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The Power of a Connected Network


Boris Tomic

The key to a long and healthy life is to look after yourself, and the same is true for elevators and escalators – if well maintained, they can last for decades. To support our customers around the world, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve our service offerings and to make our technicians' lives easier. Connectivity is becoming an essential part of our service approach.  

We recently sat down with Boris Tomic, our new Head Global Existing Installations, to talk about connectivity and how it’s changing the way we work. 

What are connected escalators and elevators and what advantages do they offer over their traditional, non-connected counterparts?  

The reason connected units, whether it's elevators or escalators, are so important is that they provide transparency – not just for our service technician but also for our customers. By installing the Schindler Cube, a smart communication gateway, we're able to connect units to the internet. Once connected, the Cube provides a constant stream of information about how the elevator or escalator is working.  

It’s a bit like turning on a light switch. Before, we only really knew what was happening with unconnected units during maintenance checkups – now it’s like we’re on-site 24/7. 

We can immediately detect breakdowns on connected units. If there is a breakdown on a connected unit, typically we’ll already have dispatched a technician before someone calls to report it. This leads to a significantly shorter time to site and an overall downtime reduction of 34% compared to non-connected units. 

We're able to share this information with customers, so they know what’s going on with their equipment. But it also means we can analyze the data and provide adaptive maintenance. 

Our Remote Monitoring Platform takes the data and transforms it into symptoms, which are categorized by severity to provide guidance for our service technicians on what needs to be done. In many cases, we're able to see where potential issues may occur and fix them before there is a need for a call-out.  

Another added bonus is that the Cube not only sends us data but also can receive over-the-air (OTA) updates, so that it’s always up to date. 

All this translates into greater uptime and happier customers! 

You mentioned adaptive maintenance and remote monitoring, could you tell us a bit more about the benefits of this approach? 

Remote monitoring and adaptive maintenance work together hand in hand. By being able to continuously monitor units and view this data without being onsite, we can formulate the best approach to deal with any issue that may arise or has the potential to arise.  

The simplest way to explain the benefits of this approach is that it allows us to provide a greater level of servicing. 

Imagine owning a car. You typically arrange it to be serviced once a year and, for most of us, we have to trust what the mechanic tells us needs fixing. But imagine if you could fit sensors to your car so that it can be monitored by the garage around the clock. Now if there is a potential issue, a mechanic can arrange to fix it before you've even noticed that there's anything wrong, and they can also show you the data from your car so that you know what they're talking about. Not only would this be great service, it would also give you peace of mind to know you're in safe hands. 

This is what we're able to offer with connected elevators and escalators. 

Remote monitoring means we don’t physically have to be onsite to know what's going on, while adaptive maintenance helps us provide a more customized service. By knowing the status and condition of the elevator or escalator at all times, we're able to arrange the best possible actions and maintenance to keep them running with minimum interruptions. The more information we get from monitoring the elevators and escalators, the more precise we can be in advising the on-site service technician. Our connected units are therefore much more effectively maintained and typically have less downtime than unconnected units.

This approach doesn’t eliminate site visits altogether, but it does reduce the amount of unnecessary travel. Before, if there was a call-out, our service technicians would have to travel to the site to inspect the elevator or escalator. But now they can see updates on their phones, so they know what the issue is and where to look for a problem’s root cause before they even get to the site. It also saves time as they know if they need to bring specific parts or equipment for the job. 

This approach presents real and tangible sustainability benefits, especially when our technicians use electric vehicles to get around. In Germany, our green maintenance contracts have been shown to provide a 99.5% reduction in greenhouse gases compared to traditional maintenance contracts. 

How does the Cube make adaptive maintenance possible?

The Cube is an important part of the connected system, it continually monitors the unit’s activity and is constantly sending us data. Our Remote Monitoring Platform then computes this information and runs it through thousands of rules in real time. If at any point, one of these rules is triggered, it sends an alarm or notification that then allows us to take the appropriate action.

It’s this, combined with the expertise of our people, that makes this offering so strong.

What are some of the challenges that we face, as we look to increase the number of connected units in operation? 

Our aim is to connect all of the units we maintain globally so that we can provide the same level of service anywhere in the world. Given the number and variety of units we look after it’s clearly a big job to connect them all, but it’s a great challenge to have!  

With that comes the challenge of keeping all of our connected units online, at all times. It’s like with mobile phones, every provider aims to deliver the best network coverage and connectivity, but it isn’t always perfect. Luckily with elevators maintaining network coverage is a bit more straightforward as we know which buildings they are in. Around the world, we operate a network of over 25 Technical Operation Centers in different countries and time zones, from which we can monitor our fleet of connected units in real time. So, if there are any connectivity troubles, our teams can react immediately. 

Speaking of the future, what role do you think connected units will play in it?  

Connectivity will play an important role in modernizing our cities and buildings in the fight against climate change. It’s no secret that buildings are responsible for about 40% of carbon emissions and given that it’s estimated that 80% of today’s buildings will still be standing in 2050, there is a real need to help modernize them. 

The Cube can be connected to almost all elevators and escalators, even non-Schindler units, and once in place, it contributes to more reliable equipment and ultimately to more efficient and livable cities. 

And the more units we connect, the bigger the positive impact we’ll have.