Telehandler: The All-Rounder

According to industry estimates, the size of the telehandler market in India is 200~250 units. Telehandlers are pre-dominantly applied in Industries such as Infrastructure, Construction, Oil & Gas, Agriculture, Mining etc for material handling. The activities in Construction majorly constitute movement of palletised or loose materials across the job site or to heights, roofing, renovation, cladding etc.

The other specialized applications can be found in Airports, Oil & Gas, Tyre, Tunneling, Container Stuffing and De-Stuffing, Waste management etc. In Mining, telehandlers are used for handling tyres of large dump trucks, large cylinders, and cable reels. What’s more, the machine, along with its wide scope of attachment pairing for numerous applications, provides operational versatility and cost efficiency. Given their multifunctional features that allows them to perform the tasks of loaders, cranes and access equipment in various sectors and industries, telehandlers could well be the first equipment that can be deployed at the site for material handling without any ground preparation.

However, given the low awareness in the market, telehandler manufacturers are taking steps to disseminate information on the various functionalities of the machine to potential users, and are promoting the machine’s wide potential across industries. NBM&CW takes a look at the market scope, demand and the strategies being adopted by manufacturers to promote their brand of telehandlers.

Market Demand
Hafeez Khan, MD, South East Asia, Manitou
“The need for safe working environments, versatility and low dependency on labour in industrial facilities and construction sites is set to increase demand for material handling equipment in the coming years,” says Hafeez Khan, MD, South East Asia, Manitou. “The telehandler, however, is still in its concept selling stage in India, and despite its high value features that enable high productivity and operational versatility, it is yet to create a wider market footprint.”

A plausible reason for the telehandler’s slow acceptance in the Indian market could be its high cost as opposed to other mobile machines in the market with more rudimentary technologies. And, also the fact that operators are comfortable with the boom and hook machines which can handle similar capacity loads at similar heights. Rental companies also deploy them for transporting and lifting utilities like generators and fabricated items, for handling iron rods, or undertaking smaller municipal pipeline rehabilitation jobs below the ground surface with the boom down position for lowering men and materials.

Jasmeet Singh, Associate Vice President, Corporate Communications and Corporate Relations, JCB India
Agrees Jasmeet Singh, Associate Vice President, Corporate Communications and Corporate Relations, JCB India, “Demand of telehandlers has been driven in the fundamental manner that construction and material handling activities are carried out in India. However, there is now a new trend of palletization which is bringing in more efficiency and curtailing loss due to spillage. Spillage can be arrested when there are smaller loads to be lifted and placed. Handling of smaller volumes of load makes the construction work more manageable. Telehandlers are engineered to pick up loads from the ground and place them safely, vertically or horizontally on the designated places, and are thus doubling up as a mechanized access and lifting and placing equipment as well as a loader.”

Souma Ray, Director, Haulotte
Observes Souma Ray, Director, Haulotte, “The Indian market for telehandlers is still at a very nascent stage as awareness across sectors is limited. On the upside, demand has been increasing steadily, especially from the infrastructure, construction and mining segments. Today, India is the third biggest market for telehandlers in the Asia Pacific region after Australia and the Middle East. India accounts for 11.4% of the APAC market as of June 2019. On a y-o-y basis over June 2018, the market in India has grown by 36%. The growth of the Indian market is specifically being propelled in the 3-ton 7m and 11m range, which are being locally manufactured by JCB. Companies like us who offer machines manufactured in Europe, the volume of imported machines remains limited and is in the 4-ton and above capacities.”

Ray also sees rental demand picking up. “Many of the established AWP rental companies also have telehandlers in their fleet. The current trend of demand leans towards 3 to 4-ton machines which are also gaining popularity in the rental sector,” he says.

According to Hafeez Khan, there are many companies who prefer to take construction equipment on rent rather than investing their CAPEX. “Contractors who hire equipment from rental companies know that they are always in profit as they do not invest in purchasing new asset. In India, the construction equipment rental market is evolving, but is somewhat unstructured and unorganized. Users also want different product options, including telehandlers, to meet their project needs. Seeing this opportunity, many OEMs could be entering the rental business in the coming years.”

Marketing strategies
JCB is promoting its telehandlers by offering numerous attachments as options for performing multiple jobs. These include forks for lifting and placing palletized loads like tiles or machineries at heights of 7-17 meters depending upon the model. These forks can be removed, and the hooks attached to lift loads up to 3 tons. The hooks can be removed, and buckets attached if the telehandler has to perform a loader’s task. For example, at ready mix concrete production plants, the telehandler can manage stockpiles and hopper loading as well. Again, as per the requirement, the loader bucket attachment can be removed, and a platform attached such that the telehandler can perform jobs such as façade cleaning.

JCB India’s marketing strategy for its telehandlers is to build scale by exploring new application areas and the company is working on newer applications. “The value that the attachments bring, makes the telehandler an application-driven machine. However, we feel that there could be many more application possibilities and we will accordingly orient our telehandlers towards these applications, which will increase their acceptance in India. In fact, many customers who have been convinced of the machine’s multi-tasking abilities have given us repeat orders,” says Singh.

“We believe that in terms of applications, investments in equipment and manpower, and timelines for project executions, there is renewed optimism on the Government’s aggressive development plans and its promising initiatives to invest heavily to boost the infra sector. All of this is fueling the huge Material Handling & Earthmoving sector. Our strategy is to tap the market demand for safe, versatile, and cost-effective machines like the telehandler and identify sectors and industries for their potential use. Also, we will put emphasis on the various attachments that can perform many tasks and thereby save cost and time of the users,” says Hafeez Khan.

“Although the advantages of Telescopic Technology is still limited to a niche customer base, the demand is increasing, especially in challenging sites where safety is a concern. It therefore becomes imperative for manufacturers like us to promote and market the telehandler’s and create awareness of the machine’s safety aspects along with its other superior features,” he adds.

Manitou MXT-840

Advantages over conventional mobile cranes and loaders
The telehandler is complemented with a range of attachments such as the pallet fork, winch, jib and crane, re-handling multi-purpose buckets, tyre handlers, glass handlers, slewing access platforms, concrete skips, and mixers, and the list of attachments is evolving all the time as the machine continues to find new application avenues. Manufacturers agree that the telehandler has more advantages over the pick-n-carry cranes, and a wider application scope in the Indian market. The telehandler has a better load centre, and with its safety features, is very stable and can load higher weights at better heights.

The Manitou Group has been investing in R&D for the manufacture of various attachments for customized applications. “A dedicated research team for attachments is always on the job for any special request coming in from the field. This enables us to develop new models with the best features to make our machines highly versatile and efficient when coupled with attachments and safety controls,“ avers Khan.

According to him, “its versatility scores easily over the pick-n-carry cranes. The normal pick-n-carry with their articulation design, tend to topple over in undulated site conditions, while telehandlers are highly stable in these testing conditions. However, the telehandler cannot entirely replace a typical wheel loader, but in certain specialized applications where material is required to be delivered at heights like batching plants, crushers hoppers, the telehandler easily scores over wheel loaders. Overall, the telehandler can be termed as an all-rounder with its myriad applications across the job site.”

Manitou’s Easy Manager allows the owner to remotely monitor, manage, optimize and safeguard the operation of his equipment. This would help the owner to have better controls on operation and also maximize the usage of machine. Any abnormal, unauthorized equipment usage can easily be viewed by the owner from his home or office.

“Telehandlers are seeing greater demand in the construction and infrastructure projects. Being multifarious in application and having the capacity of having several attachments, they are finding takers in manufacturing, mineral processing, mining industries. Mobile cranes are specific to lifting loads by using the crane hook, whereas a telehandler can have various attachments to handle various types of loads - solid as well as loose,“ says Ray at Haulotte.

He adds, “Customers mostly look for a standard telehandler which comes with forks used for moving or shifting (mostly) palletised load. However, depending upon the nature of the load or a particular type of application, the customers make take additional optional attachments like bucket (for loose load, sand, gravel, stone chips, loose metals etc), tyre handler (for carrying tyres of construction equipment especially during changing of tyres), hook jib and winch for lifting and marching with unitised load and man basket for people lifting. What’s more, the cost of a telehandler cannot be compared with either a forklift or a crane of similar capacity. Also referred to as telescopic forklift/handler, it is a versatile equipment that combines the attributes of both the crane and the forklift.

JCB Loadall

Pitching safety at site
Telehandlers manufacturers are highlighting the safety aspects of their machines, which, according to them, are better than the more prevalent solutions, currently. They claimed that telehandlers are very safe to operate with their load gauges, hose burst protection, FOPS and ROPS etc, and the 11m telehandler also has stabilizers for making it work more safely on undulated sites.

The JCB brand banks on its engineering capabilities, which Jasmeet Singh says have an element of ‘broad commonality’. “There is almost 60% commonality in our telehandlers and our backhoe loaders, which have been successfully working in India on harsh, extended duty cycles for many years. JCB telehandlers can be described as machines that are engineered akin to our backhoe loaders. There is also a commonality between the engines and transmission systems of the two products. This makes it easier for our dealers to achieve economies of scale as they can stock batteries, tyres, and other parts and accessories that can be used in both the products.”

Highlighting the safety features of Manitou telehandlers, Hafeez Khan says, “Manitou Telehandlers are known for their reliability and productivity with complete focus on the overall safety of both operator and machine, which has operator-friendly features, such as overall visibility of the job site, leading to less fatigue. With the high ground clearance, the movement with loads over rough terrains is fully enabled. The handling of loads within restricted, cramped and narrow areas has been made very simple with the different steering modes such as the Crab mode, 4 Wheel drive, and 2 Wheel Drive. Braking on all 4 wheels , inbuilt safety systems and allowances, and hydraulic cut offs for safe management of loads, ensure that our telehandlers are always operating within the safety parameters.”

“With a single machine having the capability to perform different jobs of load handling, telehandlers definitely increase productivity. Any global manufacturer of telehandler would certainly lay specific information to incorporate the best technologies for safety in their telehandlers for smooth and safe operation in the most rugged of terrains. Load management System (LMS) is essential for any telehandler, besides which, many Telehandlers also have features like pothole guards with a cut off system preventing dangerous movements and a limited slip differential on the front axle and the cabin, as well as an inching pedal for smooth and precise forward movements, even with the engine at full throttle,” adds Ray.

Customer Service & Training
As part of its promotional strategy, JCB India is laying emphasis on operator training to ensure optimum utilization of its telehandlers. The company has formed a dedicated team to impart training to telehandler operators.

Manitou South Asia has been investing in providing direct sales, aftermarket and technical / training support through Manitou SSP, which offers spare parts, training facilities, and a skilled team. “Our core KPIs are responsiveness, low machine down time, and reduced Total Cost of Ownership for our customers. This competitive support positioning is well expected to drive sales of our telehandlers in India,” says Khan.

“Training and after sales support form the backbone of any product. Major manufacturers like us are well geared in providing Technical & Service support as well as comprehensive training – both operators and maintenance to our clients,” avers Ray.

Haulotte HTL-4014

Challenges & Scope
As Hafeez Khan says, “The advent of telehandlers in the material handling industry with their safe technology and versatility have started making rapid progress in the Indian market. Their growth path is determined by their versatility which allows easy replacement of at least two conventional material handling machines at any job site and need for lesser manpower. These machines being designed for rough terrains are finding application in various sectors owing to their extensive range of attachments, so they should be promoted as multi-utility machines that can perform a variety of tasks. With the recent statutory norms pressing for safer work environments at job sites, the market will eventually accept telehandler as a reliable and efficient investment over other conventional material handling machines.”

“Technology driven performance and reliability along with Total Cost of Ownership will have better value of money in the long run. Customers, looking for customized solutions at a little higher cost, will find value addition in the telehandler as the overall machine cost and its deployment in projects will justify user’s initial investment in the machine,” he adds.

According to Jasmeet Singh at JCB, “Telehandlers are versatile machines with a separate set of performance attributes, which may overlap the performance abilities of other machines. However, they are unique, and core application driven machines. We believe that application areas should be created so that these machines can perform optimally and justify their utility. This will eventually create a sizeable demand potential for telehandlers in India.”

“In developed countries, alongside the AWPs, the telehandlers are very popular for material handling and lifting operations. I believe that the telehandler should be an integral part of users’ fleet in India too. Unfortunately, despite the growing awareness there is still a lot to be done in promoting the machine’s application in various sectors. As manufacturers, while we are doing our bit to promote the machine, users should not be deterred with the telehandler’s higher cost. We need to come out of the mindset that all lifting work can be done cheaply by the pick-and-carry cranes whilst ignoring the multifarious benefits of telehandlers,” opines Ray.
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