Tower crane market is now on revival path, which was going through a lull period till recently. Going forward, a steady growth of real estate market could see a further momentum in tower cranes.
Tower cranes, as the name indicates, are mainly used in the construction of high-rise building and tower projects. They are also used in industrial projects such as cement plants, power plants, steel plants, etc. In India, construction of more tower projects is expected to augment the demand of tower cranes in the coming years.
The market for tower cranes in India looks attractive, yet challenging considering the way tower projects are coming up amid, price challenges compelling small and medium contractors still using conventional methods for material movements in building construction. Krishna Kumar, Divisional Head -Tower Cranes, Liebherr India is optimistic about the market. 'India is a growing market for tower cranes. Liebherr with the production in Pune will help support the customers with high performance and safe tower cranes. Our market share is growing constantly,' says Kumar.
According to VG Sakthikumar, Managing Director, Schwing Stetter Sales and Services, tower crane market has slowed down in recent years. But due to RERA and GST reforms, enquiry level is slowly getting better. He says, 'Due to heavy demand of affordable housing projects, many special techniques have come up like precast, special formworks like Mivan, Doka and tunnel formwork to meet the increased requirement.'
He adds, 'The current market for tower cranes is 350-400 units, in which 90 per cent is of 5 tonne capacity and the balance 10 per cent is of 10-tonne and above capacity for special applications. Total market in value terms would be around Rs 2.60-2.70 billion.'
Kaushlesh Kumar, Director (South), B L Kashyap and Sons sees India as a nascent market in tower cranes when compared to advanced markets. 'However, there is rapid growth taking place as the market for tower cranes is expected to grow at an annual rate of 20 per cent in the coming years,' he adds. According to Kaushlesh, there is development happening across the country. 'Industrial and infrastructure growth is driving the demand for tower cranes. Also, there is a growing demand from construction companies for advanced tower cranes that are energy efficient and cost effective, without compromising on the performance,' he adds. B L Kashyap and Sons is a leading construction company in India that builds residential townships, IT parks, Institutions, hospitals, hotels, etc.
The current market trend in India for tower cranes is mainly inclined towards medium capacity range. According to Krishna Kumar, major demand and enquiries received from the customers are in 5 tonne capacity having 50 m working radius with tip load of 1.3 tonne, because this meets the requirement of standard construction methods in India.
'Demand for the tower cranes is expected to increase in future as the construction technology has to improve. Also, new regulations like RERA will make improvement in construction methods,' he observes.
Says Sakthikumar, 'Of late, people are more fascinated by flat-top tower cranes because all major customers and MNCs are looking towards this type of tower cranes. The major contribution of tower crane market in capacity is 5 and 6 tonne but at the same time, many rehabilitation projects in metro cities are starting with precast and special formworks, for which 10 tonne to 25 tonne capacity tower cranes are in demand.'
Kaushlesh adds, 'Most of the mid- to big-ticket projects require tower cranes that meet the necessary requirements to carry around materials of massive weight. For this, there is an increase in demand for higher capacity tower cranes, which
is pushing manufactures to develop bigger equipment to address market demands.'
Luffing and self-erecting cranes
With projects are going higher and complex, there are new innovations and equipment are being adopted to meet the demands. Says Krishna Kumar, 'Presently, cities like Mumbai have seen using more luffing cranes due to high-rise buildings and restriction in free slewing the jib due to surrounding buildings, redevelopment projects etc. Hope other cities also will have similar situations in future when it comes to redevelopments, but seems to be a gradual development.'
According to Sakthikumar, luffing crane market is majorly in Mumbai only, but self-erecting mobile tower crane market is there in small cities also, especially amongst MES contractors. Also, affordable housing schemes like Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojna and Mukhya Mantri Awaas Yojna for low rise constructions drives the demand for self-erecting tower cranes.
Kaushlesh elaborates on the advantages of using luffing cranes, 'Luffing jib cranes have many benefits and are widely used in cities and congested areas. Multiple cranes can be erected on sites and avoid over-sail situations with neighbouring properties. Luffing cranes can be fitted with zoning devices to electronically limit against over-sailing important or dangerous structures adjacent to site. This can include schools, public areas or main highways and they are usually mandatory next to railway and electrical installations.' According to him, the demand is good especially in bigger projects for self-erecting and luffing jib cranes where manual intervention is being minimised. They also help speed up the process and increase efficiency.
Demand for different types and capacities of tower cranes emerged with the development of taller structures and more buildings. This has driven the global tower crane players entering the market with their technologies and solutions. Ashwani Mattoo, Sales Director for Tower Cranes (India and Indian Subcontinent), Manitowoc Cranes, elaborates, 'Tower crane technology hasn't changed much in this part of the world. What is new, however, are cranes with rated capacities of 5 tonne and 10 tonne. As precast construction becomes more prevalent, there is also demand for cranes with higher capacities of 20 tonne and above. In general, the market is seeing a gradual shift towards cranes that have capacities of 10 tonne and higher. These are typically flat-top and luffing jib cranes.'
Manitowoc recently opened a new Potain tower crane factory in Chakan, near Pune. 'While not new, the Potain MCT 85 and MC 125 produced at this factory are popular units in India and the surrounding markets in the region. The MCT 85 can lift a maximum of 5 tonne or 1.1 tonne at its jib end of 52 m. It is a practical unit designed for easier transportation, with its entire top portion able to travel on just two trucks. Assembly is easier too as most of the pre-assembly work happens at the factory before the crane is delivered to the customer. The MC 125 has a maximum capacity of 6 tonne and a maximum jib length of 60 m. It can lift 1.15 tonne at its maximum jib end. We have also introduced flat-top cranes in the 5 tonne and 10 tonne categories. These cranes offer ease of erection and facilitate overlapping.'
Krishna Kumar explains on the products and solutions on offer from his company, 'Liebherr always work consistently on developing modular systems for simple, practical and quick assembly, which take into account the very relevant safety aspects. Customer benefits from the most advanced technology benefits from Liebherr tower cranes which is focusing consistent development of product without any compromise on factors such as quality, safety, reliability and durability.' Liebherr started manufacturing tower cranes from India, having models like 85 EC-B5i, which has 50 m working radius, capacity of 5 tonne and NC-B cranes having a 6 tonne and 9 tonne versions with 62.5 m working radius.
According to Sakthikumar, the latest technology these days is flat-top cranes and cranes with under-frame chassis for affordable projects where shifting of tower crane is frequent so that customer can save foundation time as well as cost every time.
He explains further, 'Our recently launched model tower crane is of 16 tonne capacity with VFD control systems, working platform for jacking operation, slewing mechanism with manual brake and safe load indicator. We are more focused on special applications where 10 tonne and above capacity cranes are required. Our cranes in that category are flat-top with applications in precast, tunnel formwork, cable stayed bridges, hydro projects, cement plants, cooling towers, power projects etc.'
A proper crane planning is required while using tower cranes on skyscrapers, considering safety, reliability etc. Says Krishna Kumar, 'Liebherr provides our customers a detailed technical and economical crane proposal with our Tower Cranes Solutions (TCS) department from the start till the end of the project.'
Sakthikumar comments, 'For taller building projects, inner climbing tower cranes are mostly used. One of the key challenges is dismantling the crane after project completion. Hence, flat-top cranes are promoted by major players because of their jib dismantling is convenient after project completion.'
Tower crane being an equipment that works at high altitude, safety is of paramount importance. A minor error may lead to a disaster. So, most of the tower crane manufactures have taken adequate measures for safety in their products. Says Krishna Kumar, 'Liebherr tower cranes are always equipped with the most advanced and relevant safety features required for tower cranes, for load, wind speed, slewing, trolley movements etc.
Mattoo elaborates on safety, 'For every movement of our Potain tower cranes, there are switches that set parameters for the range of movement. It is also important that operators are well-trained and we do that by regularly providing training sessions for them. These sessions serve not only to strengthen the competency of operators but also to refresh their understanding of our cranes. Lastly, certified engineers conduct regular maintenance and checks to prevent problems from arising and to provide timely assistance, if necessary.'
Sakthikumar explains the safety features in Schwing-XCMG tower cranes: Slewing limit allows stopping slewing movement of the jib after it takes 1.5 turns in left or right direction to avoid damage to electrical wires and excess torsion. Hoisting limit allows stopping hoisting movement, when the hook block approaches the trolley and the ground. Trolley limit switch stops the trolley movement when it approaches the jib end. Moment limit was integrated with over weight limit. These limit switches ensure that the operator does not exceed the specified load at the respective radius. Crane operation has to be stopped whenever overloading occurs, beyond the permissible limits.
He adds, 'Key measures needed for the safe operation of tower cranes are that the operator and project site individuals must be educated on the machinery for safe material handling.'
In tower cranes, erection and dismantling involve a high degree of technology challenge, while movement of tower crane from place to place is a challenging task. When it comes to market, the challenge remains in the demand-supply balance. Says Krishna Kumar, 'The challenge is to bring tower cranes to the market which meets exactly the demand of our customers. The technical aspect must also meet
the economical base of the customer, which is not always possible.'
Sakthikumar sheds lights on the market challenges, 'The key challenge faced by tower crane market is the state of real estate market. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that property prices remain high compared to the average income of individuals. Government is coming up with affordable housing schemes. However, supply is more than demand.'
Another notable challenge is that there are many contractors who are still using conventional methods for handling building materials in the construction of medium range (10-20 story) towers. According to Sakthikumar, the scenario of not using tower cranes in 10-20 storey buildings is majorly in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities wherein educating them about the benefits of tower crane in projects is necessary.
Kaushlesh sees demand slowly picking up for tower cranes in medium high buildings as well. He elaborates, 'While the use of tower cranes on high-rise buildings is common across India, smaller buildings have generally relied on other options for material handling. But that mindset is changing as awareness among contractors about the improved productivity tower cranes can offer, is growing.' Many of the mid-level jobs still rely on manpower for material handling, but the tower crane offers a solution
that will dramatically accelerate construction time and improve overall efficiency on site.
The development of infrastructure sector has thrown open a plethora of opportunities in terms of using advanced technologies and machinery. This is visible in tower crane market as well. Reeling under subdued demand till recently, the market has seen
slowly picking up with more and more tower cranes standing tall at various project sites. Indicating a steady growth in the coming days, Krishna Kumar elaborates, 'There can be a gradual increase in demand for tower cranes, as most of the companies will switch to the usage of crane for lifting solutions and also with new regulations getting implemented.'
Sakthikumar observes, 'New plants as well as expansion of existing cement plants, steel plants, thermal plants and hydro projects, and also precast and steel structure buildings can contribute in tower crane growth. Infrastructure projects like cable stayed bridges, airports, ports can also contribute to the growth of tower crane market.'
Kaushlesh elaborates on the market opportunity, 'Three broad categories define the burgeoning market for tower cranes in the country: infrastructure, residential and commercial sector. The respective state governments and private players have lined up many mid- to large-size projects under categories like IT, SEZ, Residential, Commercial etc, that will keep the market buzzing for years, thus keeping the growth in the upswing. Tower crane manufacturers understand the vast market that is there to be tapped in the coming years and they are well aware of the competition, which ultimately results in bringing out technologically advanced and eco-friendly tower cranes to the end-user.'
Looking at the future of tower cranes market, Krishna Kumar says, 'Liebherr is sure that the tower crane market will grow in the next years. We see the demand to define general safety standards for tower cranes for the market in India.'
Sakthikumar concludes on a positive note, 'This market is expected to generate a revenue of more than $8 billion by 2019. Geographically, the APAC region is estimated to account for more than 45 per cent of the total market share by 2019.
The market for tower cranes is slowly picking up on the back of infrastructure growth in the country. However, the real growth of tower cranes will be driven by the real estate market growth.
FACTORS THAT MATTER IN BUYING TOWER CRANES
Nature of the project
Crane capacity and features closely linked to the project
Project area and building type
Easy, safe installation and dismantling processes
Easy transport and handling operations
Clear vision through glass in all weather condition
Worker's safety and operator comfort
Operates in all weather conditions
Easy availability of spares
TOWER CRANES: USER ADVANTAGES
Tower cranes provide efficient and economical solution of lifting heavy loads of concrete, steel and other building material