Mind the Gap
By Jayashree Kini Mendes
We are not denying that India is not building her infrastructure. Though late in the day, it is happening — slowly and steadily. But the point that most city folk would like to know is: Where are these roads & highways actually coming up? Consider Mumbai alone. Travelling four kilometres to any place is not devoid of bumps and craters. The same applies to Bangalore and Chennai. However, one cannot say that about Delhi. This city had an advantage to build its infrastructure. It held the Commonwealth Games a few years ago, unlike others that have little land to spare to allow such a universal bonhomie.
Construction Week speaks to equipment makers offering high-end technology and tries to understand what’s on offer and why these are not so frequently deployed as citizens would like them to be.
Roads, ports and electricity projects account for the lion’s share in the budgetary allocations of infrastructure development. Despite these allocations (they have been increasing each year), the commensurate work executed in these sectors seem dismal. India continues to lag in terms of development as compared to other countries who have built breath-taking infrastructure specifically considering that they are smaller in size and became independent years after India received hers.
It is actually difficult to pinpoint the root cause of this attitude. But most contracting companies and road building equipment manufacturers prefer to put this behind them and instead focus on the now and here.
Construction of roads both rural and urban is a priority for the government. While many road construction machines are available, they are better suited to the needs of the bigger companies dealing in large long-term projects. When it comes to the small and medium players, the huge machines are not only expensive but also ill-suited for most parts of rural India and the small size of projects at hand.
Speaking of how his company deals with delivering some of the most demanding equipment to the contracting companies, Ramesh Palagiri, MD & CEO, Wirtgen India, says, “Though use of advanced road building machines play a critical role in constructing roads – whether from asphalt or concrete – what is more important is the production of an excellently bonded pavement structure, which begins with a stable base layer and goes all the way to a precisely levelled surface course. Wirtgen is equipped for both concrete and asphalt roads. In terms of road rehabilitation, we have all the equipment that are used in making concrete roads and asphalt roads at the paving level.”
Recently, Wirtgen announced five Indian launches: the large milling machine W 195, the small milling machines W 50 H, W 55 H, W 120 R and the slipform paver SP 62.
VÖGELE presented the new SUPER 1400 and SUPER 1403 – true all-Indian road pavers for pave widths up to 7.3m whereas Hamm showcased its compactor 3520, compactor 311 and the compactor 311 D with additionally powered drum. Also, Kleemann exhibited three products from the EVO line: mobile jaw crusher MOBICAT MC 110 Z EVO, mobile cone crusher MOBICONE MCO 9 EVO and mobile screening plant MOBISCREEN MS 703 EVO.
“Apart from these, we showcased futuristic technologies which are going to come to India soon. We displayed dual-layer concrete paving technology which is advantageous in both economic and technical terms. We have also exhibited VÖGELE RoadScan, a contactless temperature-measurement system, makes paving quality measurable and verifiable,” added Palagiri.
The ever-demanding market requires products that can be used for multiple tasks. This allows customers to be more cost-effective and eventually profitable. It is the constant endeavour of equipment makers to deliver exactly to the need of customers and for this purpose make products that are versatile through various attachments and accessories. Abhijit Gupta, brand leader, CASE India, says, “The CASE graders, for example, have an option of attachments and accessories like front counterweight, ripper, scarifier, front push plate (in two variants), front dozer blade, rear pull hook and a lot many more options. CASE India offers the most advanced technological products which are well suited for heavy duty applications. For example, the reinforcement plates on backhoe boom, the heavy duty tyres, axle and buckets all add to the machines relevance in heavy duty applications. The soil compactors have heavy duty hydraulic components and drums of 32mm thickness that are best-in-class and suitable for heavy applications. We emphasise on continuous product development to improve equipment’s performance, operator comfort, boost productivity and increase fuel-efficiency.”
Productivity remains the single biggest focus for road building contractors. As the government of India looks to raise road building levels from the 23km a day to closer to 40km a day the implications are clear. India needs new equipment to handle the increased targets and not only that, the equipment has to offer higher levels of output and better reliability. Dimitrov Krishnan, vice-president and head, Volvo CE India, says, “Two years ago, we launched the EC210D crawler excavator, which has gained a strong reputation for high performance output in the most demanding of heavy duty applications but is equally at home on general construction duties. As a result, the EC210D has been delivered into some very large quarries, and also joined the equipment fleet of larger contractors, who seek all-round performance from their equipment.”
Its latest product for the road building industry is the P5320ABG paver which is manufactured at its plant in Bangalore. The paving quality of any road is defined by the ability of the paver to satisfy three requirements in line with the highway design: mat thickness, level of the mat, and the grade required. Regular pavers without sensors simply follow the undulations of the road base and are therefore unable to give a smooth finish to a paved surface. But sensor pavers have intelligent operating technology that delivers on these three requirements.
Two of the sensor paver models available in India are the P4370B ABG and the P5320B ABG, both made at Volvo’s plant in Bangalore. The P4370B ABG is a wheeled sensor paver powered by an 88 kW engine and it has a basic paving width of 2.5m. It can deliver a paving output of 600 tonnes per hour. The P5320B ABG is a tracked sensor paver powered by an 88kW engine. This high power is delivered with minimal noise and low fuel consumption. The P5320B ABG also has a paving output of 600 tonnes per hour and a longer basic paving width of 4.75m. Both machines have maximum paving widths of 7m.
Communication between machines will most likely change the way humans are required to operate the machine. Machine to machine communication will reduce the onsite human interactions while increasing efficiency and safety on the sites. While it is already happening in developed nations, India still has to go a long way to go to utilise this kind of technology given the current lack of connectivity infrastructure in rural parts of India. There is no doubt that customisation is key when it comes to the world of development. Customisations have to be in sync with the market and on-ground realities.
A key partner to most of the equipment makers is Cummins. In India, Cummins has been partnering with the construction equipment industry for over five decades. Since starting operations in India in 1962, Cummins has produced over 20,00,000 engines for the domestic market. Ashwath Ram, VP, engine business, Cummins India ABO, says, “We have introduced many new platforms last few years. This year is an intermediate year between change of emissions norms and our primary focus is on introducing new products for BSVI in 2020 and CEV BSIV in October of the same year. We are also fine-tuning new platforms for the 2023 year product launches catering to OBD C and the off-road construction vehicle norms. In parallel we are investing heavily in alternate fuels and battery technology and will have some products for demonstration in markets such as the fork lift industry.”
Noise vibration and harshness (NVH) are always important to customers and will become more important in the future. Cummins has made large investments in technology and testing capability to measure these values. Cummins has also invested heavily in material sciences and engineering to ensure low sound output from the engine systems. As the needs of customers become tighter, Cummins has the technology to meet their needs. Some engines will have to be tweaked to meet the requirements of particular market segments, added Ram.
In terms of delivery, Schwing Stetter’s two Stetter M2.5 concrete batching plant worked nonstop to produce a total volume of 6750m3 of pavement quality concrete in a single working day. Schwing Stetter helped five contracting companies that were working on the 135km first green smart Eastern Peripheral Expressway to decongest Delhi. A total of 83 concreting equipment, 19 Stetter batching plants along with 5 Stetter chilling plants, 47 Stetter transit mixers of various capacities ranging from 6m3 to 10m3, 10 Schwing stationary concrete pumps and 6 Schwing truck mounted concrete boom pumps were at action to batch mix, transport, pour and place concrete in the Expressway with a record breaking in 18 months. The initiative has 8 interchanges, 46 bridges, 151 pedestrian trails, 141 culverts, 4 flyovers, 71 vehicle underpasses, and 8 RoBs—of which two major bridges on the rivers Yamuna and Hindon were built with concrete using Schwing Stetter India equipment.
The overall sophisticated kind of equipment that makers are bringing to the market only tells that they are ready so that roads in India can be better built.