Character and quality of supply is closely aligned to demand trend. This is how demand of mobile tyre mounted cranes has continued to be governed during past years, until the demand retrogression sat in Indian construction sector. Manufacturers supplied products that were intended for specific projects and character of requirement continued to maintain its traction with demand. However, slippage in rental rates, during past few years, resulting towards idling of units, has made owners look for whatever jobs they can deploy their machines, so at least to continue towards repaying their financial obligations. Not to mention, generate minimum cash what they can to take care of their overheads and remain in business on expectations of sunny days ahead.
The emerging demand trend is peculiar in its entity. With awarding of thermal power, windmill, refinery and other core and general infrastructure projects, increasingly becoming inconsistent, demand for mobile cranes in India is now being gradually characterized as less application-driven. This is much in contrast to the trend few years back when demand was much application-oriented. The present trend is likely to remain with oversupply of units in the market.
Mr. Nishida, "Our cranes are equipped with light weight, and round boom high tensile steel plates, which are capable of withstanding heavy loads making them cost-effective to own and operate for both the rental and the institutional buyers."
Tadano has set up its new office in India recently following its dissociation with Telcon, its earlier distributor and promoter. Tadano distributes its entire range of rough terrain cranes from 12MT to 80MT, all-terrain cranes from 40MT to 400MT, telescopic crawler from 30MT to 100MT, and truck cranes from 35MT to 65MT for the Indian market.
Though Mr. Kulkarni carries the conviction that application remains the buying criteria for institutional buyers, yet he agrees saying, "Currently, market is facing glut in supply, thus continuing to make demand more generalised." Large scale supply of units in the market, coupled with sporadic release of payments to contractors by project developers, has resulted towards frequent stoppage of projects during its course of construction. This has consequently made contractors to get units as and when required instead of maintaining inventories. The best example can be cited from Delhi Metro Railway's third phase extension. Bulk of contractors working at the project has managed to hire units at much competitive rates. This is in contrast to the earlier practice when swelling order books made contractors to have their own units for specialised applications or otherwise. With large volumes of jobs at hand, contractors entered into long-term contracts also with rental companies.
Prevailing glut in the market, coupled by emergence of first time small fleet rental companies is a major force crane for manufacturers to be reckoned with. Not to be ignored, many of the first time owners, who were earlier business associates of the big rental companies, have got strong and even wide market network gained from earlier contacts.
Emergence of new companies is a good sign for promoting fresh sales, although it is expected to be generalised driven in lighter segments. Notwithstanding, demand for medium and heavier segments is somewhat likely to be centred on application as indicated by recent purchases made by Bhoir and Dinesh Rentals or by GT Nova. All are relatively new entrants in the market and have recently acquired medium and heavier units.
Manitowoc-Grove range of cranes is exclusively distributed and serviced by TIL in India through its pan Indian distribution network.
According to Mr. Bhattacharya, "Our advanced quality rough terrain, industrial and truck cranes are designed with many safety and reliability features making them suitable for versatile applications such as lifting, unloading, placing and carrying the loads. These applications are quite common for all kinds of infrastructure projects, workshops, mining projects, refinery, steel plants etc."
Cranes for versatile applications are claimed to be offered by Liebherr as well. According to Dr Gerold Dobler, Director Global Corporate Communications, Liebherr, "Our mobile cranes are well designed for global market and are suitable for Indian requirements as well." The mobile cranes are imported from Liebherr's manufacturing facility in Ehingen, Germany. Liebherr offers all terrain cranes in the capacity range of 35-1200 tons. The products sold in India are of 35-800 tons.
Making products suitable for different applications with numerous advantages is not an easy task. The multi-purpose cranes provide higher return on investments and can take more jobs giving the owner broader possibilities. In the residual value, a specific tool that can only do limited tasks has limited buyers, therefore versatility keeps the residual value high.
ECEL's TRX series are expensive by 20% as compared to their conventional pick-n- carry cranes. The entire range of TRX series comprises models from 10-23 tons.
Though ECEL has an elaborate TRX series crane range, it hasn't stopped producing its 'Hydra series'. According to Mr. Agarwal, "The cranes which were designed 30 years ago as a yard crane, is still in high demand in India owing to its Versatility, value preposition, cheaper owning and operating costs."
Manufacturers are realising the significance of passing value propositions due to increasing release of equipment in the global markets. There have been growing instances of Indian rental and institutional buyers towards turning their eyes on second hand products. Many rental companies have been able to secure products that are well reconditioned as new from certain markets. Growing instances of getting second hand products, which are not much older has been due to rental rates equalisation between old and brand new products and oversupply in the domestic markets. Hence, adding value to products by making them suitable to Indian applications is pertinent for manufacturers for increased product acceptance. Not to mention, brand building.
According to Mr. Kulkarni, "Hydraulic components are now being improved in our truck cranes. The modified cranes will be introduced in later part of the year. Changes are also being carried out in the engines by making them suitable to specified regional emission norms."
Mr. Bhattacharjee adds, "Product improvement is a continuous process in our organization. We constantly keep a sharp focus on providing the best-in-class safety features, compliance to emission standard, feature upgradation, aftermarket delivery and improving product cost through value engineering for offering a competitive total cost of ownership to our customers. We also take significant initiative towards operator training and competence development for safe and efficient operation of the equipment. Our training department offers factory as well as site training to the operators and maintenance staff of our customers."
He claims, "due to most competitive total cost of ownership offered by TIL-Grove range of cranes, even during difficult business period, our volume growth has outpaced the market growth rate leading to significant improvement of market share in the last financial year. TIL-Grove crane sales volume has grown by 10% in FY2012-13."
Increasing emphasis by rental companies for lesser operating costs in view of dwindling hiring rates, makes it pertinent for carrying out products modifications. There are major precise issues being faced by Indian rental companies like bending of advanced longer booms due to sudden jerks in course of its operation by unskilled operators, increasing transportation costs on transhipping the equipment, through additional trucks to different job sites.
Further, rental companies are looking for improvements in load configurations to get the best load out, in contrast to what is being claimed by manufacturers. Moreover, reductions in axle load overall making the cranes more road able, thus making it more cost competitive is increasingly being sought. Product modifications are also being sought as increasing number of projects in the country both being developed by private and government agencies, do not have suitable equipment management mechanism in place. This in turn exposes the equipment to risks and abuses.
According to Mr. Seibert, "Our sustained effort has been to make our cranes deliver highest return on investment. Transport is a big factor, and we put a lot of resources in coming with efficient transport solutions for our cranes. We can refer to some examples for this. Challenger 3160, a 3 axle all terrain crane is the only crane in its class (55t) designed for one man operation with 50m telescopic main boom, with axle loads of less than 12 t carrying all equipment, counterweight and 1 t payload on board. AC 1000 which is a 9 axle 1200t capacity class all terrain crane is the only crane in its class that can travel with boom on and still have less than 12 ton load per axle.
Mentioning further Mr. Seibert says, "For rough terrain cranes, we always make sure that the cranes are compact enough so they can easily be transported without additional permits and in bigger models, minimize the number of additional trucks needed. At Terex, safety is our priority. In our latest crane models, boom tilts -5° so that the operator can rig the crane from the ground, which means the operator can avoid from working at height. Similarly, in our luffing jib models, we have a patented luffing jib system for all terrain cranes that is assembled on the ground and then erected, minimizing greatly the risk associated with work at height."
Carrying out product modifications is of focus for Liebherr as well. Dr. Dobler says "With demand for higher safety, longer and stronger booms and reduced axle loads is coming from customers all over the world for long. Our product development is focused on these requirements."
According to Mr. Kulkarni, "At XCMG, manufacturing costs are cut down for our all types of cranes by introducing optimum automation in manufacturing systems. Use of robotics for welding and profile cutting, 'Just In Time' and lean manufacturing has further helped us cutting down the costs, at the same time ensuring the consistent quality in manufacturing processes. The efforts have also enabled us to increase our capacity utilization. Further, products standardization and shared components systems at our plant has helped us to economise production costs."
Products standardisation has been focus for Liebherr. Dr. Dobler says, "We work on standardization and shared components as far as possible, if this does not influence load capacity negatively." Manufacturing costs are being cut down at Terex Cranes through production integration. Mr Martin mentions, "We are currently continuing an integration process which will impact costs as well. Presently, we are in the process of rationalizing our range of suppliers, and have already found synergies across multiple production locations."
However, the challenge is to maintain certain production levels at competitive costs in a cyclic and intense competition driven demand market. TIL would keep itself prepared backed by its new set up. According to Mr. Bhattacharjee, "Our new state-of-the-art, Kharagpur factory has recently started its commercial operation. This new facility is certainly a big step towards capacity improvement and preparedness for future demand cycle. We have taken up lean manufacturing initiatives in our manufacturing operation to make our operations flexible as well as cost-efficient. Our products are designed with a modular concept. As a result of this design philosophy, standardization across our products range is achieved efficiently."
After Market Business
According to Tadano officials, "The total population of our cranes in India is about 110 which include the rough terrain, all terrain, and truck cranes. This number comprises the machines sold by us directly including our distributors. This apart, there are a huge number of used machines working in the rental segment, which were imported to India from across the globe. The equipment will continue to be supported through our dedicated and factory trained service team. Further, necessary spares & consumables stocked at our warehouse will address the immediate spares requirements."
XCMG India will also bank on its wide fleet of cranes. Mr. Kulkarni informs, "Currently, around 400 XCMG cranes of varied types and capacities are working in India. We support these cranes mainly through our dealers in India supported by us. Last year, we established a parts warehouse in Turbhe, Navi Mumbai, closer to our dealer's headquarter. Besides warehouse, we have also established our service centre to make available our Chinese service engineer for critical requirements of problem solving in the field. The Chinese Engineers also provide on the job trainings to our dealers' service engineers."
Volumes will also count for TIL. According to Mr. Bhattacharjee, "We have manufactured and supplied more than 5200 units of different ranges of mobile cranes. They are supported and serviced from our pan Indian network through highly skilled and trained field service engineers. We also have workshops for major repair and overhauling of the equipment. Parts supply is supported by our regional parts warehouses and central parts warehouse located in Kolkata. We also have a training centre located in Kolkata for competence development of operator and maintenance staff of customer organizations. The training department offers round-the-year training programme customized for the candidates for addressing the competence gap."
Mr. Bhattacharjee adds, "We also offer a range of aftermarket products to our customers aiming at improving the machine uptime. This offer includes major overhaul, annual maintenance contracts and service contracts depending on the need of our customers."
The strategy seems to be similar for Terex. Mr. Martin says, "We are currently counting around 250 all-terrain and crawler cranes in India but that mostly cover the bigger and/or newer machines. We are almost daily discovering more machines and if I am asked to guess a total number of Terex Cranes in the market, I think it's going to be roughly 500 units. The products are supported through our well-trained and dedicated service team which is available across the country and for all product types. We are also able to offer parts from all Terex cranes manufacturing units, even for very old machines in local currency."
Liebherr's own sales and service subsidiary in India will keep taking care of its 400 mobile cranes working.