“Liebherr is investing in production facilities in all BRIC nations, permanently extending its sales and service network and investing in especially adapted products for these markets,” says Ajay Kumar Somani, Representative Director & Head - Mobile Crane Division, Liebherr India. In an exclusive interview with Equipment India, Ajay Kumar throws light on Liebherr's strengths and strategies in India. Excerpts from the interview.
How do you look at the emerging scenario in India and how well is Liebherr placed? India is one of the biggest markets for construction equipment which is growing steadily, recovering from the crisis. More and more Indian construction companies are striving to improve productivity and velocity of their construction projects. Liebherr is committed to strengthening its presence in India and to take part in the infrastructure task the country is engaged in. The company is participating in the Indian market amongst others with earthmoving machinery, material handlers, mobile cranes, construction cranes, truck mixers and special foundation equipment.
What has the growth pattern been so far and how does Liebherr look at ending this fiscal? In 2010, the Liebherr Group (with its nine divisions: earthmoving and mining, mobile cranes, construction cranes and mixing technology, maritime cranes, aerospace and transportation systems, machine tools and material-flow technology, domestic appliances, components as well as hotels) was able to increase its turnover by about 9 per cent or approximately 620 million Euros to a total of about 7.6 billion Euros. Only the construction machinery business sector generated this growth, with an increase in turnover of almost 16 per cent or 648 million Euros to a total of about 4.7 billion Euros.
What sort of topline growth is Liebherr looking at in the next five years? We are looking at up to 10 per cent growth in turnover per year for our Group if the conditions stay stable.
How has Liebherr geared up to the challenging demands that the shift of market growth from Europe to BRIC nations brings?Liebherr is investing in production facilities in all BRIC nations, permanently extending its sales and service network and investing in especially adapted products for these markets.
What is Liebherr's R&D spend? R&D expenses of our Group are usually more than six per cent of its overall turnover. A significant amount is always dedicated to the optimisation of our products in terms of fuel efficiency, performance and environment-friendliness.
What is the market potential for crawler cranes in India in terms of market size and value? The market size in 350T and above class is about 15 units per year, and growth rate expected is 15-20 per cent.
Tell us about the products offered by Liebherr, and their unique features? We offer high-capacity cranes of up to 3,000T. The reliability and technical advancements are key factors. They are designed in such a way that the assembly, transportation and dismantling take minimum time. Most of the transportation weights and sizes are well within the normal road regulations. They are equipped with Liebherr-designed safety controls so that all dangerous operations stop if the crane enters an unsafe situation.
What is the scenario of duty cycle cranes? There are actually some heavy-duty cycle cranes on the market and we can say that another brand new will arrive in India soon. The duty cycle crawler cranes (HS series) are specially designed for all kinds of material handling jobs. The product line includes six models with lifting capacities between 35T and 200T and can be used for material loading with grabber or drag bucket, demolition work, dynamic soil compaction or working with diaphragm wall grabber. Flexibility, rentability and excellent performance are the distinguishing features of the hydraulic crawler cranes. So the focus area of investments for our Indian customers are: performance through leading technology, flexibility in all respects, economy in all respects, first class comfort for high, and effective service.
Brief us about the safety devices inbuilt in the Liebherr range. This is the most important factor as most of such cranes are working in projects where lot of other equipment and working people are around. Also, the items handled are so expensive and important that one mistake will not only be expensive but the whole project can go haywire.
The monitors placed in the operator cabin have a planner where operator can plan the operation and select boom length and radius, the safe load, operating radius, height of lift, wind speed, inclination of crane, etc can be seen on the monitor. In case of about 92 per cent load, operator gets a visual warning and at almost 98 per cent, he gets an audio warning and at 100 per cent load, operations stop. He can also see winch movements, crane rear position and movement of people in rear on monitor. He can check pressures in different circuits from operator's cabin. In case of a problem, an error number appears on the monitor and the problem can be easily rectified.
What is the response from the end-user segment with regard to safety features that may increase the initial investment?People are ready to pay for it as it proves much cheaper in the long run by making operation safe and reducing downtime.
How do you look at the issue of training and skilled operators? Training at plant as well as site is important. The operator should have a technical mindset.
To what extent is the stringent emission norms and heightened environmental awareness reflected in Liebherr's product designs? We follow the latest relevant European and American standards.
What is the India-specific strategy of Liebherr to get a good share of the projected crawler crane market? We are studying customer requirements and trying to meet them with some changes in configurations so that they have the right crane for their job. We are also increasing our after-sales support regularly.
How do you view the increasing competition?Competition is definitely increasing. Sometimes, it is price, sometimes delivery and sometimes attractive commercial conditions. Competition is always good both for us and customers.
Why should a customer buy from Liebherr? Reliability, quality and after-sales support.