Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Compact and high versatile, skid-steers are set to find use in a variety of environments – urban and rural.

Versatility is at the core of a skid-steer’s functionality. A self powered machine with four wheels and a small, rigid frame, the skid steer is viewed as one of the most logical and economical pieces of equipment for landscaping and numerous other tasks. Found at landscaping and construction sites, as well as at places where space is a constraint, skid-steers perform a wide range of jobs. Capable of handling numerous attachments, they are easily transported between job sites. It is the agility of skid-steers that makes them stand out. With the ability to turn within their own length, those using these machines like landscapers are able to manoeuvre these skid-steers easily in tight areas like between homes or through gate openings. And, while their acceptance is still nascent in the Indian construction industry, these machines are carving out a place for themselves among the Goliaths of the earth moving and construction industry. Prominent players in India that are offering skid-steers include JCB, Case India, Terex, and Doosan. With stress on localisation, these manufacturers also ensure that the machines they offer, adapts to the Indian working conditions without posing any issues.

Global yet local

Like the automobile industry, the earth moving and construction equipment industry is global in nature. Like the automobile industry, the focus of the manufacturers is to go local. As is seen, they are keen to offer solutions that meet the requirements of the Indian customers in terms of productivity and price. Skid-Steers will be one of the three important product lines that will emerge from JCB’s new plant at Jaipur. Two models are currently on offer from JCB India – Robot 135 and Robot 155. Both promise 20 per cent better breakout forces, resulting in increased productivity and output. According to Amit Gossain, EVP – Sales, Marketing and Business Development, JCB India, the Robot is a highly versatile machine, which is specifically designed to work in a variety of applications. With the potential to find use in solid waste management, the Robot skid-steer, averred Gossain, is set to revolutionise the material handling process in India. Perhaps, one of the reasons why skid-steers have come to earn the nickname ‘crab machine’.

The two skid-steer models from Case India, SR 130 and SR 150, are also found in the international markets. Launched in 2012 in India, they were fully customised to suit Indian requirements. They have, according to D V Junnarkar, Head of Sales and Marketing at Case India, higher pin height, better operator comfort, spacious cab with 25 per cent more interior width and serviceability, and higher bucket heights for easy loading in Indian tipping heights. Added features of the Case skid-steers include more glass surface area for better all-round visibility.

Crab machine

Described as crab machines by few in the earth moving and construction industry, skid-steers make user-friendly machines. Employed where backhoe loader cannot go, they are also economical to use. Especially, if the volume is less, it may make economical sense to have a skid-steer instead of a backhoe-loader. They emit less since they have smaller engines. Finding use with public sector undertakings and semi government institutions like municipalities, skid-steers, with their variety of attachments like auger, fork, sweeper, backhoe, bucket grapple, breaker, pallet fork grapple, pallet fork, grader, etc., are highly versatile machines. Said Gossain, “JCB Robot comes with a vast array of attachments like Industrial Grapple, Fork, Rock Breaker, Shovel, Vibratory Rollers, etc. which makes the machine suitable for many applications such as agriculture, industry, construction, demolition, material handling and maintenance.” He added “With the mechanical quick-hitch, one can easily switch between the vast ranges of attachments and can perform array of jobs with utmost ease and comfort,” he added. The Terex Heman 175 skid-steer is made versatile by the variety of attachments it could be had with. These include the sweeper collector, backhoe, auger, industrial grapple, pallet fork and 6-in-1 combination bucket. What makes it apt to call the skid-steer a crab machine is its ability to dig trenches perhaps. Its nickname may not have much to do its appearance after all!


Growing demand

Over the last few years, Skid-Steer market has grown rapidly. Estimated to grow at a CAGR of 18.5 per cent, Skid-Steer market is expected to breach the 800 units mark by 2017. Gossain mentioned that the demand for Skid Steer Loader (SSL) in India, at present, is on the lower side. He added, “We are however certain that in the coming years skid-steers will see an increase in demand. He drew attention to a report by a leading research from Off-Highway Research, which has indicated that demand for skid-steer is expected to be in the region of 600 units in 2015. A good deal of growth is expected to come from urban markets where skid-steers aid in diverse industries like construction, logistics and material handling and civic maintenance. Consider the fact that more the attachments, higher the versatility of the skid-steer, and the outlook in India remains positive over the long-term. Capable of creating a niche in almost every segment, skid-steers, due to their compact dimensions, could make for good mobility in projects that include multi-level parking. It is not surprising therefore, that the number of skid-steers sold in 2018 are expected to breach the 1,000 units mark.

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