Road equipment buyers are looking for greater support and service from manufacturers as the machines are finding wider deployment in road surface preparation and construction. NBM&CW reports.
The construction targets set by the Union Ministry of Highways for three years, have been keeping manufacturers of road construction equipment very busy, with demand outstripping supply. However, demand is coming with a tough rider from the equipment buyers such as the contractors, who, having bagged projects through intense bidding, are looking to optimize their investment through greater product support as part of the sales deal. Faced with the bargaining power of the buyers, manufacturers are reworking their equipment service offers, incorporating new technologies and making improvisations to ensure reliability and all-time availability of their equipment. Understanding client's job requirement and adding application-based features, is the other strategy to drive sales.
Case India: Driven by customer needs
He continues, "We try to add in features which are application-based for optimum utilization of the equipment. For instance, Case graders, which are used mainly for levelling and shaping a surface to very fine measurements, are the best available machinery in their class and are engineered to give a very long product life and productivity. This is supported by an FPT Industrial 6.7-liter engine with triple horsepower ranges on the 865B model and dual horsepower on the 845B to match the power requirements of various applications and deliver optimum fuel efficiency. The grader is offered with an automatic ZF Transmission. The machine has a multi curvature moldboard which reduces the resistance coming on the Engine, and hence reduces the fuel consumption."
For product support, Case India has put in place a centralized call center with a toll free number where the customer can log in a complaint to minimize downtime and maintain production schedules. Gupta informs, "We have introduced customer-driven product definition (CDPD) process wherein we invite equipment users to participate in defining and improving new products. This further helps to understand the customer needs in order to develop and test new models basis customer specifications. To keep the operators and customers up-to-date with latest practices and techniques we also have dedicated training centres which organizes training programs all-round the year."
To have onsite condition monitoring for preventive and proactive maintenance, Case has introduced 'Eagle Eye Telematic System'. "This is a real time vehicle tracking and communication based on GPS technology that helps deliver better value for money. Our other electronic interface includes, compaction meter. This on screen interface assists the operator can check amplitude, frequency and ICV (intelligence compaction value) which is related to density of soil compacted. This ICV value will be different for difference surface. Once desired density is achieved, there will be green signal on screen so that operator can stop compaction and avoid over compaction. Hence there will be saving of fuel, time and can avoid damage of surface." Informs Gupta. All Case light and heavy construction equipments machinery are backed with standard base warranty of one year and unlimited hours along with scheduled maintenance services at various hours
Case recently launched its 752 EX vibratory tandem compactor in EXCON17. It has wide offerings of 1107EX, 1107 EX-D, 1107EX-PD (11 T Class) vibratory soil compactors and Case 450 DX Vibratory mini Tandem Compactor (3T Class) in the compactor's segment. Case in its motor grader's segment have two models, 865B model with triple horsepower and 845B with dual horsepower. Case has a network net work of around 67 dealers with 200 plus touch points and a workforce of 750+ skilled engineers across the country. According to Gupta, "We have plans to further enhance their product offering and the dealership network to serve our customers at the best possible levels."
Caterpillar India: Accessing Critical information
He continues, "Cat 120K2, (145hp) and 140K2 (175-190hp) motor graders can be delivered with a unique AccuGrade™ Caterpillar sensor based on two-dimension technology. With this, the moldboard angle can automatically adjust itself on the gradients to be graded, which optimizes operator performance. This is very vital as most of the road projects have constrained schedules. This automation curtails deployment of extra people to manually measure grades. Overall, it leads to fuel saving as the job can be completed in shorter passes, thus enabling the operator to prepare the grader for next level of compaction, followed by grading of the sub-base."
He informs that Caterpillar has a unique Scheduled oil Sampling (SOS®) system, in which, oil can be drawn from different parts of the graders to check the life of components, engines, hydraulics and drives. Preventive repairs can then be carried out if necessary. Caterpillar ensures equipment availability with its 'Product Link' telematics that passes information to the dealers and owners on the usage pattern of graders, idling time, and fuel consumption. Critical working parameters like pressure abnormality can also be accessed through this system.
The company offers comprehensive pre sales support to its customers through its resident engineers, dealers and product application experts. Based on an evaluation of critical duty cycles like fill factors, dump factors, gradients and slopes to be graded, run down angle, and character of the strata to be graded, the most appropriate equipment is recommended to the customers, along with options of attachments like rippers etc.
Cat's exclusive dealers, Gmmco and Tractors India, provide best in class warranties for Cat 120K2 motor graders and stock all moving parts & non moving parts based on historical demand patterns. Caterpillar India, which has an active fleet of 700 graders, offers 'Reman' support services, under which, critical parts like engines, injectors, gears, motors and pumps are reconditioned.
Wirtgen India: Sharing information at every stage
He informs that for slip form pavers working on concrete road projects, the company's application support team organizes seminars to acquaint operators, site engineers, project managers and consultants on the features of the equipment, the precautions they need to take during operation, the right setting of the equipment to get the desired quality surface, the proper cleaning method of the pavers, and so on. A vital consideration for the project managers is to ensure continuous concrete feed to the pavers, since any stoppage of the machinery could lead to surface joints issues.
Adds Palagiri, "Our other vital pre-support consists of operators training. For contractors not possessing our machines, we get their operators trained at other contractors site having our machines. This is aimed at operators to get fully acquainted with the technology attributes and the nuances of operating the Wirtgen's machines."
"The operational duration for slip form pavers has been rising; they are now clocking almost 2000 hours compared to 800-1000 hours a few years back. Accordingly, we have reinforced greater coordination between our application and service teams, andalsodoubled our service personnel. We have done this across all our road construction equipment," he informs.
Wirtgen offers annual and full maintenance contracts. Parts are available through its 14 depots across the country, and it also stocks parts with customers who have a large fleet of equipment. Refurbishment of used equipment is done at the company's Pune facility.
JCB India: Relying on advanced technology
All JCB compactors offer lifetime lubricated center joints and grease-free bearings. This saves the costs of lubrication and reduces the possibility of failures in case of any negligence in greasing the joints. "In our range of world-class compactors, vibrations and heat levels are kept lowest to provide a comfortable work environment. Moreover, operator-friendly and ergonomically located controls with joystick, assist in easy operation," informs Singh.
Mahindra Construction Equipments: Delivering value
The company has an end-to-end association with its customers during pre and post sales period. Services include onsite demos of the equipment for operators, and post the commissioning of its equipment, it provides dedicated operator training by experts at its (five) regional service centers.
Mahindra's road equipment (graders and backhoe loaders) come with a one-year unlimited hours warranty, and its dedicated call centers pass on queries on product support to its network of 60+ dealers across the country. This ensures that the mean time to repair is one of the least for any Mahindra Construction Equipment. As part of its customer-connect initiatives post sales, the company organizes anniversary celebrations of its equipment and other activities to engage with their customers.
Escorts Construction Equipments: Extending necessary support
Beside ensuring better utilizations of equipment, manufacturers are also increasing their interactions with their customers. Says Chhabra, "For vibratory roller, our existing buyers are aware of their application, but with new buyers, we interact closely with them during presales to understand application and suggest the appropriate equipment. We also advice them on correct usage of machines. These inputs are shared with the owners and their operators by our service engineers too." ECE currently manufactures 10-& 12-ton soil compactors – EC 52520 and EC 3212, asphalt compactor in 10 T Category – HD-85, and 3-ton mini tandem rollers EC 3664.
Sany Heavy Industry India: Expanding market reach
Sany India has an estimated 200+ units of graders of 120-160-200-hp already working in the field. It conducts both factory and onsite training programmes to skill grader operators. Its dedicated call centers connect regularly with the customers to pass on information and reminders on timely repairs and maintenance of the spares and components of their equipment.
LiuGong India: Ensuring availability of equipment
With road projects concentrating on meeting deadline and avoiding penalty being imposed on failing the deadline over contractors, and corporate owners aspiring for a bonus from scheduled completion of projects, manufacturers are enhancing their maintenance schedules and extending their AMCs to ensure availability of their equipment for the users.
With most of the engines migrating to the electronic BS-4 from the mechanical BS-3, having telematics in the equipment is enabling manufacturers to deliver a higher total lifecycle cost for their equipment. Says Mehrotra, "Making our machineries IT-enabled is part of our global business strategy to make our machines intelligent, as it will ensure predictive and preventive maintenance through analyzing operating parameters like fuel consumption, engine performance etc."
LiuGong India has also enhanced its operator training programmes to help optimize its equipment performance. "Our earlier practice was to arrange for regular operators meet at our Indore facility and train them on the nuances of equipment operation and maintenance. However, to maximize the performance of our equipment for higher productivity, we have engaged three highly specialized and qualified internationally accredited operators to train our operators for one week. Training on maintenance is also given on our graders, dozers, excavators and loaders through our service engineers. As there is a dearth of well-trained grader operators, we have a 15-day training programme of Liuzhou Engineering College in association with the ITIs at Indore at our premises," informs Mr. Mehrotra.
To ensure timely parts availability and reduce the inventory costs of its dealers, LiuGong India is providing credit support to the dealers as per there territory machine population.
ACE: Product support and improvisation
A well-established product support mechanism is becoming an important criterion for equipment buyers and manufacturers conceding that this will foster brand retention and repeat orders.
He adds, "During pre & post sales, our H.O. Managers extend full support for product application, which is further coordinated by our Sales and Technical Heads. This is ensuring 95% availability of our equipment alongwith greater fuel efficiency, minimization of operating costs, higher equipment productivity and reliability." ACE manufactures vibratory compactors, tandem rollers, motor graders, backhoe loaders, pick-n-carry cranes and concrete placing booms for road construction jobs.
Product improvisation through design enhancement and components selection is another area that manufacturers are focusing on. ACE has placed a centralized lubrication system in its graders and compactors.
Says Mr. Agarwal, "We educate our customers regularly on the maintenance aspects through our Training Center at Faridabad which also provides guidelines for jobsites. However, we are aware of lapses by operators, particularly while greasing as there are 70-80 greasing points in motor graders and 20-30 greasing points in compactors. Greasing needs to be done on a daily basis as improper or delayed greasing can reduce the performance and reliability of the machines. Hence, we have put centralized lubrication system in our graders and compactors. Using a pumping mechanism installed in the operator's cabin, the operator can pump the grease which will be distributed through the connectors to the points."
ACE has an active fleet of 700 road equipment with graders accounting for 300+ units and the rest comprising of vibratory compactors and tandem rollers. It gives one year or 2000 hours warranty, whichever is earlier, and a 2 to 3-years extended warranty for all parts, excluding lubricants and wear parts. It undertakes refurbishment, overhauling, repair and painting of its equipment at its yards in Mumbai, Kolkata, Vizag, Chennai and and Faridabad.
Leeboy India: Inviting customer feedback
He adds, "Post-delivery of our equipment, we ensure its optimum utilization by sending our team of expert operators and trainers to the jobsite to familiarize the customer's operators with the machine. Our team also demonstrates how to extract full output from the equipment with optimal fuel efficiency. Our site support team takes care of routine product check-up and service, and our vehicle specialists keep visiting customers for product feedback. Thus, we get constant inputs from our customers."
Telematics in Leeboy equipment monitor its performance, detect any faults, deliver inputs on idle hours, total hours of operation, fuel pilferageetc, all of which can be reviewed online by the owner, dealer and Leeboy's product support department. Ramachandran informs that even in their base machines, which are fitted with mechanical engines, they have converted analog signals into digital and have placed controls to assist the operator. "These, however, do not interfere with the operation of the machine, hence, the fear of electrical / electronicspresent in all mechanical engines, is put to rest. In the advanced new series of graders which has CAN controlled engines, there are a lot more interlocks and features available," he avers.
"Leeboy's machines are powered by Cummins engines.We are now closely working with a major petroleum company to enhance local awareness of handling and monitoring lubricants as part of product support," he adds.
With business growing, ensuring timely parts supply in a big country like India is a challenge. "Since we are a relatively new entrant and have a small field staff, we have outsourced our depots to logisticsproviders for maintaining our stock of spares. For large clients, we work out upfront as to what parts they need to purchase and what we will stock," informs Ramachandran. The company offersthe option of a full maintenance contract on per foot, per cum basis or a time bound contract to its coal mining customers.
Leeboy has sold over 500 graders in the last six years. Its plant in Bengaluru has supplied excavators and backhoe loaders to export markets. The company offers rehab schemes to customers selling their machines and buying new ones. The refurbished machines are then sold to contractors who have short-term jobs.
Volvo CE India: Deeper engagement with customers
He adds, "We are providing customized service and support packages, while adding to skill development through operator training programs. Our customized packages are specifically designed to meet the various needs for different product range and segments, which include – standard and extended warranties, special parts kit, wear kit for pavers, and preventive plus proactive maintenance contracts."
Volvo CE's road equipment range includes 220 pneumatic tyre roller, soil compactors, P4 370B wheel paver and P5320B-tracked paver.
With increasing competition, manufacturers must liaise even more closely with buyers from pre-sales to post-sales and across the total lifecycle of their equipment. At the same time, they must keep in mind the changing jobsite requirements and application dynamics, which could require greater support and service to the owners as per the equipment's' usage.