How Schindler India is making strides in manufacturing

Ashok Ramachandran, CEO, Schindler, India & South Asia, on how new technologies in elevators and escalators is reshaping cities

Ashok Ramachandran.
Ashok Ramachandran.

Elevators help improve the adage that what goes up must come down. But the current congenial market conditions is only helping these companies stay up.

Overall, five firms control two-thirds of the global market: Schindler of Switzerland, Kone of Finland, Thyssenkrupp of Germany, Otis, part of America’s United Technologies; and Mitsubishi of Japan. Of course, there are other well-known players who have a significant footprint in the global elevators and escalators market.

One company in India that has constantly worked at evolving itself is Schindler India. CEO Ashok Ramachandran, who took over in June 2018, reveals some of the fascinating aspects of lift-making and how the market has evolved in India.

The commanding heights
The elevator market is expected to surpass $130 billion by 2025. As one of the major transit mediums which facilitates urban flow by transporting goods and population vertically within a building, they are used in all types of buildings like commercial, residential, retail outlets, etc. Hence, advancements in the construction industry would augment the growth in global lift market. Currently, the domestic elevator and escalator market is estimated at around 80,000 units per annum, including 10,000 units of manually handled lifts.

The growth prospects of any business can be an alluring invitation to increase footprint around the world. India is one such market. Ramachandran says Schindler India is probably one of the last MNCs to enter India. Last year, the company celebrated 20 years of its presence in the country. It’s perhaps the first MNC to have both elevator & escalator manufacturing facilities in India.

Early this year, the company announced that it is hoping to make India its global manufacturing and R&D hub. It also plans to invest significantly in digitisation and data analytics. “With the government spends increasing in airports, metros and railways, among others, we see good growth in demand for escalators and elevators. Additionally, investments in the residential real estate market, apart from the commercial segment, will drive the growth of elevators and escalators,” he says.

Ramachandran is looking at ensuring a unique edge and propel it to market leadership. The Swiss escalators and elevators major is hoping to take on the unorganised market, of the remaining 70,000 units. One way to achieve this is see an exponential growth in the coming years thus giving the company a significant share. It is for this reason the company has 3100 which is its commodity product especially designed for the Indian market

As an aside, he mentions that the company has partnered with several prestigious infrastructure projects in India, like the new Mumbai International Airport - Terminal-2, the Chennai International Airport, the Delhi Metro, the Delhi Airport Metro, the Mumbai Monorail, the Kolkata International Airport, as well as the Mumbai, Bengaluru, Greater Noida and Nagpur Metros. It has also been a preferred partner for landmark projects like Lodha’s World One, Omkar Worli 1973, Antilia and the Imperial Towers.

The lift, a life
In its bid to localise manufacturing, the IGBC Platinum awarded Schindler India elevator manufacturing facility has been fully functional since 2014 and has a capacity of 12,000 units. In Q2 2018, it began manufacturing escalators to cater to the growing demand from metros, airports, shopping malls and railway stations. Schindler India is the first MNC to manufacture escalators in India. Set up with an investment of Rs 100 crore, it is located within the company’s premises at Chakan near Pune. This is part of the Rs 600 crore investment the company had committed in its first phase of operations which includes a manufacturing facility for elevators, a testing centre and the Schindler University. With a capacity of 1,100 to 1,200 units per year, the company promises to manufacture infrastructure escalators from 2019. For escalators, the company started with 40% local content, which would be scaled up to 60% by 2020.

At the plant, in terms of new development, it is switching from typical welding to clinch and riveting technology, a revolution in E&E industry. Besides, the company is now looking at the next revolution of manufacturing seamlessly from 3D models to components and finally the full product.

A model aspect of post-production is the 71m tall test tower. With eight test shafts (four are 30m high and the remaining 70m high), the test tower is extensively used to check and validate the safety of critical components and also perform lifecycle tests on the system critical components which includes brakes, fall protection, safety performances in a worst case scenario, etc. The tower was set up as a mark of Schindler’s commitment to provide global quality product.

In order to offer enhanced user experience and pose high competition in the industry, Schindler India also offers technically-developed solutions with sensor and connectivity features. With investments in new product innovations and intelligent technologies to offer a wide portfolio of intelligent lift solutions, it is banking on tapping the commercial and residential applications. According to Ramachandran, the solutions from Schindler (India and globally) offer security and energy efficiency to elevating operations owing to the integration of IoT technology, communication devices, and access control solutions. The integration of sensor technology and internet connectivity in intelligent lifts enables time and cost saving as they provide early maintenance and repair alerts to the building management authorities, further developing the smart elevator market.

Exports play a strong role for the company. Currently, Ramachandran says the company exports to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Going forward, the Middle East and African markets are what he’s looking at.

The power of lateral thinking
People live more vertically than ever before. Millions move to cities every year. Many live in blocks of flats or work in high-rise offices. Nearly all use elevators or escalators from time to time. Few can be bothered to take the stairs. One can well understand the criticality this machine has come to mean in people’s daily lives. From the customer’s perspective, lifts have evolved little since they first appeared 150 years ago. But it has.

Elevators have become greener and come with advanced technologies. Ramachandran says, “With use of gearless machines, our products consume up to 30% lesser energy compared to conventional systems. Technologies such as Standby mode when not in use, STM belts, etc. also bring about significant savings in power consumption as well as space. Our products are almost 100% recyclable and free from harmful substances.”

He adds that in the smart elevator market, control system solutions are gaining high popularity owing to the need for managing building infrastructure and efficiently controlling the lift operations. Increasing utilisation of intelligent lift systems across residential, commercial, and industrial projects requires timely control and maintenance to manage the increasing crowd.

Its PORT access management system can make a building smarter as it reduces the wait times during peak hours, confusing lobby layouts, security or access issues. Elevators are isolated for specific passenger groups, passengers with special needs and elevators in the same place serve different floors. The motors are smaller and require lesser space, the control cabinet fits into the landing door frame and direct drive is installed directly in the shaft, thus eliminating the need for a machine room.

The new digital solution enables a range of new digital products and services. Schindler Ahead offers a fully digital closed loop maintenance, emergency services, and information system. Launched in partnership with GE and Huawei for connectivity of elevators and escalators at your fingertips, Schindler Ahead brings smart IoT for seamless connectivity which enables the company to better monitor, analyse and resolve possible service issues even before they happen, reducing and eliminating downtime.

Similarly, Schindler Digital Plan is a one-stop-shop to help architects and planners with valuable product and design information while building & planning. It uses the latest visualisation technology and data analytics to give designers and customers comprehensive product specifications and a detailed layout drawings. “Planning plays a crucial role because once the elevators are installed, it is extremely difficult to change or add more elevators without making substantial changes to the building structure. The Schindler advanced digital planning tool adds on this front,” he says.

In keeping with global mandate of safety, the company’s ‘Schindler University’ at its manufacturing unit is where employees are trained to become “techno-commercial executives” as the task to sell elevators and escalators has undergone a sea change. This facility trains its fillers and service technicians across the country for efficient installation of its product range.

Swiss products have always set benchmarks in terms of quality across the globe and are a preferred choice not only because of their attention to detail but also their environmentally-friendly methods of production. For instance, the plant at Chakan uses solar panels to power more than 75% of the plant operations.

The government’s push to affordable housing coupled with time-bound delivery of residential and commercial projects, especially across realty hotspots such as Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad will push the demand for elevators. Moreover, the ongoing metro projects across Delhi, Nagpur, Chennai, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Hyderabad and few more cities will also drive the demand for escalators and elevators as both are part of the modern day metro station infrastructure. The demand for high-speed elevators is increasing. Innovations in look and feel are also big differentiators. And then, the servicing and maintenance is a crucial factor for customers, ends Ramachandran.


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