Rental firms take on maintenance of units in a major way
To hedge compressed rental rates, Indian crane companies are progressively working to have extended availability of their existing cranes. To have extended utilization of the equipment, the rental companies are increasingly resorting to suitable maintenance and equipment rehabilitation practices. With well maintained cranes, backed by quality repairs, the rental firms are looking forward to have better hiring rates, without going in for fresh capital investments for new equipment acquisition. This is because the rental firms estimate, quantum of rental rates across the lifecycle of the new equipment will be lesser as of now to fill up the financial liability incurred.
The other reasons for growing investments towards better maintenance practices for optimum equipment usage is also due to depressed resale value market. Although there has been some recent movements in the resale markets, with some prominent companies across the country graduating towards higher capacity mobile and crawler units for improved rates. However, the market is waiting for necessary action.
While crane owners preferring to invest for maintaining the equipment and wait for the resale market to pick up, that is when they feel it will be commercially viable to dispose off the older units. However, the bigger logic for holding back units and maintaining them well is also due to the fact that many rental companies as of now are not looking for long-term contracts with the hirers. This is despite the fact that there have been recent improvements in the rental rates in the medium and higher categories owing to fresh hiring.
Till the rates appreciate to a reasonable extent, big players prefer to hold back their new units. They are waiting for an opportune moment, when bulk of the existing lower and medium class units from new and smaller entrants will get absorbed in the newer jobs on long-term contracts spanning over three years and above.
Mumbai based small time crane rental agency, Cosmos Lifters & Technical Services Pvt Ltd., will continue to hold back its existing cranes. "Our fleet mainly comprises 15 to 20 years old mobile tyre mounted units between 25-100 tons. We are undertaking preventive maintenance of the units in a major way with our own mechanics. Further, we are always looking for timely replacement of parts for better equipment availability and timely return of rental rates," says, Mr. S.Q. Shafique, Director Cosmos Lifters adding that "We do not have any plans to dispose any of our existing units."
Focus on timely repairs is also by Mumbai based crane rental heavy weight, Steel Carriers which posses a fleet of 18 truck mounted telescopic mobile cranes of 50-500 tons, 12 lattice truck mounted cranes of 25-125 tons and 1 crawler crane of 400 tons. The company has placed an order of new Terex, 700 tons mobile cranes which is likely to be delivered early 2016. Having a relatively new fleet, Steel Carriers claim of following an elaborate maintenance practice to prevent any possible breakdown of equipment and safe working. "In case of an accident at sites, we always undertake third party analysis to know the reason. This is so as to have better preventive and predictive maintenance and better operational standards. We regularly compile breakdown reports for our cranes to have better preventive maintenance. To prevent any operational hazards, we regularly train our operators with the OEMs. Operators and field technicians are trained for undertaking appropriate rigging, engine performance and most importantly right ground pressure," says Mr. Sunil Makad, Director, Steel Carriers Infrastructure Pvt Ltd.
Gujarat based crane rental heavy weight, Express Logistics has dedicated workshop for maintenance of its fleet of mobile and crawler cranes. Mr. Ashwin Gandhi, Director Express Equipment Rental Logistics says, "Our dedicated workshop in Vadodara is supported by our own trained mechanics working under the supervision of our engineers. The workshop is fully equipped with lead machines, milling and CNC machines for undertaking repairs of components. Booms being the most critical component, special attentions are given for their maintenance. We outsource the job to specialized boom repairing agency in Mumbai having complete set of jigs and fixtures for appropriate welding according to the specification of the OEMs."
He adds, "We regularly replace the oil, hydraulic oil seals and the filters as they are much prone to damage while the crane is working in high temperatures. For operation safety, we mandatorily test and inspect the crane prior to its deployment at site. To have safe working, we usually de rate the capacity of cranes by 10%."
New Delhi based crane renting major, Apollo Cranes Private Limited, has its complete workshop set up in Delhi for undertaking maintenance of its cranes. "We undertake regular scheduled maintenance of engines, transmission and valves at our workshops. To have better equipment availability, we have carried out advancements in the procedures of collecting breakdown reports for our cranes, so as to have advanced and comprehensive maintenance techniques. We have made data collection on the performance of the cranes more elaborate," says Ms. Sonarika Mahajan, Director Apollo Cranes.
She says, "We have regular visits of our engineers at sites where our cranes are working, to see the operation and onsite procedures being followed. To avoid breakdown, we stock critical components at the job sites."
According to her, "Upkeep of the cranes depends on skilled operators. With advancements taking place in technology, it is pertinent that OEMs should step up operators training and maintenance. There has been a new initiative on behalf of Sany Heavy Industries to train and certify operators and helpers at its new training facility in Pune. Taking on the opportunity, we have sent couple of our senior operation personnel and operators to attend the workshops. The training is well likely to skill our personnel for better maintenance of our cranes."Apollo has sizeable numbers of medium capacities of Sany crawler cranes.
Increased adoption of maintenance of existing units by crane rental firms is owing to optimum asset utilization. The practice is also being driven by growing insistence of construction firms for maintaining proper safety at the job sites. The trend is quite positive development for the crane renting and user industry as this will result towards bringing more advanced maintenance practices, resultantly ensuring increased equipment availability and safety, to cut down on project deadlines being extended.