SLCM plays a vital role in mobile concreting equipment sector
Self-loading concrete mixer (SLCM) market is upbeat and the Argo model can be a panacea in the concrete life to many odd jobs of varied concreting applications. Debasis Bhattacharya, Head-Sales, Marketing & Product Support, Ajax Engineering, shares more on the market trends and new technologies.

How is the market progressing for self-loading concrete mixers?
The Indian concrete equipment market is expected to register a CAGR of 5 per cent, during the forecast period, 2018-24. There is a rapid growth in industrialisation and that would ensure good infrastructure network, resulting in the need for stepped up surface connectivity measures favouring large-scale construction activities viz, roadways, bridges (ROB, RUB), tunnels, and industrial foundations.

Demand for concrete requirements coupled with stringent project delivery schedules would contribute to the growth of construction equipment thereby stressing upon the need for mobile concreting equipment where self-loading concrete mixers (SLCMs) play a vital role due to the nature of the construction sites' underfoot conditions that are not suited for concrete transit mixer trucks or labour availability is scarce or constrained. SLCM market is upbeat and therefore, in these cases, the Argo model can be a panacea in the concrete life to many odd jobs of varied concreting applications where the challenge would be to strike a balance between preparing optimal concrete batch quantity also maintaining homogeneity as well as transporting/driving directly to remote locations/inaccessible areas of a task site ultimately providing high degree of quality and efficiency.

What are the advantages of your self-loading concrete mixer range?
The Argo SLCM from AJAX can be a panacea in the concrete life to many odd jobs of varied concreting applications where the challenge would be to strike a balance between preparing optimal concrete batch quantity also maintaining homogeneity as well as transporting/driving directly to remote locations/inaccessible areas of a task site ultimately providing high degree of quality and efficiency.

Way back in early 1990s, AJAX was the pioneer in introducing the self-loading concept of Argo to our nation standing by the values, beliefs and hopes of millions of concreting workers' households and now, it has become the market leader providing complete concrete solutions in supporting the infrastructure sector, thereby boosting up the Indian construction economy.

Argo, truly a concreting specialist driven by technology is a multi-faceted concreting legend that encompasses the operations of a wheel-loader, a mobile batching plant and a transit mixer equipping an "all-in-one" integrated operating system (iOS) that self-loads aggregates, weighs batches, mixes, transports and places concrete within the site as per the mix design of concrete requirement for small to medium volume concrete requirements. These machines are equipped with a concrete batch controller (CBC) to obtain the required quality of concrete by allowing the operator to calibrate the quantity of aggregates into the mixer as per mix design.

Argo model's mantra is "maximum productivity; minimal investment": doing more with less; one extra-ordinary machine that can do the work of 10 ordinary men that will result in good savings in terms of return on investment. The unrivaled versatility and efficiency would greatly deliver a reliable mix producing optimal concrete batches resulting in greater productivity with minimal skill or effort involved that can be operated at ease by an operator.

What are the applications?
Today, over 16,000 Argo self-loaders are working satisfactorily across the length and breadth of the country. Due to its remarkable mobility and excellent manoeuvrability, SLCMs are used in varied applications with its wide spectrum of business segment expertise in concrete roadways - national/state highways, driveways, road/rail over bridges, irrigation canals/dams, tunnels/underground passageways, railways, airport infrastructure, power transmission projects, buildings and factories, industrial foundations, renewable energy projects - wind farm/solar park projects, urban infrastructure development - skywalks, metro rails/flyovers etc.

What are the new developments in products and technologies?
Looking the way forward and growing with the Gen X and the New Millennials, AJAX is also grown big and its recent Argo models are incorporated with technologically-advanced innovative solutions that encompass the cutting-edge features providing product accuracy and reliability such as the following: Load-cell based weighing system for greater accuracy of the fine and coarse aggregates weighing; Admixture dosing unit or superplasticisers unit are the final solution for reducing the water requirement to make concrete of higher workability, higher strength, and high modulus of elasticity, higher density, higher dimensional stability, low permeability and resistance to chemical attack; Vehicle reversing camera system provides wider field of vision that helps in monitoring the loading bucket operations from sitting inside the cabin and also helps in avoiding untoward incidents by increasing visibility behind their vehicles, eliminating the blind zone as the operator backs up; Auto-cleansing system designed and developed with high-end technology providing the best cleaning services; IoT - fleet-tracking and monitoring system through telematics that also ascertains fuel efficiency; Sliding gates for the bucket ensuring zero spillage on hopper discharge and the "S" shaped loading arm provides ergonomic and unhindered operation during swivelling position that helps in producing the desired results; Swivel mechanism that provides operator better productivity and operator efficiency; Effective drum mixing with best homogeneity is achieved with the spiral design mechanism; Wear resistance, high superior corrosion resistant steel and helical spirals with end protection; Drum control solutions with effective hydraulic controls and ease of lever operations inside the operator's cabin; Truly an off-roader acting as a tough terrain vehicle with good tight-turning radius and higher gradeability. The power-to-weight ratio of our SLCM is the greatest of all in this segment delivering greater fuel efficiency and demonstrating spectacular performance resulting in substantial savings.

What are the major challenges faced? What are the new opportunities?
Project delays and complexity:
Substantial delays from the state and central budgeted outlays of the earmarked funds for the infrastructure development projects result in temporal complexity having a significant impact on the market growth of concreting equipment. Owing to these constraints, the concrete equipment market is witnessing a slow phase of growth during the start of this fiscal year but is likely to see quantum leap after the electoral polls resulting in a stable government from the second quarter onwards, providing a conducive environment that will help in smoother roll-out of massive infrastructure projects through increased investments schemes undertaken by the Union and state governments.

Technology disruption: Our Argo SLCMs are getting smarter day-by-day on par with automobile sector through the means of introduction of IOT features, telematics - digitalisation, connectivity, and automation are driving the development forward, leaving a significant impact on Indian infrastructure projects. Also, with the tremendous impact of technology on the labour market marked by continuous change, the work environment has also become more complex, requiring new skills and upgradation of existing skill sets. Leaving aside the complexities associated with the infrastructure projects as well as the technology disruption, the major challenge would be the shortage of skilled labour that is getting reflected in the bottom-line of the industry. The skill level of the operator greatly determines the high degree of quality and efficiency of the concrete batch throughput that gets achieved during the day-to-day operations of any concreting machine.

Strengthening feeder pipeline of skilled people: In order to bolster the initiative of Skill India (NSDC), AJAX is taking up endeavours under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program by conducting 'Vocational Skill Development Training Program' for the skill enhancement of rural, semi-urban and urban youths for employability.