Technology upgradations & innovations by Kobelco

E. Moses, Vice-President- Division & National Head, Kobelco
“Kobelco is fully geared up to meet the ever-rising customer demands by continuous technology upgradation and introducing new models and variants.” E. Moses, Vice-President- Division & National Head, Kobelco

Outlook on the Excavator Market of India
The Indian CE industry has experienced irregular demand patterns over the years with a few years of good growth followed by a drop and then a recovery of sorts. Such a pattern has been observed over a period of many years making it quite challenging for manufacturers to plan their investments and business targets. The business scenario was further complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic during 2020 and 2021, but its impact was neutralised in Q4 2021 and Q1 2022 with the excavator industry bouncing back due to the ongoing infra and mining activities.

Now, in 2022, the rising input costs on account of steel and oil prices have forced manufacturers to hike excavator prices quite steeply. This has impacted the overall retail excavator sales in Q2-Q3, with sales lower than estimated. Moreover, due to the delay in activation of infra road projects, the overall demand for excavators, especially for the 14 ton to 38 ton been adversely affected. The only exception has been the Mini and the Mining Excavator segments, where demand has been relatively better than last year.

Ideally, considering the enormous task of building the country’s infrastructure to the desired level, the economy should be smooth for a period of 10-15 years so that various timelines can be ensured, and cost overruns can be avoided. Presently, the nation is bearing the brunt of both these issues. On a concluding note, one can still state that the overall outlook is positive, but the progress will be intermittently disrupted by various issues, whether local, national, or global.

Recent improvements and advancements in Kobelco excavators
Kobelco has been known for continuous innovations in its product lines. Our excavators have been trendsetters in terms of technology and quality of material. Kobelco’s Generation 10 series delivers a set of values which take performance to the next level. Best-in-class fuel efficiency, faster operating cycles, highly durable structures, enhanced filtration systems, lower carbon footprint, longer service life of all major components, etc are collectively delivering tremendous value to our customers.

Apart from these inherent features, our policy to provide the best possible solutions to customers by understanding their needs based on the application and services required, has become an irresistible value for money proposition for most of the Infra and Mining contractors.

Why older machines are still popular in India despite availability of premium class of machines
Globally, the CE industry has progressed in many ways with the induction of several new technologies in developed markets. The main driving force has been the strict emission and safety regulations in these markets. Market forces, spurred by customer expectations and the willingness to pay for value additions, have also led to the development of advanced features for improved productivity and operational efficiency.

In India, the lack of similar legislations has extended the lifespan of older technology driven machines because of their cheaper prices. Customers tend to adopt the attitude that such machines are also capable of “doing the job” albeit with some limitations or a higher operating cost. They are tempted to think that the lower owning cost/ investment almost compensates for the projected “future savings” in fuel cost as well as a lower output.

Another factor which has encouraged this preference for cheaper equipment, comes from the machine hirer segment, which accounts for a sizeable market share. In many cases, the hiring rates are fixed on an hourly basis, but the fuel is provided by the hirer at his own cost, which means that the owner is not impacted by the higher fuel consumption. Ironically, primarily for this reason, a machine with premium features like lower fuel consumption but higher owning cost, does not attract the rental operator. Lack of reliable life-cycle operating cost data makes the case weaker for the premium machines.

Leveraging Telematics, IoT, and Big Data in Kobelco machines
Telematics was introduced in our machines in India almost a decade back, but the users took some time to understand its utility in a better management of their fleet. The advent of smartphones has contributed a lot towards the increased usage of telematics data by the machine owners. They can now track their machines’ data from any location and can see their location as well as their performance data like utilization, idle time, fuel consumption, operating mode used, service maintenance alerts, etc.

Our telematics (Geoscan) is also enabled with self-diagnostic features which alerts the support technicians through error codes, based on which they can address them even remotely. IoT is also a common feature in most modern machines as various components can communicate with each other and deliver the best combined efficiency in productivity.

A large pool of data is generated from each machine, which is duly processed and analyzed at the back end. Meaningful summaries and trends are shared with the machine owners for improving efficiencies, performance, and upkeep of their units.

Technology upgradations & innovations by Kobelco

Ultra-care of Kobelco machines
The reliability of its machines has been one of the biggest differentiating factors for Kobelco. We have been putting a lot of investment in sourcing and manufacturing the most reliable components. Our machines are known for a relatively higher life of its key aggregates like engine, undercarriage, travel device, swing device, hydraulics, etc. We have recently introduced our ‘Ultra Care Warranty’ facility for all our excavators with which our customers receive up to 10,000 hrs or 4 years of protection.

Customer preferences have been growing over the years as more and more features are being introduced by OEMs in the Indian market. This is why Kobelco is fully geared up to meet the ever-rising customer demands by continuous technology upgradation and introducing new models and variants.

Challenges
Historically, we have been followers of international trends with a strong local content. We still have some catching up to do; this is also due to the delayed implementation of emission, safety, and other regulations. The process is now being hastened but there are challenges. OEMs who continue to offer machines with legacy systems have enjoyed an upper hand with their cheaper offerings and garnered a higher market share, which is like a “double advantage”.

Things are expected to change in the not-so-near future, but the accumulated advantages enjoyed over the years will allow manufacturers to adopt the minimum/threshold level of compliance so that they can continue to have an edge. The price sensitivity of customers may soften the impact of the new regulations and might even allow them to thrive, although with a reduced advantage.

For the premium segment players, the present challenges may be marginally set off, but they will have to work a lot on improving customer awareness of the various “value additions” that they offer and how they translate into much higher benefits over the life of the equipment through higher fuel savings, increased output, and greater durability and reliability.
NBM&CW November 2022
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