BY Mitalee Kurdekar
Elevators & escalators are symbolic of the fast-paced lifestyle that marks 21st century living. And given the continuous development that is synonymous with urban areas, they are a good example of the narrowing gap between luxury and necessity. After all, elevators & escalators represent the need for smart mobility, helping transport millions of people across distances both vertical and horizontal in a safe, comfortable and efficient manner. In fact, it is this requirement that is leading to the upgrades that are being witnessed across such products today.
Driving & Meeting Demand
Given the increased urbanisation in India, like many developing geographies of the world, the need for faster and improved mobility of people cannot be undermined. This is leading the demand for new-age elevators & escalators. With limited resources to develop surrounding infrastructure, the focus by governments as well as developers is to go vertical, and therefore the demand for large malls and skyscrapers housing commercial & residential units make such people mobility products the need of the hour. Added to this, there is a renewed emphasis on tourism and infrastructure, which has resulted in the fast development of airports, metro & other rail services, and new tourist attractions. These too are driving the demand for elevators & escalators.
Amit Gossain, MD, KONE Elevator India, suggests, “Urbanisation, changing demographics, the increasing importance of safety, and concern for the environment, are some of the most important demand drivers within the elevator & escalator industry, and are expected to drive demand for years to come. More people will need to move through the same space at the same time. Buildings will be built higher and the flow of people inside them will need to be managed as efficiently as possible. Therefore, there should be a gradual upswing in demand.”
Amjad Sayyed, senior VP, existing installation business, Schindler, supports the growth outlook, when he says, “India is the second-largest elevator market in the world after China, with more than 50,000 elevators being sold every year. The elevator & escalator market growth is mainly driven by the residential segment and by the activity and initiatives in tier-II & tier-III cities. It is likely to get even stronger in the near future, with the focus on initiatives like Housing for All, development of smart cities and new infrastructure projects. Schindler is responding to this opportunity with targeted investments and the strategic expansion of our business in India.”
Commenting on the future of this industry, Sebi Joseph, president, Otis India, professes, “We can expect the next developments in elevator technology to be digitalisation and the focus should be on passenger experience. Building on the theme of connectivity, we’re transforming our service business – globally – to incorporate smart, connected technology that delivers proactive, quick and effective diagnostics and repair. The transformation is an investment in digital tools, mobility solutions, apps, IoT and operational excellence to enhance customer experience, accelerate business productivity and increase employee engagement. Otis India is positioned to deliver to the country’s vertical transportation demands with its expanded facility in Bengaluru, which tripled in size and doubled in manufacturing capacity.”
Evolving Business Requirements
While passenger and end-user convenience remain a core business requirement, many aspects of convenience that were previously viewed as ‘nice to have’ have now moved into the ‘must have’ category of business requirements. Thus, the sense of space, ambience and riding experience are now being considered as essential in new elevator & escalator products. New regulations regarding safety and environmental protection also determine customer business requirements to a large extent. Safety assumes greater importance in most new products and installations as some of these elevators & escalators operate in busy public places, and therefore failsafe devices and fire-resistant installations are a must for such products. Aesthetics of cabins and surroundings is an attraction in some cases, but developers seem to only make such add-ons a differentiation point if the economics are acceptable.
Commenting on their approach, a Kalpataru spokesperson states, “We lay emphasis on selecting elevators & escalators that meet high safety standards and fully comply with fire norms. While the elevators/ escalators must appeal to the senses through their aesthetic appeal, they must also provide a comfortable riding experience. After-sales service is also strongly evaluated while making a selection.”
On the other hand, Vivek Joshi, executive president, JP Infra Mumbai, believes, “Speed is an important element as it determines the wait time for commuters. With advancement in technology, developers have so many options to choose from like auto escalation during an emergency, well-built interiors, ventilation, etc. Developers can now add more options to their checklist like solar-powered elevators that reduce the usage of electricity, rope-free elevators, multi-directional elevators, spiral elevators, etc.”
Dhaval Shah, joint MD, Parinee Group, points out, “There are many new innovations now available like minimised space utilisation of machine rooms. Power-saving and faster floor/ destination reaching capacity with lesser stops & interventions also play a major role. Proper lighting and ventilation with an aesthetic look and feel also play a part.”
Giving his viewpoint, Amit Ruparel, MD, Ruparel Realty, says, “Elevator service is a critical aspect in high-rises as it is the heart of the building that allows ‘people flow’ within the building premises. Energy efficiency is yet another important parameter while selecting the right elevators to ascertain reduction in operational expenses. Some other features that hold immense importance are minimum average waiting time (AWT), optimum handling capacity (HC), efficient access control system as well as destination control system, and lastly low maintenance.”
User convenience and efficient people flow including an optimal average waiting time appear to be critical considerations. As Mukesh Jaitley, director – projects, The Wadhwa Group, explains, “The first step towards choosing smart elevators is doing a traffic analysis of the building. Based on the analysis, a developer looks for the speed at which the elevator will run and the number of elevators needed to cater to the traffic. If done right, it will reduce the wait time to 50 seconds, which is the average wait time. Also, it is of utmost importance to design a building in a way that the grouping of elevators can be done smartly so that the least amount of time is taken for the movement of passengers.”
Smart is the Way Forward
Speaking of smart, Shabbir Kanchwala, senior VP, K Raheja Corp, confesses, “Smart elevators, as the name suggests, are advanced equipment, which use automation and innovative techniques to improve the waiting time and increase traffic management efficiency in residential, commercial and other buildings. New-age digital security system controls like biometrics, touch-screen, destination dispatching and access control systems, make them advanced. Waiting time in front of elevators is the biggest concern amongst passengers in residential & commercial buildings or in the case of an emergency at hospitals. The low waiting times for the elevators add to the customer experience in any building. The integration of access control systems and destination dispatching technology manages the traffic flow in a building with minimum waiting time.”
Raman Sapru, president, EPC, Omkar Realtors & Developers, shares this sentiment. “Smart buildings having given way to smart concepts, be it apartment-related or amenities in the development. Elevators, over the years, have outsmarted the latest technology and are offering features beyond our understanding, ensuring safety, energy conservation, time efficiency and zero maintenance with handling capacity as per minimum standards of NBC and CIBSE. These elevators & escalators come with destination control system including recognition for finger print, photo feature, voice command and card access. Elevators & escalators supporting regenerative drive generate power while operating, and this can be reused in the development for other power-enabled functions, thus resulting in reducing the carbon footprint. The new generation of elevators & escalators come with automatic rescue device to overcome power failure, showcasing the best safety features,” he offers.
Paradigm Shift, Cost Focus
The only constant in the elevator & escalator industry is change, especially given the technological advances and eagerness of OEMs to develop new features and bring them to market such that the end-users are spoilt for choice. All these are also helping in cost management over the longer run, considering the initial investment is very high indeed.
Sayyad says, “Real estate developers increasingly prefer elevator/ escalator products that can offer them more flexibility to design the building, ensure an overall saving in cost and consume less power during operations. Schindler technology aims to provide solutions that are green and energy-efficient. Our motors are smaller and require less 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. Schindler India has, over the years, gained the trust of leading builders & infrastructure developers across the country.’’
Highlighting the shift that is taking place, Joseph proclaims, “The transformation is an investment in digital tools, mobility solutions, apps, IoT and operational excellence to enhance customer experience, accelerate business productivity and increase employee engagement. Otis has developed and is accelerating additional efforts across the organisation to expand the use of internal service apps being developed by field teams around the world.”
Giving his take on the subject, Gossain says, “KONE People Flow Intelligence is a comprehensive and flexible suite of solutions for access control, destination guidance, information communication, and equipment monitoring. People Flow Intelligence solutions enable optimisation of People Flow from the entrance of the building to the final destination of the person. Continuous R&D and innovations have resulted in a hoisting technology that has redefined the standards in ride comfort & energy savings, to the utmost satisfaction of end-users and customers.”
With vendors taking up the case for smart mobility, things are certainly looking up for the elevator & escalator industry in the country.