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Construction : Cover Story | March 2016 | Source : Equipment India

Pick-n-Carry Hydra: Bestseller

As the Numero Uno bestselling lift and reach product, Hydra crane still continues to be the most demanding mobile crane category in India.

Tyre-mounted articulated steering, hydraulic mobile pick-and-carry crane, colloquially termed ´Hydra´, was introduced in India way back in early sixties, when Escorts group conceptualised a crane built on their tractor base. John Deere designed the first tractor mounted crane, suitable to lift a maximum load of 3 tonne: Escorts 3E. Thus began the era of Hydra cranes in India. Over the past decades, numerous innovations, design concepts; modifications and upgradations have culminated in the present generations of these cranes capable of lifting capacities in the range of 20-25 tonne; telescoping boom lengths 15-20 m; front-mounted cabins; safety features; hydraulic and pneumatic assisted functionalities; multiple tyre configurations; and the list continues. As time went by, other manufacturers like ACE, Omega etc emerged and catapulted the sales volumes to much higher levels. On the other hand, 360o slew, self-propelled, tyre-mounted cranes of different lifting capacities and configurations were largely imported equipment till such time erstwhile Coles now TIL Ltd commenced producing these cranes in India. Even currently, the highest capacity crane manufactured in India is rated at 75 tonne @ approx 3.5 m radius; balance are still imported.

Technology and innovations
Characteristically, any load lifting and placing activity is dangerous and hazardous. The applications, operating conditions, locations, industry utilisation spectrum, safety, environmental compliance, operator assistance, load sizes and shapes; commercial considerations and other factors driving the development of cranes are only restricted to human imagination. Driven by these elements, the crane manufacturers are in a continuous mode to improve the products through technological excellence and innovative approach to develop new-generation equipment, irrespective of the crane category. Some significant examples include: Variable radius hydraulically actuated counterweight in high capacity crawler crane; synchronised boom extension; on-board computerised operator controls, auto diagnostics; Telematics; telemetry; diverse boom configurations; single-engine concepts in high-capacity cranes, emission compliance; energy conservation features; and last but not the least, safe pick-and-carry cranes.

Pradeep Sharma, President, Action Construction Equipment, asserts,¨ ACE is a dominant player in the crane market having introduced innovative crane solutions/products from time-to-time. Recently, ACE introduced its new-generation pick-and-carry truck cranes with innovative features.¨ He adds, ¨Despite the prevailing global uncertainties, rising needs of better infrastructure, modernised methods of agriculture and growing complexity of mining/manufacturing methods will boost demand for technologically advanced equipment in these industries.¨ ¨We are committed to meeting the fast-tracked emission road map set by the Government of India for India as well as global markets,¨ says Anil Bhatia, Head - Marketing and Sales, TIL Ltd. He further adds, ¨We see a major shift in the coming years to pick-and-carry cranes, which are safer. TIL introduced PIXEF two years back, which is a 360¦ slew pick-and-carry crane with all safety features of a normal crane.¨ ¨The use of innovative 5-axle chassis design and multi-braking modes provides reliable traveling performance. 0°~40° automatic infinite variable luffing jib is applied to ensure conveniently switching over among operating conditions with high operational efficiency. The crane also features height-adjustable oil-gas suspension and 6-steering modes to adapt to achieve excellent road ability,¨ explains Sanjay Saxena, Business Head of Heavy Equipment for Sany South Asian Market.

Elaborating on the features of Manitowoc mobile cranes, Raman Joshi, Vice President - APAC, Manitowoc Cranes, says, ¨CCS is a simplified control system that is being introduced on all new Manitowoc cranes products. Technology will unquestionably play a much bigger role in our industry and the benefits are quite clear. You only need to look at something like our CCS control system to see the advantages technology can bring. In terms of emissions, there will be further rounds of legislation and for India we are sure to see regulations come in that effect engines for cranes. It´s a question of when not if. Fuel economy of course goes hand-in-hand with that. Our Grove cranes are fitted with the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz engines and their fuel saving benefit versus previous machines is significant.

Rajinder Raina, General Manager - Marketing, Escorts Ltd, has a different opinion, ¨Escorts´ customers pay for appropriate technology and not for the best in the world. Indian operator competence/skills are not the best in the world. This creates a lack of alignment in man-machine integration resulting in under-utilisation of technology. India will remain a market for mid-segment technology. iCEMA is doing some commendable work to take the equipment up to the next levels in emission and noise level. This augurs well for the industry and the users.¨

¨Emission compliance and fuel economy are utmost important aspects. As the whole world is becoming more and more rigid on emission norms for the future of humanity and our liability to next generation, we also have to follow same. As far as fuel is concerned, it is burning major part of our foreign exchange fund and the whole world is working on saving fuel by means of increasing efficiency and improved design for more output,¨ informs Ajay Kumar Somani, Director - Mobile Crane Division, Liebherr India Pvt Ltd.

Market dynamics
Fuelled by the flames development ignited through numerous initiatives by Narendra Modi´s government, it took some time for action on ground to begin. Green shoots are clearly visible trending to acceleration in market growth during upcoming future. However, industry has mixed reactions. On one side, they recognise the positive movements while on the flip side, they narrate the hurdles in their growth path. ¨The key success factors for the future depend upon innovative financing and value-added services where the focus is on increased penetration of financing leasing and rental services, providing adequate maintenance to equipment and training to crew, and facilitating immediate repair and refurbishing of equipment. Moreover, looking ahead, the growth path widens for the emerging and developing nations, which will inevitably be attractive destinations for machine makers worldwide. The new political dispensation lends a lot of credibility and hope for growth of infrastructure in future,¨ observes Sharma.

¨The market has started looking up. The industry, that we serve, has witnessed growth during the third quarter of the current fiscal year. The growth has been small but sustained so far which is heartening,¨ opines Raina. He adds ¨Infrastructure industry has seen the maximum movement. Roads, railways, power and mining are the segments expected to drive growth. Roads is one sector where the present government has done a great job by helping the stuck companies and projects to come out of the log jam by providing exit routes that has brought back confidence into the system.¨

Bhatia explains, ¨The market is improving over last year because of the traction in the road sector, infrastructure and metro projects. Oil and steel sectors are expected to be a bit subdued because of low commodity prices. Opening of coal mining is expected to improve the demand for cranes this year. Wind mill is another sector which is showing a lot of promise. Many hirers are focusing on this sector. With the push in infrastructure sector by the government, an increased demand for cranes is expected. Another area which will fuel increase in demand for cranes will be Railways.¨

Somani elaborates, ¨The change in market scene is sector wise. We are not finding overall boom but some specific areas like wind mill, the market is very bullish and lot of enquiries coming from this sector. In mobile crane sector, main growth of demand is in wind mill and some small movements in refinery. The reason of wind mill is the government decision to increase power generation by greenfield/renewable energy. The other area which is still virgin is offshore wind farms. Once it starts, it will have big scope, as India has a very vast coastal line.¨

Joshi observes, ¨Work on roads and bridges should lead to increased demand for mobile cranes. In particular our GMK6300L will be well-suited to a lot of work in this area.¨ He adds, ¨There should also be higher levels of demand for cranes to support the mining sector as the government looks to boost coal output from existing facilities. Production increases here will likely require support from Grove rough-terrain and all-terrain cranes.¨

What to expect?
Industry indicates that either they have already introduced or in the process of introducing more advance generation and innovative cranes in the near future. Bhatia informs, ¨We will be shortly launching a new 55T truck crane with a longer boom length. We are also planning to add more truck crane models with competitive features.¨

¨We at SANY plan to launch our new 300 T all-terrain crane, which is expected to be a game changer in the crane segment. As our Crane Control System rolls out to more models, we also believe this will help us grow our market share,¨ states Saxena. Somani adds ¨We are coming out with a few additional models of cranes so that customers can pick exactly what is needed. Also the existing cranes are upgraded to meet market needs. We also have come out with cranes with Vario base, which means that cranes can work with different length of outriggers to meet space constraint and still can give optimum capacity. Also our new ECO system is not allowing customers to over accelerate the crane and restricting burning more fuel creating pollution and monetary losses. Our newer models are with single engine giving power either for travel or for crane operation as both are not done together.¨ ¨The next generation of Grove mobile cranes will be stronger, easier to transport between job sites and more flexible in terms of use. As a company we are committed to innovation and delivering better return on investment to our customers, so this will be reflected in the next generation of cranes we produce,¨ adds Joshi.

Sharma is optimistic when he says, ¨There is a definite positive sentiment as a stable government has taken over and the industry on the whole is expected to get the advantage of the same. But, it has not yet started to reflect in the numbers and we still have to see the effect on ground. We are expecting the situation to change in the coming months and expect that the next financial year will definitely show us the results that we all expect.¨

Demand in cranes beyond 25 T segment is going to increase for the next few years but the absolute numbers will remain low for any manufacturer to venture into. As construction moves from in situ to pre cast, truck crane market will witness growth. There are some mega projects on the anvil and all such projects entail handling of heavier loads at higher reaches. This will throw up demand for bigger cranes. Telehandler and truck-mounted crane volumes will grow for sure.¨ Echoing the same, Raina adds, ¨Hydra cranes will continue to be a low price segment market. Most of the retail hirers are operators. These cranes have to find economy of owning and operation within 2,000 hours of usage per annum. There will be a definite market volume for Hydra cranes that is there to stay. Hydras will never get out of business in the Indian market place.¨

Industry vision 2020b
One observes that in addition to offering new innovative and superior technology products, the industry is visualising long term objectives and planning their pace commensurate to the same.

¨We have plans to develop our organisation, introduce new products and services, and grow our business to maintain our position as one of the world´s leading crane companies,¨ comments Joshi. ¨Next three years (2016, 2017 and 2018) looks quite positive but thereafter, it will depend on election results, policies of new government etc,¨ states Somani.

Sharma has a more holistic view, ¨The growth of the Indian CE industry is dependent on three factors: the first being the focus on infrastructure investments in terms of roads, ports, power, housing and real estate construction. The second is industrial production and capacity expansion by manufacturers in terms of new facilities and up-gradation of existing facilities to meet the ever-increasing demand. The third is seeking the emerging growth areas in terms of leasing and rental of equipment, exports, increasing the use of refurbished equipment, and most importantly, providing timely service to the clients.¨

Raina sums it up with a positive note, ¨With a few presumptions, the construction equipment, material handling and earthmoving market should grow between 10~15 per cent CAGR in the next three years. Concreting, mining and other equipment shall register similar growth. There will be lots of new equipment entering the Indian market in the coming 3-4 years. Road repairs and maintenance is going to be sector to watch out for. Solid waste management and other smart city related works will open up markets for new equipment. All in all, 2016-20 looks exciting after a very dull four years.¨

On cautionary note, it would be appropriate to mention that for many years the Hydra users had been plagued with safety concerns for use of Hydra cranes, on account of excessive toppling accidents causing damage to work, property and personnel. As a result, many corporate like Larsen & Toubro and others has banned the deployment of such cranes at their sites, across the board. However, the Hydra manufacturers duly recognised the safety issues raised and bounced back by introducing Safe Hydra versions and concepts, which has allayed most of the fears. As such in terms of volumes, the best seller story continues.

Mobile Crane Categories

  • Pick ´N´ Carry Articulated Steering (Hydra)
  • Tyre Mounted, Hydraulic, Rough Terrain
  • Truck Mounted, Multi Axle, All Terrain
  • Crawler Mounted with Lattice Boom
  • Rail Mounted
  • Crawler Mounted Crane with Hydraulic Telescoping Boom
  • Truck Mounted, Articulated Boom
  • Special Purpose

Advantage Hydra

  • Low cost pick and carry solution
  • Fast return on investment
  • Attractive to small contractors
  • Rental favourite
  • High operating speeds
  • Suitable in urban and factory environment
  • Numerous applications
  • Multi terrain capabilities
  • Easily transportable to remote sites
  • High skills not required for O&M
  • Strong dealer networks

Concerns Hydra

  • Max. load lift capacity only over front
  • Lever operated steering impairs judgment
  • Unstable when articulated
  • Dissimilar wheel sizes; front & rear
  • Rear mounted operator cab
  • Poor and restricted vision of load by operator
  • Only mechanical overload safety- inadequate
  • Audio alarms
  • Poor safety standards
  • Excessive toppling accidents.

Purchase Trends

  • Multi application capability
  • Fuel economy
  • Low life cycle cost
  • Low total cost of ownership
  • Higher lifting capacity
  • Higher strength and sturdiness
  • Operation in confined spaces
  • Easy to move configurations
  • Flexible boom, jib and counterweight options
  • Customisation possibilities
  • Safety is paramount
  • Capacity equipped to do erection of high hub heights
  • Focus on economic deliverables
  • High quality aftermarket product support
  • Post sales training
  • Service at the customer´s doorstep

Stumbling Blocks

  • Non-uniform rules for registration of cranes
  • ARAI norms apply to domestic production
  • Imported cranes exempted from ARAI norms
  • High rates of tax and duties on domestic production
  • Made in India cranes more expensive than imported ones
  • No regulations for used imports
  • High delivery period for application specific cranes
  • Scarcity of skilled O&M personnel

New Generation: Safe Hydra 

  • SX series by ACE
  • F, TRX and MAC series by ECEL
  • PIXEF series by til
  • Higher lift capacity up to 20-25 tonnes.
  • Longer telescoping boom lengths
  • Front mounted operator cabin
  • Clear unrestricted vision of load at all times
  • Rotary steering wheel
  • Operator friendly controls
  • Similar size eight wheel configuration
  • Centre of gravity much lower
  • Very stable when articulated
  • Rear mounted engine
  • Lift cylinders´ position reconfigured
  • Two front mounted out riggers for stability
  • Electronic safe load moment indication
  • ROPS & FOPS safety standards.

- Shankar Srivastava

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