Upliftment with Sustainability and Innovation

#ElevatorManufacturing #KONE #FINCHAM #Urbanization #AmitGossain

Team Pro MFG

KONE’s manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu aims at leveraging digitalization opportunities and speeding up development in a changing business environment.

In this comprehensive conversation, Amit Gossain, Managing Director, KONE Elevator India, shares insights on a wide ranging aspects like his personal journey at KONE, India-Finland commercial relationship, learnings from Covid, innovation, digitalization, sustainability, diversity as well as urbanization, with Niranjan Mudholkar, Editorial Director, Pro MFG Media

You recently completed six years with KONE Elevator India in the role of Managing Director. How do you look back at this journey, both personally as well as professionally?

I joined KONE as Managing Director for India and South Asia in 2015, and frankly it was a wow experience. I had the experience of working in various multi-ethnic set ups and several leadership roles in big Multinational companies, both in India and abroad. But KONE has been something very different and special and I am enjoying every moment of it.

Frankly initially, there was a bit of reluctance to change from the industry I had been a part of for more than two decades, but there was excitement as well. The excitement to work with an organisation like KONE, which was a leading brand in the elevator and escalator industry, and one of the most innovative companies in the world as well as amongst the best employers globally. I thought of giving it a try and expand into the elevator business. Now it’s been over six years and I am thoroughly enjoying the work-culture.

Since 2015, KONE has a come a long way, both globally and in India. In fact, in September 2015 KONE repositioned itself for the digital era, announcing the creation of a new Technology & Innovation unit that brings together KONE’s R&D and IT functions. One of the eight KONE’s global technology and engineering center is in India in Chennai, and in 2019 we expanded to Pune. In 2019, we also inaugurated our world-class facility for elevators in Sriperumbudur near Chennai, which is the largest in India, South & South East Asia. In 2019, we also launched in India, the AI-based KONE 24/7 Connected Services, which uses the IoT and other advanced technologies to connect, remotely monitor and optimize equipment performance, reliability and safety. And recently, we introduced KONE DX Class Elevators, the world's first elevator series with built-in digital connectivity as standard.

As the past Chairperson and current board member for the Finland Chamber of Commerce in India (FINCHAM India), what is your analysis of the bilateral relationship between the two countries in the context of the overall manufacturing industry?

India and Finland enjoy friendly as well as dynamic commercial relationship with exports and imports showing substantial annual increases. India is one of the fastest-growing economy and Finnish companies actively participate in this economic development. Finland is one of the happiest countries in the world and clearly the Finnish have a very positive attitude towards work and life. No wonder it is one of the most innovative countries globally.
India plays a very important role, not only in Asia Pacific but also in the global plans for KONE and therefore the factory in Tamil Nadu is of immense importance. The facility will help KONE better cater to our customers as well as meet the demands for a growing elevator market here in India and neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Finland is a technologically advanced country with a lot of focus on research and development. We all know that the technology adoption rate in India is quite high and our presence in India will play a key role in delivering world-class quality solutions in line with the requirements of the market. Therefore the opportunity for Finland and India to work together to produce technologically advanced solutions is immense in the manufacturing industry.

The Covid-19 virus hit the world really hard. What have been the learnings from the pandemic for KONE Elevator India?

The key learnings from the pandemic are: 1. Your business model needs to be very flexible. The world is a place where things can change very quickly. We always thought the business would continuously grow in emerging countries, particularly in India. But the pandemic has taught us that things can change rapidly and there could be a complete pause, so one thing I learned is to make a very flexible business model.
2. Care must be a priority. Care is very important to us. We care for our customers, care for our employees and care for community to move along together. Essential to that is collaboration.
3. Virtual and Hybrid are the new ways forward. We used to believe we needed travel for the smallest things. Now we see a lot can be accomplished virtually. The whole world has learned that we need to collaborate virtually for the betterment of the environment. Sustainability has become very important.

The pandemic has also accelerated the phenomenon of digitalization. How has been KONE Elevator India responding to it internally (in terms of operations) and externally (in terms of customer delight)?

Constantly developing technology is an integral part of KONE’s commitment to improve the flow of urban life. At KONE, innovation means sustainability and making better use of energy and resources to improve customer experience through real-time transparency. For users, it means a better, personalized experience through the whole elevator and escalator journey, from access to destination.

Our manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu aims at leveraging digitalization opportunities and speeding up development in a changing business environment. It will tap exciting and unique ways to improve customer and user experience as well as the quality and productivity of KONE’s operations. To meet the growing demand, we have set up this factory with increased manufacturing capacity. We have also significantly invested in R&D and created expert manpower for providing operation and maintenance services. We have over 5000 direct employees and a large number of indirect employment through subcontractors, suppliers and partners, who innovate together to deliver the best results.

Even before COVID, our first priority in business has always been safety. Whenever we start a meeting, we actually take a safety oath. Then we have a talk about safety first. This is a global practice. We recently launched the KONE DX Class digitally connected elevators. They have a sound and light theme - when you get into an elevator, you can choose the floor, as well as the music or sound to go with your travel. In today’s scenario, when people don't want to touch lift buttons, they can use an app on their mobile to call the elevator and walk into it.

A lot of IoT, a lot of artificial intelligence can actually go into digitally connected elevators. We also aim to have a very agile structure within the organization that can help the customer. We are now looking to invest in measures to ensure that for customers, we are just a call away. Our elevators have got an emergency rescue device – when any elevator stops, they actually come down one floor, and the door opens. If that doesn't happen, the lights are on. You can press an emergency button and our people reach there in 20 minutes.

We are in the business of ‘smooth people flow’ - we ensure that people move smoothly. In today’s time of social distancing, we have introduced a system of full load limit adjustment to ensure less crowding in the elevator. It will club destination floors and divert travellers who are going to certain floors to particular lifts to enhance safety, making the flow much easier.
Apart from digitally connected elevators, we were the first ones to launch gearless elevators, which we patented. We have over 1,000 people working on innovation in our Technology Center in India, so that we can give the best features to our customers. We plan to expand more on the digital front in future.

Tell us about the manufacturing capabilities and capacities of KONE Elevator India.
Our world-class facility for elevators in SIPCOT Industrial Park, Pillaipakkam, Sriperumbudur near Chennai was officially commissioned in November 2019. The manufacturing unit is designed for a capacity based on demand. Being the largest in India, South & South East Asia, the factory is equipped with the latest technology in production, reinforcing KONE’s customer focused strategy to provide the most competitive, highest quality products with short delivery time. Though the new plant is majorly focussed on the Indian market, KONE will be exporting to neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

How is KONE Elevator India fulfilling its environmental responsibilities at the manufacturing level?
Our commitment to the environment is an integral part of our value system and we, at KONE, have always engaged ourselves in various efforts to give something back to the environment. As an environmentally conscious organization, we support the ongoing green transformation of the built environment into smart eco-cities, low-carbon communities, and net zero energy buildings.

For KONE, environmental responsibility is a combination of offering our customers innovative and eco-efficient solutions and reducing the environmental impacts of our operations. KONE’s targets are in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the most ambitious criteria for setting science-based targets. We were also awarded, once again, a place on CDP’s prestigious 2020 ‘A List’. Our leadership score of A or A- for eight consecutive years underlines our actions. KONE was also awarded the EcoVadis platinum medal for our sustainability performance, placing us among the top 1% of all assessed companies.

Our well planned and efficient installation processes minimize the adverse environmental impacts of installation work, and our systems ensure we reduce our chemical use and handle waste efficiently on site. We use smart technologies and a green vehicle fleet to minimize emissions and maximize efficiency. Unnecessary technical callouts are reduced by remote monitoring solutions like the KONE 24/7 Connected Services, which uses IoT platforms data and analytics to bring intelligent services to elevators and escalators. By carrying optimized spare part stocks in our vehicles, we reduce warehouse visits, further decreasing emissions.
Our modernization solutions range from retrofitting LED lights to a completely new elevator with energy regeneration technology. We already have the most energy-efficient elevators on the market, and we continue to transition towards a low emissions vehicle fleet, as well as using renewable energy at our facilities around the world. We have further reduced our carbon footprint relative to our sales.

What is KONE Elevator India doing to encourage diversity, particularly on the shop floors?
Diversity and inclusion are embedded in the KONE culture and values. We believe that when people are valued as their authentic selves, innovation can flourish, and work communities will thrive.

We pledge to systematically increase diversity, inclusion, and equity at KONE. As one of the specific goals, we will make a step-change in the share of women at director level to 35% by 2030. We are hiring diverse talent across our organisation, and we promote the unique roles handled by our women colleagues through social media, in-house publications and through various other medium.

To accelerate innovation and co-creation, and to create a thriving work community, we welcome fresh competences and views from outside our industry. We aim to become as diverse as our customers and the communities we serve.
Our efforts were rewarded this year with two very prestigious awards. These awards are a validation of our efforts towards building a great and inclusive work culture. Earlier this year, we received the “Economic Times Best Places to work for women 2021”. We have also been featured in the 1st Edition of the coffee table book by The Economic Times titled “Best Workplaces for Women 2021”. We also earned a spot in the Hall of Fame by receiving our fifth consecutive Working Mother & Avtar Best Companies for Women in India (BCWI) 2021 award.

India is undergoing rapid and large-scale urbanization. What role is the elevator and the escalator industry playing in this regard?
India has witnessed rapid urbanization and a sustained economic growth for last few decades. India is a key growth market and rapid and large-scale urbanisation is spurring expansion of big cities and development of new corridors.
The Indian elevator and escalator market was subdued during the Covid period but is now seeing a rebound due to the latent demand and pick up in the real estate sector mainly in the residential segment. Residential segment is now back to pre-Covid days and expected to grow during the next few years. Commercial segment is also slowly recovering as offices are opening and malls and hospitality segment is on track for normalcy and growth. India is the second largest market for elevators and escalators in the world and with local manufacturing, digitalization and urbanization in India, the vertical mobility industry is set to grow multi-fold in the coming years. As urbanization drives the increased need for housing, the need for smart and efficient technologies to support this growth is becoming a must.