World over machine control technology has grown exponentially in scope. This has made it possible to finish projects faster, at a lower cost and with much higher accuracy as it helps optimise machine performance to get more output in a given period of time. The intelligence of machine control technology helps lessen the wear on a machine and resources required to complete a job, while also allowing the user/contractor to get more work out of their equipment in long run. However, its adoption has been slow in India basically due to the notion of higher initial cost. The scenario is fast changing as most of the OEMs have started providing various control and monitoring technologies.
Says Amitesh Ranjan, Deputy General Manager, Gammon India, "Using advanced machinery with control technologies will definitely increase productivity, reduce manpower requirement, increase overall efficiency of the machine and bring cost efficiency. But you have to maintain it properly. Any machinery that is used with advanced technology and control technologies will improve the quality with productivity, which is beneficial to the contractor."
According to Samip Desai, National Manager, Moba Mobile Automation (I), machine control systems are basically a tool that enhances efficiency, accuracy and productivity of a machine. He adds, "There are several operations taking at a time which becomes difficult for an operator to analyse and control. Machine control system helps the operator to efficiently utilise the machine to its optimum capacity and still achieving accuracy along with safety." For example, machine control technology fitted on an excavator becomes a powerful tool for fast and accurate excavation. It can help improve productivity (faster cycle times) because the operator can dig with absolute confidence in mass excavation applications and know that they are not over digging. This can be particularly helpful in trenching applications by guiding the operator to the exact grade depth and eliminating the need for a worker to be present in the trench to measure depth.
There are many ways to look at operating costs, but all revolve around the common theories of completing more or a comparable amount of work with less effort, eliminating rework, reducing maintenance and fuel costs, and more intelligently utilising equipment to get more out of your fleet in a given period of time. The intelligence of machine control technology helps lessen the wear on a machine and resources required to complete a job, while also allowing the contractor to get more work out of their equipment in the long run.
Ranjan adds, "Nowadays, every project is time bound, and use of modern machines with advanced technologies is important to complete the project within the stipulated period. With the project implementation period is reducing, you have to use faster technology. Control technologies help in monitoring the operations. Every machine has log sheets, in which you can see what is the daily running hours, how much fuel consumption is there and what all jobs the machine has performed."
However, its adoption has been slow in India basically due to the notion of higher initial cost.
Says Brijesh Chhantbar, National Manager, Moba Mobile Automation (I), "When we talk about machine control systems for road construction, mining and earthmoving, then we are still on a stage of introduction, and the level of acceptance is therefore very low." According to him, conventional construction methods, unskilled machine operators are two vital factors that are resisting machine control technology to enter India. He further adds, "Machine control systems are still perceived to be of no use and a waste of money. This mindset and lack of awareness with the benefits of using technology on construction/mining machine is the primary barrier, which is forestalling machine control technology to enter India."
Initial high cost
According to Desai "Technology comes with a cost and machine control systems definitely involve significant cost. However, it has a proportional relation with the return on investment, which is justified by delivering high working efficiency, accuracy and increased production. Technological demand also varies from place to place." He adds, "Being a German company, we have solution, which can be globally adapted. With our presence in India since more than 10 years now, we have identified the demand of Indian construction and mining industry. We offer versatile products and custom solutions depending on the need of the user, which helps delivering cost-effective solutions. We have systems that range from a very basic semi-automatic machine control system to a full automatic and integrated custom build machine control system, which has become possible with the support of our development team both in India and in Germany. We offer both 2D and 3D machine control systems, which are the future of Indian construction and mining industry." Says Ranjan, "The initial cost for a machine with advanced control technology and that of a regular machine depends on the type of equipment. The difference varies with the type whether it is concrete pump, compactor or rig. In piling rigs, the cost difference between a conventional one and a hydraulic one is huge. But using an advanced rig in place of a hydraulic rig is not that much effective. For an advanced rig, you require well qualified operators and need to pay more. Maintenance of such machines is very difficult due to non-availability of parts and trained people to repair. If an advanced machine gives 20 per cent more productivity and once it is broken down, you have to wait for a long time for an engineer to come from outside to attend the problem. It is time consuming and the machine will be idle for a long time." Chhantbar adds, "We are proud in announcing nearly 100 per cent market in levelling sensor technology on asphalt pavers and thus these are one of our fast moving range of systems in road construction in India. We also enjoy leading the mining division with our technology on drilling machines. We would like to thank all our OEM customers for helping us reach this pinnacles. We are very much hopeful with our newly introduced compaction assistant technology on asphalt and soil compactors, which shall soon pick up. We also lead a significant market in laser guided land levelling technology in the agriculture segment."
Accroding to Desai, Moba is open to a wide segment of clients including OEMs, road construction companies, mines, contractors and end users. Machine control systems are suitable for any of these group/organisations. He adds, "We have supplied control systems to Amman Apollo, Volvo, Dynapac, Sandvik, BEML, Atlas Copco, Scania, L&T, Vogele, Revathi, Unipave, Maxmech, Vishwakarma, etc."
Chhantbar says, "We design our machine control system as a universally adaptable system, which can be fitted both during manufacturing and for aftermarket machines. Our machine control systems are compatible with any make and model of machine." Given the fact that most operators are not skilled and trained, how user-friendly are these systems? Says Chhantbar, "After a lot of R&D, we design our HMI/operating consoles, which creates a user-friendly interface for the operators and also by giving a symbolic interface than a language interface. With minimum keys and identifiable graphic interface, most of our systems are simple to operate and easily understandable even for new operator."
Desai sums up, "We believe there is a tremendous potential for machine control technology particularly in India as we are a developing nation with huge mass of natural resources and nearly 70 per cent of infrastructure is yet to be built and developed."