India’s construction industry is currently experiencing significant growth as it makes strides in infrastructure development. The construction equipment (CE) sector is at the heart of this progress, driven by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and global industry players. Together, they are leading India towards a new era of advancement, where sustainable infrastructure plays a vital role in the nation’s journey towards becoming a global economic powerhouse.

In the fiscal year 2022-23 (FY22), the CE sector in India saw a remarkable 26% year-on-year increase, which carried forward into the fourth quarter of FY23 (Q4), recording a 23% surge over Q4FY22 and a substantial 22% increase over Q3FY23. The CE industry is instrumental in shaping the infrastructure landscape of the nation.

Sustainable infrastructure is a key component of India’s development, encompassing a wide spectrum of projects, ranging from traditional structures to natural ecosystems and innovative hybrid systems. To turn this visionary concept into reality, it is imperative to establish a robust framework that prioritises project finance and seamlessly integrates environmental and social considerations. This framework forms the foundation for India’s sustainable infrastructure journey, ensuring long-term economic and environmental prosperity.

Role of the government

The latest budget is a testament to the government’s dedication to improving road and railway infrastructure, with more than 50% of its capital expenditure allocated to these projects in recent years. Road transport and highways have expanded by over 40% in the past decade as well, while investments in railways have shown an impressive compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37% over the past four years. This achievement exemplifies the government’s strategic initiatives, such as the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) and the National Master Plan ‘Gati Shakti,’ which have received substantial allocations of INR 111 lakh crore and over INR 100 lakh crore, respectively.

The government is also taking proactive steps to address sectoral trends, including the emergence of electric vehicles, hydrogen technologies, and renewable energy sources. Of note is the government’s emphasis on green hydrogen, with an anticipated investment of nearly INR 1.5 lakh crore from 2024 to 2030. This forward-thinking approach underscores the government’s commitment to fostering economic prosperity and environmental sustainability in India.

Role of technology

The role of CE manufacturers in promoting a cleaner and more environmentally responsible future in India cannot be overstated. They develop and implement advanced technologies to achieve sustainable construction and maintenance projects. The development of electric and hybrid construction vehicles is a remarkable aspect of this technological evolution, offering a practical solution to reduce emissions and promoting clean and sustainable energy sources. CE manufacturers are also at the forefront of constructing green buildings, emphasising energy efficiency and environmental friendliness, which helps to reduce the carbon footprint.

Furthermore, integrating advanced technology in the construction sector is transforming the industry. Connected equipment and tools, telematics, smartphone applications, autonomous heavy equipment, drones, robots, AR/VR, and 3D-printed buildings are now being deployed and utilised on worksites. This technological array promises long-term production and cost savings for companies, providing sustainable solutions for the infrastructure industry.

Innovative technology significantly reduces downtime losses, a major worry for time-critical projects. Construction equipment companies now rely on telemetry data to obtain real-time equipment performance and fitness information, facilitating informed decision-making. For instance, sensors embedded in these machines are interconnected to a common interface, allowing for data collection on the optimal working loads and uptime of heavy equipment. This data-driven approach is integral to the sustainable infrastructure narrative, promoting economic prosperity and environmental responsibility.

Need for sustainable CE

In 2021, the construction sector accounted for over 34% of energy demand and approximately 37% of energy and process-related CO2 emissions. However, a transformative shift towards sustainability within the industry is underway, holding the potential to reduce its carbon footprint significantly.

Leading this shift are innovative solutions, prominently featuring electric and hybrid machinery. These technologies are at the forefront of reducing emissions, with electric compact excavators exemplifying the capability to operate with zero emissions, presenting a noteworthy environmental advantage. Furthermore, research findings suggest that the electrification of construction equipment could yield a remarkable 30-40% reduction in the total cost of ownership over a decade.

CE firms also assume a broader role in pursuing sustainable infrastructure by championing sustainability initiatives that drive positive change within the construction sector. These initiatives primarily emphasise sustainable infrastructure and serve as catalysts for job creation, profoundly impacting local and national economies.

What distinguishes these initiatives is their prioritisation of social inclusion and equity, ensuring that the benefits reach all segments of society, with particular attention given to marginalised communities. An example of these initiatives is CE firms organising innovation workshops designed to inspire young girls to explore their potential in science and technology. Such activities foster diversity and inclusivity within the industry and promise a brighter, more inclusive future.

Speaker – Amarnath Ramachandran, Managing Director, Arx Mining & Construction Equipment Pvt Ltd & Member, CII EXCON 2023 Steering Committee

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