The end of an era

After 50 years, July 31 marks the final day on which thyssenkrupp manufactures elevators, escalators, moving walks and passenger boarding bridges. It’s the end of an era. A day later the Elevator Technology business area will cease to be part of the thyssenkrupp group and will officially belong to its new owners, a consortium led by two private equity companies – Advent International and Cinven. So it’s time to look back – at a success story.

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Via predecessor companies, the elevator business has been part of thyssenkrupp since 1952. From its origins in a Hamburg-based metalworking shop in the 19th century to becoming an independent company from August 1, 2020, one of the major highlights occurred on June 22, 2017. At the Elevator test tower in Rottweil in southern Germany, over 200 guests witness a momentous occasion. At the push of a button by then CEO Andreas Schierenbeck, an elevator cab starts to move in one of the nine shafts: first a couple of meters to the left where it stops for a few seconds before disappearing almost silently upwards into the shaft. Cheers go up and the people applaud. They have just witnessed the maiden trip of the first ropeless elevator, powered by linear motor technology and able to transport its passengers both vertically and horizontally. The innovation is called MULTI, and it represents a milestone in the history of the elevator. MULTI saves space, is suitable for use in very tall buildings, and opens up new architectural possibilities.

MULTI symbolizes much of what thyssenkrupp Elevator stands for: ingenuity, engineering expertise and growth.

INGENUITY

Over the past few decades Elevator Technology has set numerous technological trends and revolutionized the business. Product highlights include the TWIN elevator system in which two cabs operate independently in one shaft. Intelligent software ensures passengers reach their destination faster. And TWIN also has benefits for operators, requiring 25% less space than a conventional elevator with the same transportation capacity. Use of the Hololens, a minicomputer disguised as a pair of goggles, speeds up the servicing and repair of elevator systems. Elevator Technology is the first company to use mixed reality technology and equip its service employees with the Microsoft-developed device. MAX is a cloud-based preventive maintenance system that reduces elevator downtimes by automatically indicating when parts need to be replaced or maintenance carried out. And last but not least, MULTI uses maglev technology and intelligent software to break with the rule that elevators have to be suspended on ropes and can only move in two directions – up and down.

The innovations don’t come about by accident. thyssenkrupp Elevator invested in research and development on a long-term basis and at many locations. Several smaller and three large test towers – in addition to the one in Rottweil there is one in China and one in the USA – allow test operation under realistic conditions. Thanks to a global network of innovation and product development centers (PDCs) and investments in ingenuity, Elevator is constantly moving into new areas. For example, to enable robots to operate on different floors of a building, Elevator’s developers have designed a software interface that allows a robot to use elevators autonomously.

ENGINEERING EXPERTISE

Every project is different, every job brings different challenges, every product has to be tailored to specific requirements. In short, no two elevators are the same, no two escalators are the same. The skills of engineers and technicians are required anew in each case. The lighthouse projects carried out by Elevator Technology in recent years on almost all continents show just how important this is.

  • Escalators for the metro in Tiflis, Georgia

  • The Hamburg escalator plant supplies a pioneering solution for this project in 2017: The escalators for a station in the Georgian capital cover a height difference of 45 meters. At 110 meters, they are the longest escalators Elevator has built to date and also the narrowest. That means three escalators can be installed in one tube instead of two, increasing transportation capacity by 50 percent. The engineers in Hamburg achieved this by installing the drive motor under the escalators. This clever solution caught on and is now being used elsewhere: the Hamburg company supplied further escalators based on the principle for a project in Baku, Azerbaijan, last year.

  • Passenger boarding bridges, escalators and moving walks for the airport in Rio de Janeiro

  • Ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Elevator gets Brazil’s biggest airport into shape for the mega-event. As well as replacing escalators and installing the longest moving walk in the country (100 meters), they equip the airport with 26 new passenger boarding bridges, the longest of which can be extended up to 45 meters. They are all equipped with an automatic safety system that prevents collisions. Thanks to these modern passenger boarding bridges, more and larger aircraft can now fly to Rio de Janeiro airport.

  • TWIN elevators for a high-rise in London

  • Innovation translated into reality: Elevator Technology supplies the elevators, including 11 TWIN systems, for “The Scalpel”, an almost 200 meter high skyscraper in London’s financial district. The space-saving solution allows the client to market around 30 percent more office space. For tenants, the efficient TWIN system brings significant time savings thanks to reduced waiting and travel times.

GROWTH

thyssenkrupp regarded the elevator division as a business with strong growth potential right from the start. But the beginnings are modest. In the 1950s the Rheinstahl group buys an elevator company in Hamburg, followed by another one in Stuttgart in the early 1970s. With the takeover of the Rheinstahl group by Thyssen in 1974 and the subsequent merger of Thyssen Stahl AG with Krupp Stahl AG in 1999, the elevator division finally eventually becomes part of the new thyssenkrupp industrial group. At this point the company is already a major player in the elevator and escalator sector. The main catalyst for expansion is the takeover of M.A.N.-Aufzugbau in 1984. After that things really take off. Here are just a few milestones:

1986 Stake in an elevator company in Toronto, Canada

1987 Takeover of a Netherlands-based stairlift manufacturer

1991 Erection of an escalator plant in Spain

1995 Establishment of Elevator China, erection of a plant in Zhongshan

1998 Acquisition of US and Canada-based Dover Elevators

1998 thyssenkrupp Elevator becomes the world’s third largest elevator manufacturer

2001 Takeover of competitor KONE’s operations in South America

2003 Establishment of a joint venture in South Korea

2006 Further production site in China

2019 Acquisition of two further elevator companies in the USA

thyssenkrupp Elevator today operates in more than a hundred countries. More than 1,000 service and sales sites show the company’s closeness to customers. Over 50,000 employees contribute to the success of the elevator division. The company has grown from an elevator manufacturer into a global supplier of mobility solutions that do more than just go up and down. Software, Artificial Intelligence, and the Internet of Things are growing in importance in the industry, and Elevator Technology is leading the way.

From August 1 the company will now stand on its own feet, with the backing of strong owners. In a letter to the Elevator workforce, the Executive Board led by CEO Martina Merz said: “We are proud of the successful time we have had together.” But she and her Executive Board colleagues are firmly convinced that the new owners will continue to lead the company on a growth track. The letter continues: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your many years of commitment and extraordinary dedication to thyssenkrupp”. And who knows, maybe this will be the start of a new era for Elevator Technology.