Boom times means there is lots of work moving stones

With the demand for construction equipment in the UAE at record levels, the number of new machines entering the market is higher than ever before. Construction Week spoke to Arif Chishti, divisional manager, Famco about what the latest products have to offer and what the products of the future will look like.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  April 3, 2004

Boom times means there is lots of work moving stones|~|Chishti Body image.jpg|~|Investor confidence has been high over the last few months due to the renewed stability in the region after Iraq|~|With the demand for construction equipment in the UAE at record levels, the number of new machines entering the market is higher than ever before. Construction Week spoke to Arif Chishti, divisional manager, Famco about what the latest products have to offer and what the products of the future will look like. How long have you been in the UAE? Less than a year. Before I moved to the UAE I worked in the same industry in Saudi Arabia for four years and in Pakistan for nine years. As a relatively new arrival what is your impression of Dubai so far? The UAE is a cosmopolitan place and there are a lot of multinationals here. The market is quite buoyant at present. We have seen a lot of growth in our industry especially over the last eight months. Is this growth just from Abu Dhabi and Dubai? It is throughout the UAE not just in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. A great deal of our larger equipment is supplied to the crushing business and our crushers are mainly in Fujairah and the northern emirates where we are delivering what we call big iron, the heavy machinery. Has the market changed since you arrived here? The market has changed significantly, we have witnessed growth in all segments that we compete in and I believe this trend of growth is going to continue in the foreseeable future. What is driving that growth? Primarily it is the great number of projects that are underway in the UAE. Investor confidence has also been high over the last few months due to the renewed stability in the region after the crisis in Iraq. Which projects are you talking about? Some of the new crushing plants that are being installed in Fujairah produce 10 000 t per day and above, they are huge. The two Palm Island projects are also significant to us. We have also contributed to some concrete mix projects so it’s a mix. This year we are placing a strong emphasis on the crushing business. Has the growth reached its peak? I would not say that growth has reached its peak. We still have a lot of projects in the pipeline and a lot of projects are scheduled to start in May and June, these will fuel growth for some time to come. Which areas have you identified as key areas for growth? For the industry in general it’s the crushing business. For Famco there is a specific area where we did not have a product before, which is the small construction segment, such as backhoe loaders. We are hoping that growth will be significant in that area. How large is the market for backhoe loaders in the UAE? Depending on the market conditions, it is about 300 units per year. We expect to be a key player in this market. How many players are there in the backhoe market? There are a lot of players, but there are two main ones in that segment. How does the market compete? It is price sensitive, it’s a small machine so you are dealing with a lot of owner/operators. Has there been any development in the product that makes the Volvo backhoe different? Yes. First of all, we have continued the concept of providing an air-conditioned cab that was not provided in the smaller products before. It was an open environment. This machine has been developed with the operator in mind and this fits in with all our products. Second, we have received a positive response from our wheel-loader customers and we have taken the technology from these machines and applied it to the backhoe loader. Finally, we have made the machine easy for the operator to service, so he does not have to open too many things. Air conditioning is obviously of benefit to the operator, but does the owner really care about his well being? We have two types of customers. If the machine is used by an owner/operator then he will obviously be concerned with operator comfort. In the second segment, the world is now changing. Buying a machine is a substantial investment and it should be properly taken care of it. It is rather like an investment in property where you have to analyse the return. If the operator is not comfortable and dislikes using the machine then he is not going to maintain it. Ten years ago when Volvo introduced air conditioing to its wheel loaders the same questions were being asked, and today all the competition are compelled to provide an air-conditioned cabin as it has become the industry standard. So the change is there and the operator has to be taken care of. Are there any other areas that products need to be adapted for use in the UAE? Firstly, with such high temperatures in the summer, machines should be capable of operating in 50oC. We call them high ambient environments. Second, they should provide ease of operability because a lot of operators do not understand computers so they should be convenient and easy to use. Third, the regular maintenance should be easy so the mechanics are able to understand how to maintenance should be performed. Does this mean that equipment in the UAE does not include as much computer technology as they do in other markets? Well the computer technology is there, but it is not complicated, it is very user friendly. Once an operator is trained he will be able to operate it freely unlike a lot of the products where to be able to operate the products you need a certain qualification. What does benefits does computer technology bring to construction equipment? It should be able to diagnose faults, so if the machine breaks down it will generate a code, and we can decipher and relate it to a particular fault. Secondly it would store all the data of all the repairs that have been done to the machine. Service engineers use a laptop that can be hooked up to the machine that can tell us when the oil was changed, the quality of oil used. This allows for efficient product diagnosis. All the data generate by the machine is kept there it is like the black box in an aircraft. When did those systems first appear on the market? These systems have been around for quite some time. But for the UAE market it has only really developed over the last five years. The have been around for much longer in other markets. How have they been received in the UAE? With proper support from dealer and the simplicity of the system from the manufacturer they have been well received. Going forward what will product look like in 10 to 20 years time? Well the market trend is towards productivity. So the product that offers the greatest productivity will be the fittest product in the market. I expect that any technical changes that come about will be in the area of productivity, safety and environmental friendliness. How environmentally friendly is construction equipment today? For fuel consumption, emission controls, and noise pollution, customers now have the option to choose a either a ‘green’ or standard version. In terms of safety, Volvo products always turn out to be number one in the market. How interested are customers in environmental issues? With legislation in UAE moving further in that direction, there are more regulations on emission levels so clients are becoming more aware and have started to ask for ‘greener’ machines. We are not 100%, but we are moving in the right direction. How new is this legislation? It is not yet implemented, but it is in the process of being discussed, and the market is aware of this. What safety features? First, we have protection in the cab for the operator. This is rollover protection that we call ROP, so if a machine is operating on a slope and it rolls over, then the operator will be safe. We also have the option of falling object protection, which is known as FOP, so if a stone or rock falls on the machine then the operator will be safe. Second, if the glass breaks it will shatter, like it would in a car, unlike the old machine before that used common glass. How has safety changed over the last ten years? They key is awareness, more operators are becoming aware of it, more machines are working on huge projects where more accidents can happen, so this is an area where the industry has really developed over the last five years. ||**||

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