10 July 2020

Interview- Kapil Bhati (Robbins Tunneling)

We see tremendous scope for TBM business in India from metro projects


With the infrastructure scene now hotting up across India in terms of construction of new metros, hydro and irrigation projects which require tunneling work the US based Robbins Company, the world’s foremost manufacturer and developer of advanced underground construction equipment like Tunnel Boring Machines, sees huge business prospects. KAPIL BHATI, MD, ROBBINS TUNNELING AND TRENCHLESS TECHNOLOGY (I) PVT LTD offered SHRIKANT RAO his perspective of the opportunities lying ahead and the merits of Excon 2015 as a platform of business opportunity.


Tell us of the encouragement you derive from the opportunities in this country and offer your assessment of Excon 2015 as a vehicle to project company’s products?

Infrastructure has been a critical growth element in India’s growth story. The sector has been given centre stage attention both by the previous as well as the current government. Of the many segments, tunneling is a major part of infrastructure projects. Tunnels are necessary for most kind of infrastructure projects be it for hydro power, water transfer tunnels, roads or metro rail projects. Now as far as Excon is concerned, it is among the biggest industry trade fairs for the construction equipment industry in India. The platform has always given us an opportunity to meet existing customers and in building new clientele. The show has also helped us to assess our market presence and customer reach by analysing the awareness about the company, its products and its unique services across different sectors. It has also helped us in planning new strategies and identifying futuristic solutions to expand our growth prospects.


Take us through your experience since you first participated at Excon?

Excon is a vital business platform for Robbins and this is the third year of our participation. Apart from meeting our existing customers, the platform has allowed us to identify new customers and growth areas. Through Excon we have been able to meet several PSUs and even local governing bodies like municipal corporations. The exposure to varied range of clients has also helped us to understand the market requirements and in planning to deliver machines as per respective customer requirements. Considering that this is our third consecutive participation in Excon, we have seen a growth in customer awareness about Robbins and our product offerings due to the show. Today people are well aware of the name Robbins and its products, its core competencies and benefits over its counterparts in the market.


Have you been able to secure any firm work orders? 

Our products belong to a typical market segment and are high-end technical machineries. The products are specifically designed to suit a particular geology or project requirement or client. The platform has helped us to expand our customer reach. The process of finalising orders though is a prolonged process. Excon has definitely helped us in terms of generating queries for our machines and has fruitfully supported us to expand our market reach by identifying new customers.


Could you name a few projects where Robbins TBMs are currently being used? 

We came to India in 2005 and since then have supported numerous tunneling projects. Presently two of our TBMs are being used for a 43 km long tunnel in Telangana. On completion this will be the world’s longest tunnel without any intermediate access. The project will drive away excess water from River Krishna to draught affected areas in Telangana and will also support 5 lakh hectares of land for agricultural purpose. The project also aims to provide drinking water to residents of the north Telangana region and Hyderabad. Tunneling work of 25 km is already complete under the project.

Our machineries of 10 m dia. each are being installed respectively for a 19 km long tunnel in Andhra Pradesh and water transfer tunnel in Madhya Pradesh. In addition, we have also delivered machines to numerous metro projects across the country like Delhi Metro’s Phase-II, Chennai Metro, Jaipur Metro and have undertaken an operational contract for Bangalore Metro. We are also working with contractors for additional works at the Mumbai Metro project.


What is the current number of your machines in use? Could you talk of the recent orders bagged…

Currently 8-9 of our machines are in use. Robbins can be considered as a pioneer or prime inventor in Rock TBMs. Our journey started 60 years ago. Today we clearly have an upper edge in this technology. Even in India, the best record for rock excavation projects is done by Robbins. Across the world our machines are being used for majority of the rock tunneling projects. In Indian cities, where the metro projects are constantly on a rise, Robbins is the prime machine provider. We see a huge potential for our Rock TBM business in the coming years. We are associated with the Mumbai Metro project. However, the contract for a 33 km long tunnel is yet not awarded to the contractor. Once this contract is awarded we will be supplying TBMs for the tunneling works. Apart from this we are seeing huge growth opportunities from the increasing number of metro projects across India like in Lucknow, Ludhiana, Kanpur, Nagpur etc.


What has been your marketing strategy to bag more orders?

We started supplying design specific machines. Our focus has always been to deliver best-in-class machines with superior design features. For instance, in the Mumbai Metro project we will be supplying a specially designed machine to suit the geological conditions. The machine is named as Crossover and is suitable for challenging terrain conditions. The machine has the ability to continue boring to about 350 m per month. This is much in par with the alternatives available in the market. Innovation, superior quality and best-in-class products as per specific project requirements have been our three prime focus areas. In addition, Robbins always associates with the project right from its stage of inception, i.e. from the design and planning stage. We offer our assistance to the consultants and clients in laying down the specifications and identifying project requirements. We even offer assistance to contractors in the tendering stage where TBM functions are concerned by providing the required technical data, offering assistance to plan methodologies and in selecting appropriate machineries. We offer our support till the final stage of project completion.


Tell us about Robbins current capacities in keeping with the TBM demand in India? 

Capacity wise we are all geared up to meet market demands. We have our manufacturing facility in USA which can easily supply the machines. Apart from this we have two assembling factories in China. The unit has the ability to assemble 30-40 machines a year. Based on the requirements from Indian customers, we shift all our machineries as per requirement, assemble and pre-test them in our China unit.


Any plans to locally manufacture TBMs here? 

We have started to manufacture couple of TBM components at our India facility. For instance the data pack which is being offered with TBMs to understand the technical usage and operational status is being offered from our Indian unit. Subsequently, we are also planning to manufacture more critical components for our machines in India in the next few years.


Could you talk of your outlook for the future and plans to expand business.. 

The Indian market for TBMs looks extremely promising. We see tremendous business from the rising metro projects across the country – especially in the key metros like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. We are expecting the demand for TBMs to rise by 25-30 machines in the next 2-3 years. We are all geared to meet these increasing market opportunities.



Robbins has recently announced its Crossover Series of TBMs, a line of field-tested, rugged Dual Mode-type machines. Crossover TBMs feature aspects of two TBM types, and are ideal for mixed ground conditions that might otherwise require multiple tunneling machines. The XRE (standing for Crossover Rock /EPB) is the most common type of hybrid machine, and features characteristics of Single Shield Hard Rock machines and EPBs for efficient excavation in mixed soils with rock. An XRE TBM recently completed tunneling at Australia’s Grosvenor Decline Tunnel, where it excavated two mine access drives at rates fourteen times faster than a traditional roadheader. The latest drive was completed on February 9, 2015. Additional types of Crossover machines include the XSE-Crossover between Slurry and EPB and the XRS-Crossover between Rock and Slurry TBMs. The Crossover series is quickly gaining in popularity, with Robbins Crossover TBMs currently being assembled in Mexico, Turkey, and Azerbaijan.



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