The biggest crisis: the shortage of skilled labour
Delivery bottlenecks, shortages of skilled labour and enormous energy price increases – these crises also affect the lift sector, states Peter Zeitler, Managing Director of New Lift, in an interview with LIFTjournal.
Zeitler is not only managing director of the control manufacturer New Lift, but also a member of the Board of Management of the VFA.
Corona has been followed by delivery bottlenecks – especially for semiconductors. There is a great shortage of skilled labour and enormous energy price increases: do you still like being an entrepreneur?
Zeitler: I still love being an entrepreneur. But in all of my 36 years of being an entrepreneur in the lift sector, I've never actually experienced an economic downturn. The way things look now, we could be heading for the first real downturn.
How much difficulty are you currently facing with material shortages?
Zeitler: Of course, we controller manufacturers are tremendously affected by the semiconductor delivery disruptions. Getting the parts needed is a struggle every week. Therefore, we had to and have to – like many other manufacturers too – spend a lot of money – we're talking about a factor of 10-15 for parts. We had to redesign many of our modules with other semiconductors, which has led to a development backlog.
What crisis is causing you the most problems? Peter Zeitler, managing partner of New Lift Steuerungsbau. Photo: © VFA-Interlift e.V.
Zeitler: For several years now, we’ve been struggling most with the shortage of skilled labour. That’s our biggest problem. Currently, our order books are full, new orders are still good. We urgently need employees in the electrical technology professions– from electricians to electrical engineers.
How are you reacting to the shortage of skilled labour?
Zeitler: It’s tough, we’re trying everything to find new employees from our profession – we are of course also active in social media. We even pay our own employees a bonus if they recruit skilled employees and they get through the trial period. We also try everything that the others are doing. But we need electrical specialists, since we produce a lot of big industrial systems and electrical qualifications are needed for this. The situation is particularly drastic for us in the Munich region.
How does New Lift position itself vis-à-vis competitors – what can you do better?
Zeitler: We can’t travel up and down better than our competitors, but our trump is in the field of industrial lifts. Currently, we have about 350 special controllers – from loading controllers and special interfaces to special access and FTS transport controllers. We may be just ahead of our competitors in the field of monitoring, analytics and with our recording tools.
But to me, what counts most is that our employees live and pass on the NEW Lift DNA – because this is what our customers benefit from most. One of our strengths is the great proximity to customers and especially good service. I also pay a great deal of attention to retaining the values that put us in the position we are today. We take customers seriously and are also very fair.
Where is the lift industry going?
Zeitler: The trend is clearly towards the digital lift. New business fields will definitely emerge here, such as proactive maintenance or digital service management, visitor/access management and much more. The environment will also benefit from the digital lift. Permanent monitoring will reduce on site deployments. I am utterly convinced that proper digital monitoring of lifts will enhance operational safety and availability. And those are the two factors operators value most.
What is your view of the interface between manufacturers and inspection organisations? What could change in future and what effects would this have, for example, on lift controller systems?
Zeitler: I can’t say much about how the inspections are performed in detail. But the lift status could for example be digitally recorded or technical documentation filed – this would make it more transparent for operators and the inspection organisations and somewhat easier for lift builders. Of course, one would have to ensure that the safety data could not be changed. Monitoring systems mean that there is a connection to the outside world – this needs to be discussed.
When it comes to cyber security, I am of the same view as Tim Ebeling. He evaluated the draft standard on cyber security a year ago in LIFTjournal. This will undoubtedly be a huge challenge for us component manufacturers, but also for the small maintenance companies.
You or your company have been a member of the VFA for decades. Why? And why have you even got involved in the VFA Board of Management since the crisis in the association last year?
Zeitler: The first Elevcon Congress took place in Nice in 1986. We had been independent for just a month and took part. At dinner, I shared a table with Horst Wittur, Wolfgang Schäfer, Albrecht Hildebrand and Dietfried Kollmorgen. At that time, Horst Wittur came up with the idea that an association should be set up for component manufacturers. This then happened in 1987.
We have been in the association for more than 30 years and have always benefited from this: national, international trade fairs, the VFA-Akademie and standardisation. We have greatly appreciated and made use of all of these services.
I had admittedly always been a passive member, but I followed the work of the association very closely. The various directors always did great honorary work. In the middle of last year – when four members of the Board of Management resigned simultaneously – there was a discussion in Fulda. I followed the meeting online and listened to all of the questions and accusations against the remaining directors. At that time, I thought that with my long-standing membership I might be able to give the VFA a little bit of stability again and reinforce the values that characterise this association.
Ulrike Lotze conducted the interview.
Personal details: Peter Zeitler is the managing partner of "New Lift Steuerungsbau". He co-founded it in 1986. New Lift has a total of 210 employees (all plants and branches). The 63-year old is a trained electrician and electric motor developer. Zeitler has been a member of the Board of Management VFA-Interlift since 2021.
More information: newlift.de