Concrete Solutions

Substantial investment for infrastructure projects have helped the CE industry to record highest ever sales of various categories of machines including concrete equipment.

The construction equipment market in the country has seen an average growth of about 25% over the last couple of years after a de-growth for over 2-3 years between 2013 to 2015. During the last financial year FY17-18, the industry peaked to record the highest ever sales of various categories of machines. The demand growth is quite strong even this year and is expected to be sustained at about 25% this year also. The government plans to spend substantially on infrastructure development. The budgetary allocation in FY18-19 is expected to be $92 billion up by 21% from $76 billion in FY17-18. This means that the spending on infrastructure development will be close to 10% of the GDP. This focus by the government will definitely drive infrastructure development and hence the growth for the construction equipment industry.

Growth Drivers

The key sectors driving growth are roads, irrigation and railways with some traction in the urban development too. The budgetary allocation for MORTH in FY18-19 is up 9% from Rs 64,900crore to Rs 71,000crore. The railways have seen a substantial growth in budget allocation by 16% and a 25% growth in new line addition. Major projects like the DFCs and Diamond Quadrilateral are gaining momentum.

The Sethubharatam project is also going to help the demand for CE in the railways sector. The irrigation projects under the AIBP and PMKSY are also moving as per government plans and driving demand. AAI plans to spend over USD 3.2 billion between 2018-22 to build new terminals and expand capacity of existing ones. There is a significant activity in the irrigation sector in the states of Telangana, AP, Karnataka, Maharashtra and MP. As per NABARD, the government has released more than Rs 65,000 crore so far for 93 prioritised irrigation projects under Pradhan Mantri Krishi SinchayeeYojana (PMKSY) through long-term irrigation fund or LTIF.

Under the port development Sagarmala project the Government of India  is entailing setting up of new mega ports, modernization of India’s existing ports, development of 14 Coastal Employment Zones (CEZs) and Coastal Employment Units, enhancement of port onnectivity via road, rail, multi-modal logistics parks, pipelines and waterways and promote coastal community development. All these augurs well for the construction equipment sector, including concrete equipment segment.

Batching Solutions

The influx of fresh initiatives by the government has renewed the focus on infrastructure development, offering big opportunities of growth for the concrete equipment industry. Increased demand for specialized concrete, such as self-compacting concrete, fiber-reinforced concrete, temperature-controlled concrete etc, have ushered new generation concrete batching plants  and concrete pumps.

Infrastructure, real estate and civic amenities are the key sectors driving the demand for batching plants, in India. They account for approximately 90% of the batching plant sales. The real estate alone, accounts for 60% of the batching plant sold in India. In the real estate and civic amenities sectors, the smaller capacity batching plants like 18m³/h and 30m³/h are mainly used, whereas, for the infrastructure projects, the bigger capacity plants like 60m³/h and higher are used.

There is demand for more than 1500-2000 batching plants per year, in India. It can even go up to 3000 batching plants, a year. More than 65% of these batching plants are project-specific installation. Hence, they are preferred to be mobile, in nature. The rest of them are stationary plants, installed by ready-mix concrete suppliers. There are 30 plus batching plant manufacturers in India, who cater to the market demands.

Currently the demand for concrete batching plants is on the rise. There should not be any gap in demand – supply, as most of the manufacturers have built up their capacities to cater to the increasing demand. The domestic manufacturers can very well fulfil the demand of market. The new projects coming up in the infrastructure sector is driving the requirement of concrete batching plants.

Batch Control Systems

The commercial industrial production of concrete calls for more than, just an elementary batching plant control system. A comprehensive package, to satisfy the concrete producers and his customers covers a series of tasks, ranging from the initial quotation to production planning, production of the concrete and the management of mixer and pump fleets, right through to the issuing of the invoice for the concrete delivered. In addition, the correlation of various statistics for production and accounting management must be taken into account. Leading players are focusing across a range of capacities, catering to different market segments. A lot of R&D is also going on, to incorporate product innovations to suit the needs of the Indian market.

Concrete mixing technology has evolved at the same pace, as the concrete mix design trends. With the demand for high strength concrete increasing, which uses micro-silica, micro-fibres and even steel fibres – the mixing technology has adapted to take care of efficient dosing and mixing concrete, with these constituents. This has led OEMs to upgrade systems, especially, the PLC-based batch control systems.

Today batch control system ensures great reliability, high flexibility.  Some control system has a self-learning capability to ensure high level of accuracy, for all the corresponding weighing systems and operators can choose from numerous recipes, pre-fed in the control system software, ensuring repeatability of concrete produced, as per the mix design.  They are developed considering prevailing site conditions and help reduce on-site hassles, bring improved machine and human safety. These batch systems guarantees improved plant performance, by optimizing process time, improving batching accuracy and guaranteeing homogeneous mix batch-after-batch, through a number of   innovative ideas and process features. They ensure long shelf-life and are equipped to cater the emerging demands of the users.

Stetter has wide experience gained over many years in the development of process control systems for concrete batching plants, and has become a market leader in plant and control configuration for just this very purpose.  The architecture of the Stetter software, custom-developed in its own R&D departments, and the multiple configuration possibilities that arise from that, make it an easy task to adapt a plant control system to any existing production process. Circuit arrangements, switchgear cabinets and the relevant circuit and wiring diagrams are all worked out in its engineering division and are optimally adapted to Stetter batching plants. The system flexibility even allows us to custom-build control systems for use in other makes of batching plants.

Batching plants from Ajax Fiori are powered by the latest PLC-based batch control systems. It has many unique features, such as auto-in-flight technology, continuation on power-off and return, auto-manual-auto operation, continuous batching / docket queuing, batch end / load end facilities, offline / online swapping of all materials. The skip-waiting feature enables auto batching in case of faulty waiting sensor, cycle hold, batch hold, and mixer gate auto / manual. Ajax Fiori have brought in advanced technology in all its product range and made it adaptable and suitable to Indian conditions. The unique product concept of self-loading mobile concrete mixer is one such prominent testimony in its product range. It has been the perfect choice for all concrete batching and mixing requirement in small and medium scale projects in the infrastructure sector, since it is a mobile batching plant and a transit mixer, rolled on to a single product. It has changed the dynamics of the industry.

The ‘Eurotec’ series of concrete batching plants from Linnhoff is equipped with ECS – Eurotec Control System, which ensures optimal homogenous mix. The ECS is batching software for the full use of the plant automation, through a user-friendly windows interface. The system is easy to learn. It also offers security features to protect sensitive data and input. Plant controls can easily be switched, between fully-automated and total manual control, thereby, giving full flexibility to the plant operators. Software options allow the system to be accessed remotely via modem, providing the head office, the choice to monitor plant production and material consumptions. Data, downloaded from the control system can be readily utilized in Microsoft Windows software, allowing the office staff to incorporate the data into various accounting packages. Additional options for extra aggregates, silos and even moisture control sensors too, can be easily interfaced with the software system.

Aquarius batch plants control system comprises of modular PLC-based PC-driven control system, with real time SCADA for control and data management. The system provided with programmable digital display units, installed on the control panel are connected to the load cells, for direct indication of the weights. This ensures high accuracy in batching of coarse and fine aggregates, with total control over the plant operation, in a real time simulated environment. The control system software is designed to manage all types of concrete, produced by the batching plant. The interface is developed in a user- friendly way, to make every operation simple. With order management in every moment, the user is provided with a complete view of the work schedule of each day or week. One can access all the needed information about the work progress of the plant. The operator is able to start the automatic production and eventually, system can be interfaced with any sort of invoicing and accounting programme, through CSV file interchanges. In this format, all the information can be managed in Access or Excel format, to obtain all types of report, requested by the customer.

A rich choice of statistics is available inside the program for production analysis or consumption monitoring, so that they are available every time, at customers’ disposal. The plant control system software also comes with an inbuilt capability of remote access, which helps in quicker troubleshooting.


Selecting the Right Plant

Today, the market is flooded with batching plants with a wide variety of configurations from different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Choosing a batching plant is based on the requirement of what type of mixer is being used. There are different types of mixers like pan mixer, turbo mixer, planetary mixer, etc. The second important factor is the capacity requirement. Depending on the quantity of concrete required, we need to use a batching plant of specific capacity. Third factor is type of batching plant, depending on the size, compact or elaborate size. We can use compact size batching plants wherever there is space restriction.

The configuration of the batching plants also plays an important role. Depending on the requirement, configuration can vary to include various controls and accessories like silos. Some projects may require different types of cements. Sometimes, the cement supply will be very erratic in certain regions like northeast. So we need to put enough silos there so that the work does not stop. We also have to see what the additives to be used.  Depending on the concrete mix, we have to decide whether to use retardant, silica, chilled water, ice flakes, etc. According to these requirements, we have to set up the batching plant. If we require chilled water, we should have a chilling unit together matching with the capacity of the batching plant.

When selecting a batching plant, one has to see whether he needs a site-based plant or a project-based plant. Also, there are various grades of concrete requirements. Depending on these, one has to select a batching plant. There are mobile batching plants which can be shifted from one site to another. Major plants are permanently erected giving a large volume of concrete output based on the volume requirement such as 120 cu m, 180 cu m, 250 cu m, etc. For every plant, there should be a minimum outtake of concrete. For eg, a plant has to have a viability, at least the minimum output of the plant should be established.

The grade of the concrete also plays a role while selecting a plant. There are different grades of concrete depending on the load requirement in the slab, industrial building, foundation area, piling structures, etc. There are some structures on the sea side where we will require chemical-based concrete which can resist the corrosion from seawater interaction. These kinds of concrete will be prepared in a separate kind of batching plants. This cannot be mixed with regular normal batching plants.

New Generation Pumps

The innovation of concrete pumps came into being in order to make the tedious process of carrying concrete for long distances or heights easy. Every project has a particular requirement in terms of the height of placing concrete and the concrete output. One can opt for a stationary pump if the pump is going to remain inside the premises of a particular site for a long duration whereas line pumps are mounted on to a truck chassis and are highly mobile pumps. They also score a point over the stationary pumps as they can carry with them all the pipelines and need not
be toed.

If we look at the technology adopted in concrete pumps in the past, we have experience a vast improvement in recent years. The international concrete pump manufacturers are now able to offer a vast range of concrete pumps for various applications without compromising on quality. In the past, the concrete pumps were used mainly in metros and major cities only. In recent years, we have seen the increase in demand of concrete pumps in the Tier II and Tier III cities. Also, in the past the concrete pumps were mainly used by big corporate companies but now these pumps are also used by medium and small contractors.

The boom pumps are a different breed of concrete pumps. Unlike other stationary and line pumps, where the pipelines need to be laid well before pumping, the boom pump does not require this exercise. The boom is an assembly of pipelines with R, Z or R – Z folds which enables its 360 degree rotating capacity. The boom attachment makes pumping faster and easy.

As the requirement of boom pumps are increasing, all the OEMs are focusing more on offering the latest technology, to make the machine more user- friendly, minimum maintenance, and lowest operation costs, because that gives them an edge over competition. Considering the fact that many projects coming up require huge quantities of concrete to be pumped and most of these projects are time- bound, the demand for higher output concrete pumps will be quite good. The most important factor for concrete boom pumps is the reliability and most OEMs are giving special focus on making concrete pumps more reliable than the earlier versions.

The folding system of the boom has witnessed an improvement over three generations. It started with the roll fold, followed by the RZ fold and at present with the Z fold, a typical 4-arm boom folding. There are several advantages to having a Z type fold boom. The Z fold boom is easy to manoeuvre, having increased flexibility and a faster horizontal movement. It requires less unfolding heights and is highly suitable for working in areas where space is a constraint.

Concepts such as low lifecycle cost, faster return of investments, cost per cubic meter, all have a positive impact on OEMs, who have launched a variety of pumps to suit the requirements of the customer, coupled with innovative service packages. The gradual shift towards higher grade and performance-based concrete has opened the doors for high performance pumps. Most of the new high- rise buildings are using performance based, high-grade concrete. Usage of high-grade concrete gives the advantage of increased covered area with reduced column sizes. High grade concrete requires more pressure and power from the concrete pump as it is highly viscous. The OEMs here in India have already come out with a range of concrete pumps with the latest technology and advanced features built into them, and that helps a user bring down operating costs.

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