On A Solid Foundation
The market for foundation equipment appears to be quite buoyant with increased demand in the infrastructure segment, particularly in the power, steel, ports and transportation sectors. Here, speed, precision and safety take precedence over conventional methods and this trend is poised for growth in the coming years. Agith G Antony takes a look at the major players and product offerings, changing trends and challenges the industry faces.

Major players

Unlike many other equipment segments such as earthmoving, lifting and material handling, drilling, concrete equipment, the foundation engineering segment in India is more or less completely dominated by global OEMs. Mait from Italy made an entry in the early 90s, and today offers a wide range of foundation equipment like drilling rigs for bored piles, diaphragm walls, driven piles, continuous flight auger (CFA) piles, vibrofloatation, driven cast-in-situ piles, micropiles, tunnel consolidation rigs, jet grouting, casing oscillators, etc. "In drilling rigs, Mait has the widest range, from 2T to 150T weight. Mait also has the largest population of hydraulic drilling rigs (more than 500) in India. Since the last three years, Mait has been selling close to a hundred units every year. This year, the market size is expected to be 200 units and MAIT expects to sell 135 units," says DV Brahme, Regional Manager, Mait India Foundation Equipment.

The Bauer Group has been represented in India through its daughter company Bauer Equipment India since 1994 and according to sources, Bauer Equipment India offers not only special foundation equipment but also solutions for their special foundation and construction projects, with a competent, skilled team and excellent back-up from their head office in Germany.

Soilmec, a part of the Trevi Group, Italy, entered the scene in 2006 both as contractor and manufacturer, with almost 70 years of experience in the piling industry. According to Sanjoy Chakrabarty, Managing Director, "Soilmec offers a gamut of products that look into all the needs of the ground drilling industry. We offer rigs, truck- mounted, micro piles, soil investigators, crawler unit version, tunnel consolidation, drilling accessories, casing oscillators, extractors, vibrators, drilling tools, buckets, augers, chisels and rock augers. Apart from these products, we also have a dedicated service team that makes available spare parts and technical help as and when required. Our network is spread across the length and breadth of India therefore, we also offer on-site assistance for our products."

Another major player from Italy is Casagrande which has been serving Indian customers since 1986. The company has recently set up a new subsidiary company called Casagrande India in order to improve its offerings in the Indian market in terms of products, technologies, after-sale services. Says Giuliano Feruglio, Commercial Director, Casagrande SpA, "Casagrande offers custom-made solutions to suit the demand for all kinds of geotechnical engineering, piling rigs, diaphragm wall equipment (guided and semi-guided grabs), hydromills, CSM (Cutter Soil Mixing), displacement piles, CFA (Continuous Flight Augers) technology, anchor drilling, micro drilling and jet grouting rigs. Some of these technologies have been proposed and effectively used in notable projects such as the Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai Metros, Tisco expansion, Purna river barrage, the DGNP project in Visakhapatnam for the construction of a jetty, Karaikal Port and the monorail project in Mumbai.

Another major German OEM to enter the Indian market is Liebherr. Says Gunter Seebacher, Sales Manager of Liehberr India," Liebherr offers a wide range of deep foundation machinery: rotary drilling rigs (LB), piling and drilling rigs (LRB), piling rigs with fixed and swinging leader (LRH) and duty cycle crawler cranes (HS). Liebherr has its own sales and service facility in India, focusing on expanding their cooperation networks and their market position in the Indian market."

Among the distributors of foundation equipment, Suretech is a name to reckon with. Set up in the 90s, Suretech today is in the vanguard of many major global OEMs in the foundation equipment sector. Says Surajit Mukherjee, Joint Managing Director, Suretech Infrastructure, "The Suretech range consists of vibratory hammers from ICE, hydraulic impact hammers for onshore applications from BSP of UK, hydraulic impact hammers for offshore applications from IHC Hydro Hammer of the Netherlands, integrated piling rigs from IHC Fundex from the Netherlands, and pile breakers from Taets of the Netherlands."

Another major distributor is Sugam Infra, which supplies vibrohammers and vibrolances from PTC, France. The latest entrant in this segment is Gmmco, which has entered into a tie-up with Junttan OY, Finland, pioneers in the hydraulic piling technology for over four decades. According to an official Gmmco source, "Junttan is a pioneer and market leader in pile-driving technology. Junttan's product range comprises the world's leading pile driving rigs, multipurpose pile driving and drilling rigs, deep stabilisation machines as well as hydraulic impact hammers, rotary heads and power packs."

Codes and specs

The adoption of advanced technology and the growth of an industry, to a great extent, depend on the periodic updating of codes and specs related to the industry. Over a decade ago, the quarrying industry was disorganised, and not even treated or considered part of the construction industry. There were only small capacity crushers from 50TPH to 100TPH that were not technically up to the mark, and quality standards were literally non-existent. The launch of an ambitious Rs 54,000-crore, 13,242-km long National Highway Development Project by the government of India towards the end of 2000, involving upgradation and strengthening of the Golden Quadrilateral and the East-West and North-South corridors, opened the floodgates. When the Ministry of Surface Transport and Highways brought out high standards for aggregates which called for a combined flakiness and elongation index of less than 30 per cent for aggregate to pass the cubicity test, contractors were forced to import high-tech equipment to meet the new quality standards and the volumes required, while the manufacturers were given a golden opportunity to develop a new breed of equipment and systems in India. the result was multiple players and tough competition, better sales and service packages, improved processing, high-tech and bigger capacity plants, quality output, and most important, the industry becoming mobile - from stationary plants to mobile ones, commissioning of plants from two months to two days, from a smaller capacity to higher capacity, from a dusty process of production to environment-friendly processes, and to improved automation and process control.

Says Brahme of Mait, "Unfortunately, our codes and specs are very old and outdated, especially with regards to rock socketing. Of course, there is always an element of false alarm in designers/consultants, due to which there has been very little effort to change these outdated codes. Also, some of the piling techniques widely used in other parts of world is not recognised by our codes."

According to Sanjoy of Soilmec, "Large diameter piles, CFA and micro-piling are the major verticals that we expect most business from but as of now, large diameter piles is the only prospect as no codes exist for the others. There is a lot more open thinking that is required on our codes. Being one of the fastest developing nations, it is essential that we have more constructive codes and specs." Seebacher of Liebherr says, "The specific technical requirements that the Indian market has are challenging, as the competitors especially from China, aretrying to increase their market position in India."

Speaking about some of the major challenges, Sanjoy says, "We have actually no government-specific incentive for the growth of the industry, therefore we are now using the FTW2 place of work as an additional place of work to make deliveries easier. However, there still remains a lot of operational problems and confusion in procedure. There is the need for improved government insights and policies to improve and propel the growth in this sector." Brahme of Mait says, "The challenges are the same that are faced by the construction equipment industry. One is the poor availability of suitable transport facility complying with the specified road norms to carry such heavy equipment. As almost one hundred per cent of the equipment is imported, mitigating the risk of fluctuating exchange rate of Indian rupee against Euro/Dollar is another major challenge, especially for smaller companies."

Technology trends

Sanjoy continues, "The growing demand for the industry and the astronomical rise in the number of projects implemented calls for a better, user-friendly and eco-friendly technology to catalyse the profits and the benefits reaped by all the associated industries; in accordance with this, there was the introduction of newer piling concepts in India pertaining to sheet piling, micro-piling and CFA. The government has been pressing for greener technologies and the industry is also aware of its social responsibility. The technology is not only environmentally friendly but also cost- effective as it reduces a lot of load of transportation of excavated material. It has brought down the overall construction cost."

He further adds, "The nature of construction has evolved with an increasing requirement for larger and deeper foundations, 50 tonne of equipment soon being replaced by machines between 70 and 140 tonne. The adaptation of advanced technologies, increased efficiency, a new system to control and monitor the statistic output of these machines via remote access, has given rise to a better quality of equipment at competitive prices. As per the response from the contracting fraternity, it is a very competitive market and a growing one. The actual user segment is growing but very conservatively and that too, mainly in the eastern region of the country. We expect the segment to catch up because of the innovations brought in to the market, making piling much easier and user-friendly."

"The equipment supplied by Mait is the latest in the world. The rigs being supplied now are technologically very innovative. These are products matured by many decades of experimentation and upgradation. Of course, small technological changes like upgrading to more fuel-efficient engines with minimum emission, increased computerised controlled engines, are all ongoing things. Regarding the piling industry in India, we see a slow but definite change towards higher specification piles like bigger diameters and more depths," says Brahme of Mait.

Speaking about cast-in-situ integrated piling rigs, Surajit of Suretech has this to say, "IHC Fundex is the world leader for driven cast-in-situ integrated piling rigs. These are extremely advanced piling rigs, heavy-duty and highly effective. These rigs were recently introduced in India and presently three units are working with KazStroyService Infrastructure India and Valecha Engineering on the Paradip IOCL project. These rigs are capable of driving close bottom casings up to depths of 30 m, diameter of 450-610 mm, putting the reinforcement and concrete from this machine and then extracting the casing, leaving the sacrificial bottom shoe in the ground and completing the pile depth on the soil conditions between 45 minute to 1? hours. If the reinforcement and concrete are supplied to this machine at an appropriate time, then more than 20 piles per day can be achieved. When the logistics were properly supplied to this machine in Paradip, it even achieved 29 piles per day. These piles have a large load-bearing capacity because they are displacement piles. We expect these driven piling rigs to revolutionise the Indian foundation industry."

The contractors find that it pays to employ modern integrated hydraulic piling rigs, as they are essential for executing time-bound projects efficiently and for achieving better quality foundations. Micro-piling machines are becoming versatile, with the same machines used for micro-piling, jet-grouting, anchoring, and under-pinning works, all with minimum modification to a machine. By equipping them with a rod carousel, machines can do a considerable bore hole depth with a single pass. The machines can also be equipped with a casings extractor assembly without using a winch or other impractical systems. Even radio remote controlling of tramming and drilling functions is possible. The multifunctional integrated piling rigs are totally different from the Kelly bar piling rigs which are commonly used in India. The former is used for driven piles along with a rotary head for the CFA system, semi-displacement and full displacement system, tubex piles, double drilling, with an impact hammer for pre-cast concrete piles, cast in situ piles, steel tube piles, steel profile piles and with a vibratory hammer for steel sheets, tubes, profiles driving and extraction. These piling rigs have a standard leader length of up to 40 m. The best example of an integrated piling rig can be seen in cast in situ piling where a closed bottom tube is first driven, then concrete and reinforcements are put inside and followed by the extraction of the tube, in a matter of minutes, thus increasing production capacity dramatically, as compared to the cumbersome and time-consuming methods in use currently. These rigs are working all over the world, in countries like Russia, Dubai, Australia and the US.

Software solutions

Seebacher of Liebherr explains, "Deep foundation work makes various demands on machinery and material. The optimisation and documentation of the working processes are of major importance in completing construction projects cost-effectively and in accordance with the contract. For this purpose, Liebherr offers a wide range of software solutions facilitating not only planning and quality assurance but also process optimisation. All this is based on the well-proven and robust Litronic control system which uses CAN Bus technology for data transmission and allows recording, combining and calculating various values."

"In order to support the operator and to control the quality of the work executed, Liebherr deep foundation machinery is equipped with the Liebherr PDE process data recording system. Via a colour touchscreen in the operator's cab current process data, for eg, depth, amount of suspension and geometry as well as working processes, can be displayed in real time; thus, the operator is continuously informed about the working process and can control the unit accordingly," says Seebacher.

He adds, "The PDE process data recording system enables recording of process-related values on a memory card in the operator's cab for a large number of deep foundation methods. Thanks to this flexible modular system, additional external sensors can be integrated in the process data recording. Depending on the method, visualisation adapts to the specific challenges and thus provides the operator, in addition to partially automated working processes such as concreting or similar tasks, with maximum support and allows him to fully concentrate on his main tasks."

He further elucidates, "With the aid of the process data reporting software SCULI PDR, the data recorded by the PDE system can be managed, displayed and extensively evaluated on a PC subsequent to the working processes. A central component of the process data reporting system is the Report Generator allowing for the generation of individual jobsite protocols. The protocols can be freely configured, displayed in a variety of languages, either printed directly or saved as PDF file. Evaluations can be adapted to individual requirements, for eg, scaling, definition of variables, integration of logos and much more. Moreover, PDR process data reporting provides protocols for proof of quality and facilitates the settlement of the jobsite."

"Transmission of the process data recorded on the machine can either be carried out via Compact Flash memory card or via the LiDAT telematics system. Based on state-of-the-art data transmission technology, LiDAT provides information on the location and operation of the machines, enabling efficient management, optimal operation scheduling and remote supervision. Information such as a machine leaves a predefined zone, fuel consumption, service intervals or notifications of specific operating parameters can also be accessed. Detailed knowledge of the machine's application provides a basis for rental calculations. The various LiDAT functions are included in the basic packages LiDAT Standard and LiDAT Plus. On the basis of LiDAT Plus, several additional packages are available. Permanent readiness for operation of Liebherr units is a major prerequisite for a smooth and efficient application on the jobsite. Using the LiDAT additional package Teleservice, a Liebherr service engineer can log directly into the machine in case of malfunction to carry out first analyses and provide solutions quickly and without having to travel. Thus, delays and downtime can be avoided and service costs kept to a minimum," Seebacher sums up.