Speak to any concrete equipment manufacturer and most of them are caught up in a strange sort of zeal. One reason for this is their constant need to innovate or look for novel methods of bringing out new products. This was evident during the present phase of retrograded demand spanning during first quarters of 2012-2014. Hence, rather than being left out to a Catch 22 situation, manufacturers have opted to precisely plan for the mid- and long-term. One of the vital strategies have always been to ensure that cash flow to be generated for business to continue through selective product placement targeting specific application areas.
According to market reports, India´s construction sector is expected to grow at 7-8% each year over the next decade. Wilfried Theissen, managing director, Putzmeister Concrete Machines, says, “The market, which is currently +/-30% below 2011, will grow by 10-15% in 2015 and hopefully by a further 20% in 2016-17.”
To tap this upsurge, the Bauma Conexpo Show, bC India 2014, entered its third year in the country. There were several product launches at the event. “We are always looking at how the market will evolve and, if required, we will further increase our product offers,” avers Theissen. “Putzmeister has improved its product and service portfolio, introducing the very popular stationary E-smart machines and new-generation, truck-mounted boom pumps. With less space available in metros, buildings have to gain in height. To do this in a sustainable and technically sound way, pumping concrete up is the only way. Putzmeister has developed a new range of powerful but compact eco smart stationary pumps that can easily pump the required grade of concrete up to 300m height.”
Last year, Schwing Stetter India (SSI) set up a fabrication unit and a solar power plant at its manufacturing complex near Chennai. While the fabrication unit is aimed at achieving two key benefits as part of its localisation strategy, the new 100kwp (kilowatt peak) solar plant has been installed to save on power costs as also meet the energy needs of production units. The fabrication unit has been established at an investment of Rs 65 crore for customising different variants of the boom pump.
“This has been set up to cut huge costs involved in import of some equipment. Fabrication unit will help us to be cost-competitive and ramp up our overall manufacturing capacity by 30-40%,” said Anand Sundaresan, vice-chairman & MD, SSI.
With the new fabrication unit, cost of its boom bump would come down to about Rs one crore from Rs 1.4-1.5 crore. Though the localisation levels vary from machine to machine, it has local content to the extent of about 80% in some construction equipment.
Citing an example of cost reduction, V G Sakthikumar, MD, SSI, pointed out that its truck mixer used to cost Rs 10 lakh a decade ago, but now costs Rs 8.5 lakh with value addition benefits. The company has also embraced solar power to achieve some savings. It has been depending on diesel gensets for meeting about 40% of its consumption. With the new Rs 65 lakh solar plant, the Rs 850 crore company hopes to meet about 12% of its consumption at a lower cost. It is contemplating ramping up the solar capacity to about 600kwp to save further on power costs.
Last month, Chinese construction equipment manufacturer XCMG launched an online sales initiative in co-operation with e-commerce website Alibaba. XCMG is offering a wide range of new equipment through the site, including concrete pumps and placing booms, earth moving equipment, cranes, road building equipment, piling equipment, on-highway vehicles and parts. The website offers 7-8% discounts off four models of truck-mounted concrete placing booms.
With increasing projects sizes, tight completion schedules and high strength concrete requirements are driving contractors to look for technologically advanced and high efficiency concrete batching and placing equipment. In the past one decade concrete equipment manufacturers have worked hard to bring awareness among builders and contractors that how advance technologies features and control systems help in producing high quality, homogeneous concrete and deliver it to greater heights and distances quickly.
Awareness among the contractors is changing the trends of cheapest plant instead they are asking value for money, which is making/forcing equipment manufacturers to put in extra efforts in their R&D cells and offer better quality equipment. Moreover, the manufacturers have to come-up with innovative after sales/market solutions and have to work like a partner in to the project.
Another company that has been in the fray is Universal. It offers batching plants delivering concrete with high quality accuracy level. Universal is also offering high pressure concrete pumps up to 450m and stationery placing booms thus offering its customers with the latest technology available which are readily accepted by the customers.
Universal presence is from 15 cu m/hr to 60 cu m/hr batching plant and presently in downturn the customer preference is going for smaller batching plant of 30 cu m/hr and below. Once the infrastructure volume picks up the market is going to shift towards higher capacity batching plant like 60 cu m/hr and 90 cu m/hr. The company is ready with design to produce the same.
Rajesh Kawoor, VP, concrete business, Universal, says, "For ease of affordability of our products and availability, we offer additional financial benefits to our dealers. We render them financial support to arrange customer meets seminars in their respective territories. To have minimal inventory in our production systems in order to restrict production cost, we get parts from our vendors on long-term procurement assurance."
Mitul Patel, MD, Apollo Inffratech, says, “Nowadays, quality concrete is necessary for strong and high-rise buildings and other infrastructure development. For this your equipment should have the latest and advanced technology features. Use of planetary or twin-shaft mixers with advanced control system which can keep track of the slump of the concrete while mixing are unique features we provide in our batching plants which can be useful for our customers to produce desired concrete quality. In urban areas, the customers are ready to pay for these advanced features present in our batching plants.”
With respect to concrete pumps, the Indian market extensively uses truck mounted boom pumps of very large reach of over 50m. Of course, stationary pumps are also used extensively, but only for high-raise constructions. However, in India, because of vast price difference between the trailer pumps and boom pumps, only trailer pumps are used for most of the projects.
For the last several years, most manufacturers have been focusing on the aftermarket business. They have been expanding business across numerous cities where customers can procure our spare parts. Most of them have set up service centres where the customers can get their equipment repaired and overhauled. The targets are to keep on expanding spare part outlets and service centres, depending upon the population of equipment, at newer locations. Some of them, like Schwing Stetter, have also created a projects department who work exclusively on AMCs and OMCs. AMCs are covered for all the customers whoever want to have one, whereas, with regard to OMCs, it does it on selective basis where huge quantity of concreting is to be done at a particular location in a short period of time.
Reorientation of business operations through introduction of newer products, modification of existing products, concept selling characterises the growing maturity of the Indian concrete equipment industry led by the large scale growth of the construction sector. However, for the business innovation to sustain, it will be vital for the manufacturers to continue with prudent business practices.