Joseph D. Busse


Chief, Corporate Engineering for Fujitec America, Inc., works behind the scenes to help his company run smoothly.

In his interview with ELEVATOR WORLD, Joseph D. Busse explained his role as head of Corporate Engineering gives him overall responsiblity for this area of Fujitec’s Engineering Division at its U.S. headquarters in Mason, Ohio. The group is involved in supporting branch operations, technical support and field engineering. Busse has set goals to continue to grow Fujitec’s business and provide the highest value to its clients, which he has followed at the company for 20 years, from his roles as manager of Electrical Design, chief engineer of R&D and director of Technical Services, chief information officer, and head of Operations Support. Furthermore, he has held interim assignments as chief engineer of Fujitec World Headquarters and its Strategic Development Office.

Busse was born at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Raised in Ohio, mostly Toledo, he continues to reside in the state, (currently Cincinnati). He earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toledo in 1981. During his senior year of college, he entered the elevator industry at Schindler Haughton Elevator Corp. He said his interview there was:

“. . . on a whim. I had an academic interest in biomedical engineering, which would have realistically required postgraduate school. Working at Haughton seemed like it would be a lot more fun, especially after I met John Reed. [Reed] and I hit it off, and he pretty much hired me on the spot. I did have other options – graduate school, working at a fiberglass plant in Podunk, Ohio, an offer from a major international manufacturer [that] wouldn’t have minded if I would relocate to a very hot and dry area of the country. Working for Haughton in Toledo sounded pretty good.”

According to Busse, he knew he was in the right industry due to his affinity for, he said, “the overall mindset and culture of the department I worked in.” He felt at home in the Toledo “old-school engineering” R&D team as a newly degreed engineer. It was an unlikely honeymoon, as everyone there was at least 15 years older than he, with many years of experience. Busse liked his “big brothers” watching, teaching and helping him with his tasks in the company’s environment akin to a “hometown.” He expounded on his decision to stay in the industry:

“I was hooked when I actually got to go out in the field and work on construction jobsites. Luckily, these weren’t [hydraulic units]. The timing was just right that we were putting in big gearless equipment in large cities such as Chicago, Miami [and] Los Angeles, and we were working on the motion control and motor drive. I worked with real elevator men, the field adjusters. Almost universally, the people I met and worked with were so impressive in their knowledge, their dedication to doing a quality job, and especially in their unrelenting personal responsibility for safe operation of the elevator systems.”

Busse remained at Schindler Haughton and Schindler Group subsidiary Millar Elevator Service Co. from 1981 to 1993, working mostly in R&D. He has worked at Fujitec since 1993, beginning as electrical design and development manager. He later became chief engineer, worked on projects with Fujitec Japan R&D, and was director of technical support and chief information officer for a few years preceding his current post.

Busse shared a long list of mentors with EW, including:

Takao Okada, who is known as “teacher” within Fujitec. “I learned everything I need to know about Fujitec’s brand for the highest safety and quality from him,” recalled Busse.

Ed Donoghue, who became Busse’s personal friend through the National Elevator Industry, Inc. (NEII) committees on which Busse served. “Donoghue’s strength is attention to detail and good, old-fashioned American ingenuity,” remarked Busse.

John Reed, who taught Busse how to be a good coach as a manager and remains his mentor in many ways.

Andy Juhasz taught Busse about motor drives and control and operating circuit safety concepts. Juhasz helped him work through difficult servo equations by hand before the widespread use of computers for the process.

Ron Stender took Busse under his wing on his first day in the industry in 1981. Stender instilled the importance of safety in Busse, who said, “I’m alive writing this probably due to [Stender]’s good stewardship in training me.”

Steve Cervenec taught Busse the fundamentals of how things work so he could effectively troubleshoot their problems.

Don Will, the first elevator mechanic Busse worked with, first taught him how to be safe when riding on an elevator car top. Other lessons involved how to take a car out of service, block door operation, perform a hoistway-access procedure and maintain strong customer relations.

Dick Burke knew “everything about everything” at Westinghouse, said Busse. His “old-school” attitude involved locking himself in a room and studying every detail about a control system, not coming out until he had memorized nearly everything.

Oley Halpern taught Busse how to behave in New York City and how important it was to always keep a sense of humor.

Larry Birney instructed Busse on how to extend trust to staff members, allowing him to make his own project decisions, which instilled great confidence. His best management advice for difficult situations was to write down factual pros and cons on a sheet of paper. What should and should not be done always became obvious by following this procedure.

Ralph Droste helped Busse learn how to respect varied and often volatile and divergent opinions from those representing many different interests, how to build consensus and also how to efficiently run industry meetings.

Busse feels fortunate to have worked with managers and engineers who had stubbornness/perseverance, attention to detail, preparation and the desire to do the job right. Their assets came from using these characteristics properly and treating colleagues fairly and reasonably. He said he has learned how important it is to always maintain safety, quality and integrity toward clients, even while being challenged to grow a business. He elaborated:

“I think it is safe to say there are competitive pressures in the industry and many different grades of what is thought to be the standard of care. Customers have greater expectations for the value received from their service company. Maintaining complete product and service integrity, while competing in the current industry, is a constant concern.”

Busse said he finds the most rewarding part of his job “promoting and advocating for the success of [his] colleagues and staff.” Many of those for whom he is responsible are in their career prime or just reaching their formative years, and he appreciates his own chance to be a mentor whenever he can.

For those entering the industry today, he advises they learn as much as possible from experienced colleagues. A good maxim to keep in mind is, “A young man lost in his work has found his future.” Busse spoke in retrospect:

“I would have tried to learn more about software at the source-code level, rather than just dictating specifications to software coders. [That way], I could really know what [was] happening under the hood. But right now, for me, professionally, it just doesn’t get any better than this. I’m very thankful every day to be part of this industry and a member of Fujitec.”

Busse is a member of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), NEII and the Building Owners and Managers Association International. He served on the American Society of Mechanical Engineers A17.1 Electrical and A17.5/CSA B44.1 committees for more than 20 years, and on the NEII Central Code and Performance Standards committees for 15 years. He is also a contributing author to the ASME A17.1/CSA B44 Elevator Safety Code Handbook. With this type of experience, it was not surprising for him to remark, “From a manufacturer’s point of view, I feel it would be beneficial for jurisdictional authorities to harmonize their implementation of [the] latest code and to work to avoid localized provisions.”

Busse is an admirer of Otis Director, Worldwide Codes and Standards, Louis Bialy. The two know each other from having worked on the same committees for many years. Busse said of him:

“I’ve never met anyone else with such a combination of technical knowledge and experience who is so astute politically in any group and can find the best strategy to address almost any issue. The industry is lucky to have Lou representing us on so many fronts.”

Busse is still looking to his mentors for direction, but nowadays, the subject is retirement, which he may consider in several years. As his mentors and good friends from the industry retire, he plans to keep a close eye on them and see how this phase of life works for them, then try to do as well.

In closing, Busse offered some advice for those in positions like his: “All you have to do as a manager is to help those around you manage their own business and assignments, take away obstacles if you can, eliminate excuses when you have to. Avoid surprises. And try to not tell too many stories from the old days.”

Elevator World Senior Associate Editor

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