Andreas Schierenbeck, chairman of the board of directors of thyssenkrupp Elevator. (Source: thyssenkrupp Elevator)

By lift into the twenty-first century


Worldwide increasing numbers of people are moving to cities. Conurbations are growing, mega-cities are being created, new challenges have to be mastered. Andreas Schierenbeck, chairman of the board of directors of thyssenkrupp Elevator, in an interview on change and opportunities for the lift industry.

What challenges is the increasing urbanisation worldwide creating?
Schierenbeck: Cities are growing vertically, today skyscrapers over 800 m high are already a reality. This definitely has advantages - energy consumption and infrastructure costs are demonstrably falling and production in such compressed areas is becoming more efficient. But the vertical transport of people in lifts need redesigning.

In what way?
Schierenbeck: The basic problem is one of capacity. At peak times, for example, a great many people have to be moved from their workplace in the upper floors of a high skyscraper or to an underground train station. Building more lifts to cope with this takes up a lot of space, which is then no longer available for other rooms. Travelling faster is unpleasant for the passengers, on the one hand, and on the other a potentially higher lift speed is only seldom achieved, due to lifts’ constant acceleration and deceleration. That’s why we at thyssenkrupp Elevator have developed a completely different concept. Our lift system Multi travels without ropes using magnetic power and with several cars in one shaft, like a paternoster in a circuit. The cars are also small, to enable people to get in and out quickly. This produces noticeably higher transport capacities.

Is Multi also suitable for underground train stations?
Schierenbeck: Yes, in London it is already being considered. But there fast horizontal transport is important too, for example, to get to the next Underground station. Our Accel transport system solves such problems. It is a conveyor belt, which accelerates from walking speed when you get on to 2m/s, before decelerating to the initial speed of 0.6 m/s when you get off.

How susceptible are such trailblazing innovations to breakdowns?
Schierenbeck: Lifts are the safest means of transport in the world, a billion people a day use them worldwide. But unfortunately their availability is problematic – every lift breaks down between four and six times annually. According to New York’s Columbia University, that makes a total of 190 million hours of standstill. No one would accept such a failure rate in a car.

What causes the breakdowns?
Schierenbeck: The monitoring of lifts is far from ideal. Defects resulting in standstills are not discovered in time. To change this we developed "Max” together with Microsoft. We check the lift’s technology in this way in the cloud and evaluate enormous quantities of data. Fixed maintenance intervals are then replaced by repairs, whose necessity is reported by the system – before the standstill occurs. We started fitting lifts with Max a year ago in the USA and will do so in June in Germany this year. At the moment there are between 500 and 600 new installations a day. The initial effects – fewer breakdowns, lower maintenance costs – are already evident.

How are lift maintenance staff coping with all these technical innovations?
Schierenbeck: That is indeed no trivial matter. The technicians who deal with lifts on the spot normally look after many old and also new models. They necessarily cannot be experts in every technical detail. This is why we developed the Hololens data glasses for repairs. When a technician has these glasses on, they see the components involved in virtual reality. An expert in our company can be connected with the technician, see the same reality on a computer and give advice. Technicians can also be prepared or trained with glasses like these.

How is the market reacting to your innovations?
Schierenbeck: We are already conducting talks with potential customers about Multi. A predecessor model of the Accel has already been installed at Toronto airport and there transports the capacity of an entire bus. Max is getting a lot of attention worldwide and Hololens is undergoing field tests with over 100 pairs of glasses. We now have to persuade people that our innovations represent great opportunities for making all lift-related processes simpler.

Bettina Heimsoeth asked the questions.

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