By virtue of our acquisition of GIA AB and MEYCO in 2011 and 2013 subsequently, Atlas Copco is the preferred partner for major construction companies to complement their tunne¡lling operations with shotcrete machines, locomotives, ventilation systems, conti¡nuous loading machines, pipe-roofing and radial bolting system, grouting equip¡ment, platform rigs, concrete mixers, pneumatic and hydr¡aulic crawler drills for benching operation in tunnels and me¡cha¡nised bolting machines, says Anirban Sen, Business Line Manager - Under¡ground Rock Excavation, Atlas Copco (India), Mining and Rock Excavation Technique. Excerpts from the interview.
How do you assess the potential for tunnel construction?
Atlas Copco specialises and contributes enormously in drill and blast tunnelling. We have products which complement each other in almost all activities of drill and blast tunnelling and some activities in mechanised tunnelling. Although potential in hydropower is immense, other segments of underground construction like irrigation, traffic tunnels are taking precedence. Our specialised equipment is focused on better process management, time and cost saving. The potential for underground equipment is encouraging.
What is the status of the tunnelling equipment and materials industries in India?
Indian tunnelling is mostly done in different reaches of the Himalayas. Modern methods of tunnelling, viz, NATM, is well accepted in the Indian tunnelling industry and Atlas Copco is a pioneer in supplying high precision tunnelling equipment which is instrumental in making tunnel quality better and safer.
To what extent the devaluation of the Indian currency impacted Atlas Copco?
Atlas Copco had visualised the need for faster delivery from the underground construction industry long ago. Local assembly on programme has taken place of the most sold drill jumbo in India, boomer L2D, since 2011 which could impede currency fluctuation partially. It is beyond doubt that inflationary pressures will impact our prices for end users to a certain extent.
What are the key trends in the automation of tunnelling in India?
Automation in drilling and other tunnelling activities in D&B tunnelling is yet to catch up with the rest of the world and yet steps are being taken in the right direction. Atlas Copco's endeavour to automate the drilling operation started in 2005 in a traffic tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir. A reasonable amount of automation has happened after that with Atlas Copco having the strength of more than two dozen machines operating in the region. Customers have benefitted immensely due to consistent reduction in over break compared to manual machines, thereby saving on shotcrete and concrete quantity.
What are the major product lines offered by Atlas Copco?
Apart from complete automation on drilling operations, Atlas Copco boomers can also be configured with measure while drilling function for advance information on the geology, tunnel profiler for controlling and monitoring of overbreak/undercut, total station navigation for accurate drilling, RHS-E system for fully automated long hole drilling up to 30 m used for pre-grouting, concentric and eccentric pipe-roofing system ranging from 76 mm OD to 140 mm OD casing. Market size for drill jumbos varies annually between Rs 1 to 1.5 billion.
What are the advantages of Atlas Copco with regard to the sophisti¡cated equipment manufactured and supplied for DBM?
Most of our drill jumbos have been made versatile for operating in the underground construction industry. Boomer L2D is one such model which has the capability to do:
Apart from having the very advanced CanBus technology on the drilling machines, Atlas Copco's main strength is the incredible knowledge of the equipment and its application that its people possess. Supplying high-technology equipment is one part, but supporting the same on the project site is a challenge. Atlas Copco India has invested in a simulator for training its own people and also of operators for precisely this reason. Atlas Copco's number of underground equipment in the subcontinent is a testimony of our customers being satisfied.
How do you ensure that the lead time is reduced?
One project we have been running successfully since 2011 is the localisation of assembly of a boomer L2D in India, which has brought down the delivery lead time from 16-20 weeks to 6-8 weeks now.
Could you brief us about the training facilities for the highly sophisticated equipment and machinery?
Atlas Copco India has invested in a Boomer E2C simulator for continuous training of its people and also to impart training to the operators. This gives customers a chance to attain better efficiency for the operators before they take on the actual machines at the project site. We run a yearly training calendar for classroom cum hands on training at Pune to impart training to maintenance personnel on electrical and hydraulic components of our machines and circuits.
What are the major challenges you face as an equipment supplier?
Atlas Copco has conventional and high precision equipment to cater to the growth in underground construction projects. However, paucity of funds, governmental clearances and the depreciating Indian currency are all setbacks to our plans.
How do you assess the performance of the last two quarters and how do you view the growth prospects for this fiscal year?
We do not see a dearth of underground construction projects. The last two quarters have given us mixed results. The silver lining has come in the form of the Government of India promising to fund delayed infrastructure projects in the border states and having kick started clearances of hydro projects in those areas. However, the currency depreciation is dampening the mood to a certain extent.
Atlas Copco has conventional and high precision equipment to cater to the growth in underground construction projects.