Concrete Future
Requirement of concrete in construction is expected to increase in the future with a slew of projects in the pipeline in real estate and infrastructure projects. The need for varied concrete equipment to meet the demands from these projects is abundant.

Buildings are growing taller, mega structures are coming up, large infra projects are being constructed and planned. All these need high yield, increased output, and improved productivity concrete machines. While high capacity concrete batching plants will be required to cater to the mass concreting demands in bigger projects, lesser capacity plants are suitable for small and medium scale construction projects. High pressure and large capacity concrete pumps will be required to meet the new height of the taller buildings and long distance pumping of mega projects. Advanced concrete pavers are needed to meet the growing demand of highway and irrigation projects. The market is looking for quality machines in concrete applications including batching, mixing, pumping, paving etc.

Batching plants
Batching plants are broadly classified as small, medium and large capacity plants based on the output per hour. The small capacity plant comes within a capacity of up to 20 cu m/hr and medium capacity plants are usually between 30 to 60 cu m/hr, while the large capacity plants are between 90 to 240 cu m/hr. The capacity of the plants is determined by the capacity of the mixer, as normally they range from 0.35 to 3 cu m per batch.

Large-scale infrastructure projects are the biggest demand drivers of concrete batching plants. The major projects are in roads and highways, irrigation, large-scale realty projects, metro rail, bridges etc. The market for batching plants in India is growing at a rate of 20-25 per cent year-on-year with an average population of 2,000 units.

The two major factors that make a batching plant ideal are the batching accuracy and quality of concrete. Mixing technologies and controlling systems play major roles in achieving these benchmarks.

Putzmeister, a major player in the segment, currently offers batching plants in three output capacities. Wilfried Theissen, Managing Director, Putzmeister India, elaborates, "The MT 0.5 30 cum/hr plant is aimed at start up RMCs and projects with space constraints. Building and infrastructure developers and contractors are the ideal customers for our MT 1.0 60 cum/hr plant. The MT 3.0 120 cum/hr plant is aimed at companies working on large infrastructure projects. While the nature of projects and their scale influence the purchase decision, the amount of space available on a project site also impacts decisions. Putzmeister therefore offers a wide range of aggregate storage and movement options to help customers balance the challenge of space and output requirements most effectively."

Design and technology trends: Major equipment manufacturers are focusing on technologies that suit the current project requirements. "As projects get more challenging and timely delivery becomes crucial, we believe customers in India continue their shift to mechanisation in construction. RMC and pumpable concrete will be increasingly adopted as a result," says Theissen. According to him, space available at the site, concrete grades required, and volume of concrete required will continue to drive new design and technology over the next couple of years. Putzmeister already offers fully automated plants to help operators and site managers stay on top of plant operations and deliveries. "Later this year, we will be adding remote plant monitoring capabilities to our batching plants," he adds.

Opportunities: More mechanisation brings in more opportunities for equipment players. "We believe the continuing shift to mechanisation in India presents the construction equipment industry with the biggest opportunity. And the Putzmeister team has the expertise to continue inducting new customers and help them reap the benefits of mechanisation," Theissen claims.

Concrete pumps
Concrete pumps are used for transferring liquid concrete by pumping. These pumps come in two broad categories of stationary trailer-mounted concrete pumps and truck-mounted boom pumps. With the project sizes growing, concrete pumping technology is also improving with more pressure and distance. Customers are now moving from stationary pumps to truck-mounted concrete boom pumps. The use of boom pump is growing. It is a good investment for large projects like the Metros, airports irrigation projects and other high-rise infrastructure and real estate projects. These massive pumps shorten the duration of project completion, reduce downtime and labour costs.

Products and solutions: With the construction projects are becoming increasingly complex with varied requirements, manufacturers are coming out with wide range of concrete pumps that meets most of the pumping needs. For example, Putzmeister offers a range of concrete pumps to address different construction needs. Theissen explains, "Our stationary concrete pumps are globally renowned for the vertical and horizontal pumping capability. These pumps can work on a very wide range of applications including all types of residential, commercial and infrastructure projects.

Putzmeister stationary concrete pumps have met some of the most challenging demands from customers and helped set world records in pumping. For customers who work on quick pour jobs and need to move their stationary concrete pump from one location to another during the work day, we offer the Mobile Line Concrete Pump (MOLI), a stationary concrete pump fitted on a truck and equipped with everything needed to pump including a water tank to help clean the pump. Our truck-mounted boom pumps give customers working on building or infrastructure projects added power and the flexibility to place concrete in difficult-to-reach places. For tunnelling and mining applications, we also offer specialised concrete spraying pumps that are designed to low profile and work in narrow spaces."

Design and technology trends: According to Thampan KS, National Head-Sales & Aftermarket, Sunbeam Infra Equipment, modern day customers expect the best returns out of every equipment purchase and make their money worth it. Hence as the scale of infrastructure demand rises, greater will be the customer's expectations.

He adds, "As a consequence, the role of electronics is increasing as it reduces the number of parts and thereby eases maintenance. Also now with increase in the size of construction, the high pressure pumping which gives more horizontal and vertical distances is taking shape in concrete pumps." The SS 50 pump developed by Sunbeam is an ideal solution which is a high-pressure pump with electro hydraulic control system which minimises the number of hydraulic parts, ensures faster response and has lesser maintenance. "Along with load sensing and power limiter, our new design pump ensures efficient concrete pumping with optimum fuel consumptions. In combination, it caters to the needs of the modern day customer's expectations," Thampan claims.

Theissen elaborates, "Delivering performance drives new developments in Putzmeister concrete pumps. Our R&D teams are constantly working on solutions that will help us pump concrete higher and farther in the most effective manner. All our pumps are designed to have a long service life, handle even the heaviest grades of concrete, be easy to operate and be low on maintenance. Our stationary concrete pumps for example are designed with fewer parts as compared to pumps from other OEMs û this helps keep maintenance costs down. Our pumps come equipped with smart controls such as the EPS (Ergonic Pump System) that helps operators with a real time status of how the pump is performing, keeps the vibrations and noise levels down, and helps with fault management on the go. From an environment perspective, our pumps are also designed to consume up to 70 per cent lesser oil. Later this year, we will be adding telematics capabilities to our pumps. This will help fleet owners monitor the real time status of their equipment remotely and allow remote fault diagnosing thereby reducing downtime on Putzmeister equipment even further.ö Challenges and opportunities: The changing magnitude and design of construction projects is a challenge and opportunity for the equipment industry. However, Theissen points out, "There is no challenge that Putzmeister concrete pumps have not been able to overcome. Whatever your challenge, our team of experts will work with you to overcome it." On the market opportunities, he adds, "As with other concrete equipment, the shift from traditional construction methods to mechanised construction is we believe the biggest opportunity for the industry. That apart, we are seeing a growth in adoption of truck mounted concrete pumps."

Thampan elaborates, "The most common problem of pumping concrete is choking and maintenance. The different concrete mix designs also pose challenges. Hence it is important to understand customer's concrete pumping requirements so as to offer the right solution. Sunbeam's SS 50 pump has a well-defined geometry which facilitates consistent concrete delivery both horizontally and vertically designed for smooth flow, minimum pressure drop with effective sealing and wear compensation adjustments."

Speaking on the opportunities, Thampan adds, "We feel the opportunities are healthy. With growing trend of high rise buildings, mega structures, large infra projects, the need of quick delivery of projects, customers need high yield, increased output, and improved productivity concrete pumps. We at Sunbeam are geared for that with our SS50 50 cu m trailer concrete pump and boom pumps with capacity of 37 m and 42 m."

Transit mixers
Transit mixer is used for transporting concrete/mortar or ready-mix material from a concrete batching plant directly to the site where it is to be utilised. Transit mixer is loaded with dry material and water. The interior of the transit drum is fitted with a spiral blade which is able to move in two directions. During clockwise movement drum is charged with concrete and in counterclockwise direction concrete discharges out from the transit drum. Concrete mixing drum ensures the liquid state of materials through rotation of the drum about its own axis.

Technology trends: Thampan elaborates,"Transit mixer with controller along with tracking system is the new custom-based requirement, which helps the fleet owners on operational control of the transit mixer, and its performance monitoring. Application-based electric powered mixers and PTO driven mixers are evolving." Impact of emission regulations: According to Theissen, the biggest impact of the new regulations is on the truck manufacturers who must grapple with adapting their offering to the timelines set by the authorities. "Putzmeister has a strategy in place to deal with the switchover as we get closer to the deadline," he claims. Thampan adds, "From 2020 with BS VI chassis, the total cost of mixer vehicle will go through a notable increase and if non-prime mover engine (slave) is also subjected, it will further impact ownership cost. Implementation of PTO option by chassis manufacturers will become a necessity."

Touching upon the challenges, Thampan observes, "Continual increases in RM cost and overheads and product updation are not commensurate to the price realisation in the market in spite of increase in market size. There is no visible price correction since many years. Due to heavy discounting, the value proposition of the product that it offers is being diluted.ö

Market outlook: According to Theissen, the transit mixer market has seen a slight dip in the first quarter of 2019 as compared to 2018. However, he adds, "As long as concrete needs to be transported from one location to another, the demand for transit mixers will continue and indeed grow." Thampan adds, "We expect stable growth if political situation is stable."

Self-loading concrete mixers
Self-loading concrete mixers are used to produce and transport concrete. Because of its self-loading design, productivity is highly improved. At construction project, it loads materials by self, don't need any other auxiliary equipment, and it has small volume, four wheels-driving and steering.

Debasis Bhattacharya, Head-Sales, Marketing and Product Support, Ajax Engineering says, "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 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."Concrete pavers

A concrete paver typically uses a "slipform" process to pave roadways, first spreading fluid concrete placed on the grade with an auger, then removing excess material with a strike-off plate. Hydraulic vibrators consolidate the concrete, and tamper bars push the large aggregate below the surface. The paver's profiling plans then set the finished elevation and provide an initial finishing of the slab. Ramesh Palagiri, Managing Director and CEO, Wirtgen India, explains, "The market for concrete pavers has been varying in the past few years. Concrete roads are extremely durable. Their tremendous compressive strength prevents the formation of wheel ruts even when used by a high percentage of heavy vehicle traffic. Such concrete pavements, which need to withstand exceptional loads each and every day, are paved and smoothed by the Wirtgen slipform pavers at working widths from 2.5 m to 16 m."

Selecting the right paver: Project type and the timeline for execution determine the type of ma chines to be procured. Wirtgen Group is the world market leader in concrete slipform pavers and these are available in working widths of 2.5 m to 16 m. The width of the road and the density of traffic in terms of millions of axle loads to be paved is one of the prime criteria in selecting a slipform paver. For an existing state highway which is to be developed from single-lane to two-lane with shoulders, where the existing road cannot be disturbed due to ongoing traffic, the paving has to be done in two passes and you may have to select a paver with width of around 5 m, whereas for a new greenfield project the paving can be done in a single pass where the no of lanes to be paved would determine the width of the paver required. Another criterion for selection is whether the dowel bars are to be inserted manually or automatically, though it is always recommended to use automatic dowel bar inserter to ensure the right quality. The type of the project and the timeline for execution also determines the type of machines to be procured. Relevant technology is always important for completing projects on time, and also ensuring that we have good quality and longer life time for the roads.

Palagiri elaborates, "The Wirtgen Group has been involved with the road development in India since the golden quadrilateral days starting with the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

Wirtgen slipform pavers have several innovations like the automatic dowel bar inserter system (DBI), super smoother, central tie bar inserter, oscillating beam etc."

The growth is expected to continue in future also in light of the reviving real estate market and growing infrastructure construction markets such as roads and highways, irrigation, railways, airports, ports, etc. Being the major constituent of infrastructure projects, concrete usage growth will drive the demand for concrete machinery in future.

New Paving Technologies from Wirtgen
For concrete paving, the Wirtgen slipform pavers can now offer dual-layer concrete paving, where a single machine is used for dual layer concrete paving, the bottom layer and the top layer concrete are paved in a synchronised operation. It is additionally ensured that both the top and bottom layers are paved "Wet-in-Wet" regardless of weather or site conditions. This can be done with single paver or with two pavers where it is necessary to distribute the operating weight to two separate machines.

Two-layer concrete paving
can provide quality surface characteristics, reduced materials cost, and consume recycled aggregates (concrete and milled hot-mix asphalt). This scarcity of aggregates, combined with advances in materials knowledge and construction equipment and increasing demands for pavement surfaces that meet specific noise, durability, and safety objectives are prompting many agencies and contractors around the world to consider two-lift paving as a sustainable solution for building concrete pavements.

Benefits of two-lift paving
as a sustainable solution: Sustainable solutions are those that balance economic, environmental, and social benefits. The two-lift process has great potential as a sustainable paving solution. It reduces the cost of materials and materials transportation, reduces the environmental impact caused by quarrying and importing aggregates, and increases social benefits by maintaining friction and low noise levels and providing a long-lasting pavement that does not need frequent reconstruction.

Wirtgen concrete slipform pavers place heavy-duty road pavements and other traffic areas, such as airport runways or taxiways. Additional fields of application include the continuous production of poured-in-place concrete profiles, such as water gutters, safety barriers or kerbs in road construction. Texture curing machines create the specified surface texture of the finished concrete slab. The smaller slipform paver models work in offset application, which permits the production of a nearly limitless variety of concrete profiles. The slipform can be mounted either on the left or on the right side of the machine to adapt to the specific paving situation, such as accommodation of traffic in the area of the construction site. Fitted with an intelligent quick-change system, the pavers are capable of completing various different jobs on a single day, which enhances both their flexibility and degree of utilisation.

- Sudheer Vathiyath