With sales of wheel loaders slowing down, manufacturers are beginning to focus on enhancing their product service and support, and engaging with customers more proactively. NBM&CW reports.
Amidst the bearish business environment due to the fallout of the prevailing Covid-19 scenario, wheel loader manufacturers and owners are looking for ways to sustain their businesses. With cash flow and liquidity not going to improve anytime soon, they are ensuring optimum utilization of their equipment to justify their total lifecycle costs.
This preparedness is a way to contend with the current difficult situation as the wheel loaders are lying idle due to negligible activities in the quarry sector, and also to be ready for their future use (post Covid-19), when the loaders will once again begin their digging, hauling and loading, in an even more competitive environment.
Manufacturers are also making their existing and potential customers better acquainted with their product line and their enhanced features and functions once the new emission norms are in place.
According to industry estimates, the wheel loader market in India is projected to be 30 percent lower in 2020 as compared to 2019. It is common knowledge now that the business volume of wheel loaders is not going to rise as was estimated before the pandemic set in. Fresh demand will take time to materialize even after the lockdown is lifted, and the market would see stiffer competition.
“However, the silver lining is the relaxation announced by the government for construction activities. We have been given to understand that of the 375 national highway projects, work on 260 has started. But these projects will not gain their full momentum due to the shortage of workers. Only 30-40% of the construction laborers are on the sites of major projects (except real estate – which has been hit the hardest). All these factors are expected to depress H1 sales. In such a scenario, equipment manufacturers and owners will have to focus on the reliability of their existing fleet, which would call for greater product support,” observes Singh.
He informs that Tata Hitachi supports its customers with real-time status of their machines. The company’s TL340H, for instance, is equipped with ‘Insite’ telematics that tracks machine utilization and performance data in real time. This remote monitoring facility helps customers keep information on their machines on their fingertips and plan the day ahead, accordingly. “With Insite, customers improve the utilization of their machine and get more productivity as the operators are now better prepared with all the information.”
Tata Hitachi has been serving the Indian market for more than 50 years and has a robust dealer network with over 221 touch points across the country. “We have continued to offer product support for our machines despite Covid-19. All our dealers have trained manpower and workshops to take care of any small or major overhauling work,” informs Singh.
JCB wheel loaders come with a range of Bucket Options depending upon the type of work.
Hajela informs that the company has streamlined its supply chain to deliver parts on-time from its central warehouse in Nagpur, despite concern regarding logistics in the current situation. Showing preparedness for better equipment utilization post-lockdown, they have been giving online training to their customers’ operators and maintenance staff. “RBI announced 3 months moratorium and this is a significant step towards supporting small businesses. Accordingly, we have worked out with our finance channel partner, Tata Capital, so as to hedge the cash flow disruption of our dealers in the prevailing situation.”
L&T Construction Equipment has 30 dealers. We have put in place a robust product support system for undertaking periodic maintenance. L&T EquipCare 24x7 is backed by dedicated call centers for handling queries, complaints and feedback from customers. According to Hajela, their DigiEye telematics for monitoring the Wheel Loaders working at quarries and mining sites has led to their better maintenance and higher utilization.
He informs that the company is imparting online training to its dealers and customers on maintaining the equipment, and on the processes to be followed for restarting the loaders since they have been idlefor long during the lockdown. “This is very important as abrupt starting of the machine can cause problems with its functioning. Since, coal mining is continuing and many of our loaders are employed there (although for a lesser duration), we have resumed parts shipment for the equipment. Our dealers are the company’s arteries for giving product support. They are also being trained to deal with the present and upcoming situation (once the lockdown is lifted), and also on the management of financial and non-financial work.” There are close to 800 units of Volvo wheel loaders in operation across India.
“Since pressure on margins continues to be a major issue, our emphasis has been on leveraging the productivity of our wheel loaders while lowering the cost of operation,” says Sandeep Singh. “Tata Hitachi has always been at the forefront of advancements in the wheel loader segment, especially with notable technologies like power-shift transmission and hydrostatic drive, which increase the ratio of production output to engine power.”
He adds, “We offer a much differentiated product in our 3-ton payload via TL340H with the hydrostatic drive technology. Most of the loaders in the market today are the traditional hydrodynamic wheel loaders, which use transmission to transfer power from engine to axles. Tata Hitachi’s hydrostatic technology transfers power from engine to axle via hydraulic motors, thereby reducing mechanical losses. This increases the efficiency of the wheel loader, which translates to higher fuel efficiency.”
Tata Hitachi’s TL340H is equipped with a variable displacement pump, which adjusts the flow based on the load (bucket and loader arm movement). So, when the loader is on the move, the load on pump reduces fuel consumption. TL340H also features the Level1-Fall Over Safety Protection (FOPS) as standard. A front grill is also provided as standard for operator safety, while the pilot lever gives the operator better control and reduces fatigue. Says Singh, “The full hydraulic brake enables a quicker response and helps the operator maneuver easily in tough site conditions. The hydrostatic drive eliminates the need for clutch and gear shift mechanism, which makes driving as simple as auto-shift. This reduces fatigue and improves productivity.”
Tata Hitachi wheel loaders are offered with a general purpose bucket, rock bucket, coal bucket for various applications. The general-purpose bucket with bolt-on cutting edge is a standard fitment. The bucket design has a spill-guard for preventing spillovers while loading. The strong lift arms and linkage yield high production during digging, loading and hauling. Big bucket breakout force and optimum bucket rollback brings about high production and good load retention. “Buckets are designed and shaped for efficient scooping and loading. Bolt-on cutting edges are easy to replace. The bucket leveler and boom kick-out features further aid in improving the production,” points out Singh.
Says Vivek Hajela, “We will continue to position L&T’s robust, fuel-efficient, 3.5 ton L&T 9020 Wheel Loader for quarrying and mining work. For making the loaders adaptable to mining sites, we have made modifications in the cabin as per DGMS guidelines. However, with the capacities of crusher plants going beyond 200 tph, we will promote our premium model, L&T 9020SX with bigger cabin, higher torque and speeds at lower RPM for enhanced productivity, higher gradeability, increased operating pressure and breakout force.”
Dimitrov Krishnan informs that Volvo’s wheel loaders come with a host of features to deliver total life cycle cost, through lower cost of production and higher productivity. This is supplemented by ‘Torque Parallel Linkage’ - a patented Volvo technology that enables close to 10 percent additional load carrying due to extra rollback of the buckets. For better productivity, visibility and safety, the loaders have a comfortable cabin space. The ‘Opt shift Technology’ provides improved loading and carrying, and their high torque and low RPM give more fuel efficiency.”
“We will continue to bank on the sales of SDLG’s, L 946 wheel loader with advanced 2.5 cum bucket and improved loading, than the earlier 2.3 cum bucket,” says Surat Mehta.
“Sales will also be driven by our L 933, L936, L946 and L958F wheel loaders with customized buckets for different applications, fuel saving technology, modified and redesigned cabin ensuring higher visibility for safer operations. Our wheel loaders also have reverse alarm and auto fire suppression ,as an option, if working in mining areas like mineral loading. However, we will be driving our future sales on our newer equipment which are fitted with advance engines that meet the BS IV emission norms. Presently, these machines are undergoing tests and we are acquainting our teams on their features and functions.”
Manufacturers are hopeful that greater product support and interactions with their customers will bring a positive business sentiment in the market. However, with sales diminishing, the challenge will be to make their services economically viable and sustainable over the long term.