Corporate and personal mobility provider Vision Elevators says there is a definite move in South Africa towards reducing the environmental impact of mobility solutions like lifts and escalators.
Vision Elevators GM Lynne Wareing says green solutions are included in client specifications more than they have been in the past.
“As a member of the Green Building Council of South Africa, we are excited about the shift to greener technology in the country and want to do our part to reduce our impact on the environment,” she says.
Wareing notes that lift regenerative motor drives can harvest energy which would be lost in traditional systems, through heat dissipation on the braking resistors.
“The harvested energy is then fed back into the energy grid, lowering the overall con- sumption of the lift.”
Wareing adds that gearless motors for lifts are also more efficient than traditional geared motors, as they move loads of the same weight with less energy.
This lowers the required kilowatt rating of the motor, thus lowering the overall energy consumption of the lift.
“Both of these sustainable options concern parts of the lift that are not seen by users or owners of the lifts during normal operation and, therefore, do not impact on the aesthetics of the lift.“
Our full range of finishes can be selected for either of these green options, ensuring no compromise on aesthetics when choosing greener solutions,” says Wareing.
The company also offers clients the choice of having light-emitting-diode lighting installed within the lift cabin, further reducing energy consumption.
“As our manufacturing facility is based in South Africa, we have more control over the design and manufacturing process. “We have made it a goal to ensure the use of lightweight, sustainable materials for lift-car fabrication and decoration,” she states.
Further, the company’s escalators can be fitted with devices that allow the escalator to run at half-speed or stop completely when users are not in close proximity. This decreases the power consumption of the system.
“Currently, however, the costs versus the benefits of implementing greener solutions in terms of mobility are still being debated in South Africa in terms of the actual cost savings.
“In the case of the regenerative drive, for example, if installed in a low-rise application like a lift that services only two to four floors, the additional cost of having the system in place, outweighs the cost saving in terms of power over the ensuing 25-year period,” Wareing points out.
The company stays abreast of the latest technological advancements in the industry by visiting international trade shows that cater specifically to the lift industry, says Wareing.
“This year’s lifts show, the Milano Architettura Design Ediliza, or Made expo, will be held in conjunction with other construction-related industries, in Milan, from October 17 to 20.
“Vision Elevators will send representatives to the expo, where major players in the industry and component suppliers exhibit the latest in technological offerings. “Our local manufacturers take a keen interest in incorporating these developments as much as possible into local design,” she says.
Bridging the Skills Gap
To implement the new technologies from overseas into local design successfully, it is imperative that local people are adequately skilled.
“After identifying a critical shortage of qualified and practically skilled technicians in the industry, resulting from a lack of training, we felt it was imperative that we start trying to bridge the skills gap.
“We started an apprenticeship programme in February last year, which is currently overseen by the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority, but, which is being overhauled, owing to organisational changes at the Department of Higher Education and Training,” says Wareing.
The programme currently covers all aspects of being a lift mechanic – from basic hand tools to the installation of lifts.
The company has one successfully qualified mechanic who has completed the apprenticeship programme, two candidates in their second year of the programme and intends to register another two apprentices by the end of the year.
Wareing notes it has benefited the company to source graduates from further education and training colleges, owing to their technical background, although the apprenticeship programme is open to all candidates.
“We hope that continued focus will mean we are eventually training more technicians than we need, so they can find employment at other firms, therefore benefiting the industry as a whole,” she says.
Vision Elevators has also started with the construction of a training centre to carry out in-house training.
“Of course, in-house training ensures candidates are familiar with our equipment, but our maintenance department ensures that our apprentices are exposed to various types and brands of lift machinery,” she says.
Wareing adds that the curriculum of the programme is being revised by the company and lift industry stakeholders through regular meetings, at which the details of the new programme are discussed and the curriculum’s relevance to today’s industry is ensured.
“The process is a lengthy one; however, we are encouraged to see that progress is consistent and the input of all representatives is taken into consideration by the board,” she says.
Going forward, the company has exciting plans.
“One interesting but early-stage development is focused on space-saving solutions, where a decrease in the diameter of specially designed lift ropes means a decrease in the diameter of the traction drive sheave required for that lift’s system.
“This will benefit commercial and residential applications, where there is no longer a need to compromise on space for a mobility solution. “This will allow home owners or developers to maximise rentable or usable space in their buildings. “We hope to incorporate this type of advancement in the near future,” says Wareing.
In the immediate future, she notes that Vision Elevators’ preventive maintenance department will implement a new paperless system, which she believes is a first for the South African lift industry.
This will not only assist the company in its drive for greener business processes but will also result in a more efficient process in terms of signing service records and managing the documents thereafter, Wareing says.
“In conjunction with this, we are set to go live with a new enterprise resource planning system in the new year, which will assist us in our quality control measures and our ultimate goal of International Organisation for Standardisation certification,” she adds.
Wareing says another area in the South African lifts industry that needs attention is data collection.
“While there are various reports available on industry trends for markets like China and the US, South Africa is lacking any formal data on past, current and future trends, as well as on other aspects, like units in service, the number of new installations a year and product composition of new and installed units.“
We have approached stakeholder groups with available options for data collection in the industry; however, these recommendations have not yet been approved,” she says.
The company feels a research study to gather information is imperative to gauge where the country’s elevator industry has come from, where it stands currently and where it is headed.
“As a starting point, our MD Nicholas Wareing is conducting a research report that focuses on the buying criteria of organisational buyers for products and services offered by the South African lifts industry, as part of his Master of Business Administration degree thesis.
“Vision Elevators looks forward to the results of the study and trusts that they will provide us with new insight about how we can provide a better service to our clients,” she says.