usage Location.´
Suppliers should adhere to all relevant safety regulations & IS codes.
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