Elevator & escalator makers are putting in a lot of thought in designing products so as to make them safe, and fast.
By Jayashree Mendes
Over the last few years in India, development of infrastructure and real estate development has also meant seeking out modern technologies and products. Simultaneously, the continuous construction of high-rises and growing government expenditure on infrastructure development have spurred wide installation of elevators & escalators. This has not only brought in new kinds of elevators & escalators into the market, but also witnessed installations in areas such as residential, retail, transportation and hospitality sectors. With ready technology available, users too constantly seek easy methods of riding up two-storeys or seek escalators (mostly at malls) or moving walkways (at airports).
Just to give you an idea of this market, we quote the report that was published early this year by 6Wresearch. Titled India Elevator & Escalator Market (2017-2023), the report says that the Indian elevator & escalator market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.1% during 2017-2023. The market in India registered a growth last few years on the back of increase in number of high-rises, expansion and construction of airports and metros, construction of malls and hotels especially in Tier 1& 2 cities, and increasing acceptance in the residential sector.
This has also led to manufacturers of elevators & escalators introducing new designs internationally and in India. Amit Gossain, MD, KONE Elevators, says, “Customers who want to differentiate their buildings choose design as the element whether in the architecture and landscaping of the buildings or in the components that go within the building. Also architects, who widely travel across the world, are keen to leave their signature on the buildings and are always looking for new ways to create an ambience that people will take notice of. It is these types of customers who are immediately attracted to new design concepts, new materials and the flexibility to customise the design to suit their needs.”
Before implementing new design concepts in India, together with its global design team, KONE studies the cultural preferences to suit local needs. Its elevator designs are inspired by the Five Elements, symbolising harmony, vitality and the spirit of being one with nature. KONE also led the way by introducing a new hoisting technology, KONE Ultra rope, a super-light carbon fibre core. The Ultra rope is 90% lighter than the equivalent steel cable, thereby reducing more than 50% reduction in moving masses and 15% reduction in energy consumption.
Then there’s the concept of green. This means it must help in energy savings, be safe, and add to that softer edges, etchings, patterns, unusual colours, materials and textures. In short, it means adding personality to the elevator space. Sebi Joseph, president, Otis India, says, “We have released and are continuously working on a new range of aesthetic designs around the world. Otis India, too, will soon unveil new looks for some of the elevator ranges, designed and manufactured in India, that caters to the desires of Indian riders.”
Design of elevators also includes changing the way it functions. For instance, thyssenkrupp Elevator India has re-imagined the elevator, 160 years after its invention, by replacing its ropes with linear motors. In the process, it has opened the door to new possibilities. Bharat Vishnani, MD, thyssenkrupp Elevator India, says, “We have high-speed elevators for high-rise buildings. Sonic, for instance, is our extra-fast passenger lift that can travel up to 12metres/second (mps). It’s the perfect high-speed choice for skyscrapers or office towers where passengers need to reach great heights. One can opt for an eye-catching panoramic car design or combine sonic with our TWIN lift for a truly one-of-a-kind solution.” TWIN comes equipped with intelligent traffic control, which optimises traffic automatically and reduces empty runs. The system has two cabs running independently in the same shaft, each with its own counterweight, safety and drive equipment.
TIME FOR TAKE OFF
For developers, buying elevators is a long-term investment. Most often vendors give them options that require between choosing solutions that are cheap that might mean incurring costs in the long run, or a solution that may initially appear costly but requires low maintenance with time. Vijay B. Pawar, founder & director, Mirador Dewellers, says, “Ultimately, what matters most is safety and quality. As a company, we are always conscious and prefer to consider the number of floors in case of a building and choose wisely. Factors like choosing an automatic open-and-shut system elevator or one with grills come later and depend on the kind of building being constructed.”
Realising that users are getting choosy, vendors have started catering with products that are tastefully designed and made with durable materials for longer life so that it can withstand normal wear and tear. This is one way to leave an impression about the brand. Kulvinder Singh Bansal, director, Sophus Elevators, says, “We have a team in India and abroad that checks trends and launches new designs regularly. Designs change annually, though slightly, and largely every 5-7 years. We now use Can Bus system used in automobiles to transmit signals to various components with minimum wiring and more through advanced electronics. This reduces the number of wires being used thus reducing the chances of loss of signal due to wiring issues. Also less number of parts means more life to components. This, along with Permanent Magnet Motor Technology Design, has raised elevator performance and decreased power consumption. These designs have been introduced internationally and in India.”
In line with the growing global trend toward designing and constructing sustainable buildings and cities, elevator & escalator companies are committed to continuously applying cutting-edge technology with energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly features to provide green solutions. Vishnani says, “We attach high priority to implementing sustainable solutions for the entire lifecycle of our products and processes worldwide, which also includes India, the world’s second-largest elevator market. High standards for health and safety are observed to minimise use of toxic materials from the R&D to manufacturing, as well as in-field operations.”
Another point of relevance to manufacturers is making elevators safe and fast. There are elevators that can run at dizzy speeds of 21m/second. Such high speeds are possible with developments in the field of High Speed Permanent Magnet Motor technology. Well-known companies have been known to spend millions of dollars on R&D for creating elevators that can achieve such speeds. Bansal says, “An elevator has a machine, controller and safety gear mechanisms to make it run smoothly and safely, but the fact is there are a lot more other parts that make this feat possible. There is a pendulum action mechanism below the elevator to offset vibrations that might happen due to high speeds. Also there are guide shoes that slide in the rails. These are made of special quality rubber rollers and have an electronic device fitted in it that move as per the feedback given from the controller and make the ride smoother. Similarly, doors are fitted with motors and sensors that move as per the air pressure and other signals that are transmitted to it.”
In 2015, Otis India introduced the Gen2 Infinity. Manufactured at the Bengaluru factory, this is a higher speed (1.75mps) passenger elevator that caters to mid-rise residential buildings. The Bengaluru factory is gearing up to offer even higher speed.
Joseph says, “The focus is on transporting riders to their floors, quickly and smoothly. Our technologies such as the CompassPlus destination management system, which evaluates real-time passenger traffic to improve travel time in busy mid- and high-rise buildings, are part of this trend. We are working with Microsoft and AT&T to develop digital platforms to enable connected elevators of the future.”
In India, gearless and machine room-less type of technology elevator is growing at a faster rate than geared elevator and is expected to hold the major share in coming years. In escalator segment, moving stairs escalator has led the market, however moving walkway sub-segment is gaining popularity with the installation at airports, and shopping centres. In 2016, amongst all the applications, commercial application captured the largest share in overall elevator & escalator market.
MADE IN INDIA
In terms of manufacturing, most companies have installed advanced technologies at their plant. Bansal says, “We use state- of-the-art machinery for manufacturing. These are Japanese machines that make products with high accuracy. Use of robots in manufacturing reduces chances of error and time required for quality inspection as it’s self-inspection driven. Only the best steel is used and the raw material is procured directly from manufacturing mills. Other systems such as Kaizen, JIT, etc., are followed to achieve quality norms.”
For KONE, identifying the right vendor ready to comply to stringent audits is a must. Gossain says, “We follow total quality management processes and do the quality checks of material at three stages viz., at the vendor, during manufacturing and during despatch.”
Otis works on the UTC ACE (Achieving Competitive Excellence) operating system, which is designed to ensure world-class quality in their products and processes. ACE focuses on increasing efficiency and reducing waste.
So the next time you take an elevator, remember that it is not a mere box that just transports you to your destination. A lot of thought has gone into ensuring how you travel safe and fast.