The way future roads will be built
Road building equipment is taking on new avatars. Manufacturing companies are scaling up CE with IoT and AI
The road transport and highways ministry is in the process of awarding 7,500 km of new highways projects, with an investment of Rs 3.1 trillion, as part of the second phase of Bharatmala Pariyojana. The projects include six expressways of 2,250km, with an investment of Rs 1.45 trillion and 16 green field corridors of 5,250 km at Rs 1.65 trillion. Construction has been initiated on three corridors, which will include the Delhi-Mumbai expressway, Trans Rajasthan and Trans Haryana and will be completed by 2022.
The ambitious target of constructing 15,000 km of National Highways by 2020 will mean a colossal consumption of aggregates, estimated to be about 150 million tonnes, even though National Highways constitute only 2% of the total road network. Though construction of roads is necessary for a growing economy, it is also necessary to curb exploitation of natural resources and reduce emission of greenhouse gases during construction. To make this happen, it will be essential to recycle and reuse bituminous materials, using milling technologies.
The increase in the number of construction activities around the globe leads to development, which is a never-ending process. The constant construction activities in every part of the globe increases the demand for construction equipment, not only in terms of volume but also to innovate and evolve. Manufacturers are constantly innovating and bringing innovations to markets of all sizes and types. Additionally, mobility solutions have also been keeping pace as construction equipment continues to evolve.
IoT and artificial intelligence are the next big thing in the construction technology industry. Ramesh Palagiri, MD & CEO, Wirtgen Group India, says, “Recent digital developments hold lot of promise for manufacturing industry. How construction equipment are made, delivered and used will undergo a sea change in next few years. Two such opportunities which might be most relevant for construction equipment industry are additive manufacturing and connected machines. Embedded technologies provide opportunities to make our processes and equipment efficient, safer and more reliable. One of the emerging trends is of machine telematics. While telematics has been around for some time, frugal innovation has allowed us to bring down the costs substantially and hence increase the viability for the customers. We see more customers especially with bigger fleets are making telematics a must. Our telematics solution will not only help machine operators control the machine better but will also allow fleet owners to manage their fleet more efficiently. Since we offer a complete range of road construction equipment, our standardised solution will allow one machine to send and receive data from the machine next in sequence to allow for faster and better-quality road building experience.”
Adding to this, Puneet Vidyarthi, brand leader, Case Construction India, says, “There are ‘n’ number of ways in which we can implement and innovate with these applications. Compactors are the main construction machinery used for road and highways construction. CASE has come up with compaction meter technology in compactor range and Eagle eye telematics aiming for easier and before time job completion.”
The compaction meter is equipped with the on-screen operator where one can check amplitude, frequency and ICV (intelligence compaction value) related to the density of soil compacted. This ICV value will be different for different surfaces. Once the desired density is achieved, there will be a green signal on the screen so that the operator can stop compaction and avoid over compaction. Hence there will be saving of fuel, time and can avoid damage of surface.
Telematics also is in huge demand. It provides real-time access to machines and results in enhancing the performance and efficiency of the machine. This Asset Monitoring System gives the freedom of machine monitoring and remote diagnostics alerts at the click of a button on a mobile or desktop computer. Some states have made it mandatory to have telematics in construction equipment.
The construction industry is getting more and more efficient with new technologies. Today, companies are able to build long stretches of highways in a matter of few months. However, to build such marvels, complicated construction equipment is required. Users are demanding more efficiency, versatility, and durability from equipment. For instance, tyres and tracks comprise the most expensive consumable items in a construction equipment. Contractors use such machines on a wider range of work and are under the pressure to deliver timely performance without compromising on durability. Additionally, they also want to get the highest amount of work done from machines with little capital and maintenance cost. Manufacturers are also leveraging the use of tyre tracking software to help increase the awareness of the current situation and help predict future issues to minimise hourly costs.
Adarsh Gautam, national sales head, RCED, Action Construction Equipment (ACE), says, “Artificial intelligence & IoT are helping road contractors. They not only help in higher productivity with minimum timeline but also reduce operating cost drastically. Intelligent compaction for example helps to keep a check on number of passes to achieve the desired compaction. With this check not only fuel cost but also the maintenance cost of the equipment can be monitored and controlled to a great extent. Equipment life is enhanced due to lesser utilisation. It also contributes to a healthier and cleaner environment by emitting lesser pollutants. Contractors are benefitted by early closure of projects and helps them to bid for more projects.”
L&T has gone a step further. Vivek Hajela, GM and head, construction equipment business, L&T, says, “We have started offering L&T Digieye on all the road machinery, manufactured by L&T, which enables customers to keep a close track of the machine location and monitor its parameters. The spare parts and service support use sophisticated software to plan for parts needed and to store data on the transactions. So digitalisation is fast catching up with the machines we offer.”
Saving the earth
Environmental concerns and engine exhaust emission regulations are boosting the growth of hybrid engines. How has this affected CEs? Gautam says, “Currently, hybrid engines are not available in Indian construction industry. I don’t see it coming for the next few years due to its complexity of operations. Most of the project sites are in remote location and therefore to provide necessary facilities for these hybrid engines will become an uphill task. Contractors will focus on executing project work rather than making arrangements to run these hybrid engines.”
ARAI mandates that all machines which need to be registered with RTO, manufactured after 30th Sept 2020, will need to have BS-4 engines. Hajela says, “This is a stricter emission norm as compared to BS-3. This will mean lesser emissions are sent out in the atmosphere. The hybrid technology is available on some larger size hydraulic excavators internationally and they help conserve fuel. Hybrid engines are more expensive and customers may demand these when they see a benefit in terms of lower operating costs / lower emissions.”
The climate concerns are forcing each country to change its norms to make them more amicable to the environment. With the incoming of the BS-VI norm, the government is focusing on reducing the pollution by providing a cleaner fuel. The CE industry players are coming up with amazing inventions to do their part to curb the environmental concerns. The technological inventions are a great example of such changes taking place in the industry. The rise of AI and IoT as well as using a fuel-efficient engine are great examples of the trend we can observe in the CE industry which helps in curbing the pollution.
Vidyarthi says, “CASE India has always kept environmental aspects as well as machine efficiency in mind while designing new products. Engine efficiency is accountable for overall machine efficiency hence we use FPT Industrial S8000 engine, which delivers powerful performance and fast response time, in all our equipment.”
Globally, CASE is already offering BS-IV engines and working on BS-IV engines for the Indian market as well. During BAUMA, it introduced new hydraulic improvement across backhoe loaders which has improved the speed of the machine significantly and subsequently overall efficiency. Its imported products like motor graders and crawler dozers are equipped with electronic engine which provides the best in class fuel efficiency in its class.