“There are no losers in the world we’re creating”
They promise to greatly reduce the maintenance costs for operators with the assistance of their box: the service offered by ‘Aufzughelden’ (“Lift Heroes”) has been spurring discussions in the German lift sector.
This was what prompted LIFT-journal to interview Simon Vestner. Vestner explained in the discussion that the company’s services might lead to the turnover of maintenance companies declining but their margins would increase.
What does your company concept look like?
Vestner: We see ourselves as a software and technology company. We want to avoid faults with our solution, the ‘Aufzughelden’ box, irrespective of the manufacturer of the lift and its age.
Do you also offer lift management of the kind that eases the burden on operators in legal, technical and administrative respects?
Vestner: No, we’re not an engineering firm or a maintenance company. We see ourselves instead as a data supplier. In short, as a technology company that organises information that does not yet currently exist. We can then use this to make better decisions than without the information the lift gives us.
Where is the added value for the customer?
Vestner: Our customers obtain three clear added values. First, we create complete transparency about the lift – not just in terms of invoices, but we also know how the lift is doing. Secondly, we increase the availability of the lift, since we can already see today when a fault will occur in the future. The third point is that we cut costs, but without affecting the margins of the maintenance company.
That’s very important. The expense of fault clearance is lower if we know that a fault is going to occur – in this way, we can avoid maintenance work with fault work. This may mean the maintenance company’s turnover falls, but its margin increases. Because we work more efficiently. At the same time, the lift thereby operates far more sustainably. That means there are no losers in the world we’re creating.
How does what you’re offering differ from the competition? The Aufzughelden box is directly connected to the lift controller. Photo: © Digital Spine
Vestner: The difference is that unlike all the sensor manufacturers, we are connected directly with the controller. The sensor manufacturer installs sensors around a machine, which then interpret the machine. This means if you want to identify a fault, you have to know that the lift is motionless and then the sensor must identify whether this is a normal standstill or a fault – from my point of view, that’s difficult. If by contrast, you are directly connected to the controller, you immediately know that the lift has a fault. This is a difference in the quality of the data.
The second big difference: the big lift groups naturally also have a direct connection to the controller, but only for the new models. Moreover, other manufacturers have no access to the lifts of the groups, they’re closed systems. What we say is that technology doesn’t have to cost money, but instead we can involve the operators directly in the technological leap and as a result decrease their operating costs.
Who are your strongest competitors?
Vestner: We have no direct competitors. I would like to have some competition, but today there’s no one who does things exactly the way we do.
How do you generate the data?
Vestner: The data flow from the controller into our ‘Aufzughelden’ box. From there, we build a digital twin in the cloud and add a few of our own ‘special spices’ to really improve the flavour of the data. Then we send the data to the cloud where have an abstraction layer. The algorithms run on this and these algorithms help in recognising patterns. As a result, we already know today that in eight weeks the lift will have a fault. We can then use these eight weeks to plan maintenance and carry out the repairs needed during the maintenance to avoid the faults. These ‘spices’ are of course our business secret. This is because it’s all about how you enrich the data to enable you to use them.
What do you do if the protocols are encrypted – or if there is no data interface?
Vestner: The first thing we then do is to ask those who have the protocols whether they will cooperate with us. If they say "no" and do not want to disclose the data, we have to use new technologies to interpret the protocols. This means you connect to the controller, then press different buttons and decrypt them retrospectively. I’ve not yet found any lift that has no interface but if it doesn’t have any, that naturally isn’t possible.
And what about the doors, which are responsible for most of the faults – they’re often not connected to the controller …
Vestner: For this, we have a speciality. There are patterns that are obvious. For example, there is the "Time" pattern with which we monitor the door opening or closing times. To this end, we also monitor power consumption, etc. – there are many tiny details in order to apply our ‘mixture of spices’. We use a lot of other indirect factors to allow us to make precise predictions.
You have plans to expand what you offer internationally - what are these exactly?
Vestner: We are taking a different approach abroad than in Germany. We want to grow fast there very much with the help of distributors, i.e.: we want to have partner companies which can offer our product in the country they know well. In 24 months, we want to be represented in every country in Europe.
Ulrike Lotze conducted the interview.
More information: The declared aim of Digital Spine with its brand ‘Aufzughelden’ is to digitalise lifts in Germany and maintain their long-term functionality. The company was founded in 2020 and its managing director is Simon Vestner. Aufzughelden now has over 100 customers and more than 40 employees who deal with the digitalisation of currently about 2,000 lifts. According to the company, the core of the complete package is the Auzugshelden box, which is directly connected to the lift controller.