In recent years, India has launched a number of infrastructure initiatives such as the Smart Cities Mission, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, and the Sagarmala and Bharatmala programmes. Construction activities in projects under these initatives have created a significant demand for earthmoving equipment. As a result, the demand for equipment such as backhoe loaders, excavators, motor graders, etc., has shown a consistent increase in the past couple of years.
The demand for construction equipment is expected to increase going forward. According to the Indian Construction Equipment Manufacturers Association, the demand for earthmoving equipment is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 12.5 per cent over the period 2016 to 2020. Earthmoving equipment as the largest segment of the construction equipment industry (with an over 60 per cent share in the total equipment sold in the country) is expected to continue its dominance in the future as well. Within earthmoving equipment, the maximum demand is expected to be for backhoe loaders, which are finding increased takers due to the multiple applications they can be put to. They will be followed by hydraulic excavators and wheeled loaders.
The increased demand for earthmoving equipment resulting from rapid infrastructure development is providing a growth opportunity for manufacturers to invest more in the earthmoving equipment market. Manufacturers have also been supported by a reduction in the goods and services tax on most construction equipment from 28 per cent to 18 per cent, thus making equipment cheaper and driving demand. Penetration of earthmoving equipment is seeing an increase as a result of growing demand for mechanisation at construction sites. Technological developments such as real-time monitoring of system failures and instant report generation using mobile apps are increasing the adoption of earthmoving equipment.
Multifunctional machinery has seen increased use due to the large number of benefits it brings as compared to traditional equipment. For example, the backhoe loader has seen increasing sales in recent years due to its multifunctional nature. In its basic configuration, the loader can be used for excavating, material handling, refilling, asphalt breaking, etc. On adding attachments such as a dozer blade, it can instantly be transformed into a bulldozer. Similarly, various attachments are now being increasingly used to transform the backhoe loader into a crane, an auger, a paver or an excavator as needed.
Increasingly, the earthmoving equipment industry is focusing on a customer-centric strategy for growth. Equipment manufacturers are developing a deeper understanding of how customers create value and are supplementing their customers’ efforts through the introduction of newer technologies. This trend is being followed for after-market sales as well. Same day service is increasingly becoming the norm as all construction work comes to a standstill in the absence of properly functioning equipment. Thus, this is increasingly becoming an important variable for customers while making purchase decisions. Preventive maintenance is expected to gain importance and will also be a major factor for making buying decisions for equipment procurers.
The equipment manufacturer is also evolving from being only a seller to becoming a consultant who helps in complete on-boarding for their clients. Consumer choices are fast evolving and customers are becoming more demanding in terms of quality and services. For manufacturers, sales no longer end at just selling a machine. Providing complete on-boarding and timely after-sales service is becoming key to maintaining healthy customer relationships. Today, the manufacturer has to ensure that
buyers and operators are correctly educated about the new technologies that the machine is equipped with and how to make the most of it. Field service providers are also being trained to deal with new technologies.
Consumers are also moving towards larger equipment due to the increasing size of projects being undertaken in the country. A larger bucket size of earthmoving equipment ensures that more earth is removed in a given period of time. This helps expedite progress as compared to equipment with a smaller bucket size. Requirements, however, vary by project and the individual need of the project developer.
Another emerging trend is the increasing use of remote monitoring to operate equipment which is deployed at sites that are difficult to access. Remote monitoring offers tools to quickly identify issues and remotely manage and control equipment operating at a considerable distance from the control centre. Thus, any fault in the machine can be reported instantly and action taken immediately to correct it, thereby preventing unnecessary delays in project implementation.
Earthmoving equipment is being increasingly installed with global positioning system (GPS) devices. GPS systems help in geofencing machines that help track fuel consumption and monitor appropriate equipment operation remotely. Modern GPS devices are also being developed which could set off an alarm on the mobile phone of operators or equipment owners in case the machine develops any fault. These systems are easy to install and have a long battery life thus making them user friendly.
With increasing awareness of the importance of safe operations, manufacturers are according high priority to safety, both at the manufacturing location and at the project site where the equipment is being used. Advanced safety measures and processes, load management systems and specialised accessories are being designed to ensure safety of workers. For example, JCB tracked excavators are fitted with a servo lock override system and swing lock system to prevent unintended machine operation when the machine is idling. This ensures worker safety in the work environment.
Innovation in earthmoving equipment
With the increasing penetration of smartphones, customers now have the choice to use mobile apps to diagnose problems in earthmoving equipment. For instance, android mobile app builder Snappii has developed two apps – the Construction Equipment App and the Heavy Equipment Inspection App – which allow users to collect and process all equipment data using only a mobile phone. Users can generate an entire report using a mobile phone and inspect whether the equipment is in good working order or not. Mobile apps and telematics are expected to play an increasingly important role in preventive maintenance, diagnostics and field maintenance of equipment.
Intelligent service panels are also being installed on earthmoving equipment. These panels allow operators to diagnose and rectify errors quickly. If there is an issue with the equipment, it is detected automatically and shared with the operator using the service panel. This enables technicians to take immediate action and prevent any unnecessary delays due to equipment malfunctioning and helps reduce losses and ensures continuity of operations.
Manufacturers are also investing in advanced engineering to increase fuel efficiency of equipment. Multiple designs of various parts of the equipment such as the wheels and the chassis are being optimised to reduce fuel consumption. This not only helps the customer to reduce costs in the long run but is also more environment friendly. Further, manufacturers are going the extra mile and adopting the latest technologies from other industries in their manufacturing process to ensure that the buyer gets a high quality product at the best possible price. This is leading to better machines being created at lower prices.
The way forward
The Indian earthmoving equipment industry has evolved significantly over the past decade. With growing mechanisation and increased productivity targets, developers have been moving away from conventional methods of construction towards the adoption of newer technologies. This has created a significant demand for earthmoving equipment such as backhoe loaders and excavators.
Going forward, the earthmoving equipment industry is expected to become highly competitive through the introduction of new technologies at reduced prices. Also, the equipment manufacturer’s role is expected to change from just a seller to a consultant who helps customers throughout the lifetime of the equipment. This will drive innovation and improved customer service to ensure that the equipment manufacturer grows in the increasingly competitive environment.