By Gerhard Hope

Otis GM Sebi Joseph talks about the company’s long involvement in the region, from 1967 in Abu Dhabi, culminating with the iconic Burj Khalifa.

Can you give us some background on Otis?

Otis Elevator Company is the world’s largest manufacturer and maintainer of people-moving products, including elevators, escalators and moving walkways. With headquarters in Farmington, Connecticut, Otis employs 61 000 people, offers products and services in more than 200 countries and territories, and maintains 1.7 million elevators and escalators worldwide. We are both global and local, serving the needs of our customers wherever they live and do business. For more than 150 years, quality has made Otis the most trusted name in the industry.

At Otis, we place a strong focus on continuous research and key trends that shape our sector across the globe. We place a strong focus on customer service and expertise, which is a cornerstone of Otis’ operations, especially given our expansive history and vast global footprint. Therefore our solid expertise and global presence supports the general requirements for large projects.

In addition, we focus on green/energy-efficient solutions to support sustainable development, as well as safe and highly efficient transportation for high passenger volumes, specifically for tall buildings and infrastructure needs.

What is its involvement in the Middle East?

Otis Elevator Company is represented directly in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Yemen, Otis operates through agents managed by Otis’ Arabian Gulf Branch in Kuwait. The first Otis elevator was installed in the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, in 1967. In addition to the UAE, we have implemented our innovative solutions across key markets, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, to name just a few.

The Burj Khalifa is the culmination of Otis’ legacy in the region?

As the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa is certainly a landmark installation for Otis both in the Middle East and worldwide. We are proud to have had the opportunity to apply our innovative solutions and expertise to meet the challenges of this unique project.

Can you elaborate a bit on the Gen2 system supplied for the Burj Khalifa?

Among the 73 elevators Otis provided for the Burj Khalifa, there are 22 energy-efficient Gen2 machine-roomless units, which are up to 50% more energy-efficient than conventional systems, enabling developers and owners to manage the building more economically, as well as benefit from lower building costs and increased rentable space. In addition, the Gen2 system’s flat, polyurethane-coated steel belts and gearless machine do not require any additional lubrication, making the system cleaner for the environment.

Like all Otis products, the Gen2 systems are designed to ensure safety and reliability. The patented polyurethane-coated steel belts are highly flexible, allowing Otis to design and utilise a highly compact and efficient gearless machine. As a result, the Gen2 system allows for energy-efficient performance while saving space and offering outstanding design flexibility.

Today, the advantages of Gen2 technology are available for a wide variety of building applications, from low-rise residential to high-rise. For example, the Gen2 Comfort elevator is well suited to low-rise residential and small-scale commercial buildings, whereas the Gen2 Premier elevator is ideal for luxury low-mid-rise commercial and residential buildings.

What were some of the logistical challenges associated with the Burj Khalifa?

Otis leveraged its vast expertise to meet the challenges that come with designing and installing elevators for the world’s tallest building, such as machine hoisting, rail installation and alignment, and ensuring optimal passenger traffic flow.

For example, elevators are strategically grouped to align with the floor layout, offering passengers a direct express service to their sky lobby destination by bypassing other floors. Each elevator zone serves different audiences – from visitors to office workers, to hotel guests, to residents – maximising their efficiency as a result, and saving time, by the use of a sky lobby system.

The sky lobby is an intermediate floor where residents, guests and office staff will change from an express elevator to a local elevator, which stops at every floor within a certain segment of the building.

How important is the Middle East to Otis?

The Middle East region is of great importance to Otis. We are continuously working to identify the requirements from our local customers, and to proactively address their needs by providing the innovative and efficient solutions they require.

What are some of your other major products?

We offer gearless elevators for high-rise buildings, and geared and gearless elevators for mid-rise buildings (up to 20 storeys). Our Skyway gearless elevator system incorporates high-speed, large load-carrying capacity, and the Double-Deck and Super Double-Deck high-speed models. Skyway is not only fast, but quiet and smooth. Such an impressive performance derives in part from the analysis of platform, ceiling and ventilation components, and also from the aerodynamics of the car. Skyway also establishes new parameters in safety design. Key to this achievement has been the development of a hi-tech alloy with unmatched temperature, strength and friction characteristics. Used on the wedge face of the safety brake shoe, the high friction properties and low wear rate have proved to be both highly cost-effective and robust.

In addition, the Compass destination management system offers tenants and visitors personalised elevator service, while improving the flow of building traffic. Instead of pressing traditional up or down buttons, passengers enter their destination floors using keypads or interactive touch screens before entering an elevator.

The Compass system instantly directs each passenger to a specific car assigned to the requested floor, and passengers travelling to nearby floors are directed to the same car. The main benefit is that passengers benefit from reduced wait and travel times, less crowded cars and fewer stops per trip. Lobby traffic flow improves, and lobby areas are more organised.

What impact has the slowdown had?

The construction boom may have slowed down within the UAE and GCC region, with companies – including Otis – considering new strategies in terms of the approach to development. However, there is still reportedly about US$114 billion worth of construction and infrastructure projects due to be awarded over the next 12 months.

In addition, the market is being driven by many solid projects in Abu Dhabi. For example, UAE capital accounts for more than half of the top ten infrastructure projects by value in the Gulf at present. The demand for high-profile events such as CityBuild Abu Dhabi – which bring together industry suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, architects, engineers, importers and procurement decision makers – is a true reflection of the stability of the region’s construction sector.

What are your challenges and opportunities?

The global slowdown in the worldwide construction market has presented some challenges for Otis in terms of the new equipment business. Otis’ service business, however, continues to be a key strength, with 1.7 million units under maintenance worldwide. However, we are now starting to see signs of overall recovery in terms of new equipment, and we remain positive about the opportunities represented by the Middle East region, including Abu Dhabi, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait specifically.

What are some of the latest trends?

The Middle East market has its challenges, which vertical transportation companies need to keep up-to-date with. With an increase in urbanisation and buildings being constructed in the Middle East, the demand for energy-efficient and high-speed lifts and escalators as a smooth and fast way to move people and cargo continues to rise.

What training and maintenance do you offer?

Otis offers complete support, starting from the design stage and traffic analysis, including expertise in terms of recommending energy-efficient and innovative solutions. Otis continues this support throughout installation, and offers comprehensive maintenance programmes to ensure safety and reliability over a product’s lifecycle. Otis continues to incorporate the latest in innovative technology to maximise equipment reliability for our customers, who at the end of the day place a solid trust in our leading solutions.