With swelling passenger traffic at airports, the onus of their transportation falls solely on elevator & escalator companies, who are innovating to deliver.
BY Mitalee Kurdekar
According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation’s recent report, airport construction projects in India account for just 1% in terms of value of airport development works that are underway around the world. Aviation experts say there are many reasons for this slow growth thus far, but it is primarily on account of lukewarm growth in non-metro and regional airports, owing to unremunerative business together with the poor financial health of an extremely competitive airlines sector. Certain policy measures taken by the Government of India together with an impetus for infrastructure projects is changing this scenario. A lot more monies are being pumped into new airports or modernisation of existing airports in the past few years. As a result, the industry in India is now quickly latching onto fresh government initiatives and taking advantage of incentives offered, in order to retain this lucrative business. Obviously, the competition both from within India and outside is making the whole scene customer-friendly as well.
While airport construction may have lagged behind in the past, passenger traffic in India has been growing steadily, and has, in fact, touched double digits in percentage figures, since 2014-15. The data for 2015-16 suggests that it is in high double digits of around 18%; and the gratifying feature is that domestic passenger traffic has grown by more than 21% during that year to a figure of 224 million passengers. GMR Group, which was India’s first private participation airport management company, claims that, especially during the last one year, all the airports that they manage have recorded double digit traffic growth.
If one acknowledges this growing passenger traffic as a reality, there is another obvious question that one cannot overlook, and that is the requirement for faster mass movement of these passengers. It is in this context that the elevator & escalator services provided by specialised companies have grown in importance and become vital to an airport’s smooth operations, and in turn success.
Schindler, who has been part of several prestigious airport projects like Mumbai International Airport, Chennai International Airport, Delhi Airport Metro and Kolkata International Airport, focuses on key business requirements, which include higher passenger handling capacity, in addition to features like higher degree of safety factors such as IP ratings & fire ratings, seismic operation, energy efficiency and access control systems.
Speaking about delivering value, Uday Kulkarni, president, Schindler – India and South Asia, suggests, “Public transportation infrastructure is a long-term investment. To deliver lasting value in a high-traffic environment, elevators, escalators and moving walks are expected to offer the utmost in reliable performance. Schindler has been moving passengers, safely and efficiently. Our rigorously tested, top-quality products and comprehensive services cover the wide-ranging needs of transportation facilities around the world.”
Bharat Vishnani, MD, thyssenkrupp Elevator (India), points out that, “In recent times, the elevator has evolved from being a luxury product serving a small proportion of the urban population to a more functional and efficient means of moving the general public. Safety and energy efficiency have taken centre-stage. There is a growing demand for high-speed, high-capacity, smart elevators that can carry many passengers at once, safely and comfortably, particularly in large-scale facilities.”
Considering the nature and scale of fast moving, heavy passenger traffic, one cannot deny the fact that the issue of security and passenger safety becomes of paramount concern when planning passenger mobility. Besides this, elevator & escalator manufacturers also consider many other aspects, keeping in mind passenger needs when using such amenities. It is therefore not surprising that the elevator & escalator industry is constantly innovating to develop new features in their products.
Sebi Joseph, president, Otis India, says, “Airport elevators & escalators are also designed differently, depending on their usage. For example, passengers prefer glass walls and shafts for elevators, as they provide a panoramic view of the airport, including retail and food options.”
Elaborating on Otis’ contribution to this area, over the years, he says, “Otis products are installed at some of the world’s busiest airports. Most infrastructure projects, including airports, aim for environmental sustainability and Otis offers just that in its flagship product, the Gen2 elevator. The Gen2 range is designed to increase the elevator’s efficiency, safety and reliability with key components that include a coated steel belt, as well as the ReGen drive, permanent magnet machine and PULSE system.”
thyssenkrupp too aims to be at the forefront of providing innovative mobility solutions. Vishnani professes, “We distinguish ourselves by consistently providing tailored solutions for rapidly developed urban areas and therefore India is an important market for us.” He adds, “We are especially focused on localising products and services for the Indian market.” Their TWIN elevator system consists of two cabs that operate in the same shaft, independent of each other, using the same intelligent group control system, and are equipped with an innovative quadruple redundancy safety system. It utilises less energy in operations, while transporting 40% more passengers than conventional elevators.
The company’s ACCEL product is a unique transportation system, that offers high capacities and high speeds for short distances, with no waiting times for passengers and low implementation costs. Passengers step onto the ACCEL at normal walking speeds, accelerate smoothly while continuing to walk on a pallet band, and then decelerate to normal speed when leaving the system. ACCEL generates time savings of 70%. Explaining the use of IoT technology in their MAX product, Vishnani points out that Max makes it possible for an elevator to ‘tell’ service technicians its real needs, including real-time identification of repairs, component replacements, and proactive system maintenance.
Jasmin Patel, director, Orbis Elevator Co., agrees that being innovative in this industry is imperative for providing robust services in applications like airport products, because they operate in a 24X7 time frame. In this context, he explains, “A new technology has been invented in the elevator industry to deliver world-class comfort and nonstop services. Gearless technology with a high-end micro-processor can bus control system is one of the revolutionary technologies used for better mass transportation at airports. It offers a wide range of options and flexibility, and can be configured with a Building Maintenance System (BMS), where it can be monitored and operated by control room personnel in the case of any emergency,” claims Patel.
He goes on to add, “Gearless technology with no machine room is a perfectly apt concept for airports as the height and pit is restricted. This system fixes itself within the lift shaft and requires no machine room and minimum pit depth. It can save up to 40% energy, while the size of the machine is also reduced by up to 70% compared to traditional geared machines. It also requires no lubrication.”
Most key vendors in the Indian elevator & escalator industry have grown along with customer markets and have thus been instrumental in demonstrating many best practices, along this journey. Ultimately, these best practices gain acceptance among both vendor as well as customer groups. Such best practices include novel product features, service parameters as also after sales service support.
Joseph offers an example of this, when he states, “Otis Gen2 elevators with ReGen drives are as much as 75% more energy efficient than traditional elevators with conventional drives. The Gen2 range also has machine-room less (MRL) elevators. These elevators replace large elevator rooms by locating a compact hoisting machine on top of the elevator shaft. Compared to systems with machine rooms, the compact gearless machine consumes less electricity and saves on other building costs because it does not take up an entire room for parts and equipment.”
In addition to this, Otis offers a unique maintenance system of managing elevators. As Joseph explains, “To help effectively manage all the elevators at an airport, Otis offers the web-based EMS Panorama system that enables building staff to monitor, control and report on a full range of operation-critical functions for an elevator & escalator from any computer with an internet connection. The EMS Panorama system offers comprehensive, real-time data that shows building managers the full picture, enabling them to respond quickly to passengers’ needs and make informed decisions about equipment operations.”
Vishnani echoes the sentiment that maintenance is a critical aspect of after sales service. He says, “thyssenkrupp TEAMService brings the industry’s most comprehensive approach to keeping people moving safely and reliably, by providing a smarter, more systematic and stress-free maintenance service to customers. Our processes, systems, and committed team make this possible. A TEAMService program is key to protecting the investment that keeps people in buildings moving. To complement this, our International Technical Services (ITS) centres are on call 24 hours a day to provide expert technical support, when required.”
Commenting on Schindler’s approach, Kulkarni states, “Our customers have chosen Schindler as their partner in large projects because of the organisation’s expertise in managing such projects, through dedicated project management teams. Our four, state-of-the-art training centres ensure that every Schindler fitter and service technician is trained and certified to work on our equipment. Schindler customers are aware that their elevators are in safe and capable hands.”
Most industry vendors are euphoric about future prospects, and are banking on the Government’s new policies and initiatives like Make in India. Patel sums up this optimism by saying, “Looking at India’s growth and immediate future, our prospects could rise to double our current demand, and for that we are ready. Our research and development for new innovations and challenges are always in motion, which allows the Indian Aviation industry to deliver the best solutions for airports and any connected infrastructure at all times.”
Joseph puts his customers in the driving seat, announcing the following, “We pride ourselves on working with the customer to provide not just a set of products, but a vertical transportation solution that provides the best fit for that particular site.” He adds that infrastructure development presents a great opportunity for growth with the government’s focus on development.
With more new airports on the horizon and a burgeoning passenger base to service, there is little that can get in the way of the elevator & escalator industry taking off!