Industrial MHE & Cranes: Technology & Trends

Major players from the cranes and material handling industry elucidate the present status and ongoing trends
Industry OverviewIndia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. However, the country needs to intensify its focus on infrastructure and industrial developments, to achieve and maintain sustainable growth. These developments are expected to enhance the demand of industrial cranes and other material handling equipment.
India in the past few years has seen enormous sums of investment in the construction industry from both public & private enterprises. Tushar Mehendale, Managing Director, ElectroMech said, “Multibillion dollars spent towards constructing roads, ports, plants, urban infrastructure, etc. have presented the crane industry with diverse opportunities and created a huge demand for the crane industry to grow.”
Cranes also play crucial roles in today’s highly automated industrial activities. However, the Indian industrial cranes segment is extremely fragmented. According to estimates, the Indian industrial cranes market approximately amounts to Rs 2,000 – Rs 2,200 crore per annum. Majorly 70 per cent demand comes from the private sector and the remaining 30 per cent from the government-owned companies. Approximately 70 per cent of the Indian crane industry is dominated by reputed names in the organised sector.
Explaining the current status of industrial material handling and cranes industry in India, Suhas Baxi, CEO and Managing Director at Demag Cranes & Components (India), said, “A real growth in the industrial crane market has been observed only in the last 5 -7 years. When one looks at the installed base of cranes most of them are based on old design concepts that often ignore technological advancements achieved in recent times. A large portion of demand even today seeks cranes based on technology mastered more than 50 years back. The trend is changing, but very slowly.”
According to Saeesh Nevrekar, Deputy Country Manager, Konecranes India, “Estimated annual demand for industrial cranes in year 2011 was 15,000 cranes and it should touch to 20,000 cranes by the year 2013.”
Reluctant to compare the material handling equipment (MHE) market in India with that of the Western and European countries; MRV Johnson, Head & GM (Sales & Marketing) at Voltas Material Handling said, “Our MHE market is very limited, close to 9,000 units last year, which witnessed roughly 25 per cent growth over the previous year. In the current uncertain economic conditions, the estimates for the market are not beyond 10 per cent over 2011.”
Global OutreachIn past few years the Indian crane industry has observed a lot of changes in trends with a number of acquisitions and joint ventures. Several international tie-ups with Indian companies have resulted in considerable global influence in terms of quality and practice of applying enhanced technology in the industry.
Through global strategic tie ups with companies such as ABUS, STAHL Cranesystems, Sibcranex, and recently Zoomlion; ElectroMech has brought home international high-quality technologies for the conventional Indian industrial crane users.
Changing TrendThe construction industry is shifting towards becoming a more customer oriented market. Today, the consumers expect a complete package to the product with the overall features of customer service. Resultant to this fact, manufacturers today as a rule are turning towards following competent work structure to ensure zero customer complaints.
“We at ElectroMech have at all times given the first preference to our customers. We believe in following a ‘solutions approach’ to customers’ needs. This practice has helped us reach where we are today. We have executed various innovations in terms of our company’s offerings world-class standards in cranes and hoists by collaborating with global leaders,” Mr. Mehendale says.
“On the industrial front, we see the focus is on automation of material movements, both raw material and finished goods, as availability of manpower is emerging as a major challenge. It is estimated that the MHE market to witness a CAGR of between 15 to 20 per cent for the next 5 years,” Mr. Johnson asserts.
Technological DevelopmentToday many advance features has been developed which ensure the overall safety of a crane, like the ‘SWAY Control’ feature which helps to reduce accidents by preventing load sway and keeps the load steady even if an inexperienced operator is handling the crane.  The ‘Adjustable Working Limit’ feature defines the area in which crane is allowed to move, so the operation of crane can be restricted to a particular area of plant. Advanced Remote Monitoring Service facility can measure and record the data of crane usage and it can be sent to centralised technical service team. By recording this data one can check how the crane is being operated, the maintenance can be planned well and the overall operation of the crane can be monitored. “Remote monitoring service provides many benefits to customers, it unlock the power of information to customers and allows one to see the concrete facts about the crane operation and usage. It also helps to improve safe crane operation, supports usage-driven maintenance and hence saves on annual maintenance cost,” Mr. Nevrekar highlights.
“In terms of technology, the past few years have seen quite a bit of influence from international markets. As a result, direct drive motors & VFDs have become more common and customers are accepting and asking for this technology, moving away from what was the norm for decades,” Mr. Mehendale observes.
Companies such as Demag have brought the latest technology that is available to its customers around the world, now with local manufacturing advantage. Many progressive domestic companies too have started recognising the benefits of better design and manufacturing. “Factors like OEM support over the life cycle of the product and lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for cranes will become important decision drivers going forward,” Mr. Baxi comments.
Demag introduced BAS (or basic) range of products especially for the developing markets. The BAS family of products includes chain hoists, rope hoists, EOT cranes and light crane systems.
Commenting on the availability of modern technology, Mr. Johnson said, “Access to advanced technology for MHE is very much available with most of Indian manufacturers. However, it is only used in a limited way by us due to lack of volumes and economies of scale, which are the key barriers.”
Status on IndigenisationAccording to Mr. Johnson, “The current level of indigenization in our industry varies from 60 per cent to 95 per cent of the total machine cost. The scope for indigenisation in the battery operated trucks remains very high, which should result in reduction of overall cost to the market.” Voltas Material Handling produces and supplies equipment from its plants at Pune and Thane. Together, the company has a manufacturing capacity of over 5000 units per annum.
Several multi-national cranes and MHE manufacturers produce their products in India, however, they source critical components from parent companies based in some other countries. Such is in the case of Demag that manufactures all its cranes in India. However, components like hoist, wheel blocks, and drives are sourced from its parent company in Germany. “The magnitude of consumption by Demag companies worldwide makes it economical for us to source certain components from abroad,” Mr. Baxi said. Demag is also working on localisation of parts to remain competitive without compromise on safety or quality. “In certain product ranges we have achieved around 80 -90 per cent localisation. Indigenisation, for us involves sourcing from global vendors as per our design and quality standards,” Mr. Baxi informed.
“The Indian industrial cranes industry is almost completely indigenised, since the majority of the cranes are fabricated. Very few parts need to be imported and most new technology components such as VFDs and direct drive motors are now being made in India,” said Mr. Mehendale. “For other MHE equipment, perhaps the primary hurdle to attaining indigenisation is the lack of volumes. However, this is changing steadily – for example the tower cranes market is expected to grow at 20 per cent year-on-year and several companies are now setting up manufacturing plants in India.” ElectroMech has recently inked a JV with Zoomlion, to manufacture and sell their entire range of tower cranes in India.
Quality of cranes which are being manufactured in India is also of prime concern. Sharing his view in this regard, Mr. Nevrekar states, “As of now, most Indian companies are manufacturing cranes as per Indian (IS) standards, and these cranes are little bulky and bigger in size and weight. Today, there are many local crane companies who can make cranes for basic lifting purpose with less safety and advanced automation features. However, there are other multinational companies who manufacture the cranes of international standards with all advanced and safety features. These cranes are faster, safe and easy to operate and maintain. Therefore, though the Indian crane industry is now capable to manufacture cranes, there is still room for advanced technology so that customers can enjoy better lifting economics.”
Future Looks Bright“The future trend in material handling system will be designing lighter and higher efficiency equipment,” Mr. Nevrekar said. “The power consumption, material of construction, operating noise levels and eco-friendly features will play a big role while introducing new products in the market.”
In today’s industrial scenario, productivity is extremely important. In many industries, breakdowns for even a single day cost huge losses. ‘Smart Cranes’ will gradually replace the conventional cranes due to their advantages such as easy to operate with minimum human supervision and can reduce downtime.
“The future prospects for crane sector looks promising, due to the growth of manufacturing sector, infrastructure development and foreign direct investments in India. The demand for Industrial cranes is expected to grow steadily by 20 per cent,” Mr. Nevrekar adds.

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