ThyssenKrupp Elevator Canada
In a business of ups and downs (pun shamefully intended), ThyssenKrupp Elevator Canada has excelled in our market, standing proudly at the top.
The Canadian division is a part of the ThyssenKrupp Elevator company, the world’s premier manufacturer, installer and service provider of vertical and horizontal transportation technology. Together with all business units, ThyssenKrupp Elevator has over 30,000 people in over 60 countries, speaking more than 20 languages and sharing a common goal: to be the recognized global leader in technology, quality and customer satisfaction.
ThyssenKrupp Elevator made a commitment to the elevator industry here in Canada back in 1987. At the time, this was a risky venture because, relative to the United States, Canada has sparse geography and less urban centres. After taking the plunge, however, the investment paid off. Today, ThyssenKrupp Elevator Canada Ltd. dominates the new elevator construction market with nearly 60 per cent of all new installations in the country. Chances are you have taken a ride on one of their escalators, elevators or moving walkways. ThyssenKrupp systems can be found in many of the most modern buildings—shopping malls, international airports, office buildings and luxurious hotels.
Made in Canada
ThyssenKrupp Elevator Canada (TKEC) is the only multinational elevator company with manufacturing facilities located in Canada. Building the majority of their components here in Toronto, TKEC feeds vertical transportation systems both nationally and internationally, including the Caribbean, South America, UAE and Africa.
The company has two manufacturing facilities located in Markham, Ontario—a structural plant and an electrical plant. In total, there are 58 office locations in Canada, providing service coverage to more than 28,000 elevators and escalators across the country.
“We’ve made a commitment to be the largest elevator company in Canada,” says Joseph Kerr, Vice President of ThyssenKrupp Elevator Canada. “We’ve accomplished that by keeping our manufacturing facilities open. A lot of our competitors have consolidated their manufacturing outside of Canada and North America. But we’re dedicated to manufacturing in Canada and employing Canadians in the entire process—from sales to installation to maintenance. It’s a commitment to keep all branches of our company active.” Canadian operations are divided into two divisions: manufacturing and field operations. Field operations include construction, modernizing older systems, servicing, and after-market sales.
Construction—which has been the most profitable department for the last 10 years—involves the new elevator installations that you would see in new condos and commercial towers. The modernization department removes existing elevator equipment and installs new systems. This service is used when old elevators experience frequent breakdowns, erratic noises, or have antiquated decor. The maintenance segment service existing product lines, as well as the competitors’ systems to expand market reach. Finally, the after-market sales department allows owners to upgrade certain components on an as-needed basis.
It’s a good thing TKEC is fully integrated in their field operations. The combination has been a big help during the recession; the company hasn’t felt the crunch at all. “The Canadian market isn’t affecting our business because of the variety of our services,” says Kerr. “If our construction department slows down, the modernization department heats up. People may not want brand-new elevators, but they might choose to modernize their old ones or at least have them repaired. And we do all of that, for both our models and our competitors’. Elevators continue to get old. So, the modernization business has been growing rapidly in the last five years. We’re finding that building owners will modernize their elevators to maintain their current tenant population or attract new tenants.”
Working up from the bottom
Other than their pre-eminent quality and customer service, one of the biggest differentiating qualities of TKEC is its bottom-up management structure. Kerr believes the company’s internal success has a real impact on how they do business externally.
“The bottom-up style has made it a very competitive and strong company,” beams Kerr. “A lot of our people that have started out at the bottom as a first-year apprentice, like myself, and worked their way through the company in all aspects of their field of trade, as well as management positions. The President and CEO of the company had that same journey, starting his apprenticeship here as well. It’s great for management at all levels to know the business intimately, whether by having done the job personally or closely witnessing it for many years. It’s made a strong management team and I don’t see the competition having that.”
The result is more than just product knowledge and knowing what’s required at each job level. TKEC recognises that their bottom-up style encourages respect amongst the employees. Workers can trust the advice of their superiors, believing they know what they’re talking about. Conversely, managers can better relate to their employees because it wasn’t long ago that they were in the workers’ position.
“This fluid arrangement breaks down potential barriers between workers and managers. Everyone feels comfortable speaking about technical items, corporate items and sales, because there are no obstructions between the shop floor and the executive level. The seamlessness in the operation has allowed us to grow at a rapid rate.”
If elevators weren’t already convenient enough, new technology is making them even more expedient. Take, for instance, Destination Dispatch, a dispatching system directs passengers to the elevator that will get them to their destination with the shortest travel time.
“Destination Dispatch will be going into elevators here in Canada very soon”, says Kerr. “It’s great because you can go into a building and tell a computer what floor you want to go to. The computer will instruct you what elevator to get on, eliminating the time taken when you stop several times on your trip up an elevator shaft.”
By grouping people together based on the floor they are traveling to, the number of stops is reduced, improving the efficiency of the building’s elevators. Powered by a formula called Estimated Time to Destination (ETD), the system takes into account each passenger’s desired destination and dispatches the car that will provide the fastest trip time.
With Destination Dispatch, the elevator cab doesn’t require buttons. Instead, there’s a touch screen or keypad to register each destination and direst passengers to their respective elevators. Once the car arrives, lobby position indicators allow the passengers to see the designated stops for the elevator.
Not only are scientists improving the speed of elevator travel, they are also improving its efficiency. The elevator industry is not immune to environmental sustainability.
“Driving systems for new elevators are more energy efficient,” explains Kerr. “It has come to the place where they can actually allow the elevator to generate electricity and put it back into the building grid, applying it other systems, such as lighting and heating. In fact, the electricity they generate is even cleaner than what they take off the grid.”
According to Kerr, TKEC is “always looking into other ways of becoming more sustainable”. Whether it’s the type of products they use to manufacture the elevator or how the system is installed, sustainability is reviewed on an ongoing basis.
The biggest technological change in the last five years? Easily the Machine Room-Less (MRL) product line, says Kerr.
“They have revolutionized the way buildings are being built,” he continues. “If you look at most buildings, you’ll see a room built on the top where elevator controller and equipment are housed. These new types of elevators have eliminated the need for that room because the components are being installed directly into the elevator hoistways.”
MRL systems are designed to save architects, builders and building owners space, time and money. They also meet or exceed today’s safety standards. MRL elevators are more efficient machines with a longer life cycle and lower running cost.
With all of these exciting advancements in mind, TKEC remembers that there is a dark side to new technology. Often times, new technology leads to new problems. That’s why their R&D department closely monitors technological trends and innovations to equip field technicians with custom-made diagnostic tools, which improve repair speed and reduce downtime.
It’s not really fair to ask TKEC about their favourite projects because they have so many across the country. Having said that, there are a few installations that stand out in Kerr’s mind.
“Right now, there are two here in Toronto,” says Kerr. “Both projects are very prominent—two of the largest projects in the city right now. There are the high-rise elevators we’re just finishing at the Bay-Adelaide Centre, and the new Royal Bank Centre.”
“And we also have large projects in Calgary and Vancouver,” Kerr explains. “Really, we’re everywhere in Canada. I just got off the phone with someone from one of our managers in the Maritimes, where we have many multi-million dollar projects. Traditionally, the Maritimes has been a flat economy, but right now, it’s an active share of our market.” The decision is made more difficult because TKEC has a product for every application. They supply a large percentage of the small hydraulic elevators, found in institutions; they serve the mid-rise market, with the MRL manufactured in Canada exists; and they have high-rise elevators for both condos and commercial towers. Not to mention escalators and moving walk ways.
It’s all up from here
ThyssenKrupp Elevator Canada shows no signs of stopping. Since the beginning, they have been on a steep growth pattern and it hasn’t come down yet.
“As soon as we took part in Canada and started to build the business, we have done well—from Victoria to St John’s,” says Kerr. “We’ve acquired many small and large companies over the last 10 years and we would like to continue growth in the Canadian market.”
“Right now, we’re sitting on our largest sales backlog that we’ve ever had in the history of the company. ThyssenKrupp Elevator Canada has great forecast for the rest of this year and next. Our goal is to maintain our strong sales and to maintain our industry leadership for the next decade and beyond.