Rizwan Patel, Director, Falcon Cranes and Infraprojects, gives a lowdown on the crane rental industry, and the challenges in logistics, material handling, and warehousing.
What growth prospects do you see in the heavy lifting industry of India?
India is a developing country with a requirement for modern infrastructure across all industries like oil & gas, windmill, chemicals, transportation, etc. This demand has impacted the lifting industry since infra construction requires lifting of heavy materials using cranes.
In fact, highly sophisticated cranes are being used across manufacturing, mining, infrastructure, petroleum, offshore, cons- truction, for building refineries and power plants, for assembling of shed beams, and moving heavy equipment, etc. Today, crane manufacturers are offering a variety of cranes like mobile cranes, truck-mounted cranes, rough terrain cranes, all terrain cranes, and crawler cranes as per the application requirement.
When we started as a lifting solutions provider in the late 1900s, we had a single unit of a 25 metric ton Mechanical Tyre Mounted Lattice Boom Crane. We have now grown from a one-crane company to a group of companies. Having been in this industry for over five decades now, we have built a loyal customer base and are doing big projects.
In 2014, we decided to start transportation/logistic services by mobilizing our own equipment which would reduce our freight cost and ensure timely delivery. I believe that the logistics industry will boom even more in the coming years as the government is constructing highways and expressways for better transportation.
Is it possible to bring standardization in rates in the logistics and lifting sector?
Standardizing rates may be a challenge as this industry is highly competitive. Logistics requires specialized trailers and multi axle pullers as per the load, which must be delivered on time. Since 80% transporters work as agents for arranging transport vehicles from the market, they provide different rates keeping in mind their commission.
Veteran players in this industry are facing rate differences every day due the new rookie players, who offer clients job completion at a three-time lesser price than the market rate. But there is no accountability and ultimately the client suffers. I think that the industry players should unite and work together on bringing standardization in the job rates.
How is technology impacting warehousing operations and utilization of Material Handling Equipment?
In the 1990’s there was neither technology nor modern equipment for lifting, loading or unloading storage materials in warehouses. I remember the Komda Cranes of Hyster Yale and 3-ton forklifts being used for loading and unloading of steel plates and other heavy materials. Later came the 8-ton Hydra and the 15-ton forklifts which were later upgraded to new technologies like overhead cranes and modified forklifts with coil ramps, etc.
We started our warehousing business in 2018 on 5 acres of land in Gujarat. We also use this space for fabrication and for a workshop for the repair and maintenance of our cranes. We have the latest cranes and forklifts and the latest overhead shifting system where long trailers or cranes cannot reach.
Given the rising demand for container logistics, we are planning to move into container stuffing yard business with major shipping companies and introduce reach stackers along with our own scanning for inward and outward materials in our warehouse. However, the old ways of material handing are still being used in India; as material handling efficiencies and productivity are not yet fully embraced by the market.
What measures are you taking for the upkeep and maintenance of your equipment?
Heavy machinery like cranes is the most expensive construction equipment and is also the costliest to repair. It is therefore necessary to extend the life of equipment with regular maintenance and prevent machine downtime.
A successful preventive maintenance program helps predict when failure is likely to occur and thereby extends the construction equipment’s life and minimizes unscheduled downtime caused by equipment breakdown.
What training do you provide your machine operators?
Many types of cranes have multiple operators. One of the ongoing inspections on any checklist should be overseeing the correct operation of the equipment. Cranes should be inspected as soon as they are purchased. Operator training is usually done at that point, but training needs to be kept going since skills can become rusty, and poor operation leads to machine breakdowns.
Operator manuals should be revised as per the specific work situations. They should be rewritten in a simpler language. A short manual should be provided to each operator for easy reference as the lack of operator training can cause equipment failure, and even accidents and injuries.
Training your employees is also the best way to ensure that your equipment works within the pre-set operating limits as they learn about the equipment in detail. Plus, the local/state laws may also require you to hire certified and trained employees to handle a specific type of heavy equipment.
Make sure that all your employees know how the heavy machine works, what the emergency action plan is, and what kind of safety precautions they should take while operating the machine. Usually, most business owners provide their employees with training at the time of installation of a heavy machine. However, operator training is not a one-time deal. Over time, skills become rusty, employees come and go, and equipment may get software or hardware updates. That's why you should inspect and update operators' knowledge base and skills regularly.
What machine inspection steps are necessary for upkeep of cranes and other equipment?
Lubrication is one of the first and most important of maintenance checks. Lubricants reduce friction around any moving part. A schedule of good lubrication maintenance extends the life of cranes and parts. Look for signs of excess oil or grease build-up on pistons. Check for leaks around oil seals. Be sure to use the right lubricant. There are specific kinds of oil and grease for every component. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations.
There are many seals and filters placed on cranes to keep working parts clean and free of contamination. Seals should be inspected regularly to make sure they’re in good condition. Filters should be inspected and changed regularly. Breathers should be kept clean to avoid creating a vacuum in the cab which will suck contaminants into the cab.
The electronics in the cab are susceptible to breakdown if contaminated. This impacts the clutch and transmission. The cranes should be kept running in idle position periodically even when not in use. Tires, tracks, and electrical systems should be covered properly, kept safe from contacting directly with water, and checked regularly for preventive maintenance.
Aging will eventually affect various critical components of the machines. For example, belts will warp over time, seals may dry or crack, and bolts may bend or stretch out of their original shape.
Check the operator manual to study the performance limitations of your equipment thoroughly since all types of cranes come with a set of specific performance limitations such as maximum 70% load capacity, a predefined range of operating pressure, etc. Exceeding the performance specifications and limitations will lead to increased wear and tear, along with reduced longevity, and even compromise the efficiency of the equipment, resulting in accidents.
How will the entry of Chinese OEMs impact the Indian crane market?
As we all know, India is the fastest developing country in the world, with huge infrastructure developments. Major construction projects like Metro Rail, Flyovers, Port Extensions, Wind Farms, Power Plants, Refineries, Cement Plants, Railway Tunnels, along with LHS and Bridges at every railway crossing, are expected to drive the crane market. In fact, India is a leading market for Hydraulic Truck Cranes, All Terrain Cranes, and Crawler Cranes.
Globally, the crane market is captured by a few crane manufacturing companies like Liebherr, Demag (Now Tadano), and Manitowoc with almost 70% of the global market share and 100% share in the European markets. However, in India, major Chinese OEMs like XCMG, SANY, and Zoomlion have drastically changed the Indian crane market by introducing low-cost equipment.
Cranes with new technology are in demand for meeting project deadlines - the reason why they have improved vastly over the years. They have larger weightlifting capacities, maximum reach, and greater safety. With the construction industry become more demanding, many Indian crane buyers are purchasing brand new Chinese cranes, which come with all these advanced features, and offer a variety of models.
In India, all major crane customers such as L&T and Tata Projects, have a simple clause in the RFQ - which is YOM of the cranes., Keeping safety and speed of work in mind, customers want brand new cranes or cranes that are not older than 15 years. This is driving companies like us to upgrade our fleet from time to time. Keeping these facts in mind, the crane market will surely grow with the Chinese OEMs as the crane market is currently the fastest growing business in India.
What are the main challenges in transportation of Project Cargo?
India is a big country with 28 different states and every state has its own rules and regulations regarding traffic laws. Road transport in India is increasing day by day, and the users have to deal with inadequate road infrastructure, multiple checkpoints, and congestion. Major challenges include:
- Costing is a challenge we face every time in transporting our cargo since we never get our desired rates from any of the transporters as 90% transporters work as commission agents.
- Availability of desired vehicles for loading of materials.
- Vehicles reaching loading point on time is very important in transportation.
- Vehicles crossing interstate checkpoints without any hassle is a huge challenge as India has 28 interstate borders with every state having their own RTO law on transportation services.
- Delivering material on time at the destination can be delayed due to breakdowns, bad weather, roadblocks, and accidents.
- Increase in fuel pricing has led to an increase in freight charges, which is very difficult for us because we get a fixed amount from the client for transportation of our cranes.
- E-way bills are the most important documents and proof of your material. Sometimes due to delay in transportation, e-way bills expire and the material does not reach the destination.
- Official online permission is needed for transportation of special vehicles. For example, if we load our crawler crane on a 16-wheel low-bed trailer, the material cannot be moved even after providing the e-way bill till the time online permission is not given by the state RTO authority.
Falcon Cranes is always geared up to take on any kind of transportation – be it ODC or normal transportation. Our vehicles are designed to carry crane components and special items like bridge girders, tanks, transformers etc. Our fleet can operate heavy haulage all over India.
We are also a crane rental company, and we undertake major turnkey jobs for railways, bridge projects, etc. Recently, we executed a complete job for a flyover project - from loading, shifting to launching - for a reputed client in Gujarat. We faced a very critical situation as the bridge was being constructed in the middle of a city with a hospital, a court, and a school around it.
Each girder was about 30m long and weighed 90 tons each. Mobilizing such heavy materials from the loading yard to the launch site amidst the ongoing traffic was tough. With the help of our trained drivers and escort vehicles, the project was executed smoothly and without any accident.
Falcon Cranes is well equipped to take on any critical job with the help of our specially designed trailers that can shift girders up to lengths of 36m and up to any weight. Our trailers include hydraulic extendable and retractable trailers, multi-axle trailers, flatbed 60-ft trailers, and specially designed 2-piece trailers with the latest heavy pulling horses of Tata Prima, MAN, and Volvo.