As per a report by Off-Highway Research, the long-term future trend for the excavator industry remains positive and demand is expected to grow with a CAGR of 16 percent during 2021-2023 and reach 28,000 units, but is expected to come down to 25,000 units in 2024 due to the election year.
Anticipating a demand recovery in 2021 with stalled projects taking off, excavator manufacturers are aggressively promoting their products on the back of their technologically advanced features and a range of attachments. Escalating competition in design and technology is driving manufacturers to make operational advancements in their excavator engines, hydraulic system, structure, tracks, and cab design to increase fuel-efficiency and productivity. OEMs are also making more advancements in their telematics, which has gained increasing popularity with equipment owners keen to optimize their machine’s uptime and safety.
To make their excavators usable in a wider variety of applications, most of the companies are offering a range of attachments for deep digging, drainage cleaning, braking, crushing, soft soil areas, digging/loading of different types of materials etc. Attachments include buckets, breakers, tracks, booms, bucket crushers, arms etc. The demand is visible across projects like irrigation, mining, quarrying, and municipal applications like drainage cleaning and infra development in urban spaces.
The revival may not be in absolute terms as was witnessed during the pre-Covid period, however, through improvisations being made in the machines and with more product support, the manufacturers are looking to maximize their customers’ return on investment, even as profit margins remain under pressure.
In the current market scenario, where liquidity has become an issue, equipment buyers are also looking at options like leasing, and refurbishing of their existing fleet. In view of this, many CE companies are seriously considering expanding their services to meet these needs. They are offering flexible leasing to prospective buyers and the option of renting their machines to contractors, which they see as another avenue to grow their business.
Tata Hitachi: In tune with customer demand
Tata Hitachi’s mini excavators for use by municipal corporations is a niche business, yet one that holds potential. Says Singh, “Mini excavators figure high in our marketing plan given the range of jobs they can perform, especially in extremely confined areas, such as cleaning of drains. This is due to the highly flexible attachment in the front. These versatile machines can perform tasks with minimum disruption of pedestrian and traffic movement. Our mini excavators come with a range of buckets, rock breakers, etc. Customers can choose any model of excavator depending on the volume of material to be handled and other site and production requirements.”
The structural strength of Hitachi excavators has been enhanced with the right choice of materials and design parameters based on inputs from the company’s R&D teams in India and Japan. Informs Singh, “Tata Hitachi has been the pioneer in bringing quarry specific tracks to meet the tough, challenging requirements of quarry applications. Our quarry variant has special design elements built in it, based on our extensive experience in quarry applications in India. The cabin, for instance, is designed to offer more safety, comfort, visibility, and ease of operation, which leads to higher productivity. Machine performance parameters such as speed of operation, digging force and reach are optimally balanced.”
The Optimum Hydraulic system (OHS) (an original Hitachi hydraulic system) of Tata Hitachi’s EX Super+ Series enables smooth combined operations without any starvation or compromise. This helps operators to do more than one movement at a time, and at a rapid pace, which increases the overall speed of operation. The machines have an in-built fuel saving design coupled with sub systems like the fuel saving pump system, regeneration circuits, cross sensing summation system, and several other features, all of which enhance the productivity and efficiency of the machines. “The technologically advanced ZAXIS GI Series has all these features along with positive pressure control mechanism and cutting-edge microprocessor controls that take performance and efficiency to new heights,” says Singh.
He informs that after equipping their ZAXIS GI series of excavators with telematics, Tata Hitachi subsequently developed a telematics suite for their home-grown machines and their EX Super + excavators. “Integrating Telematic in the machines brings them virtually into customers’ offices as information from the machines reaches them via email, sms and mobile apps. Armed with this information, our internal information system helps us reach our customers for the required support. Customers can monitor, analyze, and improve the performance of their machines based on the guidance provided by the system. For instance, timely maintenance alerts help customer in keeping their machines in good condition and thus reduce their downtime,” he says.
To enable varied applications, Tata Hitachi offers customized solutions as well as standard offerings with options of standard arms, long arms and super long reach booms and arms. Bucket types include bulk excavation, general purpose, heavy duty, light duty, extra light duty, coke handling, salt handling, ditch cleaning, skeleton type, sand loading, granite handling and block handling scoop buckets. The undercarriages can be adapted for various applications like general purpose, quarry applications, marshy underfoot conditions, etc. Additional customized front attachments include rock breakers, quick couplers, augers, grabs and grapples, magnets, and clamshells.
Tata Hitachi has also entered the rental business. Observes Sandeep Singh, “The CE market in India lags behind the world in rentals. We still do not have an efficient and sizeable rental business model in place. But post Covid, there will definitely be a move to expand the rental business as companies will look for efficient allocation of their resources and capital. In fact, we are already seeing an initial movement towards organized rentals and the benefits of cost, quality, and customization are being recognized. We started our rental business in 2019 and will be promoting our machines along with their attachments and customizations. All our products will be backed by our commitment towards their upkeep and an assurance on their hours of usage.”
JCB India: Investing in technology
The 20T and 21T models save up to 32% fuel in the economy mode vs outgoing models and have a robust dig end and X-type frame, designed for the arduous quarry jobs. The JCB 225QM has 8 power modes, giving operators the flexibility to work in the right mode and in a variety of applications. The machine is powered by ecoMAX engine which produces 170 HP and provides excellent torque of 695 Nm. The model comes with reduced maintenance and a warranty provision of 2 years or 5,000 hours of operation. With a deep section boom design, improved hydraulic filtration, and heavy-duty track chain assembly, it is exceptionally durable; and the heavy-duty cab guards ensures more safety to the operator.
JCB NXT range of excavators, designed for high productivity and fuel efficiency, comes with 10 working modes and increased efficiency of up to 32% in the Eco mode on models JCB NXT205 and JCB NXT215LC. The low maintenance excavator range offers a standard warranty of 2 years or 5,000 hours. The deep section boom and hydraulic filtration give the excavators increased durability. JCB NXT 245 HDLR can dig to a depth of up to 40 feet and has a reach up to 51 feet. Equipped with energy saving JCB eco hydraulics, it stands out as an extremely fuel-efficient machine. Its strong X-type frame coupled with pre-installed hose burst check valve for boom and arm make it one of the most robust and safest excavators. ‘intellicontrol’ - a Live Link-enabled solution gives critical information on the operations of the equipment remotely.
JCB mini excavators are being used for urban development projects that demand compact machines to work in restricted spaces and municipal jobs. The range includes the 3-ton to 6-ton category in models such as 30 plus, 50z, 51R and 55z. The 50z and the 55z come with a zero tail swing design for higher performance and versatility when used in tight spaces. They also have a range of attachments like soil drills, rock breakers, etc, and customized mode selection which allows the operator to choose from light, eco, heavy or heavy+ depending on the work.
”With infrastructure being developed in many urban areas, our mini excavators are finding great utility,” says Deepak Shetty. “The mini has a lot of potential for use in space-constricted urban/semi-urban areas and our compact/mini excavator finds great utility in fields like power, irrigation, and housing projects.”
Elaborating on JCB’s Live Link advanced telematics, Shetty informs that the technology has improved the productivity, reliability, and efficiency of JCB machines by relaying information on their productivity, maintenance, location etc, in real time, 24x7. “Till date, approximately 1,60,000 Live Link-enabled JCB machines have been sold. These machines can be monitored for security, operations and service (SOS) on our customers’ mobile devices; they can be geo-fenced, time-fenced, and located anywhere. Customers get to know their machine’s health, fuel level, battery conditions, service schedule, and other critical parameters.”
JCB India, which currently has 700 customer service outlets and over 60 dealers, is also looking at providing product and parts support directly as a major business avenue. Its ‘JCB genuine parts application’ enables customers to order JCB parts online. Says Shetty, “Our online sales of parts have increased from 3% to 15% due to the Covid lockdown. Online sales also provide us an opportunity to service our customers at their doorstep.” He informs that an internal tool – Smart Serve has been developed by the company to help dealerships to support engineers to improve efficiency and productivity, thereby improving profitability.
L&T: Customer-friendly solutions
To make the PC210-10M0 suited to varied applications, there are different undercarriage options such as standard and long-crawler (LC), and shoe widths of 600 mm and 800 mm. The excavator comes with attachments like rock breakers, crusher buckets, slope compactors, long reach, attachments for drilling, piling, and demolition, and clamshell for material handling, etc. Slope compactor attachments and crusher buckets are manufactured in-house by L&T, while the rock breakers and demolition tools are sourced from Komatsu and Rammer, and the piling hammers from Movax.
Buckets in the Komatsu PC210-10M0 range from 0.90 to 1.7 cum; while the Komatsu, PC300-8M0 and PC350-8M0 excavators have 1.4 to 2.3 cum buckets. For mass earthwork, Komatsu has developed the ME (More Efficient) bucket, designed to reduce resistance while digging, and thereby increasing the fill factor and enhancing productivity. Besides these, there are specific block handling buckets for granite and marble mines. “Our application specialists recommend the excavator model, bucket size, and undercarriage based on an understanding of the customer’s application. More attachments for specialized applications are in the offing,” says Garg.
Komatsu and L&T were the pioneers in introducing advanced telematics with the patented health monitoring system KOMTRAX; it provides a detailed analysis of the machine’s performance remotely along with alerts on maintenance and any abnormalities. “The user can virtually see almost all performance parameters and plan the maintenance and preventive repairs accordingly,” says Garg. A special feature of eco-guidance indicates the operator skills in real-time and helps in identifying training needs subsequently. It also provides mode selection and idle time for better site optimization and improved efficiencies.
The company is also targeting a wider customer base with its standard product offerings. Says Garg, “Generally, about 40% of customers buy the low-cost, mid-size machines for rental purposes, so our base models are the most suitable for this segment. We also offer certified used equipment which is attractive to customers facing a liquidity crunch.”
The Machine Care Program (MCP) - Suraksha - launched by Komatsu and L&T, offers extended power train warranty for its flagship models PC210, PC300 and PC350. Garg informs, “We recently upgraded our MCP to Suraksha 10,000, which extends the power train warranty up to 4 years / 10,000 hours of operation from the date of commissioning. This is an unprecedented and an unbeatable offer in the industry. We also offer value-added services like periodic and preventive maintenance, undercarriage inspection, training on energy saving for buyers of Komatsu premium equipment. Other schemes include the L&T Vishwas for excavator models PC71 and PC130.” He adds that Komatsu and L&T had extended the warranty period for all the equipment during the lockdown and supplied Covid-19 kits for operators and mechanics.
L&T has 6 service centers equipped to undertake complete refurbishment of components and machines, which also undergo complete load and performance tests. The company also offers ‘component RECON exchange’ to its customers as a quick repair solution to reduce breakdown time of their machines.
Kobelco India: Focus on R&D
The company is showcasing its technological competence and excavating solutions in the highly competitive Indian market. “Our in-house R&D facility in Japan is constantly working on meeting customer needs and expectations to come up with the best solutions. Our cabins, for instance, are designed to ensure a safe, healthy, comfortable, and efficient working environment for the operator. Our undercarriage provides stability and ease of movement over rough terrains due to the best-in-class traction power. All these features help deliver maximum value to the end-user,” says Moses.
Kobelco excavator owners rely on the company’s Geoscan to get timely data, based on which they can monitor their machines’ performance, get timely maintenance alerts, and information on the machines’ utilization and fuel consumption. “Our dealers are also able to resolve several issues remotely through the telematics platform ensuring higher uptime. Our advanced telematics has self-diagnostic capabilities for quick resolution,” informs Moses.
To enable wider applications of its excavators, Kobelco is offering a choice of attachments like buckets, breakers, devices for specific jobs, demolition tools, long reach attachments, clamshell grab, vibro-dipper, etc. Kobelco India dealers are servicing their customers’ operational and maintenance requirements of their machines, besides which, their is a company-owned component repair workshop in Chennai and one in Noida.
Hyundai: Innovating for fuel efficiency, reliability and performance
He adds: “Hyundai has a wide range of crawler excavators from 3T to 50T to work in all types of applications. In fact, we have been working continuously to upgrade our existing products for such applications and based on customer requirements for customization.
He informs that to make the excavators more application driven, Hyundai and the company’s in-house R&D and TD departments collaborate with the Global HQ at Korea to develop the best products, including futuristic models. “The core of design focus is fuel economy, reliable hydraulics, robust structures, and ergonomics. The cabin design of Hyundai Excavator, for instance, has an integrally welded low stress, high strength steel to meet ROPS/FOG standards for operator safety. The in-built RMS system allows online monitoring of all performance parameters by the machine owners.”
Hyundai has a fleet of 30,000 excavators working in India. To cater to varied application requirements, the company offers a range of product configurations such as long reach boom of 14.5M to 18.5M for well digging, deep digging and cleaning. The long crawler excavator is designed for better stability, especially for quarry application where the machine needs to be very stable during digging and lifting.
The excavators come with a range of buckets from heavy-duty for tough applications to general purpose buckets for light materials, buckets for desilting, canal cleaning etc. Hyundai rock breakers are designed for a variety of tonnage class of excavators and offer different types of chisels for different applications. The undercarriage is suitable for both general purpose and heavy-duty applications. For marshy areas and soft underfoot conditions, the company offers wider shoes on the excavator’s undercarriage for lower ground pressure and to work more efficiently. Says Chaturvedi, “The growing scarcity of manual labor and the need for better productivity, together with the nature of projects in urban and semi-urban areas, have been instrumental in leading to the development of a variety of attachments for use in road construction, irrigation, mining, quarrying, etc.”
Hyundai’s advanced remote management system - Hi-Mate - enables fleet monitoring, detects location, geo fencing, gives reports on equipment performance, periodic maintenance, fuel management, working hours summary, and real time alerts on critical parameters.
“We are seeing a global trend of application-specific excavators in India as well. For example, the mini excavator market (< 5T class) has grown significantly during the last 5 years. We are expecting the mini excavator industry to touch around 2500 units by 2023. Demand for mini excavators is likely to be necessitated by urban infrastructure projects, where excavators will be required to work in congested areas,” he says.
“We believe that innovative products will become the need of the hour, triggered by the global pandemic. We are offering our customers several finance options through tie-ups with leading NBFCs and banks. We also offer a customized finance package to our key customers and fleet owners to ensure the lowest Owning & Operating costs. Our financial support extends not only for acquiring new machines but also during their disposal and for buying new ones,” adds Chaturvedi.
Sany India: Tech-rich solutions
Sany excavators are designed for heavy-duty operating conditions with fuel economy. A powerful, fuel-efficient engine ensures high peak torque for optimum performance in the toughest of jobsites. Equipped with an advanced positive flow control hydraulic system and digging force, the machines can handle heavy duty operations very effectively.
The excavators have different work modes for adaptability and optimum performance. A revolutionary staged auto idle system reduces engine speed automatically in two stages when the machine is not in use, thereby saving more fuel. For smooth controllability, the excavators have special joystick controls, optimized valve core structures with regenerating channel, and added intelligent interflow control. The pressure loss is reduced; and operation control is improved resulting in smooth handling of equipment. Other safety provisions include an emergency stop switch, battery cut-off switch, seat belts, fire extinguisher, pilot controlled cut-off levers, etc.
The Dynamic Optimization Matching Control System (DOMCS) in Sany’s IoT enabled excavators ensures superior performance with higher fuel efficiency as per the external load demand by intelligent control on engines and the hydraulic pump power. It can capture the machines’ performance, including operating hours, location, maintenance alerts, fault alarms etc. Says Dheeraj Panda, “Telematics has improved customer engagement to a great extent. Our in-house developed EVI app helps customers to monitor and analyze the real-time performance of their machines onsite. Our GPS installed hardware helps them manage a single machine or a fleet of machines based on the real-time updates on their performance. What’s more, the daily performance information and historical data on the machines when analyzed, helps us in making more improvisations in our machines and in our support services.”
Sany’s comprehensive range of attachments expand the application areas of its excavators. Says Panda, “We offer customized solutions like scoop buckets, coal buckets and salt buckets depending on the application of the machine. There is a heavy-duty bucket for hard strata. The arms can be customized to different types and sizes as per the site requirement, for instance, our long reach arm is curated for our medium excavator segment due to its multi utility purpose. In the mini excavator segment, we offer customized solutions like auger with coupler, trench bucket and rubber track pads. Sany is also promoting its mini excavators given their fair amount of demand in municipal applications. All these attachments help in multi-utility of the machines. In the large excavators, we offer customized demolition attachment and a ripper attachment.”
With the rental market becoming an attractive business avenue, the company is also considering renting its machines to contractors. Says Panda, “The concept of equipment rental is picking up pace, especially during the current pandemic situation as customers are refraining from investing in the machines. We also offer prospective customers internal financing so that leasing our machines becomes fast and convenient for them.”
Case India: Optimizing solutions
He informs that the product has been developed keeping the Indian working conditions in mind. The boom and arm plate thickness have been increased by 33% and feature heavy-duty brackets and reduced tolerances, which increases component life, thereby minimizing the machine’s downtime. The excavator develops a gross power of 117 KW (157 hp) and peak torque of 622 Nm at 1800rpm due to the powerful engine, which reduces the transient time, making the hydraulic system immediately reactive to any load. The excavator has 5 energy saving controls which help in constant consumption monitoring, and an ECO gauge function that keeps the owners and operators updated on the machine’s usage. Two variable displacement axial piston pumps with a regulating system are combined with the CASE main valve (designed in Japan) for precise and efficient operations.
The HVAC cabin of Case excavators features an integrated 7-inch LCD monitor for real time monitoring, while an onboard diagnostic system gives the status of the machine with notifications on repair or maintenance. An ergonomically designed mechanical seat in the cabin has 8 different adjustments, and a system of vibration dampening, that protects the operator against fatigue. The excavators are equipped with CASE Intelligent Hydraulic System (CIHS) for machine control and fuel saving.
The Eagle Eye Telematics in Case excavators gathers critical data about the maintenance, tracking, utilization, and security of the machines and sends alerts in real time on fuel usage, battery, geofencing, engine etc. “It is a great way to boost productivity and reduce downtime,” says Mathur. “We have recently launched our Site Watch Platform with an all-new dashboard. The more intuitive navigation and new overview sections highlight critical information without requiring the user to search extensively for the data.”
CASE’s financial arm - CNH Capital – is tackling the liquidity issue faced by prospective customers. Informs Mathur, “We’re offering lucrative schemes that can facilitate easy purchase of our products and we even came up with multiple schemes during the pandemic. We have also introduced a 48-hour loan approval policy to provide easy loan service.”
“We offer extended warranties and service support so that our customers can use their machines more confidently knowing that CASE will support them through the machine’s lifecycle. CASE Care is a cost-effective service contract under which we monitor the machine’s performance and usage for preventive maintenance. CASE Protect is a comprehensive extended warranty which ensures expert care, round the clock availability, and hassle-free operations. For fleet owners, Case offers maintenance contracts with dedicated service manpower available at site to ensure uptime. For spare parts and product support, the company maintains a stock of spares at key locations. Even in these challenging times we are delivering parts and scheduling services via our comprehensive dealer network, keeping all the safety precautions in mind,” avers Mathur.
SDLG: Strengthening Volvo’s market presence
Says Surat Mehta, Head, SDLG Operations India, “There is a sizeable market for the 13-ton range in India, with an estimated 3000 units, annually. The excavator is specifically designed as per the parameters required for the tough Indian jobsite conditions, and has a robust structure, which means that it requires maintenance only every 250 to 500 hours, and all service points can be easily accessed from the ground level.”
He informs that the number one application for the new SDLG E6135Fi excavator is expected to be road construction, besides use in small quarries, small road construction projects, and for contractors/sub-contractors involved in ancillary jobs. Another potential application would be for digging irrigation channels, as the Indian government looks to bring greater efficiencies to the agriculture industry and to provide safe drinking water.
This new machine is loaded with technology, an advanced hydraulic system, and the cab has been designed with operator comfort in mind. Air conditioning is installed as standard and the cab is extra spacious with all the joysticks and controls laid out ergonomically. The superior all-round visibility of the jobsite also helps to make operations safer and more productive. A coloured LCD screen in the cab updates operators on the health and movements of the machine for preventative maintenance, promoting high uptime and thereby low total cost of ownership.
Power driven by the Deutz engine, it delivers 75 kv @ 2000 rpm, and features a strong undercarriage. A H-link casted head gives strength to the arms. The excavator comes with varied work modes that enable fuel saving, which is a standard feature in Volvo CE machines. SDLG is offering attachments such as buckets of 5.5 cum to 6.4 cum, rock breakers, grapples, and quick couplers so that the excavator can do various jobs.
Mehta informs that the excavator will be initially imported from SDLG’s Linyi facility, but once demand picks up, the company will consider manufacturing it in India. “After the introduction of motor graders and wheel loaders to the Indian construction industry, and now excavators, we will consider launching some more of our products in the Indian market. We will be looking at rental companies also,” he informs.
Schwing Stetter India: Expanding across regions
He adds, “Our XCMG excavators (imported from China) have established their ability to work in the rougher Indian conditions. The fact that we have sold 250 units in 2020 bears testimony to their popularity in India. For now, we will not be offering any attachments with the excavators, and as part of our product support, we will be training the operators. So far, we have been largely visible in India’s Southern markets; but we are now expanding our dealer network in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, and North East India.”