Navigating the Road Ahead
India, with its ever-expanding network of roads and highways, stands at the crossroads of a transformative era in the construction industry. The advent of advanced technologies has revolutionised the way infrastructure is built, and at the heart of this evolution lies the sensor paver market. In this feature article, we delve into the intricate details of this burgeoning sector in India, exploring recent trends, challenges, opportunities, and the promising way forward.

The construction landscape in India has witnessed a paradigm shift with the widespread adoption of sensor pavers. These sophisticated machines, equipped with cutting-edge technology, are rewriting the rules of road construction. The integration of sensors enables precision and efficiency in laying asphalt, resulting in smoother roads and enhanced durability. This shift from traditional pavers to sensor-based systems has been catalysed by the increasing emphasis on quality, cost-effectiveness, and sustainable development.

Trends shaping the market
Until around five years ago, road design and construction rarely used any form of digitisation or analytics, but these technologies will significantly affect road design and construction in the near future. First, roads will evolve from being a passive medium to a system of measuring and guiding. Sensors, either embedded in the structure of newly constructed roads or positioned around existing roads, will be used to guide vehicles, which will enable them to drive closer together, potentially increasing lane capacity by up to 50 percent. This approach is currently being tested by authorities in China. Roads will also be able to communicate surface conditions—for example, friction levels due to water or cold temperature—to autonomous vehicles. Other types of sensors will be used for predictive maintenance, increasing the operational time of roads while reducing costs and the number of road closures.

Said Anand Sundaresan, Managing Director, Ammann India, “Undoubtedly, India offers a huge opportunity for the growth of the construction equipment industry, due to the governments focus and thrust on infrastructure development. The recent budget has been quite encouraging for the construction equipment industry. The budget is an investment-oriented budget with over 35 per cent increase in capex outlay for infrastructure development covering road, river linking, railways, and affordable housing amongst others. Prime Minister Gati Shakti master plan for expressway for faster movement of goods and people will spur road construction activity.

Ammann offers Apollo AP600 paver powered with CEV IV emission standards. This paver is a reliable and durable AP 600 wheeled hydrostatic sensor paver that comes with a variety of features that enable quality, productivity and easy operation. Among them: are hydrostatic drive, fingertip controls, a swinging console, a hydraulically extendible screed with vibration and tamping, and best-in-class sensors. The double-axle design provides greater stability on difficult terrains, with zero flexing – even at the widest paving width.

The AP 600 is offered with the TV 4900 and TV4500 screed, featuring a basic width of 2.5 m that is hydraulically extendible to 4.9 m. Bolt-on mechanical extensions of 850 mm or 1050 mm on either side of the screed offer a paving width of 6.5 to 7 m. The paver’s tamping and vibration arrangement is in line with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and accepted international specifications. Ammann offers either an LPG burner or a diesel burner for screed heating.

The Indian government’s plans to increase road construction from its current level of about 23 km a day to an eventual 50 km a day have made road pavers, particularly sensor pavers, increasingly important for projects around the country.

While rural roads use mechanical pavers, highway constructions are mainly using sensor pavers which give better quality in road construction. Mechanical pavers are the most economical and efficient solution while sensor pavers are advanced pavers with intelligent monitoring systems. Mechanical pavers, though economical, cannot provide a smooth finish to the surface. In turn, this affects the traffic flow of the highway and increases maintenance requirements on the finished road. Sensor pavers have intelligent operating technology that helps control the machine in terms of mat thickness as well as the level of the mat and the grade required in the finished road.

“We’re seeing an increased interest in sensor pavers that help contractors do more with less such as the P5320ABG tracked paver, which delivers a basic paving width of 2.5m,” says Dimitrov Krishnan, Managing Director and CEO, Volvo CE India. “We attribute this to the pressure on contractors to increase productivity both in the size of the roads they build and the speed at which they complete them.”

“Also, sensor pavers have intelligent operating technology that helps the machine meet the desired mat thickness mat level and required grade unlike regular pavers that simply follow the undulations of the road base and are therefore unable to give a smooth finish to a paved surface,” he explains.

In keeping with this increased interest, Volvo CE has introduced innovations on the P5320ABG such as load-sensing hydraulics and an automatic hydraulic track tensioner.

In Karnataka, P Prabhakar Reddy, a public works contractor, has used the P5320ABG (with two DD100 asphalt compactors and four DD90 double-drum compactors) for a string of projects including the 344-km NH-167 that stretches from Hagaribommanahalli in Karnataka to Jadcherla in Telangana and a road that connects to the new terminal at Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru. Ease of operation paving quality and hassle-free operations are among the key reasons why Reddy opted for the paver.

“Anyone can operate a Volvo machine with ease; that is a definite advantage because we face constant pressure on margins and the availability of skilled manpower” he says.

“All Volvo equipment delivers outstanding performance particularly the Volvo P5320B ABG. We get the excellent finish we look for in every project without fail.” Another in-demand Made in India sensor paver from Volvo is the wheeled P4370B ABG which delivers a basic paving width of 2.5m. Pave Assist, which is powered by Volvo Co-Pilot an on-board computer and display providing real-time data to monitor the progress and output of the paving job, is available for both models.

“Imported sensor pavers from Volvo include the units offering maximum paving widths of 9m 10m 13m and 16m of which the most popular is the P6820C ABG (offering paving widths of 2.5m to 10m),” says Krishnan.

The Indian market has the presence of technologically advanced pavers with the presence of many national and international manufacturers. Volvo CE, a global player in pavers that has a manufacturing facility in India, offers tracked pavers (P6820C ABG and P5320B ABG) and wheeled pavers (P4370B ABG). Krishnan comments, “Volvo CE is widely regarded as one of the leading innovators in the field of construction equipment and we are proud to be driving advances in the technology of existing road construction machines, like pavers with sensors – P4370B ABG and P5320ABG.”

Both the P4370B ABG and P5320ABG sensor paver models are made at Volvo’s Bangalore plant.

They deliver maximum paving widths of 7 m, a paving output of 600 tonne per hour and are powered by an 88 kW engine, which delivers high power with minimal noise and low fuel consumption. The P4370B ABG is a wheeled sensor paver that delivers a basic paving width of 2.5 m, while the P5320B ABG is a tracked sensor paver that delivers a basic paving width of 4.5 m.

The P5320B ABG also boasts innovations such as load-sensing hydraulics, so that hydraulic output is perfectly matched to all components. An automatic hydraulic track tensioner delivers smoother operation while simultaneously reducing wear and downtime. The Volvo Omni V screed provides variable width on the go. The electronically-ignited gas heating system, designed with flame failure protection, quickly and efficiently heats the screed plate, while the LPG blower burner system provides uniform heat for a smooth mat finish, with quality pre-compaction.

Volvo’s range of sensor pavers available in India also includes units built at the company’s German factory. The most popular is the P6820C ABG, which offers paving widths of 2.5 m to 9 m. Volvo Variomatic screeds provide customers with hydraulically-extending widths. The machine can also be configured with manual screeds. The P6820C is powered by a 142 kW engine and has a paving output of 700 tons per hour. Volvo expects healthy and consistent demand for the P4370B ABG, the P5320B ABG, the P6820C ABG, and its range of other sensor pavers for the foreseeable future.

Ramesh Palagiri, Managing Director & CEO, Wirtgen India, echoes the same as he says, “In highway segment, use of sensors pavers plays a very important role in getting the right levels and grades when building the roads. The final finish of the road depends, to a great extent, on the accuracy delivered by these pavers, in addition to the mix quality and temperature at which it is laid and also compaction.”

A few of the trends that are shaping the industry are:
Integration of IoT and Artificial Intelligence: One of the most significant trends in the sensor paver market is the integration of Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Smart sensor pavers, equipped with sensors and AI algorithms, can dynamically adjust to changes in the construction environment. This not only optimises the use of resources but also enhances the overall quality of road construction.

Eco-Friendly Paving Solutions: With a growing focus on environmental sustainability, the market has witnessed a surge in demand for eco-friendly paving solutions. Sensor pavers that incorporate recycled materials and adhere to green construction practices are gaining traction. Governments and contractors alike are recognising the importance of reducing the carbon footprint of road construction projects.

Automation and Remote Operation: Automation has become a buzzword in the construction industry, and sensor pavers are no exception. Recent advancements allow for remote operation and monitoring of these machines, minimising the need for on-site personnel and improving safety. This trend is reshaping the work environment and opening new possibilities for efficiency and cost savings.

“Purvanchal Expressway’s Package 8 is 48-km long that lies in Gazipur district,” elaborates VK Chauhan, Civil Structural Engineer, Oriental Structural Engineers. “The average labour used was around 2,000 per day, 1,000 skilled and 1,000 unskilled. About 300 engineers and supervisors were engaged in the project supervision. This is an access-controlled, six-lane expressway, designed to handle a speed of 120kmph, and has an approximately 50-km service road for villagers, 32 underpasses, 11 minor bridges, three flyovers, one ROB, one-way side amenities and a toilet block. Two toll plazas and two interchanges have been provided for entry and exits.”

“We have used three VSI crushers of 300tph for crushing aggregate; three hot-mix plants for asphalt mixes (240, 200 and 160tph); nine sensor pavers and around 12 compactors for paving; and one PQC paver for the rigid pavement at the toll plaza,” reveals Chauhan. “For earthwork, we have used 60 excavators, 40 graders, 40 compactors and 250 dumpers. We have used five batching plants for concrete production and three plants of 250tph for WMM production.”

As India navigates the road ahead, the sensor paver market stands as a pivotal player in shaping the nation's infrastructure. The recent trends, challenges, and opportunities underscore the dynamic nature of this sector. By addressing challenges, seizing opportunities, and embracing innovation, India can pave the way for a future where its roads are not just pathways but symbols of progress and sustainable development. The journey has just begun, and the sensor paver market is at the forefront, laying the foundation for a connected and resilient India.

High Initial Investment: Despite their numerous advantages, the high upfront cost of sensor pavers remains a significant hurdle for widespread adoption. Many construction companies, especially smaller ones, find it challenging to make the initial investment required for these technologically advanced machines.

Skilled Labour Shortage: The operation of sensor pavers demands a certain level of technical expertise. The shortage of skilled labour proficient in handling these machines poses a challenge to their effective utilisation. Addressing this skill gap is crucial for maximising the potential benefits of sensor pavers.

Infrastructure Bottlenecks: While the sensor paver market is evolving rapidly, there are infrastructure bottlenecks that hinder its seamless integration. Inadequate connectivity, especially in remote construction sites, can affect the real-time data exchange and functionality of these machines.