The current market trends in India point to exciting times ahead for mobile cranes. Some of the biggest infrastructure projects ever to be undertaken in India are underway. With projected new investment in oil & gas sector, increased wind power generation, new metro railway projects, economic corridors, expressways, logistics parks, feeder routes, etc, the demand for high-capacity crawler cranes, all terrain cranes and truck cranes is likely to be on an upward curve.
Going forward, the higher demand for mobile cranes is likely to be skewed towards the 60-100 tonne category. The rental market for truck cranes, pick-and-carry cranes and even high-capacity rough terrain cranes also present a sizeable opportunity for crane manufacturers, and it is expected to get bigger in the days to come.
In the past few months, the mobile cranes business has been improving quietly. The climate seems to be changing from recovery to growth. Energy sector has been the primary demand driver, supported by infrastructure and construction sector, getting back on its feet. The potential exists for a radical change in the lifting industry.
Product liability issues are becoming more stringent. The emerging needs of customers have gone beyond the conventional spheres of productivity, efficiency and safety to include aspects like user-friendliness, machine intelligence, environment-friendliness and aesthetics. Crane manufacturers need to address these present and upcoming trends while designing the new generation cranes.
Upcoming innovations in cranes are likely to focus on making these machines more compact, maneuverable, energy-efficient and intelligent. Features such as machine diagnostics, remote monitoring, etc would enable customers to be more productive and earn greater returns on their investment.
Remote monitoring and onboard machine diagnostics would allow for faults to be detected and resolved more quickly. It would also enable smarter preventive maintenance, which would drastically reduce equipment downtime, extend the machine lifecycle and increase customer productivity.
Apart from improved productivity and efficiency, operator safety and safety of operations are of critical importance in case of material handling equipment like mobile cranes. There is much need for advanced safety features, such as a microprocessor controlled Load Moment Indicator (LMI) with an electronic display system in the operator's cab, which assists the operator in safe operations. If there's an over hoist, over lowering or overload, signals from the LMI will activate an automatic motion cut-off mechanism to stop crane operations.
The LMI can also act as a Data Logger, similar to an airplane's black box, where the crane's lifting pattern can be stored in the LMI's memory and retrieved later in case of any accident/abuse.
Going forward, given the scale of mega projects slated to dominate the infrastructure sector, we expect to see an increase in the preference for higher capacity cranes, which presents an opportunity for players operating in that segment. There is a flip side to this opportunity as well, i.e., unless there is a sustained long term demand for high capacity mobile cranes, the component manufacturers are not going to set up shop in India. Consequently, the availability of parts and components may pose to be a challenge. Going forward, the other major challenges will be to deliver quality machines at affordable price, manage equipment downtime by way of smooth availability of spares, especially those of higher capacity equipment, and faster and more efficient aftermarket support.