On Strong Foundation
Foundation equipment segment is back on action with a lot of equipment busy at various project sites across the country. The trend is expected to continue for the next few years. However, a sustainable growth will depend on the government policy in the years to come.

Different from last many years, I can see long piling rigs standing tall and working at many places in Mumbai region at different work sites viz, metro, railway, bridges, high-rise buildings, etc. I guess situation is no different in other parts of the country also. Foundation equipment segment (including piling rigs, drilling rigs, hydraulic and vibratory hammers, etc) is on a turnaround stage after a slow pace in the last few years. With projects are being awarded on time and financial closures also happening, these players are confident of a consistent performance in short to medium term. 

Current market trend
For foundation equipment players, the year 2018 is expected to be crucial as many big projects are taking off. Also, projects are getting time-bound with the pressure on contractors to complete the projects on time. In this scenario, speciality equipment such as foundation equipment have a good scope.

DV Brahme, Regional Manager, MAIT India Foundation Equipment, observes, "Currently, there is a steady growth in the market/demand for foundation equipment since last couple of years. We expect this demand to grow in the coming few years, considering the upcoming projects in infrastructure segment. However a lot will depend on the government policy after the 2019 election."

Surajit Mukherjee, Managing Director, Suretech Infrastructure, is optimistic about the prevailing industry scenario as he anticipates, "The infrastructure market overall is booming and thus, there is a huge requirement of all types of construction equipment including foundation equipment. Mega projects are coming up and so the foundation equipment segment is improving."
Demand drivers

There are many projects underway that demand all kinds of foundation equipment for these projects. According to Brahme, big infrastructure projects like metro rail, NHAI projects, Railways and ports are currently driving the demand. "New opportunities will arise when power plants and industrial projects come up to satisfy the demand created by the above mentioned infrastructure and metro projects," he adds.

Says Mukherjee, "Foundation equipment are primarily required for bridges, flyovers, ports, jetties etc. Currently, the  new opportunities  include Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL), Versova-Bandra Sea Link (VBSL), Shivaji Statue, Mumbai Metro Rail Network and several bridges and the road jobs allotted by the Ministry of Surface Transport."
Challenging projects
Foundation equipment equipment work at challenging work environments depending on the landscape, rock strata, soil type, water and many such factors. There are many such projects across the country. Brahme highlights,  "There are many marine piling projects like Zuari and Dwarka Cable Stayed Bridge, Bhairabi Railway Project North East India, as well as Ganga River Bridge in Bihar, DFCC Corridors in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab wherein MAIT rigs have been used and are being used currently as well."

Mukherjee says, "Zuari Bridge Project comes to our mind immediate as well as Signature Bridge Project and Bandra-Worli Sea Link project. Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) is going to be the most challenging project yet."
Products and features
Hydraulic piling rigs are huge foundation equipment that come in different operating capacities. Brahme elaborates on MAIT range, "MAIT rigs are most preferred and coveted equipment because of ease of operation and maintenance, coupled with unmatched service as well as spare parts support.  MAIT rigs are multipurpose equipment that can be used for different foundation techniques like bore piles, CFA piles, diaphragm walls, stone columns, driven piles, cased CFA piles, SDA piles etc."
He further adds on popular models, "Technically speaking, MAIT HR180 and HR260 are the most popular rig models depending upon the soil profile, which are suitable for drilling 2 m diameter and 40 m depth. Currently, there are more than 500 units of HR180 and more than 40 units of HR260 rigs operational with Indian customers."
Vibratory hammers, reverse circulation drill rigs, etc are other equipment range coming under foundation equipment. Mukherjee elaborates on the range, "Our ICE vibratory hammers are known for their robust design and work fast in soft soil and high ambient temperatures. The resonance-free vibro hammer is for noiseless operation and can work next to even dilapidated structures without causing any damage."
  • Some of the special features and technologies of ICE vibratory hammers are:
  • ICE vibratory hammer power packs are designed with variable flow hydraulic pumps, electronically controlled engines and a touch screen IQAN system, which has proven to be a very reliable and efficient combination to meet all the latest environmental standards.
  • The touch screen IQAN electronic management system monitors and controls the power pack engine and hydraulic systems.
  • It features a full colour screen for easy operations.
  • The BUMA Reverse Circulation Drilling (RCD) machine is used for large dia and greater depths for drilling in rock.

On the scope of new application areas, Brahme says, "MAIT rigs have been extensively used in majority of infrastructure projects in India for the last two decades. We are looking forward for use of MAIT rigs for drilling in projects with large diameter piles."

Mukherjee looks forward to new application areas for his equipment range, "We have been pioneering the introduction of latest technology in India since the turn of the century and shall continue our endeavours in bringing the latest development available in the global market."

Integrated piling rigs
Mukherjee provides a comparison of integrated piling rigs and attachments mounted on hydraulic excavator. "Integrated piling rigs are designed and built for piling jobs whereas attachments provide the excavator with temporary capability of acting as piling equipment. 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 drastically.A dedicated equipment shall always have much better capability because it has been designed to do a particular job. However, when a customer has budget constraints and his job is small, then piling attachment is a useful solution."

"Integrated piling rigs definitely are much superior than attachments mounted on hydraulic excavator base due to the fact that integrated rigs are designed and manufactured as  piling rigs with many features incorporated specifically to suit requirements of piling job and are 'multi-purpose'. It can be utilised for different type of foundation jobs. MAIT rigs have many such features like automatic levelling and single layered winches mounted on the base, hydraulically operated counter weight, etc," explains Brahme.  
Safety features
Safety is of utmost importance in foundation equipment as these are heavy equipment and work at challenging environment. Brahme elaborates on the safety features associated with MAIT range, "All the MAIT rigs are CE compliant. There are inbuilt safety feature in the operator's cabin that stops all the functions the moment operator gets up from his seat. The operator cabin has FOPS structure. There are emergency shut-off switches provided in the cabin as well as near the counterweight. Fire extinguisher is provided within the reach of operator. Safety switches are fitted in the rig to avoid overrun of kelly bar and rotary to avoid any accident. Optional features like walkway around the cabin, metallic ladder for the mast, higher capacity winch are available on request." 

Mukherjee explains the safety features, "All the power packs for ICE vibratory hammer are the latest Tier-3 compliant. They have the feature of working in high ambient temperatures. The engine will shut down on reaching high water temperatures and the power engine will shut down on low oil pressure. Even in case of sudden burst in hydraulic hoses, there is an emergency STOP switch on the power pack canopy, to stop all operations. The hammer cannot be put in operation when the clamp is open."
Market outlook
Market looks good for foundation equipment as of now, according to industry players. Says Brahme, "As of now, the future for foundation equipment in India looks good, however the requirement has always been cyclic in nature over the decade. A couple of years of good demand and 2-3 years of very less demand has been the history of foundation equipment in India. Like any other construction equipment, the future of foundation equipment depends very much on the government policy and thrust on infrastructure. The focus of the current government is on infrastructure growth so the demand is good. However, if the focus shifts in coming years there could be a sudden dip in the requirement."

According to Mukherjee, in order to sustain its status as the fastest growing economy, India has to exponentially grow its infrastructure. "Foundation being the first stage of any construction activity, it assumes a significant role and thus will grow in the same proportion as the overall infrastructure execution," he observes.

The past couple of years have been very positive for construction equipment market due to the serious approach of the government towards infrastructure creation. Like other equipment categories, foundation equipment segment also has gained out of this positive scenario. However, going ahead, the same momentum has to continue in infrastructure development for the foundation equipment segment for a sustainable growth in future.

- Sudheer Vathiyath