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Construction : Feature | October 2015 | Source : Equipment India

Gaining Traction

With a major thrust on infrastructure development by the government, coupled with the ´Make in India´ programme, the Indian telehandler industry is poised for an unprecedented and exponential growth. Equipment India finds out the latest trends and opportunities for this equipment which is relatively new to Indian market.

A telescopic handler/telehandler is a multitasking material handling equipment which is a hybrid of crane and a forklift. The versatility of deliverables from this equipment is achieved through numerous generic attachments and sometimes application-specific ones, developed by the manufacturers to cater to the material handling requirements of the user. This versatile equipment is a boon to all categories of material handlers and warehouse operators in the logistics space. On the end of the boom the operator can fit one of several attachments, such as a bucket, pallet forks, muck grab, or winch. Though the telehandler was introduced long back to the Indian market, it is still in a nascent stage due to the high cost and lack of awareness among the user industry.

Globally, this machine widely used in agriculture and industry and is similar in appearance and function to a forklift but is more a crane than forklift, with the increased versatility of a single telescopic boom that can extend forwards and upwards from the vehicle. Most of the industry experts are of the view that advanced material handling and warehousing equipment has a vital role that can help speed up the processes. This will be further bolstered by the introduction of GST, more focus on palletisation, and expected opening up of retail segment.

Unlike the dynamics of the domestic market, telehandlers have gained a lot of eminence in the construction industry in developed countries as the customers´ tastes and preferences are quite evolved there. Although it is a relatively new concept vis-a-vis other machines like backhoes, wheel loaders and excavators, it is widely used in the US and Europe.

Souma Ray, Director, Haulotte India, says, ¨Telehandler is an extremely versatile material handling equipment that has multifarious application in the construction, infrastructure and mining sector. Across the world in developed countries, telehandlers are very popular. However, we are yet to see an upsurge in the demand for telehandlers in India. There are only very specific major corporate customers like L&T, Reliance and HCC who buy such machines. The awareness of this product needs to grow like it has in the case of aerial work platforms (AWPs), so that more customers learn about the benefits of using telehandlers in their day to day operations.¨

The only player which is garnering the maximum is the market leader JCB India, thanks to its locally made products which the company has mo-nickered ´Liftall´. As Jasmeet Singh, Head - Corporate Communications, JCB India states, ¨Telehandlers have only recently made their way into the Indian market as compared to the other traditional material handling products. Since this is niche segment at the moment the market size is limited. At JCB, we are already manufacturing telehandlers in India. These include a 7 m machine, the 530-70 and an 11 m machine, the 530-110 at the moment, additionally we also offer a 17 m machine which is the 540-170 for high lift and reach applications which are imported from the UK. We foresee these machines gaining popularity as these are versatile machines and can do a variety of tasks in the area of material handling. Apart from the lift and place applications, these machines can have various attachments that can be mounted on the front end to make it multifunctional. Once the material handling industry matures, these machines will be in demand and we will see a paradigm shift in the way we move material.¨

However, not many have got into the manufacturing route and have tied up with overseas brands to market their products in the country. The case in point is Godrej Material Handling which is selling Merlo telehandlers in the country. As Anil Lingayat, Executive Vice President & Business Head, Godrej Material Handling, says, ¨The easy availability of pick and carry cranes further preludes the use of telehandlers. Though these equipment find application in various industries, due to low awareness, the demand has not increased to the expected level over these years. However, as safety awareness grows on construction and project sites across the country, the adaption of telehandlers will increase at faster pace. We expect this segment to grow and are present in this segment through our partner, Merlo Spa, world leader in telehandlers, based at Cuneo, Italy.¨

Haulotte telehandlers come with various attachments like forks, high extension forks, side shifting forks, hook on tool carriage for slings, fixed hook, truss boom with hook, toothless bucket, toothed bucket, 4-in-1 bucket for picking loose sand and gravel, high capacity bucket, grab bucket, universal grab, bale grab, rotating fork, etc. ¨Based on the requirement and application the suitable attachment can be suggested by us to our customers and can easily be amalgamated in our telehandlers,¨ says Ray.

JCB Loadall comes with variety of attachments which makes the machine more versatile. The widely used attachments are general purpose shovel, heavy duty forks, bucket with grab, crane hook - fork mounted, grain bucket, power grab, man platform and drum handlers.

Lingayat elaborates on Merlo telehandlers, ¨The generic attachments available are platform, bucket and grab. Telehandlers find application in construction, mining, industries and agricultural sectors of the economy. The one offered by us are tyre handler, crane hook attachment and rib handler. The usage of high capacity dumpers in mines have led to increase in demand of rough terrain telehandlers.¨

Information gleaned from EPC contractors involved in underground excavation construction tells us that a Rib catcher attachment with side shift capabilities is being preferred by them for reasons of safety and less time required to installing support Ribs in underground projects.

Major features
Singh elaborates on the safety features in Loadall. ¨JCB Loadall come with an ROPS and FOPS cabin structure for operator safety, an integral LLMI to warn the operator in the event of the load exceeding the limits and a stabiliser cut-off for safe working operation. Equipped with the 76 hp high torque JCB ecoMAX engine, Loadall comes with legendary ´U´ shaped boom and single closing plate welds to reduce joints and stress points and boom overlapping for structural rigidity of the boom. Hydraulic extension rams with no chains are suitable for heavy duty bucket applications. JCB Loadall provides an extensive range of attachments. For added versatility, they are fitted with a single boom auxiliary feature which can power a wide range of attachments.¨

According to Ray, Haulotte telehandlers are state-of-the-art machines, yet very simple to operate. He elaborates, ¨ We have kept in mind the requirements of the operators while designing our machines. All Haulotte telehandlers are single joystick control for all operations. This makes using the machine very simple.¨

Lingayat explains the features in Merlo range, ¨The Merlo tyre handlers offered by us have strong ring across the chassis which helps to lower center of gravity and provides additional stability to equipment. The proprietary feature of boom shift increases efficiency of operator while shifting and placing of material as one doesn´t have to move the equipment. This leads to enhanced productivity and less stress on operator.¨

Telehandlers is a relatively new entry in the Indian material handling industry. There will therefore be requirement for having enough trained operators who can operate the machine safely and effectively as these products gain popularity. Singh elaborates, ¨As part of our efforts towards providing trained manpower for these machines, JCB has taken active steps to train operators during the time of delivery of the equipment itself. These short term familiarisation training programmes form an important part of operators being able to operate telehandlers safely and productively. Also training on telehandlers is now a part of our annual training calendar where we conduct basic level course training on these machines.¨

According to Ray, shortage of skilled operators is a matter of great concern. This affects both the end-user and rental industry to a great extent. He adds, ¨Our service team at Haulotte has the expertise to train operators on our telehandlers. We offer comprehensive training to our customers whenever required. Operators are trained in operating the machines to give optimum performance and best productivity. They are also trained to perform daily checks for maintaining the proper health of the machines. They are also imparted training to perform minor maintenance work in times of exigencies.¨

Godrej also has a well-defined training activity for its customers and machine operators. Lingayat explains, ¨It is essential to impart proper operator training to use equipment to its full potential. We have qualified trained engineers on tele-handlers who impart operation, safety and maintenance training during commissioning of the equipment.¨

Rental biz remains static
According to Ray, since the telehandler market in India is still in an infant stage, the rental companies do not have the same keenness as in case of AWPs. Although some rental companies do have few telehandlers which they rent out to major construction and infrastructure companies, the numbers are pretty minuscule. As the awareness grows and the market matures the rental market shall also grow with time. Lingayat sees some opportunity in rentals as he says, ¨Godrej is the only lift truck manufacturer who offers equipment on rental basis. We have more than 300 equipment in our rental fleet. With current economic situation, companies are hesitant of putting money on capital intensive equipment. Renting of equipment is a means that companies could get their work done without incurring capital cost. This will help industry to have more organised players in the rental market.¨

Growth drivers
Most of the CE manufacturers were unanimous in their view that the increase in awareness and sensitivity towards safety at workplace will be one of the major growth drivers for telehandlers.

¨We feel that as the industry matures, there will be an urgent need to introduce these state-of-the-art machines. The demand of these machines would rise as and when there is progress in warehousing and more critically with the introduction of palletisation in India,¨ observes Singh.

Delineating his thoughts, Ray mentions, ¨If timelines and schedules have to be met, work has to be safe, efficient and most importantly productive, then the use of telehandlers should increase in the near future. Construction industry has discerned the need for using such an important equipment. Having said that, there is a lot that is yet to be achieved in terms of awareness levels. Since the telehandler industry is still in its fledgling stage in India, most of the requirements are in the 3- 4 tonne capacity range. However, some bigger sizes telehandlers, albeit very few in numbers, are being used in the mining and petrochemical industry. But I am sure that with the increase in awareness demands for telehandlers will increase substantially in the coming years.¨

Lingayat says, ¨The versatility of these machines like lift trucks, mobile cranes and access equipment will facilitate growth of this segment. Apart from that the equipment with attachments such as platform, tyre handler, grab attachment and rib handler in tunnel construction will be fast moving.¨

Besides low awareness levels, there are other challenges too that telehandlers are plagued with.

Until now, the country does not have a proper operators training centre and the training aspect for operators is unorganised. Besides, shortage of skilled operators is another matter of great concern. This affects both the end user and rental industry to a great extent. As a huge chunk of them are imported, the high rate of import duty coupled to various local taxes ultimately increases the procurement cost of the telehandlers. Therefore, majority of the companies are anticipating that with the introduction of GST the cost viability of telehandlers would become better.

Acquisition cost of the equipment is estimated at Rs 65 lakh or more for a 3T capacity telehandler with three attachments. This high acquisition cost of telehandlers (mostly imported) discourages many small and medium contractors from procuring this equipment.

As Lingayat asserts, ¨There is no manufacturer with complete range locally. All equipments are imported either from US or Europe. Government should consider reducing import duties on these equipment for infrastructure projects considering these are highly productive machines with a high degree of safety which can assist in the timely completion of infrastructure projects.¨

Business outlook
Telehandlers will be acting as a crossover have the advantage of placing and lifting loads at height along with the added capability of forward reach. This makes the machine effective in stacking, lifting and placing operations of heavy loads in a safe and productive manner. Market watchers feel that as the industry matures, there will be an urgent need to introduce these state- of-the-art machines. The demand for these machines would rise as and when there is progress in warehousing and more critically with the introduction of palletisation in India.

Singh believes that there are positive changes taking place in the material handling and process industries across segments. Agricultural logistics, construction, and process industries are the domains that have the potential to grow and modernise. ¨Gradually, ´palletisation´ will be making inroads in the industry as businesses demand better space utilisation. With most modern warehouses being designed keeping the usage of vertical space in mind, machines such as telehandlers have tremendous opportunities,¨ Singh concludes.

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