In an aggressive show of preparedness for the ‘bounce back’ anticipated in the backhoe loader market on the back of the Government’s focus on infra development as outlined in the Budget, manufacturers are introducing newer and upgraded models with BSIV compliant engines, enabling engineering interventions to reduce operating costs, and even looking at alternate fuels. They are also expanding their customer base and offering enhanced support and services in a bid to strengthen brand recall amongst existing and potential customers.

Backhoe Loader - Manufacturers Focusing on 3Ps Power

S.A.Faridi & P.P. Basistha invite views of major players JCB, Tata Hitachi, Caterpillar, Manitou, Escorts Construction Equipment, ACE, Mahindra, CASE, and Bull Machines, on the current trends prevailing in the backhoe loader market, and the strategic steps they are taking to bring business back on track.

The Backhoe Loader industry, which was enjoying a bullish sales run for many years and was growing by over 20% y-o-y, with annual sales averaging at 35,000 units or so (43,000 units in 2021), is seeing sales nosedive, despite the strong demand fundamentals in the construction industry.

Manufacturers affirm that the fiscal year-end clocked 25% lower sales (till November 2021) and even expect sales to drop further to 30% this fiscal. Numerous factors are being ascribed to the dwindling sales: falling rental rates due to an oversupply of equipment, hardening of fuel prices, increase in the machine’s initial purchase cost due to a mandatory BSIV compliant engine, and the steep rise in cost of raw materials, especially steel, aggregates, and electronic components.

However, despite the prevailing gloom and the volatility in the market, the Union Budget 2022-23, with its strong focus on Infra development, has raised the hopes of the Backhoe Loader Industry. The push in Infrastructure spends as outlined in the Budget 22-23 will boost demand for construction equipment, wherein the Backhoes alone account for a major portion of all equipment sales, given their versatility and usage in all kinds of applications in any site or project.

What will drive demand for Backhoe Loaders in the current volatile construction market?
 
Deepak Shetty, CEO & Managing Director,  JCB India
Deepak Shetty, CEO & Managing Director, JCB India: There have been some disruptions in backhoe loaders sales due to the rise in commodity prices, an extended monsoon, and the change in emission norms from BS III to CEV Stage IV. However, we remain positive on India’s growth story and are hopeful of seeing a strong recovery like we saw in the past. There is a strong focus on infra development and many mega projects like Sagarmala and Bharatmala have been announced with impressive budgetary allocations over the past few years.

The creation of 100 new airports, smart cities, expansion of metro rails, roads and highways, railways, power plants, irrigation infra, etc, are major projects, which will create a sizeable demand for backhoe loaders. These projects will also open up huge opportunities for allied industries like raw materials, quarrying, equipment manufacturing, etc, and generate employment.

The recently announced Gati Shakti program and the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) are critical for the CE industry. The NABFID and National Asset Monetisation are also steps in the right direction and they too will boost the construction sector. There have been structural improvements in the Public Procurement Policy, which will support our industry further. Infrastructure is vital for the development of our country as it has a significant multiplier effect, so, the investments and focus in this sector must continue. JCB India is strongly positioned to meet the upcoming construction demand with its wide range of products and services.
 
Sandeep Singh, Managing Director, Tata Hitachi
Sandeep Singh, Managing Director, Tata Hitachi: The demand drivers for backhoe loaders will broadly be anchored around infrastructure investments by both the government and the private sector. Government investment will be led by rural and urban housing, rural roads, rural irrigation and watershed development, lake developments, urban developments, and AMRUT, among others. Private investment will largely be led by real estate, housing, agriculture, and utilities, to name a few. However, we cannot discount the enormous existing machine population, which may deter rental rates from firming up in the medium term, and which may make hirers reconsider decisions on purchasing backhoe loaders for some time.
 
Hafeez Khan, Managing Director, Manitou South Asia Pvt Ltd.
Hafeez Khan, Managing Director, Manitou South Asia Pvt Ltd.: The Backhoe Loader business is expected to bounce back in the first 2 quarters of 2022 and there is a good possibility that volumes will achieve the pre-2021 numbers, especially with the huge investments announced by the Government for the creation of public infrastructure and the country’s economic growth.

Mega projects like the Chennai-Bengaluru Expressway, the Navi Mumbai Airport, the Dholera Smart City project and many others are expected to drive demand for construction equipment like backhoe loaders. Manitou is optimistic about these quarters and is ready to meet the demand spikes. These are very promising and favorable times for the industry.
 
Sorab Agarwal, Executive Director, ACE
Sorab Agarwal, Executive Director, ACE: Sustained momentum in Infrastructure development is critical for economic growth. The push in Infrastructure spends in the Union Budget 22-23 will further boost demand for backhoes and the construction equipment industry as a whole. Backhoes alone account for almost 50 percent of all construction equipment sales in unit terms in India. These versatile machines can be used in a variety of applications in any site or project.
 
Sanjeev Bajaj, CEO, Escorts Construction Equipment
Sanjeev Bajaj, CEO, Escorts Construction Equipment: There are ample positives on the demand side for Backhoe Loaders as we move into next financial year. Most of the projects and construction activities have been sluggish in past two years owing to the Covid restrictions and are now expected to bounce back. There is enough indication in the budget that the push for raising standards of infra in India is priority and investments and policies, and some bold goals are being planned in that direction. Demand therefore will be led by retail sector, real estate, road projects, irrigation, railways & airports etc. On a macro view, demand is expected to grow from as early as Q1 F23, however ongoing inflation trends or any new pandemic related scare can alter the course a little bit.
 
Amit Bansal, Director Sales & Marketing-BCP Division, Caterpillar India
Amit Bansal, Director Sales & Marketing-BCP Division, Caterpillar India: Going by the recent large-scale announcements on capital investments in infrastructure by the government, we anticipate that construction activities will rebound. Demand for construction equipment will increase and users of backhoe loaders will find it necessary to upgrade to a higher class of backhoes. We are continuously doing R&D to develop technologically advanced features in our backhoe loaders to increase fuel-efficiency and productivity in order to meet customer requirements.
 
Parthibhan, Managing Director, Bull Machines
Parthibhan, Managing Director, Bull Machines: The demand scenario for backhoe loaders remains extremely volatile. Though we are being somewhat cautious in developing new machines as per customer expectations, we plan to deliver the latest machines with a higher value proposition. We are now positioned amongst the top players in India in volume terms and have overtaken many multinationals present in the Indian market.
 
Sandeep Mathur, Business Head, India & SAARC, Case Construction Equipment
Sandeep Mathur, Business Head, India & SAARC, Case Construction Equipment: The demand for backhoe loaders is gaining traction due to the Government announcements of new infrastructure projects across the country. Backhoe loaders can be used for multiple purposes such as road construction, irrigation, agriculture, industrial application, etc. The newly manufactured backhoe loaders are more versatile and come equipped with advanced technology. We expect a lot of demand for these backhoes as they will enhance productivity and fuel efficiency. There is demand coming from the rental market as well.
 
Jalaj Gupta, Business Head, Commercial Vehicles, Mahindra Construction Equipment
Jalaj Gupta, Business Head, Commercial Vehicles, Mahindra Construction Equipment: With the CE industry forecasting good demand, we are confident that the backhoe loader market will soon bounce back. We expect backhoe sales to increase by almost double digit in 2022 and 2023. The impact of the general election (as seen in the past) is likely to reduce sales of construction equipment subsequently in 2024, but the market should recover by 2025.

What value propositions are manufacturers of Backhoe Loaders offering in their products to drive sales and expand customer base?

Sandeep Singh, Tata Hitachi: Though there are some challenges, we are driving sales and expanding our customer base by introducing newer products and upgrading our customer services. Our products come with the promise of quality and reliability. We are also focusing on increasing fuel efficiency to reduce overall running costs of our machines. We are also offering variants that offer two- and four-wheel drive options, along with a range of attachments and buckets. Our machines offer better ergonomics in the cabin and the option of an air conditioner so that the operator can work for longer hours without fatigue.

The long service intervals in our machines also go a long way in reducing overall operating costs. For instance, Tata Hitachi SHINRAI offers the highest hydraulic oil change interval in the backhoe loader segment. We are investing in digital technologies and using social media to widen our customer reach in order to familiarise them with the benefits of SHINRAI backhoe loaders.

Tata Hitachi’s in-house e-Dost portal is a veritable one-stop-shop for all customer needs - from ascertaining the right products for various applications, to market information and procurement of parts. The portal is further backed by our call center that promptly routes customer queries to the relevant team. Our dealers also reach out to customers operating in far-flung areas, and also conduct roads shows, demonstrations, and customer meets. We are also engaging with financiers to increase funding for our machines so that our customers can enjoy higher Loan-to-Value (LTV) benefits.

Deepak Shetty, JCB India: JCB has the widest range of Backhoe Loaders in India and the company enjoys a strong brand recall. We have recently launched our new range of CEV Stage IV Backhoe Loaders which not only conforms to the latest emission standard but promises customers more reliability, enhanced productivity, and reduced operating costs. The machines have been tested successfully across all possible applications.

The new range is powered by our well-known 55kW JCB ecoMax diesel engine, which is environment-friendly, and comes with the proven CRDI technology, a Waste-Gate Turbocharger, and a 2-stage cooling EGR system. A unique feature of this engine is that its combustion system eliminates the need for any after-treatment, DOC (Diesel Oxidation Catalyst), or a DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter). The engine has proved its reliable performance even at high altitudes and in difficult mountain terrains.

With these enhanced features, our Backhoe Loaders are more fuel-efficient and productive. For instance, the 3DX Plus CEV Stage IV machine is 7% more fuel-efficient in Eco mode and has 25% higher productivity in Plus mode (as compared to the outgoing model). Features like Auto Idle and Auto Stop reduce fuel wastage and improve efficiency. Additionally, a high torque of 400 Nm and three Excavation Modes for different site conditions (Eco, Standard and Plus) enhance the machine’s adaptability to meet output needs.

Sorab Agarwal, ACE: Our core value proposition is to offer “value for money products”. Our Backhoes offer huge savings to customers in upfront purchase price and operating cost with a savings of up to Rs 10 lakh over a 4-year loan tenure, making them a profitable investment. This is the reason that despite backhoe market de-growing over last year, we expanded our customer base and have grown - both in terms of volume and market share.

Our all-new AX 124 BSIV Backhoe Loader is a high-performance machine with best-in-class aggregates and is available at a competitive price. Our rugged AX124 BSIV is powered by a highly efficient 76HP Kirloskar engine and is fitted with the globally renowned transmission and axle from Carraro. Improved hydraulics ensures 10-15% higher productivity both in excavator and loading application. Our AX124 comes with a 2-year warranty on the machines’ structure and is available in both 2- and 4-wheel drive options.

Amit Bansal, Caterpillar: Our backhoes are equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, making them highly reliable and efficient, giving higher productivity, lower fuel consumption, and having lower maintenance requirements. All these aspects amount to a good value proposition for the users of our products.

We have a broad range of solutions and services to suit different customers’ needs and budgets, based on our close association with them. Since our customers are constantly adapting to changes in regulations, markets trends, and the volatile economic situations, our services and technologies are designed to meet these changing market dynamics through our faster, safer and smarter products, and our digital-enabled solutions.

Sandeep Mathur, CASE: We have launched a new BS IV FX series of Backhoe Loaders. They include a 55kW (74hp) range with 770FX (gear pump model), 770FX Plus (Variable Displacement pump model), and a 72 kW (97hp) range with 851FX, 851FX Centre Pivot and 851FX Plus variant.

To expand business, we are working on attractive financial schemes to match our customers financial capability. Our in-house retail finance company CNHi Capital offers wholesale and retail equipment financing, and even an extra line of credit, which comes as a relief to customers looking to purchase more products. Our extra credit and financial assistance eases the initial acquisition cost of purchasing machines.

We also keep introducing seasonal and product-specific promotions such as a 90 percent LTA, relaxation of EMIs for the initial months, and lower EMIs. Depending on the market scenario, we often tailor-make these schemes and promotions to further benefit our customers. We also offer re-financing to first-time buyers of used equipment. All these schemes and promotions help drive sales of our machines and widen our customer base.

Hafeez Khan, Manitou: Manitou is committed to producing environment-friendly machines with no compromise on productivity despite the rising cost of raw materials, the BSIV emission norms, and price hikes.

There is a shift in customer buying pattern and a more cautious attitude, considering the high capital cost of a machine. But customers are no longer looking only at the initial low cost of owning a machine; rather they want to know the ownership value the machine will bring over its life, given the huge workloads at hand and the opportunities that will come their way from the numerous ongoing and upcoming projects.

For Manitou, the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and fuel saving have always been at the forefront during machine designing and manufacturing. All Manitou products are made to achieve the lowest operational and maintenance costs, which are simulated by our R&D team to achieve the best outputs, along with strict adherence to emission norms. Our machines can work in any challenging environment and rugged terrains.

We are now expanding our footprint in areas where we have not been present in the past few years. We are reviving our dealerships, opening new offices, and new service and parts centers. Since a long time, Manitou has invested in providing direct sales, aftermarket, and technical/training support through its in-house facilities (Manitou SSP), manned by a skilled team of engineers. Providing the best services will definitely expand our customer base and will also give more confidence to our existing customers.

Jalaj Gupta, Mahindra: We have optimized the operating and owning costs of our BS IV backhoe loader through newer engineering interventions. For instance, our EarthMaster Range of Backhoe Loaders has enhanced features; it is powered by the reliable 74 HP CRi Mahindra engine, giving it a 13 percent higher torque (compared to BSIII engine), which has improved the machine’s loader efficiency. Its improved hydraulic system has a higher flow handling capacity and, along with other upgradations, its overall production capacity has increased by 10 percent.

With features like a banana boom and a joystick lever, a robust design and bigger buckets, the EarthMaster (available in SX & VX series) is well suited for all types of backhoe applications - be it mining, trenching, crushing, building construction or any other work in the construction industry. The SX Smart50 is a product in the low range HP category, and an optimum solution for the hirer segment, especially the price-sensitive customer in the highly competitive low-margin segment. Its proven Mahindra 50HP Ditech BSIII engine and advanced hydraulics provide the same level of productivity as the 74HP.

Sanjeev Bajaj, ECEL: At Escorts, our focus is towards the core customer needs to be successful in his business and for him to make profits. So our product positioning is focused on the productivity, reliability and total cost of ownership. We offer best digging depth on backhoe and best dumping height on loader, with unmatched breakout forces, which leads to high productivity for customers. We offer arguably the heaviest backhoe structure to match the tough application needs and thus score very high on reliability. Highly fuel-efficient engine options, affordable cost of spares and continuous focus on total cost of ownership over longer period gives customer long term profitability assurance.

We upgraded to the BSIV emission norms in April 2021 as per the Government regulations. We have received a very encouraging response from all the stakeholders, which has buoyed sales of our new backhoe loaders - the DIGMAX II in Yellow Line series and the XT1610 in the White Line series. We are also launching the latest version of our popular Jungli range of backhoe loaders.

The KOEL and Escorts CRDI engines in DIGMAX II and XT1610 range, respectively, have enhanced the productivity and efficiency of the equipment, and improved problem identification and resolution through the Interactive Digital Cluster Solution.

Parthibhan, Bull Machines: Our four newly launched BS IV emission norm compliant backhoe loaders (Challenger, Champion, Super Smart, and Heavy-Duty) are delivering very high performance which has led to a strong brand recall of our Bull Backhoe Loaders. Our newly launched Challenger 76 backhoe loader comes with an electronic power management, which mitigates the initial higher price associated with BS IV machines. We are proud to say that we are amongst the world’s most fuel-efficient backhoe loaders. The Bull backhoe loaders also score with their multi faceted applications.
JCB

The industry’s first dual-fuel Backhoe Loader in India - the JCB 3DX DFi - can operate on CNG and diesel simultaneously using the HCCI technology.

Deepak Shetty, JCB India

How are OEMs making Owning & Operating a BSIV compliant Backhoe Loader financially viable for customers?

Sanjeev Bajaj, ECEL: While inflation is a reality that the industry is facing, it is our goal to provide options to our customer which make business sense for him. We believe that inflation situation will ease in coming couple of quarters and thus we are absorbing some part of it and not fully pushed to our customers. Our backhoe loaders would not be the cheapest in the market as we continuously strive to offer “more” for same price.

Some key features in our backhoes enable both first- and second time buyers to gain extra profit. For instance, our DIGMAX II is coupled with a KOEL BSIV engine and the XT 1610 has the Escorts BSIV engine. These high torque engines are 10 percent more fuel efficient in their category and they deliver best-in-class dozing and loader performance. These engines are more silent as compared to BSIII engines, which reduces operator’s fatigue when working long hours. An intelligent equipment monitoring system keeps customers informed about the machine; allows them to have control over their business from the comfort of their office, car or home.

An excavator-like hydraulic system in our backhoe loaders allows the operator to do multiple movements simultaneously. Our backhoes have loader dumps with a height of 3 meters and a bigger loader bucket of 1.2 cum, which can easily fill extended body dumpers without making external ramps. The digging depth of 4.8 meters, strong tear out forces, and faster excavation cycle time gives 20 percent more productivity, even in the toughest of applications and strata.

Sandeep Singh, Tata Hitachi: To mitigate the impact of price increase due to the new BSIV norms, we have integrated certain features to enhance machine performance, thereby augmenting the earning capacity of customers. Our aggregates and components are sourced from the best global suppliers to ensure longevity of our machines and minimize repair and maintenance costs.

In light of the increasing fuel prices, their lower fuel consumption ensures extra savings of ₹2.5 lakhs per annum, which leads to savings of as much as ₹8 to ₹10 lakhs during a five-year period. Our backhoe loaders also come with a higher resale value, given the quality and durability of components used in their manufacturing. All these attributes make our SHINRAI range more economical to run, and guarantees higher earnings over their entire life cycle.

Sorab Agarwal, ACE: Our new Backhoe Loaders not only conform to the latest emission standards but provide customers increased reliability, enhanced productivity, and reduced operating costs for optimum profitability. The machines have been tested extensively across the country in all possible applications before their launch and have proved to be even more fuel-efficient and productive.

ACE Backhoe loaders are a 100% Swadeshi product offering the value proposition of “Sahi Daam Jyada Kaam” that meets all the cost, performance, and productivity criteria as a profitable investment.

Our Backhoe Loaders enable maximum profits due to their advanced engine technology, which makes them high performing machines with minimum fuel consumption as they adhere to the current emission regulations. What’s more, our GPS (advanced telematics system) helps to manage and monitor the machines remotely which helps in ensuring their health and thereby their availability and productivity.

Parthibhan, Bull Machines: Our new Challenger model consumes less fuel as compared to any other machine in the market. Our customers save ₹45,000 per month which is almost equal to their monthly EMI, which will tantamount to the extra profit that customers of our backhoe loaders can make in their machines’ total lifecycle.

Sandeep Mathur, Case: Our BSIV compliant FX Series of Backhoe Loaders are based on global engineering know-how and expertise. They have the world-renowned FPT engine which delivers excellent power, performance, and fuel efficiency. A new generation hydraulics varies the hydraulic flow as per the load and improves fuel consumption by up to 14 percent. A combination of eco mode and auto-idle functions enhances fuel efficiency by up to 20 percent and reduces operating costs significantly. They also have a faster cycle time compared to gear pump, which improves productivity.

The fuel efficiency of a machine is one of the key considerations. With the new emission norms across the world, technology has evolved to create machines that have a reduced carbon footprint. New machines with electronic engines are very environment-friendly and economical as the fuel expenses are limited due to accurate metering with the ECU present. Plus, they provide maximum productivity and efficiency.

Our new range of FX Series of Backhoe Loaders has reduced operating costs due to the technological interventions, which has also reduced the maintenance frequency for the entire life cycle of the product; this compensates for the machine’s initial higher cost.

Amit Bansal, Caterpillar: Our new Cat® 424 Backhoe Loader has the same rugged reliability as that of Cat 424B2. In fact, it gives better performance, higher fuel efficiency, and operator comfort that enhances operator productivity – factors which lower our customers’ owning and operating costs.

Cat® 424’s CEV Stage V engine meets current and future emissions standards for increased longevity in the market, while providing significantly more fuel efficiency than its predecessor and other competitive models that are adhering to CEV Stage IV standards.

Cat 424 features a new and a stronger parallel lift loader arm design that delivers high breakout forces and improved material retention when lifting the loader bucket. It delivers a 15 percent increase in lift force and a 30 percent increase in tilt performance, while offering faster cycle times and smoother control. The machine’s higher operating weight results in superior rim pull and powerful loader performance.

The Cat 424’s new stylish cab integrates Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS) and Falling-Object Protective Structure (FOPS) to protect operators and give them a safer work environment. As an industry first, this backhoe loader is introducing windows integrated into the door’s design to improve cab ventilation while operating in dusty environments. The single-piece rear window combined with smaller cab pillars provides excellent all-around visibility. To further improve workstation comfort, air conditioning with 14 ducts facing the operator is also available.

Jalaj Gupta, Mahindra: The new BS IV diesel engines of Mahindra EarthMaster, as per the stipulated newer emission regulations, feature CRDI Engine technology. The engines are fitted with a bigger and more powerful catalytic converter known as the Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC). This mandatory fitment in diesel vehicles makes the fuel combustion process more efficient and reduces emission of harmful hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide.

To be deemed BSIV compliant, Mahindra’s new backhoe loaders come with onboard diagnostics (OBD), whereby an in-vehicle electronic panel will continuously monitor engine performance and display the vehicle’s vital stats in real time.

Mahindra Construction Equipment has been a pioneer in providing telematics solution to its customers. Continuing the legacy, we have introduced iMAXX Telematics (a prognostic, diagnostic and predictive fleet management system) in our entire range of EarthMaster and RoadMaster machines. The operator or owner can think of it as their personal assistant that updates them with vital information about the equipment and their business.

iMAXX is a tried and tested solution in our trucks’ business and has benefitted the customers in many ways. With effective machine monitoring it also alerts on the preventive maintenance triggers to avoid any major breakdown, thereby ensuring higher availability of the backhoe loaders. The operating cost assures a 10 percent+ profit margin to customers compared to other machines in normal working conditions.

Deepak Shetty, JCB India: Since the transition to BS IV emission standards requires a significant step-change in technology, we have invested extensively in the training and skilling of our dealers and service support teams. The hydraulic oil change period is now extended from 2,000 hours to 4,000 hours, and the hydraulic oil quantity reduced by 20 litres. This results in a 15 percent lesser cost of periodic maintenance, which significantly improves the total cost of ownership.

JCB also offers the 3DX ecoXpert which is powered by the revolutionary Intelli PERFORMANCE technology. This optimises fuel-efficiency whilst retaining performance and manages the power demand. It also features an in-built auto-stop to automatically shut the engine after 6 minutes of inactivity to save fuel. All these features increase fuel efficiency by up to 12 percent. Our new backhoes are loaded with 30 innovative features, which include a digital speedometer, Bluetooth music system, an informative colour display, an auto-stop feature, and a new comfortable seat.

Hafeez Khan, Manitou: The majority of sales of the backhoes is understandably from the hirer segment, mainly due to the increase of price in initial buying of the machine. However, the overall cost of ownership is the major factor, which will impact the buying decision.

Our Manitou MBL machine packs a more fuel-efficient and robust Kirloskar BSIV engine, making it profitable for the users. The BS IV engine has two variants: 74.5 Naturally Aspirated in MBL 745S and the 74.5 High Torque in MBL 745HT S.

With 74.5 NA we also have a variant with a banana boom-MBL 745 RANGER. The ECU coupled with the Common Rail Direct Injection (CRDI) system provides higher output power and torque rises, while offering enhanced fuel efficiency by 10%. The engine mounted after treatment device used is DOC (Diesel Oxidation Catalyst). The Regionalised Cooling system is designed to operate with ease in demanding and extreme conditions like dust and high ambient temperature. As regards aftersales, we offer a standard extended warranty for 2 years or 4000 hours for our MBL series.
Tata Hitachi

Our SHINRAI backhoes offer the highest hydraulic oil change interval in the segment, are more economical to run, guarantees higher earnings over their entire life cycle, and have a high resale value.

Sandeep Singh, Tata Hitachi

What initiatives are being taken to use Alternate Fuels in the CE Industry?

Hafeez Khan, Manitou: The use of alternative fuels and electrification of vehicles is still at a very nascent stage, especially for the Construction Equipment segment. On a global level, there is an observation that the next big thing is ‘electric’ for mobility and productivity of construction equipment. The same shift in electric is expected to be seen in India as an alternate fuel. However, this will have a huge impact on the infrastructure as there is an absolute need for charging points, their cost implications, government policies, frameworks, etc. Demand is also seen for CNG and Hydrogen, but it is limited to a few pockets where there is an abundance of gas available.

As regards the impact of alternate fuels on the productivity of the machines, their efficiency of design and engineering will be tested very rigorously since the site challenges are very dynamic and the company’s responsiveness will hold the key to their machine’s assured productivity. At Manitou, our R&D team is continually working on new fuel alternatives and new machine designs etc. so that we can offer the benefits to our customers and save the environment as well.

Deepak Shetty, JCB India: Innovation is one of the cornerstones of our operations. In 2020, JCB India launched the industry’s first dual-fuel CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) Backhoe Loader in India, called the JCB 3DX DFi. This new machine can operate on CNG and diesel simultaneously, using the HCCI (Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition) technology.

Utilisation of alternative fuels could be a significant step-change in the construction equipment vehicle sector. Since the JCB 3DX DFi operates on a mixture of CNG and diesel, there is a substantial drop in particulate emission, which also leads to a reduction of proportionate CO2 emissions.

This dual-fuel machine can substitute diesel with CNG and has been developed to cater to the evolving needs of our customers in India and will also be exported to countries around the world. The dual-fuel CNG Backhoe Loader is based on JCB’s same 3DX model; it offers flexible fueling, which will help customers sustain their construction activities in remote areas where a CNG refilling point is unavailable. CNG is also more economical for the end-customer as it helps lower the operating costs.

Amit Bansal, Caterpillar: Use of alternative fuels and electric vehicles will gain traction as more and more countries and organizations move towards this goal. Currently, there are some challenges with regards to low energy density, availability, and handling of alternative fuels, but the advantages will surely outweigh the challenges; so, there will be faster adoption, going forward.

Likewise, in electric equipment, there are issues of charging infrastructure and the time taken for charging, but as the technology evolves, we should be seeing higher energy density batteries lasting longer with faster charge time.

Sandeep Mathur, CASE: Electrification is a growing global trend in the construction equipment sector. However, the speed of its adoption will depend on governments introducing mandates and incentives, and electric infrastructure developments to meet all the demands. There will have to be customers’ willingness to invest in a technology (which is still in its early days) that has a cost implication. At CASE, we are already on the path to electrification. In 2021 we delivered our (first) two CASE 580 EV backhoe loaders, which are working with utilities in New York.

Very importantly, the strategic acquisition of mini-excavator manufacturer Sampierana has brought their in-house capabilities in electric power trains. The industrialization of full electric models is well underway, and on track for the launch of the first CASE electric mini excavator in 2022.
Manitou

In our MBL 745 RANGER, the ECU coupled with the CRDI system provides higher output power and torque, and enhanced fuel efficiency by 10%.

Hafeez Khan, Manitou

Sandeep Singh, Tata Hitachi: We are open to working with alternate fuels to minimize operational costs. This is already a trend in highly regulated markets looking for a larger and a greener product footprint.

We do have technologies available with respect to different types of electric drives with our principal Hitachi Construction Machinery (HCM). We can access it at any point to introduce machines, should the need arise. However, these introductions will largely be driven by needs of customers, their buying capacity and a willingness to change, and the availability of engines that can use alternate fuels.

We anticipate that CNG/LNG will become increasingly popular in the near term. The industry is working towards ready transition to ensure that we are geared to offer machines that run on these fuels as and when they become widespread in the country, and customers are ready to make the switch. This is a fuel that looks to be promising in terms of economics of operation.

Since India’s CE industry is highly cost-sensitive, customers have been extremely cautious in trying out alternate fuels, either due to increased cost or lack of availability. We must also factor in the time lag between customers in more developed countries vis-a-vis Indian customers in switching to alternate fuels and energy sources.

Sanjeev Bajaj, ECEL: Escorts has always focused on development and readiness of future technology and is keen to contribute to a greener environment as per the government’s initiatives. We were the first company in India to display the hybrid Backhoe Loader in 2019.

Currently we have projects in pipeline related to new technologies. As you are aware, Escorts is the first company to commercially launch an Electric Tractor and it is getting exported. So at the right time, we will be offering alternative solutions to our customers.

The construction equipment industry will have to get aligned with the environmentally friendly approach the world over and work on alternate fuels and power sources. The technology is evolving and developing rapidly as can be seen in the automobile / commercial vehicle industry. With fresh research data coming in, construction equipment will be supported for getting the required productivity parameters with alternate fuel sources.

Sorab Agarwal, ACE: We are seeing lot of focus on emission reduction across the globe and it will gain momentum to meet net zero commitment by 2050. The Automobile sector is already witnessing early stage of transformation with electric vehicle adoption and it is imperative for the CE industry to also adopt cleaner technology to reduce emissions.

Productivity is a key factor in deciding the choice of technology or fuel type. Right now, there is a lot of work in progress to develop products with green technologies. And much needs to be done to fine tune the alternative fuel technology/fuel type, their availability, and related infrastructure.

Parthibhan, Bull Machines: We are working on electrical drive solutions which call for an entirely out-of-the-box approach. With my background in R&D, we are giving a lot of importance to new/emerging technologies. However, we believe that one must not work in haste, but remain watchful of the evolving demand trends. We have found that working with alternate fuels is very challenging, but we are confident that we will carve a niche in this segment also - once demand attains critical mass. We will soon be introducing new products in the electric segment like electric wheel barrows, skid steer loaders, and mini excavators.
ACE

Our 100% Swadeshi backhoe loaders are a profitable investment as they are meeting customer requirements of affordability, performance, and productivity.

Sorab Agarwal, ACE

How are OEMs ensuring Safety & Operator Comfort in their Backhoe Loaders?

Sorab Agarwal, ACE: Our Backhoe Loaders are designed with a robust structure to ensure safe and stable operation across all kinds of applications. A lot of focus is given on cabin design and ergonomics to provide best-in-class operator comfort and enhance his productivity.

Our new backhoe loaders offer greater stability, performance, and reliability. Large box-section structures in high-stress areas such as the boom nose, foot and cylinder, enhance the machines’ durability. The heavy-duty front axle, ensures that all the wheels remain in contact with the ground - even on the roughest of terrains.

Jalaj Gupta, Mahindra: Our EarthMaster range comes with an ergonomically designed cabin for superior operator comfort. The cabin has tinted glass, a coat hanger, and a mobile and water bottle holder, among other provisions that make it comfortable and safe for operators.

Mahindra is a forerunner in designing and manufacturing products with features that allow lower cost of operations. Mahindra’s Product Development Team utilizes extensive consumer insight and feedback to develop products which are built to withstand India’s rough terrains and heavy usage, and come with the latest vehicle systems and technologies. This enables customers to hedge the impact of higher initial costs of the products as our machines deliver higher productivity.

Deepak Shetty, JCB India: Our Backhoes are equipped with a new digital display, a Tripmeter, an SOS switch, and Guide Me Home external lights that stay on for 30 seconds when the ignition is turned off in a dark place. A spacious cabin with a new comfortable seat, enhance operator safety, comfort, and ease of operation.

Using the ‘Intellidiagnostic’ system, our service engineers can do faster machine diagnostics for higher uptime and productivity.

Hafeez Khan, Manitou: The operator is the first line of contact with the machine; and its performance and productivity is the coefficient of operator comfort. Our new MBL has a spacious cabin which is equipped with best-in-class operator seat with a head– and an armrest, an audio system, smooth adjustable levers, and tilt – all of which help reduce operator fatigue and stress.

Access to the cabin is made easier with conveniently placed grab rails. Ergonomically placed switches, lever, and control clusters with large, easy to read indicators and warnings, a battery cut-off switch provided as standard to protect against electrical fires and theft when the machine is not in use, are features that enhance operator productivity without compromising on safety. An emergency cut-off switch can be used by the operator to stop the engine immediately during a hazardous situation.

The MBL has robust features for multi-application functionalities which help deliver higher uptime and low maintenance. Additional reinforcements on boom and dipper tubes add extra strength and make the machine more reliable. In-built Loader Locking Strut enhances safety during idle position and maintenance work. The powerful and dual delivery pump unique Unloader Controlled Hydraulics (UCH) are engineered to optimize engine power and thereby increase fuel efficiency. With optimum Total Cost of Ownership, our customers get better RoI in the lowest possible time.
ECEL

The BSIV emission norms and our DIGMAX II and XT 1610 backhoes with the respective KOEL and Escorts CRDI engines have enhanced productivity and improved problem identification and resolution through an Interactive Digital Cluster Solution.

Sanjeev Bajaj, ECEL

Amit Bansal, Caterpillar: Our Cat 424 and Cat 424B2 backhoe loaders are designed to facilitate ease of operation, safety, and efficiency, and give low owning and operating costs to our customers. The backhoes integrate ROPS and FOPS to protect operators and give them a safer work environment. The loader arm and buckets have a heavy-duty torque tube design that can withstand heavy loads. Improved structural strength combined with increased machine weight results in improved loader performance. The new machine design allows for two-wheel drive for maximum fuel efficiency and four-wheel drive for maximum performance on hilly and difficult terrains. To further improve workstation comfort, effective air conditioning option is also available.
Caterpillar

Our new Cat® 424 Backhoe Loader is rugged, fuel-efficient, and its comfortable cabin enhances operator productivity – features that lower customers’ owning and operating costs.

Amit Bansal, Caterpillar

Sandeep Singh, Tata Hitachi: Operator friendliness and ergonomics are key differentiators for us. Since the operator station is the point of direct interface between man and machine, we have worked on developing superior safety, ergonomics, and comfort. These include cabin protection and compliance to international safety standards, seating comfort to match international standards, proper layout of controls for better ergonomics, quality materials and build quality to ensure optimum performance of the machine, proper layout of components and adherence to safety standards in the design of the machines.

Our SHINRAI backhoe loaders are equipped with standard safety features like FOPS cabin, seat belt, and battery cut-off switch. Additional provisions include a music system with FM/AM/AUX/USB, comfortable operator and helper seats, and ample storage space.

Sandeep Mathur, CASE: Our machines are well-equipped with features that ensure safety and comfort of the operator. Our recently launched BS (CEV)-IV compliant FX Series of backhoes has a world-class cabin, carefully built with safety and comfort features, which include an audio-visual warning system for quick information, engine protection shutdown, electric side shifts lock inside the cabin, battery cut off, lockable and sloping engine hood. Additional provisions are a mobile holder, 12V power socket and USB port, electronic foot throttle, pillar mounted HVAC controls, and additional open and lockable storage spaces for operators’ convenience.

The technology in our new range of FX Series of Backhoe Loaders has reduced operating costs and maintenance frequency for the entire life cycle of the product which compensates for the machine’s initial higher cost.

Sandeep Mathur, CASE

Parthibhan, Bull Machines: Our backhoe loaders have ROPS and FOPS features. We offer adjustable steering columns and an optional air conditioner, and a pilot-operated joystick.

What Customer Service & Support are OEMs offering to customers?

Deepak Shetty, JCB India: After-sales support is one of the key deciding factors in the overall buying cycle of a product and plays a significant role as we stride towards resuming growth in the market.

The big-ticket infrastructure development projects demand specialised, intelligent and technologically advanced construction equipment, supported by consistent, quick, and effective after-sales services, to achieve the best quality output on tight timelines.

With a wide distribution network of 60+ dealers and over 700 outlets across India, JCB India provides an unmatched distribution and service network to its customers. Since JCB machines work in far-flung areas, it is imperative that well-connected product support minimises downtime and maximises productivity.

Our dealers employ about 8,000 professionally trained personnel across India to extend product support to customers for their equipment. Five strategically located warehouses at Pune, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Guwahati and Bhaproda (near New Delhi) support these dealerships and outlets for parts supplies. Our recently inaugurated warehouse at Bhaproda is the industry’s largest with an area of about 160,000 sq.ft.

JCB genuine parts are also available online through a mobile App, which makes it convenient for customers as the parts are door delivered. Plus, our Livelink connects our machines with customers, dealers, and JCB team members on a real-time, 24x7 basis for better asset management.

Hafeez Khan, Manitou: Our Backhoe Loaders come with Manitou standard telematics called Easy Manager, which is now available by default in all our MBLs, enabling the operator to have a digital twin of his machine on his smartphone with MyManitou App. Our customers can now plan their Manitou fleet better and optimize their business; access live machine information like total running hours, fuel consumption, operational functions etc; track, trace and control their machine usage; protect their equipment from unauthorized usage; and get real time updates. These features only guarantee lower Total Cost of Operations and higher productivity, but also maximize lifetime customer value.

Expansion of our dealer network and services is a continuous process at Manitou as the company strives to provide customers the best services. Our core KPIs are on-time responsiveness, low machine downtime, and reduced total cost of ownership for customers using our world-class technology-driven products.

Amit Bansal, Caterpillar: Cat dealers are providing customized CVAs (Customer Value Agreements) for hassle-free ownership of the equipment and superior value over the life of the product. These solutions coupled with Cat Financial deliver great value to customers.

We offer digital-enabled solutions to customers 24x7 so that their machine downtime is kept to a minimum. These are our strategic differentiators.

We are focusing on aftermarket opportunities in parts and services with our dedicated dealer networks GMMCO and Gainwell Commosales which have their service and sales branches in every location across the country. From parts availability to expert service diagnosis, planned maintenance to web-enabled condition monitoring, our dealers work alongside customers to improve machine uptime and performance.
Mahindra

The BSIV diesel engines in our EarthMaster featuring CRDI technology, are fitted with a more powerful catalytic converter which makes the fuel combustion process more efficient and reduces harmful emissions.

Jalaj Gupta, Mahindra

Sandeep Singh, Tata Hitachi: To ensure the operating viability of new products and to enable dealers to make their operations viable, we have been extending the service intervals to reduce our customers’ overall operating costs. Tata Hitachi SHINRAI, for instance, offers the highest hydraulic oil change interval in the backhoe loader segment.

SHINRAI backhoe loaders and other machines are connected through a telematics suite to ensure close monitoring of real-time operational, maintenance, location, and health data. Frequent reports on performance, efficiency, and machine productivity, allow customers to visualize the operation and health status of their machines, improve their efficiency, and better manage maintenance. This ensures a significant minimization of downtime, thereby enhancing productivity.

Our dealers are also continuously opening new touch points and are investing in support infrastructure like Field Diagnostic Vehicles (FDVs) as well as full-fledged workshops and mobile workshops so that we can reach customers in the minimum possible time. We are also constantly training our service personnel to deliver timely and consistent support to customers.

Sandeep Mathur, CASE: We are setting up facilities at key customer sites for on-site solutions to ensure parts inventory along with service engineers at site. This facility monitors the machines daily and ensure maximum uptime so that the work runs smoothly.

Our dealer network expansion is subject to customer requirements and we are always open to look at their requirements. Meanwhile, we are also introducing a customer app for customers to connect with us digitally for their service and parts requirements.

Sorab Agarwal, ACE: To cater to the widespread use of our machines, and to provide effective pre-sales and after sales service, we have developed a network of dealers and we have offices operating from 100 locations, which are supported by 15 Area / Regional Offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Pune, Jaipur, Raipur, Bhubaneswar, Lucknow, Indore, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Vizag and Cochin. These Area / Regional Offices are in turn supported by the Marketing HQ and a dedicated Product Support Division in Faridabad.

Most of the spares including the critical ones are stocked at our dealer points so as to ensure seamless support. We also offer an exclusive toll-free service to our clients. We recently carried out extensive skill development program for our dealers, sales and service personnel. We are always reviewing market trends and customer demands so that we can realign our business with the changing economic and social environment.

Sanjeev Bajaj, ECEL: We have a strong front line team of engineers both with channel partners as well as our own supporting technicians. They are all well trained on the new BSIV technology to fully assist customers.

Our services are supplemented by a strong and widespread network of 74 3S dealers, 60 parts distributors, and over 800 CTP (Customer Touch Points). Our Android / IOS-based customer service app enables customers to be in touch with us 24x7 and also get the latest updates.

Jalaj Gupta, Mahindra: Our new BS IV backhoe loaders have been validated on all performance, safety and reliability parameters and are backed by Mahindra’s 50+ dealer sales and service network. We will be coming up with a unique service proposition, which will challenge the CE industry to think out-of-the-box. One of our recent initiatives - iMAXX Telematics – is enabling customers to diagnose and manage their fleets. Such disruptive solutions will ensure profitability and peace of mind to our customers.

Parthibhan, Bull Machines: We are offering Bull infomatics - a telematic solution for customers to have control over the overall operations. We consider dealers as our extended partners and are aware that their financial viability is our responsibility. So, we are working very closely with both our dealers and end-users to make their businesses profitable.

Our four newly launched BSIV emission norm compliant backhoe loaders are delivering very high performance which has led to a strong brand recall of our brand.

Parthibhan, Bull Machines
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