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The road ahead

Features

The Indian road building equipment industry is undergoing a metamorphosis,given a surging demand for its products and challenging business specifications BY MITALEE KURDEKAR

As the government of India builds a new roadmap in terms of the current Five Year Plan, it is increasingly evident that spending in the infrastructure sector is going to hit a new high in terms of GDP allocation. With the 2012-2017 Five Year Plan expenditure yet to pick up full force, the government in its latest budget has renewed its commitment to this sector.
At the end of the Plan period, the GDP allocation for this spend would be as high as 10% as against around 7.5% in the previous year, suggest reports. There is a fair amount of this allocated to road building and expansion projects, along with rail and other transportation networks. Increased stimulus in this space augurs well for the road building and road repairs equipment industry and lately one sees that this transformational demand is attracting large local and international manufacturers.

Another feature of this huge $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan is the government’s policy of increasing private sector participation in these projects. This has already attracted large private sector players to these projects through the model of public-private partnership (PPP). The government on its part is also committed to cut the red tape culture in granting faster approvals.

As a result, this is going to ensure greater accountability for the spend, cost efficiency and delivery time lines. This means that the spend will beget the highest productivity in terms of delivering benefits to the common man. Most players see this as an opportune time to leverage on these and other government initiatives. All of the above indicates that the road building and road repairs equipment industry would see double digit growths year on year in the next three to four years.

Paving the way

Echoing this buoyant mood, VG Sakthikumar, managing director, Schwing Stetter Sales and Services Private Limited, says, “The future is going to be very bright. The National Highways Authority of India has awarded 8,500kms of national highways. The government also has a long term focus on road projects like Bharatmala, Sagarmala and the development of road infrastructure in the North East.”

Commenting specifically on the road building equipment business, he forecasts, “The revenues from this business are expected to grow much above a CAGR of 6.2%. Currently, the government is focusing on EPC contracts and soon new PPP projects and hybrid model projects will help the road segment to grow.”

Expressing similar sentiments, Hiten Kapadia, business line manager, Atlas Copco India Limited, road construction equipment, says, “In the next five years and beyond, we do believe that there will be a realisation of the huge untapped potential in all product segments of the road equipment business. Backed by the strong experience of being world leaders in road construction equipment, we are ready to tap into the opportunity to deliver higher quality roads in India, with not just compactors, pavers and tandem rollers but will also set new benchmarks with innovative technology equipment such as compact planers, feeders, etc.”

Adding value with R&D
This is a positive acknowledgement of the kind of transformation that this business is going through to reach greater heights by the end of this decade. Given the interest in faster, cost-efficient and productive equipment demonstrated by customers, the industry cannot afford to lag in its research and development efforts. With the backing of their global R&D efforts, many players are now in the forefront of introducing advanced technologies in the Indian markets.

Schwing Stetter has introduced no-foundation batching plants for road building in the capacities of 110m3/hr. This means the customers who are not going to be based in the same location for a long time can move the plant, without spending much money on erection and site development. This helps road contractors to cut down the recurring costs, which is almost equivalent to one fifth of the equipment cost itself.

Atlas Copco has a dedicated range of Dynapac branded products that deliver on customer requirements. Explaining this, Kapadia points put: “Atlas Copco’s high capacity soil compactors reduce operator fatigue while saving on fuel, time and number of operators. Features such as preventing over-compaction, a cross mounted engine with low noise and low fuel consumption in these models, put the operator in full control of the entire compaction process.”

In addition, he says that their tandem rollers offer optimisation for any layer thickness with a powerful engine and wide frequency and amplitude range. The noise level is very low, enabling long working days without fatigue. In the paving segment, Mobile Feeders such as the Dynapac MF2500CS is said to be the only 2.5m feeder on the market, which combines easy and cost effective transport with impressive feeding capacity. Kapadia proudly claims that the use of such advanced technologies would help deliver world class roads in India.

Sakthikumar is equally emphatic about delivering value to his customers. He says, “All Schwing Stetter equipment is built with the best features of low fuel consumption, low noise, ergonomics, built to last, smooth pouring, high productivity and come with a technology that solely drives on longevity. It is important that the customer gets high level performance and quality in his job apart from the cost saving in fuel and spare parts. Our equipment has all of these features built in them. All of this makes very good investment sense for the customer.”

He feels that this technologically advanced product range has helped them enjoy a high level of customer patronage. The company manufactures more than 3,000 machines in a year and has enough capacity to increase production by almost 50%. With a network of offices and service engineers located all across the country, they can easily support the requirements of concrete batching plants for road making in the nooks and corners of the country.

Building together
Speaking of reaching remote parts of the country, BitChem Asphalt Technologies is using a new age cold mix technology in Assam, with encouraging results. “Around 1,500 to 4,000 litres of fuel is saved in cold mix technology per km, which means annually, in the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) programme alone, the nation can save 45 million litres and 145 million kg carbon footprints for 30,000km of road,” says Rajeev Agarwal, CEO, BitChem Asphalt Technologies Limited, while pointing out that energy efficiency from this method has been calculated to be close to 90%.

Besides cold mix asphalt, warm mix asphalt, recycle asphalt, and form asphalt are also gaining popularity. Since these are an important part of the road building process, aggregate companies such as bitumen manufacturers are also benefitting from the focus on infrastructure projects. “Bitumen is used in all the above technology and we have a plant for melting bitumen using thermal energy without affecting the bitumen quality, making it an easy, fast & cost effective product,” states Paresh Patel, managing director, Alltech Industries India Private Limited.

It is important to have a positive environmental foot print, and Kapadia highlights the use of appropriate technology to achieve this goal. He says, “Cold milling is a very important segment for this purpose. The developers will play a vital role in the up-keep of the roads, at the same time helping to reclaim material for reuse. Dynapac planers are designed to deliver maximum productivity in varying job sites and operating conditions. What is required is more awareness and a push from the government for reusing bitumen material for a better impact on the environment and low cost of operations.”

All things considered, the industry seems to be headed in the right direction to achieve its ambition and growth targets. Sakthikumar sums this up well when he says, “In 2020, the overall industry will be doing very well. We can expect a growth rate of CAGR at 15% on various models of construction equipment. We see it as a good thing. Installed capacity in India for construction machineries is more than the current market demand. Once we realise more than 50% of our existing capacities, in say three or four years, most of the companies will look into expansion of their installed capacities.”

Judging by this sentiment, the road ahead seems clear for a smooth ride.

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