Interview with Patrick Blethon and Maged Nagib of Otis

Interview with Patrick Blethon and Maged Nagib of Otis
L-R: Maged Nagib, vice president and managing director, Otis Middle East, and Patrick Blethon, president, Otis Europe, Middle East and Africa
Published: 20 November 2018 - 6 a.m.

1. Can you please provide a brief history of your company?

Otis is the world's leading manufacturer and maintainer of people-moving products, including elevators, escalators and moving walkways. Founded 165 years ago by the inventor of the safety elevator, Otis offers products and services through its companies in approximately 200 countries and territories. We are a unit of United Technologies Corp., a leading provider to the aerospace and building systems industries worldwide.

Just to give you an idea of the magnitude of our business, at a worldwide level, we move the equivalent of the world’s population approximately every three days. We have more than two million elevators in our maintenance portfolio, with 33.000 mechanics working on it every day, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, and when you look at the construction side, Otis is on many of the tallest towers in the world, including the world’s tallest, the Burj Khalifa.

We have five entities across the GCC region with more than 35 branches and many landmark projects. Despite the economic slowdown across the region, we continue to perform well and grow. Our outlook for 2019 remains strong. The Middle East is an important region for Otis and we remain committed to growing here. Otis installed the first elevator in the UAE in 1966 at the Bank of Oman in Dubai. Otis Saudi Arabia was established in the 1960s (1966 as a Branch from Lebanon, official CR in 1974). Today, Otis has five entities across the GCC region with more than 35 branches and many landmark projects including the very prestigious Burj Khalifa.

2. What are the some of the present challenges for elevator and escalator manufacturers?

As elevator and escalator manufacturers, we are faced with quite a few challenges, from resources and representation to diversity.

  1. Job site safety and security are a vital concern for us, especially in this region where the legal system to protect the rights of blue collared staff is not as mature as it is in Western Europe.
  2. Our business is very dynamic, with high activity in the region with our clients, so management of skilled resources is always a point of focus. Skilled labor and the technical knowledge they bring to the table is very important. We recognize this, and we invest in strong training projects and training programs in the UAE and the rest of the region. We are also investing in what we call Otis University, where we send highly motivated skilled task-force to leading business schools, like INSEAD in France, or Darden in the USA. We also have a world-class Employee Scholar Program that support accredited degree programs for our employees.  Programs like this allow us to invest in the next generation of leaders in the company. In the UAE, we have tied up with a few universities such as Wollongong.
  3. The current pace of change is unprecedented. Urbanization and digital acceleration are changing our world — and opening up new opportunities.
  4. At Otis, we are also focused on advancing women in the organization and ensuring a workplace where women (and all) can thrive. This focus has helped inspire a transformation of our culture.
  5. As part of this transformation, we have significantly increased the number of women working in the organization. This increase in representation is visible across all levels of the organization and all functions.
  6. As a UTC company, Otis is proud to join Paradigm for Parity, a coalition of business leaders dedicated to addressing the corporate leadership gender gap. The coalition is made up of CEOs, senior executives, founders, board members and business academics who are committed to achieving a new norm in the corporate world: one in which women and men have equal power, status, and opportunity. The ultimate goal is to achieve full gender parity by 2030, with a near-term goal of women holding at least 30 percent of senior roles.
  7. Recently, we appointed two women in Saudi at power positions. One of these women is the Head of Customer Service in Saudi. We also appointed the first project engineer at Otis in Kuwait.
  8. Otis has had a presence in the Middle East for more than half a century and is committed to the growth of the regional economy and talent pool. Our commitment extends to the localization of the workforce in the region and we are making significant strides towards achieving Saudization, Emiratization and other workforce localization efforts in the region.
  9. Across the Middle East, there has been a renewed focus on investing in the future of Otis through regional talent. Strong partnerships have been developed with academic institutions in the region. The internship program in Otis UAE is a noteworthy example. More than 20 interns have already successfully completed this program and there are more than 7 interns undergoing the program at any given moment in the UAE. Other Otis entities in the region have followed suit.
  10. 10. As part of our iPhone deployment, we’ve deployed a digital collaboration app to mechanics to aid communication and global collaboration removing language barriers and help customers reap the benefit of the knowledge of our more than 33,000 technicians and mechanics in real-time.
  11. 11. We lead from the bottom up – field employees surface ideas to make service smarter, easier and better for the customer and then support global teams to create and implement solutions. We now have more than 1,000 employee champions to help deploy new technologies and support change management.

3. What are some of the precautions you should take while working with GCC projects to avoid fines and violations?

There is nothing more important to Otis than safety. Wherever we operate, Safety and reliability have been Otis’ foremost concerns since our company’s earliest days. Today, Otis has one of the best safety records in the vertical transportation industry. We work constantly to improve the safety of existing products and develop safer technologies for new products. Otis emphasizes a corporate policy of “safety first” and implements standardized procedures to ensure that every installation and service task is performed the safest way, every time.

Otis products undergo stringent quality and safety testing at our testing facilities around the world.

To ensure that our tradition of quality continues, Otis employs a rigorous Product Development Process (PDP). Every new product receives its own “Passport” to the marketplace. With Passport, the entire team—from project managers to senior executives—signs off on product quality each step of the way. 

We perform more than 20 advanced tests on every piece of Otis equipment, including tests that mimic worst-case operating conditions and ones that simulate the rough ride our products might have during the journey from Otis facilities to installation sites worldwide.

As a UTC company, what we do is critical and how we act matters. That's why our Code of Ethics focuses on the core values that serve as the foundation of our culture: trust, integrity, respect, innovation and excellence.

Our reputation for innovation and excellence is well established and continues to be a differentiator in the marketplace. This competitive advantage is made possible by the talent, dedication and integrity of our 68,000 employees around the world who are committed to upholding our core values.

Our commitment to an ethical culture starts with making sure we promote and support open communication, at all levels and in every location around the world.

4. What was your latest Middle East project?

  • Our Global Major Projects experts have worked on some of the most iconic buildings. In the last 100 years, Otis has been present in some of the most significant landmark infrastructure high-rise projects, guided by our dedicated team. Today cities and buildings are increasing in complexity and scale. This trend is set to continue. We are ready for the challenge.
  • Some of the projects which Otis has been a part of include:
  1. Burj Khalifa
  2. Burj Mohammed bin Rashid
  3. Abu Dhabi Airport – Midfield Terminal
  4. Riyadh Metro
  5. Haramain high speed rail stations
  6. Eiffel Tower
  7. Petronas Twin Towers
  8. Shanghai World Financial Centre
  9. Lotte Tower
  10. Empire State Building

Riyadh Metro

Otis Saudi Arabia was selected for the prestigious Riyadh Metro – lines 4, 5 and 6 – by FAST Consortium of companies, which is led by Spanish construction group FCC and includes partners Samsung C&T, Alstom, Strukton, Freyssinet Saudi Arabia; and is contracted by the High Commission for the Development of Arriyadh.  

Otis will supply 256 escalators, 6 moving walkways, and 183 machine room-less elevators with travel speeds up to 1.0 meter per second, including fully glazed panoramic elevators. The heavy-duty escalators are specifically designed for public transportation.

The scope awarded to Otis comprises of all elevators and escalators within the three lines of the metro for all stations across Riyadh, two train depots, and three car parking facilities over a total area of 72 kilometers. Otis, which operates in Saudi Arabia as Otis Elevator Company Saudi Arabia Limited is part of a joint venture between Otis Elevator Company (New Jersey) and E.A. Juffali & Brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  

The Riyadh Metro Project constitutes the backbone of the future public transit system in Riyadh. With 6 lines totaling 176 km and 85 metro stations, the Metro network will serve most of the densely populated areas, public facilities, as well as educational, commercial and medical institutions. It will be connected to King Khalid International Airport and King Abdullah Financial District, in addition to main universities and the downtown area. The Riyadh Metro Project aims at providing the residents of Saudi Arabia's capital with a comprehensive, reliable, and safe public transit network to meet the city's current and future transportation needs. The project will be of great benefit to Riyadh's economy, mobility, society and environment.

Abu Dhabi Airport Midfield Terminal

Abu Dhabi Airport’s new Midfield Terminal has been described as the “crown jewel” of the public infrastructure projects undertaken to diversify the emirate’s economy away from oil into areas like tourism. It’s a fitting description for this architectural gem set on a desert plateau, its illuminated interior visible from 10 miles away.

Due to open in 2019, the Midfield Terminal is expected to increase the airport’s capacity to 30 million passengers a year, up from the current 20 million. The number could eventually reach 60 million or more.

In 2013, Otis won the contract to supply the state-of-the-art systems needed to move millions of people a year through the new terminal: 161 lifts, 122 escalators and 58 moving walkways. One of our sister companies, UTC Climate, Controls & Security, is supplying the heating and cooling equipment.

Stretching across more than 13 square miles, the X-shaped terminal will include 65 aircraft gates. The curved roof of the departure hall, soaring 50 metres high and largely column free, appears to float across 18 steel arches, giving the building an open, outdoor feel.

5. Does Otis look at the design factor of elevators? What are some of the latest trends in elevator designs?

Since 2016, the GREMI and the CRESITT, in partnership with Otis, have been at work designing and developing a system that couples a fuel cell to production and storage of hydrogen to power an elevator.

With Otis, a scale-1 prototype has been dimensioned for use in an elevator with an autonomy of a full day of operation.

The Research Group in the Energetics of Ionized Media (GREMI - CNRS/University of Orléans) has been working for several years on the development of fuel cells, a system for producing clean energy. Since 2012, the Group has coordinated the SAPAC project (for “Système Autonome A Pile à Combustible et photovoltaïque” – Autonomous fuel-cell and photovoltaic system).

Since 2016, the GREMI and CRESITT have been working in partnership with Otis to develop the technology with the goal of designing a hybrid, autonomous elevator which can be disconnected from the grid and is as environmentally friendly as possible. 

SAPAC enables a system to be powered continuously: The available energy, whether from the electrical grid or from renewable energy sources, is stored in the form of hydrogen to be restored via the fuel cell when the source of energy is no longer sufficient.

Advantages of the system:

The system is completely modular: It is custom-designed and perfectly suits needs in terms of maximum power, autonomy, energy source, etc. The increase in autonomy has no impact on the electronics (simple addition of a container of hydrogen). A management interface automatically selects the power source to be used – the electrical grid or the fuel cell. The prototype that has been built can store 5 kWh of electricity per 100 kg, whereas the equivalent in batteries using lead is twice as bulky and heavier (300 kg).

The system is clean: It uses no hazardous substances such as lead or cadmium.

6. Do you also offer maintenance? How often is maintenance work carried out on elevators and escalators?

Signature Service is the reinvention of how we offer service solutions for our customers. Otis is undergoing a global service transformation that is largely focused on empowering Otis service teams as well as customers with information and communication. Our transformation puts people at the center of everything we do. Our new service digital ecosystem is powered by 68,000 employees, including 33,000 technicians and mechanics, and accelerated with the strength of UTC, including its research center and digital accelerator resources. Today in the field we have deployed around 22,000 iPhones and applications in more than 10 countries, which reaches more than 60 percent of our mechanics; our goal is to reach more than 70 percent of our mechanics by years-end. Our team has built, piloted and continues to enhance our service apps portfolio with tools that help technicians be more proactive and effective with apps that expedite and enhance parts ordering, customer communication, predictive maintenance, ride quality as well as apps focused exclusively on employee safety to empower our employees to work smarter for our customers and safer for their own and family’s well-being.

Signature Service is built on our investment in three core areas:

  1. Personalized and unique services designed for and with our individual customers that blend modern intelligence with our legacy of personal touch
  2. The creation of safer and smarter workforce
  3. Intelligent technologies built on the backbone of IoT, that can predict issues before they occur, diagnose issues remotely and better connect our people to our equipment and customers

Our approach to Service includes a commitment by the entire Otis team to combine movement and connectivity in new and exciting ways through technology and the Internet of Things.

Otis ONE offers users an integrated digital package of proactive data analytics, maintenance services and predictive capabilities that improve maintenance, transparency and traceability with fast return to service. 24/7 active monitoring offers real-time elevator status and proactive action to keep customers’ equipment up and running.  Otis contacts customers to alert them to issues and solutions (instead of customer calling us). Embedded IoT tools enable a personalized experience by making management easier, system performance better and putting relevant information at your fingertips, whether you are the passenger, a facility or building operator or maintenance personnel. Our services are future proof! Built as a “living” product, Otis ONE was designed using direct customer and passenger feedback and over time will continue to add new capabilities based on emerging customer and industry needs. For example, we are currently piloting voice and voice assistant technology to improve the way our elevators interact with disabled passengers and become an entertainment and information source for passengers during their ride.

 7. What are your fastest moving products?

Our SkyRise lifts are available in a range of speeds, duties and rises to support any high-rise project. Available in three different models, the Skyrise provides a refined passenger experience that combines the most innovative of technologies. The sky’s really the limit when it comes to the Single Deck. Rising at up to 12.5 m/s to heights of up to 600 m and able to handle 4,500 kg, it’s the ideal choice for the highest and busiest of skyscrapers. The Double Deck can handle double the passenger traffic in quick-fire time. Rising to 600 m at speeds of up to 12.5 m/s, the Double Deck also cuts lift core space by up to 40 percent - an important feature where real estate is at a premium. Lastly, we have the Super Double Deck that ascends just as fast as the Double Deck but is designed to accommodate high-rises with different floor heights. It’s the perfect way to open up architectural freedom while still allowing for heavy passenger traffic.

 8. How will the growth of AI and other autonomous technology help companies like Otis?

Since the ‘80s we’ve been remotely monitoring elevators and we already have more than 300,000 units connected around the world. We’re leveraging this experience to offer IoT-based products that use data from the world’s largest service portfolio to predict maintenance needs, address issues before a breakdown and respond faster. We surveyed our customers and aggregated their feedback to understand what is most important to them. Uptime, transparency and personalization emerged as the biggest customer needs. And as a result, our new global digital ecosystem leverages the strength of UTC digital - a new UTC-run digital group that is focused on accelerating change and enhancing both the customer and employee experience through technology - delivers proactive communications and can identify equipment health issues before they cause a shutdown. We are also inventing a new generation of elevators that are connected, smarter, data rich and more efficient and comfortable.  Using sensors and new digital technology, our next generation of elevators will be an integral part of the connected building and enable even more proactive service solutions and remote capabilities to reduce downtime.

We’re using IoT and data from the largest service portfolio in the world to enhance our ability to actively monitor and predict maintenance needs for each individual customer – across a single site or an entire portfolio by leveraging our 30 years of experience connecting elevators. When mechanics are on site, they have digital tools and proprietary Otis apps to do their job more efficiently, to fix issues before they cause shutdowns and get elevators back into service faster when they do shut down, resulting in reduced downtime. Our customers benefit from enhanced reliability, efficiency, stronger communication and real-time equipment updates. We’ve released a new suite of add-ons that include digital services, sensor packs and self-learning technologies to allow customers to get a level of support tailored to their business. And for Otis customers, the Otis ONE’ innovative two way video connection between the elevator car and OtisLINE, ensures passengers will not be alone if help is needed. So it is a complete transformation of service, not only internally for us and the mechanics, but also for the customers, where the quality of service will drastically improve. The communication channels improve, the quality and speed of service improves, and the efficiency in our service also improves. We have already completed the first intelligent building in USA last year! The elevator doors and elevators are fully connected with sensors and pilots with cameras, collecting smart data which not only helps us improve ride quality but also helps us understand how we can better optimize the elevators and sensors.


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