Slowdown in road construction projects has taken its toll on sales of motor graders. Significant dip in sales has been reported by motor grader manufacturers during 2011-12. Although, the industry reported positive sales during 2011, however, demand was not outstanding as registered during 2009 and 2010. Steep demand curtailment was during 2012. Slow awarding of the tenders, project and time cost overruns, on backdrop of raging inflation, consequently making the contractors appeal for revision of escalation clauses brought the conceived projects to a halt. Further, growing litigation and more recently, contractors altogether backing out of projects, citing reasons that are debatable have scuttled projects development altogether.
As a damage control exercise, the government and project developers are addressing the persisting teething issues, that have been delaying projects. This is despite well framed elaborate clauses, model concession agreements enshrined in government’s roadmap to develop and operate road projects through public private partnership models. It will be required to be seen till when the government and project developers are able to set a well amicable finer roadmap for putting road construction projects on fast tract. Till then, motor graders manufacturers may have to reconcile to falling sales.
However, sharing optimism they feel demand is well likely to revive as the government remains committed to infrastructure. Nonetheless, revival of demand would be characterized through stiff competition as manufacturers expect 2013 to be a better year. According to manufacturers, motor graders volume was around 350-400 units in 2010- 2011. During 2012, the total market dropped drastically by around 40% to around 250 units. The total market is expected to be around 400 units in 2013.
Product Positioning Vs Demand
The company expects to cushion competition and continue with sales through wide range of offerings from its stable. The official adds, "Caterpillar offers a wide range of imported motor graders that cater to multiple customer segment requirements right from heavy construction to haul road maintenance and mining applications. 120K2, 140K2, 14M, 16M, and 24M are the options where our customers can choose according to their specific grading requirements."
Mr. Muralidharan elaborates, "The top features of our motor graders resulting direct cost benefits are 3 power settings with 8F/4R transmission or 8 power settings with optional 11F/6R transmission: Volvo’s D8 / Tier 4i engine features increased displacement, power and torque. Engine characteristics are perfectly matched to Volvo transmissions, maintaining legendary Volvo grader productivity in the most demanding applications. Three or eight power settings automatically deliver optimum power in each gear for reduced wheel slippage and fuel consumption. Faster project executions are ensured through Volvo’s exclusive circle turn system uses twin gear, direct-acting hydraulic cylinders that provide instant, high output torque, enabling moldboard rotation under any load. This means there is no need to stop, reverse and change moldboard angle."
He adds, "Further safety is taken care of through Volvo ROPS/FOPS Care Cab. Cabs include plenty of glass for unobstructed views; easy-to-use ergonomic controls; a familiar steering wheel; comfortable seating and a Contronics system to keep operators informed of all functions in real time." Volvo offers 15T and 21T class motors graders for road application and mining applications. The products are being currently imported from Brazil for the Indian market.
The companies will look back to sales through their network and products support. According to Caterpillar, through its association with Gmmco & TIPL, it is bringing world-class customer support and offering training to its customer’s operators and site personnel. Together with Gmmco & TIPL, it offers value added services which ensure that the customer's project requirements of quality cost & time are met. Few examples of the value added services include customer support agreements, scheduled oil sampling (SOS), equipment protection plan, maintenance & repair contracts, equipment rental options, parts stocking etc.
Expanded product reach will be of Volvo CE’s strategy to build up and protect sales. Mr. Muralidharan says, "We have currently 14 dealers across India to render product support with an objective to ensure best of machine availability. In today’s market scenario, machine availability has become a crucial factor to complete projects in time thereby maximizing customer’s profit. Volvo trained service technicians and better availability of parts help to meet customer requirement within the time frame." Volvo Customer Centre facility located in Hosakote, Bangalore offers training programs to customer operators to improve operating skills to the desired level.
Product availability and support will be vital for the company to promote sales of its newly launched B-series, Case 845-B VHB (variable horsepower) and Case 865 B VHP motor graders for the Indian road construction market. The B-series motor graders are sold by CNH in African, Middle East and Russian markets. According to Mr. Bhatia, "The B-series motor graders feature 6.7 litres triple horsepower ranges on the 865 model and dual horsepower on the 845 B to match the power requirements of various applications and deliver optimum fuel efficiency." He adds, "the motor graders are equipped with forward mounted articulation joint and rear mounted cab, giving operators a commanding view of the complete mould board and ground engaging equipment. The spacious cab offers improved control layout, while maintaining the traditional 9-lever motor grader controls preferred by most operators."
Mr. Bhatia claims, "The case circle design with outer facing gear teeth, improves operations and serviceability, maintains gear power and increases the life of circle drive components." Gross power range of 845 B VHP is 150-173 hp with standard 3658 mm standard mould board and that of 865B VHP between 193-220 hp and 3962 mm standard mould board.
The models are fitted with Deutz and Cummins, 6 cylinder, water cooled, 4 stroke, top valve direct inject turbo charged engine delivering rated power output of 148-146-144 kw and 2300,1950 and 2200RPM.