Equipment India | May 2009


“A consultant helps in optimum utilisation of equipment at site.”

Rambabu, Director, ConMech Auto Consultants India Pvt Ltd

Have contracting houses adopted the best practices, both in terms of site mechanisations and the adapt¬ability of modern practices, especially the vertical movement of man and material? What positive change can a consultant bring into this segment? EQUIPMENT INDIA meets up with Rambabu, Director,ConMechAuto Con¬sultants, and gets some pertinent answers. Excerpts from the interview.

What is the present status of the vertical movement segment, which includes the use of cranes for material handling and hoists for both materials and manpower movement?
The usage of tower cranes, passenger and material hoists, has been taken up by the corporate contractors for getting the benefits of using technology. Five per cent of the total projects are just getting used to the new methodologies of material handling at the project sites. The builder hoist is the age -old hoist, which is yet to find more than 50 per cent acceptance within the contracting fraternity. The use of fractional tonnage winches is gaining a bit of popularity but is subject to the applications for custom-made use.

Is there any kind of shift in quality?
The quality is as defined by the manufacturer today. The user is yet to get too deep into the concept of quality and what it means to have high quality equipment at the sites. Quality, again, need not reflect in the high cost of the equipment. As suggested, the cost should be calculated both in terms of initial investments and running costs. This would definitely be a saving in terms of the lifecycle of the equipment.

What are major parameters that determine the selection of tower cranes?
Tower cranes, in most cases, are under -utilised. In some cases, it has become a marketing tool for the promoters to let the end user know that they are using high quality equipment for the construction.
The major parameters for the selection of tower crane are:
• The areas of the structure (Project).
• The height of the structure (Project).
• The volume of the material to be handled.

What advantages can a consultant normally offer to a builder or a contractor in terms of vertical movement?
The consultant usually comes with a holistic view of the sites. The consultant can offer suitable equipment for the optimum utilisation of the equipment at the site. They also look at alternate methodologies which can bring savings to the site.
The considerations are usually on the inputs of the construction practices. The features that affect the material handling are:
• Usages of RMC at the site.
• Practice of rebar fitting at the sites.
• Form work and related methodologies.
• The super structure details.
• The project completion time.
A consultant looks at the site from the surroundings point of view, which would definitely affect the progress of the sites. The equipment thus defined should be taken into consideration vis-a-vis all these parameters ,which should be helpful to the site progress.

How modernised are the methods in India and what are the challenges facing the sector?
The top 200 contracting houses of India have, by and large, adopted the best practices both in terms of site mechanisations and the adaptability of modern practices. These are the houses which also have strong financial muscle and are on a buying spree of equipment. There are corporate houses, who have allocated Rs 100 – 200 crore for creating their equipment banks.
The change management in view of the said mech¬anisation is yet to take shape in most of these organisations. Most of the contracting houses are yet to create a mechanical department and a central workshop in-house. The scheduling of maint¬enance is advisable for the benefit of the usages of the equipment, in view of the productivity.

Safety always seems to be in the back seat as far as the use of cranes is concerned. Could you throw some light on the prevailing systems, and how this can be bettered?
The equipment that contractors are buying are in the range of Rs 15 to Rs 250 lakh depending on the various equipment that would be put to use in terms of irrigation projects, power projects, road and highway infrastructure, as well as the constructions practices of housing and commercial structures. The owners are still to adapt to a trained operator who can understand the process of the equipment, the maintenance of the equipment and the safety methods of the equipment.
Most of the manufacturers have adhered to the safety norms while designing the equipment and also give a detailed suggestion of the preventive maintenance schedules.
The consultant would suggest that this high-value equipment should be under the supervision of a technician or engineer who understands its electrical / mechanical functioning. Safety is the outcome of the machine designs, the manufacturing process and the usage of the equipment. Most of the accidents which have been recorded in the past decade are due to the abuse of equipment and the sub-standard practices at the site.
Audit of equipment and safety practices should be made compulsory for every qua¬rter in terms of usage of the equipment.

The efficient use of equipment to its optimum level, especially in terms of vertical movement in a site (both man and material) still seems to be a pipe dream. Your views on how the prevailing methods can be bettered and some kind of benchmarking?
The usage of the equipment is connected to the choosing of the right kind of equipment. In our country, there are manufactures that have been helping the sites with a lot of material handling equipment, especially in terms of passenger and material hoists. Most of the contractors are made to believe that the existing equipment will be more useful as multiple units. Since the adoption of technology is also new and there is a lack of cross- reference or the experience from their counterparts abroad, contractors are forced to buy what is available. Some of the consultants, who have understood the need and the importance of the material and the manpower movements at the sites, have gone one step ahead in suggesting and sourcing equipment and from developed markets like Spain, Italy and China.
The prevailing practices can be bettered by taking the education to the architect, structural consultants, the project managers and the consulting engineers. They are the best people to adapt to the required changes for the projects.

How do you look at the skill level of operators in this area?
So far, contractors have been using the existing labour by giving them the additional responsibility of operating the equipment, too. Most of the time, labour adapts to the process blindly. In my opinion, the skill sets on a scale of 10 is today at 2. This leads to the abuse of equipment and could prove to be a bottleneck in the progress of the projects. This can be overcome by the manufacturers getting trained people to handle the operations and also by the preventive maintenance at the sites.

Do you think some kind of standardisation can be brought about in this area? How can this be achieved?
Taking in view the project and the budget for equipment, the consultant should work towards letting the contractor adopt the technology. If this process is a mature one, only then can any kind of standardisation or benchmarking be introduced.




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