A world of ups and downs…

u|Chief chatted to Amyn Benyekkou (Head of Sales, Marketing & Business Development, Africa) at Otis, the world’s leading elevator manufacturer.

What are the trends you are seeing in the property industry?

Large property development players are increasingly looking for advanced technology solutions such as advanced building management intelligent systems or maintenance cost reduction software as they are also under economic pressure from both owners and building occupants who require higher service, better comfort and lower price. In the residential sector, we are seeing projects with lower occupancy space compared to some years ago – new projects, such as those aimed at young professional, where fully fitted flats offer smaller p/m² living space but their facilities are more highly specified

Large property development players are under economic pressure from both owners and building occupants who require higher service, better comfort and lower price. 

What are the current challenges that Otis faces?

The key challenges we are facing relate to skills availability in the market and the economic slowdown. In our industry, it is not just a matter of hiring qualified mechanics or supervisors; we have to train according to stringent global Otis standards with a focus on the electrical and mechanical components of elevator and escalator equipment, safety and methodology. We recently launched the Otis Training Academy in Germiston specifically for this purpose – to continuously bring on board new apprentices, further their training and to continue to improve skills.

Where do you believe the big opportunities are in the industry?

Despite flat growth relating to the current economic situation, we believe there is tremendous potential for development in Southern Africa. On that basis, in 2016 we established our Africa Operation headquarters in Johannesburg rather than in other regions of Africa (such as north or west Africa), although we have established branches in other parts of the continent. There are opportunities across a number of sectors:

  • In the commercial sector, as South Africa remains the central hub for commerce and communication.
  • In retail. due to a very mature consumer’s market profile.
  • Residential, with an increase in retirement complex development, specifically in the coastal regions, but also with increasing focus of high-density residential developments where regulations require elevators to be installed in all buildings of four stories and higher.

Internationally, we have opportunities in neighbouring countries such as Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia, with new investments and international projects and in east African countries such as Ethiopia, which currently shows high GDP growth.

What do you see as the future of mechanization and technological advances in terms of lifts, escalators, parking and so on?

The lift industry is not comparable to the automotive or high-tech sector, where innovation happens constantly and each year introduces something new. The last big innovation that radically transformed our industry was the ‘machine roomless’ system (where the motor and drive are inside the shaft and no longer in a separate room above or below the concrete shaft); and, in fact, most of the elevators installed nowadays are MRL, machine roomless.

The other remarkable trend relates to green technology where most equipment is fitted with power-regenerating drives, which save 50% more energy compared to 10 years ago.  In that sense, Otis Gen2 Regen and Gen2 Switch are among the best in class in this sector. We already have intelligent devices capable of organising the display of a group of elevator calls according to the building traffic, human occupancy and other key habits.

Compass Plus is an Otis system that can understand and analyse the habits of 1000 people living in the same office building down to detail such as the peak arrival hours for staff in the morning, peak lunch times, intermediate floor travel between departments, days of the week where there is greater travel etc. With such a system, we are able to ensure smooth traffic flow in a building, without delays or logjams. 

Otis Gen2 Regen
What are the hallmarks of Otis’ success?

We have a long history in South Africa, having first opened our doors here in 1952, although the first elevator in South Africa was installed in Cape Town 120 years ago. In our industry, we are the largest employer, the largest maintenance provider and the most active agent in the local environment. We launched a training academy to upscale local skills and to constantly further our in-house skills development, and we will shortly open an incubator for young entrepreneurs and guide and mentor them in their own business development. We focus constantly on delivering service in a completely safe environment. Safety of our employees and users is our primary priority, with no compromise. Lastly, we look forward to diversity and inclusion, an example of which is the increase in diversity within our staff complement, as evidenced by the appointment of three female sales reps in Q3 of this year.

We will shortly open an incubator for young entrepreneurs and guide and mentor them in their own business development.

Any exciting products or projects you have recently developed?

We have focused on key areas in 2017. We have restructured our branches across two primary regions – inland and coastal – designed to better service coverage across the country and linked to this is a contest for mechanics focused on improving service levels for customers.

We are introducing Skyrise 2- a medium-speed elevator for medium-rise buildings.

We recently moved our offices from an industrial location (Wadeville) to a more service and business-minded environment (in Bedfordview), thus offering our employees a more accessible, friendlier and safer work, where they can enjoy open spaces, restaurant facilities, gym club and gardens.