Compaction equipment market in India is growing further as more technologically advanced intelligent machines are being introduced into the market.
Roads and highways is still going strong as the most happening infrastructure sector in India with many ongoing projects and many in the pipeline. India has the second largest road network across the world at 4.7 million km and is still growing. While many greenfield projects are bound to take off, there are many expansion projects going on across the country. At the same time, there are also activities such as development of airports and sea ports in the country. All together, there is a positive growth trajectory for compaction equipment. Several key trends are emerging in the asphalt/soil compaction market with the development of the latest generation machines. Performance and productivity remain key issues for compactor manufacturers, with firms keen to maximise output from their latest units.
Compactors for strong foundation
Compaction is one of the most important process in not only road construction but also in airports, railway embankments, ports and irrigation projects to achieve the desired load bearing capacity of the soil. However, most of the current demand for both soil and tandem compactors is for road projects. From the application perspective, there are four different types of vibratory compactors: soil, asphalt, mini tandem and pneumatic tyre roller (PTR). Soil has the widest range, as it is used for a variety of applications. Soil compactors are used for compaction of soil in irrigation canals, roads and landfills, land development, ports, airports etc. Tandem vibratory rollers are double-drum compactors used for asphalt compaction primarily for asphalt top road construction. Mini tandem compactors are double drum compactors in 3 tonne weight category. These compactors are used for shoulder compaction, pedestrian and cycling tracks. PTRs are rubber tyred tandem rollers used for sealing and finishing of highways, expressways and airports.
Products and solutions
Compactors is one such construction equipment segment where continuous product developments and innovations are happening. In India, demand for innovative products is slowly caching up with a few players taking steps to introduce products and technologies matching with the emerging requirements. Wirtgen is one such player which has introduced a range of products for Indian market.
Ramesh Palagiri, Managing Director and CEO, Wirtgen India, says, 'In India, we offer the Hamm 311 soil compactor, HD 99 asphalt compactor, GRW 15 rubber-wheeled roller, 3520 pad foot compactor and also the mini tandem roller HD 12VV.' He further adds, 'In a market as large as India, the range of customer specifications is broad and diverse. That is why Hamm offers numerous field-tested extras for its 311 compactor and HD 99 tandem roller, allowing everyone to equip the machines to suit their individual needs. Options include the edge pressing and cutting equipment for the tandem roller, or the working lights for the compactor.
JCB is another major equipment player which has come up strongly with its range of compaction equipment for various applications. Jasmeet Singh, Head - Corporate Communications and External Relations, JCB India Ltd, elaborates, 'JCB India offers a range of road compaction equipment with three world-class products - the VMT330 (a 3T class mini tandem roller), the VMT 860eco (a 9T class tandem roller) and the JCB116 (a 11T class soil compactor), a latest introduction in the compaction range.'
He adds, 'The JCB116 soil compactor comes fitted with a state-of-the-art JCB Diesel Max engine, providing fuel savings in the range of 5-10 per cent compared to the available competing models in the market. Equipped with a variable fan as standard, the engine delivers a massive 430 Nm of torque at low engine speeds for optimum responsiveness.'
According to Singh, JCB116 comes with an inbuilt compaction meter which ensure uniform compaction. 'JCB India is the first manufacturer in the industry to offer this unique feature in its compactors,' he adds. A compaction meter enables the operator to exactly know the number of passes required to achieve the desired compaction density and thus avoids over or under compaction of the layers. This leads to uniform compaction density and savings in fuel as well as in time.
For efficient compaction, the JCB COMPATRONIC systems can be fitted to JCB116 as an option. Singh explains, 'The accelerator sensor measures the reaction from the ground and provides feedback. JCB COMPATRONIC system displays the relative compaction value, warning lamp for jump operation and LED display for vibratory frequency. This system also looks for weak compaction area which helps in determining the reduction in number of passes and avoid over compaction.'
The VMT330 mini tandem roller is best suited for applications such as highway road shoulders, retaining the walls of flyovers, for the compaction of road shoulders, footpaths, trenches, service roads, industrial and residential columns and rural roads. The VMT860eco offers greater visibility for ease of operation and is equipped with an automatic water sprinkler system which minimises the effort. Both these machines have an auto dust removal system and provide good operator comfort which ultimately increases efficiency and maximises productivity.
'All the JCB compactors offer lifetime lubricated centre joints and also offer grease-free bearings. This saves the costs of lubrication and also reduces the possibility of failures due to any negligence in greasing the joints,' Singh adds. The JCB116 comes with telematics technology - the JCB Livelink. This enables users to get SMS alerts on their mobile phones or smart devices regarding service alerts, operations and security of their machines. The information is available in real time regarding the health of the machine, including engines and gives vital information to the customer in terms of number of hours the machine has been operational, service intervals, fuel levels, malfunctions if any, etc.
CASE has been a market leader and is the only company to deliver 10,000th vibratory compactor, according to Shalabh Chaturvedi, Head - Marketing, CASE India. He adds, 'CASE compactors are known for their excellent fuel efficiency, unmatched reliability, high centrifugal forces, and all-round visibility. CASE offers different types of compactors which include: CASE 1107EX, CASE 1107EX-D and CASE 1107EX-PD.'
CASE 1107EX soil compactor features a new FPT Industrial S8000 engine that delivers 100 HP at 2,200 rpm and torque of 435 Nm at 1,300 rpm. The turbo after-cooled engine with internal Exhaust Gas Recirculation ensures best-in-class fuel economy. The maximum applied force in the range of 34 tonnes is among the best in the industry, according to Chaturvedi. The hydrostatic variable speed control ensures the CASE 1107EX travels at the perfect speed for every type of soil, resulting in a uniform compaction.
CASE 752 tandem compactor is powered by Kirloskar (KOEL) model 4R1040, four-stroke, water-cooled diesel engine, developing 76 HP. This machine with maximum operating weight of 10,560 kg is a popular choice for bituminous compaction and has tandem drums with dual frequency of 33.3 Hz and 50 Hz at amplitudes of 1 mm and 0.4 mm, respectively. The 752 is a compact machine with length 4.2 m and width 1.9 m, and is easy to transport from one site to another even in normal trucks and also increase machine manoeuvrability, enabling it to work in confined areas.
CASE 450DX is market leader in mini tandem compactor segment in India powered by Mahindra Industrial (MDI 2500) water-cooled diesel engine, developing 45 HP. This machine with operating weight 3,225 kg is a popular choice for bituminous compaction and has tandem drums with dual frequency of 55 Hz and 65 Hz at amplitudes of 0.6 mm developing maximum applied force of 6,035 kgf per drum. The 450DX is suited for shoulder compaction, service roads and basement compaction with compact design (length - 2.9 m, width - 1.3 m).
Escorts Construction Equipment India Ltd, the Indian construction equipment major, offers compaction equipment and solutions in specific range. In the 10-11 tonne soil compactors with standard drive and drum-drive option, Escorts 5250 is the oldest one available, according to Rajinder Raina, General Manager-Marketing, Escorts Construction Equipment India Ltd. In the above 11 tonne with standard and drum drive option category, Escorts EC2420 was the first one to be launched in India. Globally, compactors of 15 and 20 tonne capacity are also available but are still not in demand in India. Pad foot/sheep foot variants of the above compactors are also available for initial compaction of substrate. These are used for compacting fine grained soils such as heavy clays and silty clays in dams, embankments, sub-grade layers in pavements and rail road construction projects. Raina explains, 'Nowadays, options of bolt on shells are available in which three sectors of shell are bolted on to the drum-drive compactors. Escorts offers the bolt on shells for padfoot option for EC5250 as well as EC2420. These variants are designated as EC5250PD and EC2420PD.'
For the asphalt compaction application, 9-10 tonne is the requisite weight because of the specific application. Escorts HD85 is model offered in this category. However, higher tonnage should be preferred for airports and expressways. Mini tandem compactors are double drum compactors in 3 ton weight category. These compactors are used for shoulder compaction, pedestrian and cycling tracks. In the mini tandem compactors, Escorts offers the model 3664.
Intelligent Compaction (IC) refers to the compaction of soil, aggregate base, or asphalt pavement materials, using modern vibratory rollers equipped with an integrated measurement system, an onboard computer reporting system, GPS-based mapping, and optional feedback control. IC rollers facilitate real-time compaction monitoring and timely adjustments to the compaction process by integrating measurement, documentation, and control systems. Though this concept has been there for the past many years, this is yet to pick up momentum in India. This may be because the reluctance of many customers to accept the new technologies, cost addition, lack of awareness and the lack of stringent regulations on quality. According to Raina, the concept is new and catching up, but will take a little more time to make to a reasonable volume.
However, leading global players have started introducing machines with IC system/technology. Palagiri explains, 'Compactors with improved reliability and fuel efficiency play an important role in buying behaviour. In addition to performance and productivity, customers are also aware of new technologies like Intelligent Compaction and HCQ system for Hamm compactors. Three-point articulation and edge cutting option are some add-on features that are in demand. A number of measuring systems are available as well, such as the Hamm Compaction Meter, which can be used on machines to monitor compaction quality even while the work is being carried out. An additional option for the tandem rollers is the Hamm Temperature Meter. Through an infrared sensor, it measures the asphalt temperature in front of the roller and displays it on the dashboard.'
According to Singh, IC technology has been recently introduced in the Indian market. Hence, adoption will take some time. 'We are seeing a lot of interest from contractors regarding IC as it enhances the overall performance of the machine and are hopeful that within the next few years, the industry will be more receptive towards this new technology.'
He adds, 'One of the noteworthy trends that's emerging in the overall earthmoving and construction equipment industry is the gradual shift from standalone products to solutions. Today, customers are not only looking for products, but prefer investing in complete end-to-end solutions which offer technologically advanced products, unmatched product support, parts and maintenance of the product.'
Singh further explains on JCB's advancements IC technology, 'JCB India has made significant advancements in its product range and has positioned itself as a leading road construction solutions partner. Today, it offers full solution of products, training, monitoring, parts, and service, backed by the largest distribution network in India. Additionally, to ensure that customers derive the maximum from our machines, JCB recently introduced 'Premier Line Solutions' which are specifically designed to give maximum value to customers through a comprehensive range of customised support packages.'
Chaturvedi elaborates on IC technology, 'It is one of the recent technological innovations with several advantages over conventional compaction technologies. However, it being still at a nascent stage suffers from lack of adequate knowledge among engineers and is costlier than conventional compactors. The equipment used in small-scale projects are selected by contractors. Hence the recommendation and acceptance of IC systems has to come from the contractor fraternity, who has to educate themselves and understand the advantages this technology offers. In IC systems, the sensors automatically generate reports on temperature of the strata and the number of passes. Currently, CASE India offers basic compaction meter with soil compactor, where on screen, operator can check amplitude, frequency and ICV (intelligence compaction value) which is related to density of soil compacted. This ICV value will be different for difference surfaces. Once desired density is achieved, there will be green signal on screen so that operator can stop compaction and avoid over compaction. Hence there will be saving of fuel, time and can also avoid damage of surface.'
Operator experience and comfort play a crucial role in the productivity of a machine. Says Palagiri, 'Hamm compactors are equipped with isolated operator platform mounted on shock absorbers so that the vibrations are reduced. The operator platform is with anti-skid material to ensure operator safety. The sliding seat console for operators and excellent drum edge visibility are some striking features which make the machines easier to operate.'
He adds, 'Hamm soil compactors are built with patented design of three-point articulation joint. This connects the front and rear end of the compactor and enables excellent directional stability and provides driver safety on difficult terrains and also adds to driver's comfort. This also increases the operator efficiency. The engine compartment is closed with FRP hood in Hamm compactors which reduce the noise levels. ROPS / FOPS requirement is currently not mandatory requirement as per Indian regulations, however it can be provided as an option.'
Over the years, there has been significant emphasis on enhancing operator comfort and ergonomics of the machine. Providing a safe and comfortable environment directly affects the productivity of the operator hence, it is imperative to design cabins which ensure comfortable operator experience. Singh adds, 'At JCB India, machine cabins are designed keeping the operator comfort in focus. Our range of compactors features best-in-class advancements which not only enhances the work experience, but significantly reduces fatigue. In our range of world class compactors, vibrations and heat levels are kept lowest to provide a comfortable work environment. Moreover, operator friendly and ergonomically located controls with joystick help in easy machine operation.'
CASE believes productivity is not only achieved by machine alone but also by the operator skills. Chaturvedi explains, 'The operator station provides excellent comfort and safety. The outstanding all-round visibility, together with the 90-degree rotating seat, makes it easy for the operator to control the rear wheel and front drum, operating productively and safely.' To keep the operators and customers updated with the latest practices and techniques, CASE India has dedicated training centres which organises training programmes all-round the year.
According to Raina, operator comfort is certainly the most important aspect of compactors but has to be linked to the process of compaction. 'The operator needs to know the application base usage of the mode of compactor to that extent the requisite skills will go beyond operating the machine. An operator with the right application knowledge can make a huge difference, not only on the efficiency of the equipment but also on the quality of compaction. As of today, man-machine-application is the most neglected matrix and therefore a worrisome area. One of the factors responsible for low quality nodes in India is lack of focus on this aspect. Minister of Road Transport and the NHAI need to take it up on top priority, given the fact that roads remain the primary focus of Government of India in infrastructure development,' he explains.
In the past three years, the market has been buoyant for road construction equipment in general and compactors in particular. Raina explains, 'The current market size in India of all the compactors would be around 4,000 units this year, out of which around 60 per cent would be soil compactors. The first quarter of the current fiscal saw about 1,045 units sold which was 44 per cent higher than the sales for the same period of the previous year. Second quarter may see a marginal fall as compared to the above because of high pre-GST sale in June. However, Second half of the current fiscal should post a sale of around 2,000-2,200 units to close the fiscal year 2017-18 at 4,000 units.'
According to Chaturvedi, soil compactors accounted for 45 per cent of the total compaction equipment market in 2014. Its share increased to 48 per cent in 2015 and further to 54 per cent in 2016. Due to long machine life and redeployment, the market will remain in the range of 4,500-4,700 units during 2018-2021.
Says Palagiri, 'Last year the market size increased to around 3,500 units, and the trend is expected to continue this year. The market for compactors for the past 8-10 years has been around 2,500 units per year. However, with the infrastructure development projects planned by the government in the roads and highway sector, this demand has considerably picked up and is currently around 3,500 units per year. Also, with projects like smart cities, the demand for road construction equipment will further increase. The compactor market has shown 25-30 per cent growth for both soil and tandem rollers.'
Government is coming out with a lot of action plans to improve the infrastructure of the country and develop better connectivity through roads and other means, pan India. Equipment players see this as an opportunity. Singh elaborates, 'Given the investments earmarked by the government for roads and highways sector, we foresee a considerable growth potential in the road compaction segment. There is a requirement for building a world-class road network in India, both in the urban and rural parts of the country, which presents a significant opportunity for the OEMs as building roads will require world-class road compaction machinery. However, sustained growth in this segment needs timely announcement and on-ground implementation of projects.'
Speaking on the company's future plans, he adds, 'At JCB, we have strengthened our range by introducing an 11T soil compactor - the JCB116 which comes equipped with all the latest features and technology that are essential for building long lasting roads. With our Road Construction Solutions, we are fully prepared to leverage this opportunity.
According to Chaturvedi, there is still a massive amount of work in the infrastructure and mining segment happening in the country and this will call for large volumes of equipment to complete the projects. 'Considering the set of conditions prevailing in the country and other foreseeable factors at this moment, we expect the market will follow an upward trend in the coming years as well. Focus needs to be on operator safety and operator comfort to a great extent. If we can further reduce the downtime and operating cost of the compactors, our growth will be augmented.' With road projects always on the go, the focus of the government in future will be on quality and pace in project execution which will drive demand for advanced compactors with added features.
- Sudheer Vathiyath