How a multi-utility machine like backhoe is making inroads in every sector
Backhoe loaders are going to see a strong comeback with infrastructure projects going strong
The construction equipment sector in India is growing at a faster pace, driven by the huge investments being made by the government and the private sector in infrastructure development. In fact, the overall Indian construction equipment market is expected to grow by a CAGR of 6.2% backed by infrastructure spending estimated to be about 10% of GDP during the current five year plan.
At present, the construction equipment sector is mainly dominated by backhoe loaders (more than 40% of total demand) but broad-based growth is expected across products, with each segment expected to see growth. Particularly, the demand for backhoe loaders is expected to grow as it is a versatile machine and can be employed for numerous applications at the job site. The BHL industry in past two years has grown consecutively over 20% year-on-year basis.
Manish Handa, business head (EED vertical), Action Construction Equipment (ACE), says, “India is going through a turnaround phase of its infrastructure development and backhoe loaders, the machine which is known for its versatility, always takes centre stage. The affordable housing, smart city and road development in rural areas will together play a stellar role in increasing the demand for construction equipment, especially backhoes.”
According to Handa, the major sectors driving this growth are:
*Urban Infrastructure such as metro projects across various Tier-I & Tier-II cities, freight corridors, airport expansion & modernisation, Clean India and smart city projects across the country
*Infrastructure development including road sector development along (Bharatmala Project) with flyovers & bridge construction across the country
*Affordable housing projects under PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna).
Backhoe loaders are multi-purpose and multi-functional machines that are equipped to work in all scale projects. Primarily used for digging, dozing, levelling and in general site applications, backhoes can perform a variety of tasks. Jasmeet Singh, associate VP, corporate communications & corporate relations, JCB India, says, “The significant outlay announced by the government in the recent budget for creating rural infrastructure will boost demand for backhoe loaders. Rural roads present significant opportunities for this segment followed by areas such as sea ports and airports. Given its versatility and mobility, the machine finds great use at almost every construction site, especially in rural India. With new growth drivers such as irrigation, interlinking of canals, railways, mining, and real estate, we can expect a further push in the sales and utilisation of backhoes.”
Backhoe loaders are one of the ‘highest-in-demand’ products in the construction sector. This is because it’s a multipurpose unit fitted with a loader & backhoe attachment hence is suitable for multiple applications. Ajay Aneja, brand leader, CASE India, says, “To move from one site to another better grip tyres are mounted, compared to track or drum mounted machines. A backhoe can fit various attachments easily such as rock breaker, auger, etc, depending upon the customer’s requirement. It is also the most cost effective product among others, hence more preferred.”
Vying for more
Since the activity focus has shifted to the rural sector, the nature of challenges posed for the industry, to encash the growth prospects are of a new dimension altogether. The most significant challenge is the availability of operation and maintenance skills and delivery logistics in far-flung areas like the sub-Himalayan region, etc. How effectively the industry addresses such challenges will be the key to its success, in ensuing years.
The role of municipalities and Gram Panchayats is to be reviewed in a much larger context than just the sale of backhoe loaders. The Centre has devolved higher financial powers to the states. The Gram Panchayats, now, are looking at good allocation for building toilets, roads, etc. So, backhoe loaders, mini-excavators, tractors with multiple attachments like dozers, tipping trailers, small mobile concrete mixing machines, etc, will do well.
Handa says that the recent technology upgradations of backhoes can be divided into three major categories: Advanced engine technology that helps to maximise performance, minimise fuel consumption and impact of emission regulations; advanced hydraulics for higher productivity; and GPS system that has advanced telematics system to manage and monitor machines remotely.
Speaking about JCB’s philosophy of continuous transformation, Singh says, “As a company, we are always looking for a better way, which is explicit in each of our products. We introduced the iconic JCB backhoe loader – the 3DX Xtra with 30 new innovative features, including 15 industry firsts, and five World’s first including an AMT which is an Automated Manual Transmission called Easy Shift. For operators comfort, bigger and air-conditioning enabled cabins are available. For operator’s safety, this world class machine comes with an SOS switch, Economy and Power Mode, Guide me home, and Smart App machine Diagnostics. In case of emergency, if operator pushes the SOS switch for 5 seconds, an automatic emergency SMS will be sent to the Livelink command centre/owner’s mobile.”
Autonomous backhoes or AI driven machines are the next big thing in backhoe technology advancements. Aneja says, “This technology gives the machine the power to process the task and make precise decisions on its own. The technological advancement is very popular overseas and now is penetrating in India also. AI, robotics and IoT are some of the popular automation technologies. These technologies will help reduce the downtime of the machine by pre-emptive alerts, repair and maintenance methods. Effective use of these technologies in the machine and then at the jobsite will digitalise the construction process, which in long term will benefit the users.”
CASE India has already forayed into IoT based solutions with advanced ‘Eagle-Eye-Telematics’ technology. “We believe that other such technological advancements like Augmented Reality, 3D printing and artificial intelligence will contribute more to the technical upgradation of the equipment. CASE India R&D team constantly endeavours to develop clever innovations to make equipment more fuel efficient. Our R&D team is working dedicatedly on these technologies to innovate products and meet the needs of the customers,” Aneja adds.