Tower crane manufacturers are expanding their range with newer models and making them more cost-effective as cost of production rises and competition heats up. NBM&CW investigates.
The 5- and 6-ton class have, for long, constituted the bulk of the sales of tower cranes, driven to a great extent by demand in real estate construction. But the slowdown in India’s real estate sector in the last few years, compounded by the adverse impact of Covid, has affected the tower crane industry as sales dropped.
However, the situation is not so grim with demand emerging from markets in South India, namely Hyderabad, Telangana, parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, and also from some parts of Maharashtra. Manufacturers are hopeful that the increasing investment in infrastructure development due to rapid urbanization across the country will boost demand for tower cranes, as well as the government’s schemes like ‘Affordable Housing’ and ‘Housing for All by 2022’.
Buyer trends show a stronger focus on aspects like safety, maneuverability, and after-sales services of tower cranes. Users also want ease of maintenance and reliability in their operations. With precast construction gaining traction in India, there is now a growing requirement for higher capacity cranes for lifting precast building components with precision during construction of high-rise and other large infra development projects.
ACE: Bringing Value Engineering
Indian tower crane manufacturer Action Construction Equipment (ACE) is looking to strengthen its footprint in the precast construction segment. Says Mayank Pundir, Country Head, ACE Tower Cranes Division, “We are offering tower cranes ranging from 10 to 25-ton capacities for use in precast construction as they can lift, shift, and lower precast components with great precision. For our higher capacity tower cranes, we use a special grade of steel in the mast. All other fabrication and BOPs are first tested by a third party, and they also undergo in-house stringent testing for Safety & Quality.”
“Precast construction technology, though not new in India, has been limited to construction of civil structures like tunnels, bridges, flyovers, underpasses, etc, but now, this modern construction technology is also being used by India’s realty sector. Here, tower cranes have become an asset because they make the work easier and faster.”
He informs that tower cranes provide an economical solution for lifting heavy loads in high-rise construction where steel is being used extensively; besides which, steel is also present in nearly every form of reinforced concrete. Tower cranes can lift such loads, which helps in speeding up construction, saving manpower, and reducing concrete wastage. The outcome is timely completion of projects.
While conceding that tower cranes have a huge scope for application in all kinds of projects, buyers are also very cost conscious. “The industry is very competitive. At ACE, our in-house design and engineering capabilities enable us to offer solutions based on advanced technologies and also keep our production costs low,” says Pundir.
ACE Tower cranes are equipped with standard VFD (variable frequency drives) for smooth and jerk-free operations during hoisting and slewing. Standard safe load indicators (SLI) indicate the weight of the material being lifted along with safe load at that radius. The SLI acts as a third level of safety apart from the moment limiter and the ergo meter, while the anemometers check the wind speed.
“In high wind speed conditions, tower cranes are not supposed to work; so, the jib is left free to align itself towards the wind’s direction, which reduces the wind pressure on the crane. We also offer anti-collision device in our cranes to prevent accidents when several cranes are working alongside each other in high-rise building projects,” informs Pundir.
Manitowoc: Automating Production
Manitowoc is offering EN13001:2015 Potain standard specified global products along with the safety standards set by the Federation of European Manufacturers (FEM). Prashant Suryawanshi, MD, Manitowoc Potain Cranes India, informs, “We are following the new manufacturing guidelines set by “The Manitowoc way” at our Pune facility, and are curtailing our production costs through backward integration and more automated production processes, which has reduced dependency on manual workforce. While we have been outsourcing our non-value-added activities during production, we have integrated the value-added activities within our in-house production processes. This has brought down production costs significantly.”
For the 10-ton flattop cranes, the company has completely localized the jib sections, masts, cabin, and counterweight sections, but continues to import the gear boxes, hydraulic cylinders, winches, wire ropes and electronics from its France and China facilities. “These measures helped us bring down the production cost of our 10-ton cranes and yet gave us the leg room to increase their prices in June and again in August 2020,” reveals Suryawanshi.
“We hope to close sales with almost 200 Manitowoc Potain cranes of 5- and 10-ton capacity by December 2021; this will be the highest compared to our record of units every year. Our Pune facility currently has an order backlog of 3 to 4 months of 5, 6 and 10 tons,” he informs.
Also targeting the rapidly emerging precast construction business, Manitowoc will be assembling its 16- and 20-ton flattop tower cranes at its proposed new facility, and the jibs and counterweight parts will be locally produced, followed by other parts. Manitowoc presently imports its 12-14-16-20-ton tower cranes from its global facilities in France, Portugal and China.
Manitowoc is looking to drive sales by bringing down the price of its cranes through lowering their production costs, and is also working on new business development strategies. Says Suryawanshi, “We have been able to capture almost 30 percent new customers; many of whom are small contractors engaged in building 7-8 storey houses and small commercial projects. These contractors have never used tower cranes, nor do they understand their utility, lifecycle costs, and the return on investment. We have been educating them on the utility of the cranes, citing examples of Shapoorji and L&T who have been using our tower cranes since more than 20 years. We have also shared with them the resale price of the cranes.”
Manitowoc’s Hydraulic luffing tower cranes ranging from 5-10-15-16 tons, have been designed and developed for specialized applications. Manitowoc has recently received a 5-ton luffing crane order from a contractor of a high-rise project in South Mumbai. “We are receiving enquiries for these specialized cranes for use in high-rise projects coming up at constricted sites in urban areas, so we expect demand to go up in the near future,” says Suryawanshi. “We have 14 dealers who are helping us drive sales and are also instrumental in adding value through installation and commissioning of the cranes and in servicing them.”
Manitowoc, which has recently acquired a crane rental company in the USA, may consider promoting its rental business in India as well. It may use artificial intelligence as well in near future for its cranes working in India. Data gathered through artificial intelligence will be used to analyse the performance of the cranes. This will ensure their higher availablility, through increased uptime, resultantly benefitting the customers.
Schwing – XCMG: Gaining a Competitive Edge
Schwing-XCMG sees demand for tower cranes growing both across the lighter and bigger segments in India and is geared up to meet demand with its wide range of tower cranes. According to V.G. Sakthi Kumar, MD & CEO Schwing Stetter India, the 5-ton tower crane segment will continue to have a share of 80-85% and is likely to gain further traction with the firming up of activities in residential and commercial real estate construction.
The company is offering tower cranes from 10 ton to 100 Metric tons, Says V G Sakthi Kumar, “Given the need for faster completion of real estate projects, tower cranes, especially of higher tonnage will be required for handling the heavy concrete and steel sections. In fact, demand for tower cranes with heavier lifting capabilities has been growing in India since the past 4-5 years, more so with 3D Precast construction technology coming into use by several project developers.”
Schwing Stetter is promoting XCMG tower cranes both as a standalone product and as a comprehensive package that includes batching plants, wheel loaders, transit mixers, tower cranes, crawler cranes, and truck-mounted cranes.
The rising cost of raw materials like steel and the sea freight charges add to the cost of the XCMG tower cranes, which are being imported from XCMG’s global manufacturing facility in China. “It is a challenge for us to make our products cost competitive. However, since the production facility is fully automatic with use of robotics, volume production of the cranes and XCMG’s global marketing of its tower crane gives us the volume to balance out our domestic market prices.”
XCMG tower cranes have the standard safe load indicators for accurate and safe handling of material within the rated load capacity. Mast sections of the cranes are of the split type, they take up less space during transportation, are easier to handle, and can be erected fast, and with ease. There is also the option of an anti-collision device for cranes working alongside several other cranes in big projects.
Says Sakthi Kumar, “Our superior quality XCMG tower cranes give us a competitive edge. Plus, we also provide quick after-sales service and support through the Schwing Stetter network.” He informs that first-time buyer of XCMG products constitute 30% of the company’s sales.
Zoomlion India: Expanding, Localizing, Delivering
Zoomlion India is working on its production and sales strategies to tap the growing opportunities in the tower cranes business. Says Paras Kumar, Sales Manager - Tower Cranes, Zoomlion India (for North and Western India markets), “We are working towards more product localization in order to strengthen our position in the highly competitive Indian market for tower cranes. Our target is to achieve complete localization of our products by 2022, which, of course, will be done in phases. For instance, we began producing the mast sections in India about two years ago and have now begun producing the jib sections – all as per our parent company’s quality standards. A department has been set up at our Pune facility to oversee the production under the supervision and guidance of the R&D wing of Zoomlion, China. For local production of electric components like motors, gear boxes, electrical panels, and other items, we will be soon finalizing vendors.”
As regards the sales strategies, Paras Kumar informs that the company is promoting its tower cranes both for the rental and corporate buyers, and is offering competitive pricing. “There are buyers who are very price conscious and there are buyers who are willing to pay a premium. Our products can meet both these requirements. Our 5-ton under our new WA-Series comes with two models 1) Hammerhead: free standing height 40.5 Mtr with 50 Mtr Jib length and 2) Flat top: free standing height 40.5 Mtr with 56 Mtr Jib lengths and with internal and external climbing features. Under this series, we also have the higher capacity 10, 12 and 16 tons, for which we are targeting precast construction, hydro power stations, industrial units, etc. Customers can choose free-standing heights and 75 to 80-meter jib length as per their construction needs.”
The complete hoisting, slewing and trolley functions of Zoomlion tower cranes have variable frequency drives (VFD) supported by PLC control mechanism. This ensures that the cranes work at a controlled speed, experience fewer jerks, and have almost 30% less power consumption – all of which reduce maintenance.
Zoomlion India has recently got an order for 10 units of 5-ton tower cranes. “We are committed to a delivery schedule of 45 days once an order is placed; this helps customers avoid any time overruns in their project. Plus, we offer in-house after sales support and service for our tower cranes,” informs Paras Kumar.
The Chinese construction equipment conglomerate produces tower cranes ranging between 5 to 420 tons. The company’s longest jib tower crane is of 110 meters. Zoomlion’s production bases, apart from India, are at Changsha City in China, Algeria, and at Wilbert Germany. It has set up a new unit at Pune in Chakan Industrial area to produce tower cranes of 5-6-10-12 tons. Additional space has also been acquired in the same area to produce higher capacity tower cranes, targeting precast construction applications.
Alpha Services: Delivering Value to Customers
Alpha Services, Gurugram-based tower crane manufacturer, has entered in an exclusive distribution tie-up with Chinese tower crane manufacturer Yongmao. “Alpha will be the sole distributor of the premier Chinese tower cranes of 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 tons, even going up to 250 tons. We will be targeting contractors engaged in precast construction and industrial applications like shipbuilding, oil refinery maintenance etc,” informs Umesh Punjabi, Senior Manager – Marketing, Alpha Services.
The company manufactures flattop tower cranes of 5 and 10 tons with jib lengths of 45, 50 and 60 meters at its Rajasthan facility, besides self-propelled mobile and self-erecting tower cranes. Alpha’s fixed tower crane has an automatic greasing system incorporated in the slewing mechanism; it lasts for 6-7 months, eliminating manual greasing, and thereby avoiding abrasion (due to presence of lubricant) in the slew/rotation kit.
Says Punjabi, “In the current competitive business scenario and increased production costs owing to the rising steel prices, we are looking at ways to absorb the cost and deliver value to our customers. For instance, we are manufacturing cranes that are easier to install through tube sections that can be coupled with ease. Our cranes are built using high-grade steel with a greater tensile strength and density to provide more stability to the cranes so that they can withstand the shearing forces on the mast and jib sections during operations. Our cranes also have SEW Euro Drive geared motors that are driven through variable voltage and variable frequency (VVVF) drives to ensure functioning of the cranes through consistent supply of power, making the joystick operations jerk-free.”
Alpha will continue to position its portable, self-propelled, and self-erecting tower cranes for small housing projects, and also for bridges and flyovers that entail jobs like lifting materials, pouring concrete, shuttering construction etc. Informs Punjabi, “Alpha tower cranes have a strong brand recall and new customers are also showing interest. We have enhanced their performance through more value engineering, for example, we have completely modified the steering and made it hydraulic powered; this has made maneuvering of the cranes easier, especially at constricted sites. We have also modified the alternator, enabling it to deliver 15 KVA power in case the grid power is not available. Plus, Alpha tower cranes come with standard air-conditioned cabins.”
The 50 HP tractor, which works as the prime mover for the crane, can also facilitate self erection of the crane. Alpha’s SP 453 self-propelled tower crane has a lifting capacity of maximum 1500 kg and tip load of 500 kg, while its other model SG 24x30 can lift loads up to a maximum of 2000 kg and has a tip load of 800 kg. The company will soon be launching a new mobile model.
Alpha has 5 dealers covering Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Bangalore, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Jaipur, and Kerala, while for the north India markets it deals directly with the customers.