On the Move!

The medium and heavy-duty mobile cranes market is progressing largely in India due to the growth in the construction industry of the country. The construction industry in India has seen a high growth rate over the past years owing to the elevated economic growth of the country. Numerous heavy construction projects like metro projects, railway projects, flyovers, and bridges have collectively increased the demand for heavy-duty mobile cranes over the past few years. The demand for heavy-duty mobile cranes is expected to grow in the forecast period due to the rising demand for higher tonnage cranes, which are used in several applications.

Demand uptake
Speaking on the current market size of mobile cranes in India, Pankaj Gupta, Business Advisor, Alpha Services, had this to say, “The current market size of the self-erecting mobile tower crane segment is estimated at approximately 200+ cranes per annum and the industry is witnessing growth after a lull during the last two years due to Covid-19. The demand is primarily driven by low-rise residential, commercial, and industrial building construction activity in urban areas, especially outside metros. Demand is also boosted from the metro rail projects, flyovers and river bridges.”

Rishi Sanghvi, Managing Director, Sanghvi Movers, said, “The country is witnessing robust demand for cranes, with increasing utilisation and yield, due to ramp up in capacity addition across core sectors. With the pickup in the capex cycle, the thrust on infrastructure and core sectors, and the resilient Indian corporate houses, we see strong demand for cranes over the next two to three years. In the thermal power sector, NTPC is executing several Ultra Mega Power Projects across the nation. These projects are in the 660 - 800 MW class with total capacity addition of 9,840 MW. The cement sector is witnessing aggressive capacity addition with greenfield and brownfield expansions of 18.15 MTPA. Similarly, the steel sector is expected to add 13.5 MTPA in Kalinganagar, Bellary and Angul.”

He added, “Several expansions, upgradations and new refinery and petrochemical projects are coming up in Barmer, Paradip, Vizag, Baruni, Panipat, Vadodara and Mahul with a combined new capacity of 20.6 MTPA. The rapid urban infrastructure upgradation has led to the development of metros across various cities. Moreover, the high-speed railway presents massive opportunities for the construction equipment rental industry. In the next FY, the wind sector will add approximately 2,200 to 2,500 MW, which will create a lot of demand for cranes.”

“The market for medium and heavy-duty mobile cranes is picking up after Covid. The pace is a bit slow as compared to pre-Covid period. There were other factors too that impacted the growth graphs such as steel prices and diesel prices, which skyrocketed resulting in delays in commencing projects. Major demand drivers in the coming period shall be projects like metro expansions, road and bridge projects and expressways. Due to these developments connectivity will improve, which will further lead to the development of new places and industrial corridors,” commented Akshay Deshmukh, Managing Director of Deshmukh Crane Service.

Satin Sachdeva, Founder and Secretary General, Construction Equipment Rental Association (CERA), thinks that the scenario in India is encouraging due to two reasons – first, the paradigm shift towards buying new cranes from importing used cranes; second, the increase in the use of the heavy-duty mobile crane in construction, cement, steel, wind and power sectors. “In India, it is the all-terrain cranes, crawler cranes, rough terrain cranes that dominate the market due to their versatility and operation efficiency.”

“The top line will grow at 25 per cent due to growth in numbers (12-15 per cent) YoY and because the market will move to higher capacities. Next-gen and multi-activity cranes will be the key drivers. High-speed rail projects, road projects, airports (both greenfield like Jewar and expansion in cities like Delhi and Chennai airports), various metro and rapid rail projects, greenfield refinery projects and various water pipe laying projects across India will drive the growth of mobile cranes in the upcoming years,” said Manish Mathur, CEO – Cranes, Action Construction Equipment.

Said Karan Chechi, Director, TechSci Research, “The major demand driver for the mobile cranes market is the development of Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), which is India’s first operational smart city and international financial services centre. The city is expected to cover a construction area of 8.5 million sq m along with 200 skyscrapers. The state government is also planning to build a double corridor metro system to link up the GIFT city to the nearby airport along with various parts of Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.”

Subhajit Chandra, Divisional Head – Mobile Crane Division, Liebherr India, thinks that there is an increasing requirement for a broader range of higher lifting capacity, quality products, long life expectancy and comprehensive after-sales service. “All-terrain dominates the market owing to growth in the construction sector across India due to its versatility and operation efficiency. The use of heavy-duty mobile cranes in Indian industries is a sign of an increase in investments in construction, cement, steel, wind and power sectors are factors for the market growth. Liebherr makes 450t to 1,200t capacity all-terrain cranes used in windmills applications, infrastructure sectors, construction of elevated corridors, lifting the chillers, and many critical applications in the industry.”

He added, “Our Liebherr-make 450T capacity all-terrain crane – Model LTM 1450-8.1 features a very long yet powerful 85-m telescopic boom with single-engine. The Liebherr 8-axle crane has been designed for worldwide cost-effective mobility and fast, easy set-up on site, which has resulted in the LTM 1450-8.1 is capable of travelling on public roads with a 12-tonne axle load including its 85 m long telescopic boom, all supports and a complete hoist winch. This means that it can be quickly prepared for use once it reaches the site.”

Dominance by pick and carry cranes
Speaking on the dominance of pick and carry cranes in this segment, Sachdeva said, “Different attachments can be used in pick and carry cranes and that has revolutionised the market of pick and carry cranes. Therefore, they can also be used as AWPs (Aerial Work Platforms). Due to this, they have applications in new projects such as pre-engineered buildings, modular construction, handling materials, etc. Hence, the pick and carry crane market is expected to witness a huge surge in growth. The new generation cranes are designed to cater to the practical working surroundings and needs of construction sites. The new cranes are equipped with improved visibility due to their large cabin and operator comfort. Safety is the most important factor in new generation pick and carry cranes, and therefore they can be operated easily on uneven work sites.” Said Mathur, “Pick-n-carry cranes in India became popular as they are valued for money products initially and off late they have developed to be cost-effective, highly efficient and productive and easy to maintain. These cranes are available through hirers and contractors across all major district centres of India. They now dominate the material handling space.”

“The pick and carry cranes have the most dominant market out of all the cranes sold in India which makes it a product that has been adopted throughout the country and is used for all kinds of lifting work. In India, the pick and carry cranes are utilised for almost every application with more than half consisting of usage in construction and infrastructure projects. The rest of the applications of pick and carry cranes include usage in industries, manufacturing, and logistics. Additionally, the design of the pick and carry cranes are basically articulated which is a major factor in the dominance of this type of mobile crane in the market in India. The most important advantages of using pick and carry cranes include simplicity, versatility and maneuverability offering up to +55/-55 degrees articulation along with the benefit of low prices in the mobile cranes market,” comments Chechi.

Chandra feels that pick and carry crane has a separate ball game altogether as far as the mobile crane is concerned. The demand for pick and carry cranes has a strong correlation with industrial growth. The pick and carry cranes undertake a wide range of lifting jobs across infrastructure, mining, agricultural, industrial and urban renewal sectors. He added, “Pick and carry crane is the strong support for higher capacity all-terrain and crawler crane assembly and dis-metalling. Importantly, the competitive pricing factor would keep pick and carry cranes at an attractive buying proposition for potential buyers. Competitive pricing in its designated capacity class would continue to make the machine attractive for rental companies and minor hirers, which constitute its major buying segment. Affordable pricing would also make the cranes attractive for first-time buyers as well as contractors.”

Deshmukh says, “Pick and Carry Cranes are well suited to the Indian market and have been there for a long time. The pick and carry concept is very cost-efficient in every way like the parts can be locally sourced and made available, its repair and maintenance are easy, Operator availability and training are easier. Whereas, heavy telescopic cranes, which are widely used in western countries do not suit the Indian cost-oriented market. For instance, if a job can be done with one 40 tonne crane or using two pick and carry cranes, the company and hirer would find the latter option a better deal.”

“At big project sites, clients require lower capacity material handling equipment for handling small material. Pick-and-carry equipment dominates the mobile crane market as the initial investment is comparatively lower and this equipment is readily available to manufacturers. In the lower segment, these equipment are mostly hydras. Pick-and-carry equipment is versatile, easy to maintain, and has a low cost of operations. Nevertheless, we believe that pick-and-carry equipment has certain technical limitations such as a lower capacity, less stability, and are more prone to accidents,” says Sanghvi.

Design changes
Alpha, one of the leaders in mobile tower cranes, has developed new solutions and evolving its product portfolio for the last 35 years. Its current range includes EOT cranes, Goliath cranes, transfer trolleys, mobile tower cranes, flat-top tower cranes and mobile communication towers. Its manufacturing facilities and products are CE and ISO 9001-2008 certified. Alpha introduced mobile tower cranes in the Indian market in 1988 with its model SP-453 and now enjoys a pioneer’s status in the industry. Later, it developed a range of Flat top cranes up to capacity of 5 tonne. Today, the company has a market share of over 50 per cent with sales volume of 80-90 units a year.

ALPHA’s SP453, which has been designed with technical know-how provided by Manitou France, is the most popular model amongst mobile tower cranes. This all-terrain, self-propelled mobile tower crane is very handy and much sought after as it is self-powered and doesn’t need any external source or help for its erection and installation. Segments, where the SP453 enjoys wide applications, include group housing projects, ROBs, flyovers, low-rise buildings, industrial projects, sugar-mill construction, etc. Says Chandra, “Our Liebherr models of all-terrain crane LTM1450-8.1 i.e. 450T capacity and LTM1650-8.1 i.e. 700t capacity cranes are eight axle crane with single-engine. The single engine has enough power to supply both in superstructure and carrier and they are well equipped with all the new upcoming emission norms in India. Due to one engine maintenance costs reduced. Definitely, two engine maintenance cost is more. The best benefit customer can get in India is fuel-efficient operation. The strong luffing jib is best suitable for Plant operation and in real estate for lifting the jib of tower cranes at higher reach, our strong luffing Jib makes the crane at the best in the 450t class capacity crane.”

He adds, “Our telescopic boom is a puncture proof and torsion resistant construction made of high strength fine-grained structural steel. The oval boom profile provides maximum stability during bending and torsion. All telescopic sections are extended or retracted by a double-acting hydraulic cylinder. With the rapid-cycle telescopic system TELEMATIK, the various extension lengths can be positioned fully automatic or manual. All telescopic sections can be telescoped hydraulically under partial load. The telescoping process is monitored by the LICCON control on the monitor with telescope images. The telescope length is displayed on the LICCON monitor in the crane cabin.”

“The mobile cranes are being used to address the high-end demands from the infrastructure and construction sectors for urban development. Manufacturers are focusing on introducing new changes to the design of mobile crane models that would address market demand for a long period of time. From loading capacity to multi-activity, the key design is being revised to meet the industrial demands for complex operations at major project sites. This advancement has been possible with the adoption of technology and new materials,” says Chechi.

“Manufacturers are delivering advanced mechanised solutions for mobile cranes. Hybrid overhead traveling cranes can be stacked with smart features that can provide control of the material handling in the production processes. Additionally, more models are now manufactured with drive and control systems that offer several optional features that help in reducing fuel consumption and maximising reliability and productivity. There’s a popular feature that is named as the Eco Mode system, with the help of this system, the entire pump drive is disengaged automatically when the engine is in idle mode and switched on again in a matter of seconds using intelligent control when power is required. With this system, the software sends signals to the electronic engine, which then automatically adjusts its RPM as per the lifting requirements at the site,” he added.

Says Mathur, “All four models in our multi-activity cranes – NXP 150, NX 360, NXT 150 and FP 210 have picked up very well and are being widely used pan India in major infra projects. At ACE, our company DNA has always stemmed from developing value-for-money products from the customer standpoint, on the one hand. While still offering operator-friendly products, on the other. Robust R&D has always been a big part of our success story. The evolution of NextGen and multi activity cranes range attributed the successors our team achieved in last couple of years. We had recently launched the NX Series NextGen multi activity cranes. These new NX Series cranes perform multiple tasks apart from crane operations thereby adding versatility and providing multi-purpose utilisation for the users. These types of multi activity cranes with articulated steering are the first in the world and ACE has already applied for the necessary patents for the entire series.”

“All our BS IV models in the 15-30 tonne range developed in last six and eight months and our multi activity cranes – NXP 150, NX 360 and FP 210, which are now part of every major infrastructure project, speak volume about success of our endeavours,” he added.

Sanghvi feels that multi utility pick-and-carry cranes are being replaced by equipment such as telehandlers that have many dynamic features. These telehandlers perform well at job sites as they are versatile and therefore have a multi-purpose functionality. They come with a variety of attachments such as the general-purpose shovel, heavy duty forks, bucket with grab, crane hook, grain bucket, power grab, and man platform and drum handlers, all of which enable the machine to do a variety of jobs on site, which enhance its overall utility. Telehandlers are best suited for congested spaces on sites due to their compact sizes, and their all-terrain features are useful for uneven ground conditions.

Says Deshmukh, “Adding more features will definitely be value addition to manufacturers, hiree, and end users. It will be a concept like telehandler but more economical. Recently cranes are coming with manlift basket attachments which are very well designed with hydraulic operations as the end user has to rent out Crane and boomlift. So if work can be done with single equipment the end user can save and can pass on that saving to hire resulting in getting better rates which is the basic concern everywhere.”

Safety first
The role of safety in heavy-duty mobile cranes is very important as managing the crane can be a high-risk activity at a construction site. In addition to the potential cause for serious injuries or death, a crane accident can result in substantial property damage that can influence the budget and schedule of the project. Crane accidents also can damage the brand reputation of the construction company. While mobile cranes are designed to tackle heavy lifting, it’s important to prepare for a safe lift that helps in avoiding damage to equipment and injuries to workers. Operators need to guarantee that all the components of the mobile crane have been tested and are in good operating condition before any lifts which can prevent occurring of more damage on the sites.

“Some of the added safety features in the designing of the mobile cranes include slow down limits, anti-collision and distance provisions, limit switches, and load limiters. The companies are providing the mount and install long travel slow down spider limit switches, which are placed at 2,000 mm from the end of the runway crane rail that helps in preventing the overhead crane from banging into the end stops at full speed. Another type of switches provided include fit cross travel slow down spider limit switches that are placed at 1,000 mm from each end of the crane girder to prevent the crane unit from being able to run into the cross-travel end and stop at full speed,” says Chechi.

He added, “Overhead mobile cranes can be fitted with crane anti-collision sensors that would automatically slow the crane into creep speed approximately two meters before colliding with either another crane or when any track end stops. The safety features of the mobile crane will include emergency crane limit switches for the highest and lowest hook positions with the help of limit switches. The loads can also be limited for any mobile crane by calibrating it with safe working load limiter devices.”

Sachdeva comments, “Safety means zero accidents. One of the most tragic accidents that can happen on any construction site is a crane accident, involving both tower cranes and mobile cranes. These accidents can lead to serious injuries, death, and damage of property. Preventing these disasters require workers to recognise certain hazards that occur during operation and follow safety procedures to avoid them. It is extremely important to sensitise and train operators and other manpower to prevent accidents. Mobile cranes must be fitted with latest technology like telematics, artificial intelligence, GPS, international safety features like safe load indicators, sensors for maximum working radius, hoisting speed, speed at various skew angles, etc. to alert about any possibility of accident and also prevent them.”

Adds Mathur, “All the new higher capacity models are made keeping in mind the enhanced safety requirements on the project site, which are now working as per world standards. Use of SLI, telematics, etc.

is now common and has become standard features of most of our machines.”

“Liebherr manufactures crane as per EN13000 as a manufacturing standard. In EN standards, The European conformity Machinery Directive (ECMD) gives the essential health and safety requirements for machinery. The number of mobile and crawler cranes accident over the past many years remained constant and it has been analysed that the mobile cranes were the largest contributor. The worldwide accepted and five technologically-highly enhanced standard EN 13000, which guides the safety norms for the mobile cranes especially operating within a functional plants, has a widespread effect on the safety concerns, and has reduced the numbers of accidents in modern day cranes almost to nil,” avers Chandra.

He adds, “The EN13000 calls for few important criteria’s which are to be strictly followed and concerns only safety features of the cranes thereby minimising the casualties and fatal accidents caused by petty faults of the operators. As this is to be kept in mind, that an operator is only an operator. Hence, Liebherr offers the Override switch and data logger, Variable Outrigger placements and Fleet Management system such safety features to avoid the accident and human loss.”

Says Gupta of Alpha Services, “Alpha cranes have enjoyed a reputation of safety over the last many decades and have proven to be extremely robust at job sites due to various safety features built into the crane.”

Alpha flat top tower cranes are safer and easier to erect due to their modular designs, and have distinct features that cannot be replicated. In a market where most manufacturers offer pendent line tower cranes (Hammerhead cranes), Alpha has a distinct positioning with the flat top tower cranes, that have more advantages as compared to Hammerhead cranes, and are safer and easier to erect with their modular designs. Also, at sites where many tower cranes need to be deployed, the flat top tower cranes do not need to be erected as high as the tower cranes with tower caps because the interference between the jibs is less. Due to its features and proven performance, customers enjoy trouble-free site operations and high productivity.

Market recovery
Sanghvi Movers is seeing demand across sectors such as thermal power, petrochemical and refineries, oil and gas, steel, cement, windmills, railways, metros and bridges projects, and for construction applications like erection, heavy lifting, and maintenance services. “The demand for mobile cranes is coming from across the country and we have 130 active job sites. Our current utilisation levels are around 82 per cent and have gone up by 15 per cent as compared to the last financial year which experienced the second wave of the pandemic year,” says Sanghvi.

As a pioneer in the crane rental industry, Sanghvi Movers realised that one of the biggest challenges for the industry was completing projects on time with good vendors. “In order to leverage the upcoming opportunities, we have started offering value added services such as engineering, lift planning and turnkey EPC solutions. Our customers are keen to work with a Company that has a reputation for delivery, a track record of safety, and the highest quality of manpower and equipment,” he adds.

Says Deshmukh, “Right now the market is very unstable, everyone has been waiting for a long time to overcome the effects of demonetisation, Covid lockdown, rising of steel diesel prices. All these factors created instability, but everyone is holding for better days ahead. The plan to cut down on imports and to promote the local manufacturing not only encourages the use of local products but also promotes the idea for exports thus acting as a driving force for future growth developments.”

“We are very hopeful of the growth of the segment with adoption of mechanisation, safety and scarcity/ increased cost of labour. We are also working on introducing further new models with increased reach and height to maintain our leadership position in this segment of tower cranes,” comments Gupta.

Chandra says, “The mobile crane equipment rental market holds considerable potential for future growth. Hence, the front running organisations are constantly updating their equipment fleets with advanced technologies. Crane players stand to benefit from increasing government investments in infrastructure development in emerging economies. The Indian government is expected to increase its spending on public infrastructure to meet its development plans. Right this movement we can hope to recover the country from Covid-19 pandemic.”

Says Chechi, “In India, the demand for mobile cranes is growing rapidly owing to the increasing number of infrastructure projects that have led to the requirements for assembly and lifting. The development is apparent in the industrial as well as the core infrastructure sectors. Mobile crane manufacturers and rental agencies are witnessing an upsurge in demand for medium and high-capacity cranes. Mobile cranes are widely used in India for major industrial applications such as power plants and turbine manufacturing.”

He adds, “Rising construction activities focused on the refurbishment of existing infrastructures and increasing government initiatives for building better infrastructures, such as houses, schools, hospitals, stadiums, government buildings, and airports, are anticipated to boost the market growth. The increasing application of mobile cranes in both core and non-core industrial projects and maintenance works is also expected to propel their demand over the forecast period.”

Mathur says, “Infrastructure is the very foundation of every strong nation and economy. According to the vision of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is on course to grow into a $5 trillion dollar economy by 2024. This can definitely pave the way for the success of the construction equipment industry. Government spending on infrastructure and rapid urban development is at an all-time high. Also, the overall growth of the Indian economy, in the coming years, will further boost disposable income. This will in turn further increase the demand for better infrastructure and development. We are proud to say that ACE is a 100 per cent Swadeshi brand.”

Sachdeva concludes, “The market for all terrain cranes and crawler cranes is predicted to accelerate owing to the expansion of cement plants, construction industry, infrastructure projects and the increased business potential of ship building and repair industry. Cranes will be required for the metro project for general erection as well as for heavy lifts involving lifting and lowering of TBM sections through the shafts. Greenfield nuclear power projects are also expected to be a major driver for medium capacity mobile and crawler cranes in the medium term.”