In search of a strong foundation
Absence of big ticket projects such as greenfield power and steel plant projects, crashed out rental rates and surplus of idling equipment, and the cash flow crisis - the overall scenario of the foundation equipment market from the micro point of view seems to be grim, even though from the macro point of view few metro projects seem to have given a bit of relief to the industry. EQUIPMENT INDIA brings out the current market trends, technological updation in the products range, and how the industry is weathering the storm.

Foundation has always been the starting point and the most important part of any project. However, the sector is struggling for new projects. There has been a steep fall in the demand of foundation equipment for the last one year, and the current situation indeed is grim, with no traces of recovery seen in the short term.

"On the macro level other than metro rail, there are no new projects. Many projects are seen in the offing or on the paper, however due to the current and future uncertainty, no one can predict when they will actually start. Market has stopped reacting to the 'announcements or proposals' of big projects unless they actually see things moving on the ground and that has become rare occurrence. In many cases the proposed investment is on hold or the projects are held up for reasons like Funding, Land acquisition or statutory clearances. Due to the general atmosphere of gloom and extremely low confidence in the market, many big private companies or investors have adopted 'wait and watch' policy," says DV Brahme, Regional Manager, MAIT India.

He adds, "On micro level, individual equipment owners are finding it difficult to get jobs/projects and realise payments in reasonable time for work already done. Only on the account of depreciated value of rupee against USD/EURO, the equipment cost has gone up by 20 per cent. Finance companies are not willing to fund the small companies or individual buyers and big companies have stopped purchase of capital equipment unless extremely necessary. Many equipment are idle due to want of work especially in the rental segment and it has led to the fall in rental prices due to which the break even is getting delayed and further investment has stopped."

According to Nitin Jalal, General Manager, MAIT India, the foundation equipment industry is going through bad phase, however, MAIT has reasonable amount of business. He says, "It is a very challenging scenario for most of the players. Thanks to a large base of more than 550 rigs even in such times, MAIT has a reasonable amount of business for attachments like diaphragm wall grabs mainly used in metros, marine jobs and underpasses as well as components like long Kelly bars."

In the scenario of slowdown, major players in foundation equipment sector are implementing new technologies which can increase productivity and earn maximum benefit from operation. For example, Liebherr has new technology in its range of equipment. Says Ghananeel Molankar, Sales Manager, Liebherr India, "The Liebherr foundation equipment performs excellently in every situation due to its leading technology developed in-house. A wide range of applications can be performed with a high level of precision due to its superior control systems. The Liebherr foundation equipment is known for their robust steel structure which delivers unmatched strength and quality. Also, features like PDE, PDR and LiDAT gives us an edge over the competition." LiDAT is a data transmission and positioning system for Liebherr machines and the other machine manufacturers. Based on state-of-the-art technology, LiDAT provides information on the location and operation of your machines, enabling their efficient management, optimal operation scheduling and remote supervision.

Says Surajit Mukherjee, Managing Director, Suretech, "The latest foundation technology abroad is the use of resonance free vibratory hammers and Still Workers for pushing in sheet piles. The advantage of resonance free vibratory hammers is that these do not pass bad or harmful vibrations to the surroundings and so can work in city centres and congested areas. The Still Worker is used in metro projects abroad for pushing in sheet piles silently as well as without vibrations, and so is ideal for operations in city centres and congested areas. Unfortunately, this equipment has not yet been used in India for metro projects. Even though there is an overall economic slowdown in the market, Surajit is confident that there will be a tremendous demand for foundation equipment in the near future. He sums up with a positive note, "We are confident that once the market conditions improve there will be a tremendous demand again for foundation equipment as this is the equipment which is required for all major projects involving foundation work."

There will be a tremendous demand again for foundation equipment in future.