Slowdown in demand has been quite sharp from core infrastructure projects, pertaining to bridges, flyovers or road construction. However, demand from metro projects has fared better where manufacturers are looking for potential demand from greenfield metro projects mainly from Bangalore Chennai, Jaipur and third phase of Delhi metro. Yet the optimism is circumscribed with the tardy expansion of Kolkata metro’s second phase and Mumbai metro. Both the projects have long route extensions and involve critical piling works to be done. This would require good numbers of equipment to be deployed.
According to Mr. Surajit Mukherjee, MD, Suretech Infrastructure Private Limited, "there lies a good demand for foundation and piling rigs precisely from metro rail projects. Elevated roads, power plants, ports and jetties construction are also demand areas. Based on the given potential, we expect the market to grow at the rate of 20 percent."
Realising the growth will require putting the ongoing projects on fast track and awarding new projects. Mr. Shreeradha Narayan, General Manager, Sales Casagrande India Private Limited says, "requirement is still active and there are new application verticals to be explored. Further demand would pick up, once the pending projects are released, incidentally which is not happening at this moment".
Slowdown in awarding of tenders for new projects and lingering expansion of ongoing jobs has been a reason for negative demand for piling rigs. Niche application of the product, high owning and operating costs it commands, owing to its working limitations in the entire construction phase have been an added, much vital reason, which has brought down sales of piling rigs in India. This can be examined in the present context when bank interest rates are higher and contractors are having restricted cash flow resulting in an extended loan repayment for new equipment.
The majority of foundation equipment manufacturers agreed that the operational viability of equipment entirely depends on the volume of piling jobs contractors have in their order books.
The modest percolation of the equipment in the Indian construction sector is the reason that manufacturers are unable to drive mass sales. Presence of mass market, producers once again agree, would have to an extent allowed neutralize falling sales. Manufacturers inform, tenders for most of the construction projects in India are based on pricing. This is both for bankable projects having requisite financial exposure through viability gap funding and as well as for PPP projects. Usage of piling technology becomes restrictive in all the cases as cost per metre of piling can range anywhere between Rs 10,000-50,000 or above affecting the margins of the contractors. This bars the usage of the equipment to a big extent.
According to Mr. Sanjoy Chakraborty, MD, Soilmec India pvt ltd, "gradual acceptance of piling equipment/technologies by Indian construction sector has also been due to the dearth of specialized contractors capable of undertaking solely piling contracts. Much in contrast of Europe or US, piling is not a separate contract in India. It is an integral part of the whole construction project. Besides, the piling codes use in India dates back to 1970’s. There is lack of adequate guidelines by BIS for usage of proper and advanced methodology for customized and complex construction requirements. Resultantly, the codes fall short in highlighting the usage of modern piling techniques in India. All these hinder marketing the equipment in large proportions and are also keeping modern developments in this field out of reach."
However, despite its modest presence, the equipment have been well acclaimed within the construction fraternity based on assorted utility it has been delivering in executing both core and industrial construction projects. Piling and foundation equipment have made their mark in the country through its deployment in mega construction projects involving Cochin International Container Transshipment Terminal, brown field expansion of Tata Steel and Delhi Metro Railway projects.
Building Up Market Presence
The company will look to explore the emerging market requirement for deeper piles. There is large scale new requirement from Indian construction sector for deeper piles of 50-60 metres. Mr. Narayan tells, "at least 20% of the infra projects in India need deeper piles. Projects such as off shore piling for jetty construction, highrise buildings would see increased usage of deeper piles."
Casagrande has recently completed project for LNG plant at Cochin built by Afcons involving 1400mm piles to a depth of 60mtrs. Afcons used 6 units of Casagrande B 250 rigs. According to Mr. Narayan, "our rigs are being used in different projects for 60mtrs deep like Krishnapatnam Port, off shore project at Ennore, Hazira industrial plant extension and also at Assam for cement plant construction."
The company will maintain its market presence through enhanced customer support for optimum utilization of the latest technologies. Mr. Narayan, says, "Casagrande always believes in providing requisite customer support. In accordance with this, we conduct training programmes for our customers in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata on a regular basis. We are conducting operator training for our customers during commissioning of the equipment. This has shown considerable increase in proper usage of the equipment and yielded maximum productivity to customers. Our engineers are stationed in different cities in order to reach customers within a limited time to enhance equipment uptime."
The retention of market presence is increasingly being looked by piling rigs manufacturers. Mr. Sanjoy Chakraborty says, "we would provide enhanced customer support through large information dissemination on operation and maintenance of our piling rigs. Focus will also be to promote components and accessories as an initiative to provide better parts support. Information diffusion is pertinent so as to further build up the application concept of the equipment, which can still be said to be nascent in India."
He says, "we will also look to provide technology support through our CFA’stechnology wherever its applicable. The technology helps to increase the functionality at work sites along with added environmental benefits such as exponential reduction in sound emission and other pollutants like disposal of drilling muds. It can help in cutting down in allied machinery required pertaining to tanks and added machineries, not to mention management costs, thus helping to cut down overall piling expenses."
Mr.Chakraborty mentioned, "we will look to build up our presence in neighboring countries of India." Soilmec has recently provided SR-40, SR-50 and SR-60 piling rigs for construction of two flyover projects in Dhaka,have also BOI approval to establish a Branch in Dhaka. The first project is an elevated highway project near the airport in Dhaka, while the other is a railway crossing project. SR-40 & SR-60 machines operate with a 1000mm diameter; piling to the depth of 42-44m.
Soilmec India has started marketing its CFA technology to customers in Bangladesh. It has been able to sell one unit of the equipment. The company aims at expanding its business operations to Sri Lanka in the near future.
Expansion and retention of market presence is also proposed by Mait India. Mr. D.V.Brahme, Regional Manager, Mait India says, "our products offer maximum reliability and after sales value. To promote newer sales, we will continue to bank upon our full fledged dedicated service team for customer support. To provide optimum utilization of the equipment, we provide entire technical support beginning from concept to commissioning of the equipment & further till completion of specific project. We study the Soil Investigation report in detail to suggest the suitable Equipment as well as tools & accessories required."
Sales are looked to be promoted on lower maintenance costs of the equipment as well. Mr. Sunil Newatia, Partner, Suretech says, "our vibrohamers come at a premium, however, operation and maintenance costs are pretty low. This is as because parts consumption of these equipments is less. Besides, minimum preventive maintenance is required to ensure sustained functioning of the machine. The equipment can perform for 20-22 hours at a stretch during the construction cycle." He mentions, the vibro hammers are equipped with programme logic control to generate inputs on the state of the machine. The data can be easily analyzed by operators to carry preventive maintenance." Suretech distributes vibro hammers of ICE Holland & Impact Hammers of BSP, UK & IHC Holland. The equipment are used for driving sheet piles, casings, pre cast piles & raker piles. The piling equipment marketed by Suretech includes, vibratory hammers, hydraulic impact hammers, pile breakers, driven cast in situ piling rigs, hydraulic rotary piling rigs and silet pilers.
Suretech has entered into a distribution tie up with Sany during February 2011 for marketing its piling rigs in India. Under the collaboration Suretech promotes Sany’s entire range of rotary piling rigs. The rigs will be available with kelly bar rigs, continous flight augurs and diaphragm wall. According to Mr. Newatia, "we offer wide range of piling rigs to suit the requirements of all the customers with regards to pile diameter and depth."
He says, "owing to its low price as compared to contemporary product offerings available in the market, Sany piling rigs are able to offer commercial viability to owners. Despite being low priced, the equipments are loaded with latest electronic control systems for accurate piling. The machines can deliver high uptime as well." According to Suretech, it has sold more than 40 units in India so far. The piling rigs are imported from Sany’s plant in Beijing.
Mr. Newatia mentions, "high equipment uptime for the equipments is provided by us through complete product back up support services involving, installation and commissioning, operator training, mandatory services and breakdown servicing. Complete refurbishment of the equipment both at site as well as our workshop facilities in Navi Mumbai is also provided. We shall soon be stocking fast moving spare parts at our Navi Mumbai facility to improve the spare parts availability in the Mumbai region."
Demand is Key
The manufacturers started looking for opportunities in Eastern India markets of West Bengal and Orissa as a potential demand market. Good numbers of steel, power, aluminium and port projects are in the process of execution in the region by Tata, JSW, Posco.There are investments lined up for aluminium and other industrial projects as well. The strata of the East is also a potential market for deeper piles. However, manufacturers share, there remains geological intricacies in the region that suppliers will require to get informed, so as to explore the business potential of the region.