Chennai: When the wall-plastering work at his company's new Rs 18-crore facility took one month (the entire factory was constructed in seven months), Schwing Stetter India managing director A Sundaresan panicked.
It was then that he decided to look for faster alternatives. He soon found one: dry mortar, which is a ready-mix of cement, sand and addictives for plastering walls, with water mixed at the construction site. The product is sold in bulk mixtures as well as in bags, like cement.
Credited for popularising the RMC (ready-mix concrete) concept in India with its truck mixers criss-crossing the city roads, Schwing Stetter has now tied up with another German company, M-tec Mathis Technick Gmbh, part of the euro 70-million Maxit group, to supply machinery for making dry mortar, wall plastering and mortar pumping equipment in India and South Asia.
Apart from masonry mortar, the other kinds of mixtures are external and internal renders, including decorative renders, conventional floor screeds, insulating mortars, grouts, tile adhesives, joint fillers, sound proofing and renovation mortars.
''In India we will first target cement companies and later construction companies,'' says Sundaresan. The company has already bagged a contract from a Chennai-based cement manufacturer, and discussions are on with eight other cement players.
Making dry mortar is not just mixing sand, cement and other aggregates. The process begins with the study of sand variety available for construction in a chosen area. ''That determines the additives to be used in preparing the dry mortar,'' says M-tec Mathis Technik business manager (India) Michael Monz. Apart from selling the machinery, the German company will also sell the know-how for making the additives.
But the success of the dry mortar and plastering equipment largely depends on the value it offers in terms of reduction in construction time and labour costs for construction companies. As a matter of fact, RMC gained market acceptance only after the withdrawal of excise duty on it, resulting in reduction of prices.
Says Schwing Stetter general manager (marketing) V G Sakthi Kumar: ''By using dry mortar and plastering machines one can complete wall plastering of 1,000-sq ft apartment in three hours with two persons. On the other hand, the conventional site mix and manual plastering will take six persons and 16 hours, not to mention the wastes.''
''A 150-tonne-per-hour batching plant will cost around Rs 6 crore, save for from fabrication costs. These machines are generally tailor-made,'' says Sundaresan. And business for Schwing Stetter is booming. Posting a turnover of Rs 47 crore last year, the company is likely to exceed a turnover of Rs 80 crore this fiscal.
''Our order-book position is Rs 20 crore,'' says Sundaresan. The Golden Quadrilateral Road project and other construction activities resulted in good demand for the company's RMC batching plant, truck mixers and pumps. Commencing its operations in 1998, Schwing Stetter has rolled out around 700 truck mixers, 200 concrete pumps and 85 RMC batching plants.
Recently, the company started assembling boom pumps (pumps mounted on trucks to deliver concrete to places that are inaccessible to standard mixer trucks). Sundaresan says the truck mixer customer segment is slowly witnessing a change. ''As in Europe RMC truck mixers are now bought by independent transport contractors, thereby relieving batching plant owners the botheration of investing in truck mixers. Moreover, productivity will be higher as the revenue for the truck mixer owner depends on the number of trips he makes.''
About other new initiatives he says the company is looking at the possibility of introducing concrete reclaimers. This equipment will reclaim the concrete that remains in truck mixers after delivery. Presently, remains are dumped by truck operators en route to the batching plant. Concrete reclaimers are popular in the US as it results in recycling of water and is environment friendly.
With sales showing continuous increase, the company has decided to stop import of steel drums from Russia. Instead, Schwing Stetter will soon build a line to roll flat steel imported from Germany and make the drums here itself. As that would increase the working capital requirements, the company has applied to the Reserve Bank of India to convert a part of the loan (about Rs 9 crore) given by its parent company into equity.
In addition, the company is also planning to build a service bay at its existing facility so that the after-sales revenue can be booked. Currently, the after-sales revenue is very negligible.
With the increasing population of batching plants, resulting in a shortage of trained hands to run them, Schwing Stetter has decided to train Industrial Technical Institute certificate-holders in operating the RMC machines and thereby adding to its other revenues.