Letter From Ukraine

Letter From Ukraine
Against all odds, Ukrainian lift manufacturer Euroformat is in the process of constructing new facilities; image courtesy of Euroformat.

Magazine editor provides inside, in-depth look at the state of trade publishing and the elevator industry in her country. 

Until relatively recently, your author (KW) had no idea of the existence of Ukrainian elevator magazine Liftova Panorama. But, in the pages of another magazine, she read an article about Ukraine’s lift industry prior to the February 2022 invasion by Russia authored by Mariia Pylypiv and Oleh Skrypets, editor-in-chief and technical editor, respectively, of Ukraine’s Liftova Panorama. Fascinated by how ELEVATOR WORLD’s counterpart in a war-torn portion of the world was faring, your author reached out to Pylypiv (MP), who was gracious enough to provide in-depth answers to her questions — not only about the magazine itself, but the Ukrainian elevator industry in general.  

KW: Is the magazine operating outside of/near/in war-torn areas? How has this affected your day-to-day operations? 

MP: The editorial staff of Liftova Panorama magazine supports the unity of Ukrainian elevator operators as much as possible. For this purpose, we have a group on the Viber communications platform called “Community of Elevators of Ukraine,” where everyone has the opportunity to communicate or ask for help, as well as stay informed about the most current Ukraine elevator industry news. All elevator organizations, including those in war-torn areas, receive an electronic edition of Liftova Panorama. The companies under occupation look forward to receiving a copy of the magazine and, of course, returning to Ukraine.

KW: Have Russian troops prevented access to cities/towns/buildings that might need elevator maintenance, repair, etc.?

MP: Speaking with many elevator companies that were under occupation, such as Kherson and other cities, the situation has been challenging. I would estimate 90% of Russian troops did not care whether elevators were working or not, or how a pensioner or a mother with a baby would get to their home on the ninth or 12th floor if a building’s elevator was not working. It didn’t matter to them. Their goal was to take everything — including funds, equipment, tools, emergency vehicles, etc. It was only thanks to the caring elevator operators who were under occupation that people had the opportunity to sometimes use their elevators. Elevator operators would come and turn on the elevator and, whenever possible, carry out repairs.

Our elevator operators help each other as much as possible in all matters, including relocating entire families from hot spots, providing accommodation, jobs, financing and spare parts.

KW: Tell me how and when you came to publish Liftova Panorama.

MP: My experience in the elevator industry dates back to 2008. At that time, there was not a single elevator publication in Ukraine. There was (and I don’t know what the situation is today) a publication called Elevating Structures: Special Equipment in Odesa, but only 5-10% of it covered the elevator industry. This is certainly very little, considering there are approximately 90,000 elevators in Ukraine. So, the idea of creating an elevator magazine was born.

Liftova Panorama is an independent magazine dedicated to covering all issues of the elevator industry in Ukraine to unite elevator organizations into a single, friendly team that defends its rights and ensures the vital activity of the elevator industry at the proper state level. The magazine includes information on the technical development of elevators, escalators and travolators from domestic and international manufacturers; the historical development of the elevator industry; upcoming projects both globally and in Ukraine; suppliers of elevator equipment, escalators, travolators and components in the Ukrainian market; major news and projects from the State Labor Service, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Development of Ukraine and the State Regulatory Service of Ukraine, etc.; amendments and additions to existing regulations and rules (PPBEL, DSTU, DBN, EN); elevator maintenance and financing; competitiveness in the Ukrainian market; exchange of experience; basic questions and answers on modernization and replacement of elevators; dispatching of elevator equipment; offers of elevator spare parts for sale; and contact information for elevator organizations.

Liftova Panorama is published four times a year. The magazine organizes the International Conference of Ukrainian Elevators twice a year in different parts of Ukraine. Conference participants are not only Ukrainian companies, but also foreign companies. Speeches and presentations are held at the conference, where there is an opportunity to communicate and connect with new partners for further cooperation. For example, our conferences have been attended by such European companies as KLEEMANN (Greece), LiftService (Poland), Intec (Poland), PROlift (Romania), Doppler S.A. (Greece), TRESA Ascensores (Spain), Orona (Spain), Pilawa Elevators (Poland) and many Turkish companies.

Letter From Ukraine
A recent Liftova Panorama cover reflects the unity and determination of Ukraine in the midst of war; image courtesy of Liftova Panorama.
Letter From Ukraine
Mariia Pylypiv and Oleh Skrypets; photo courtesy of Mariia Pylypiv

KW: Has the war situation affected publishing?

MP: Yes. I could not believe war was possible but, unfortunately, it happened. On February 24, 2022, Russia attacked Ukraine. This war was and is a big blow to every Ukrainian. This war has shown us a lot: It has made us rethink our lives, values, friends, etc. Many Ukrainians have experienced major changes in their lives. However, most Ukrainians still work and support the Armed Forces of Ukraine as much as possible through volunteering, etc. Our elevator operators help each other as much as possible in all matters, including relocating entire families from hot spots, providing accommodation, jobs, financing and spare parts. The editorial office of Liftova Panorama resumed its work in June 2022, but there is no printed edition. Today, there is only an electronic edition. Thus, we have the opportunity to support the elevator industry of Ukraine in unity.

KW: Have you been in touch with domestic elevator manufacturers such as Euroformat and global OEMs such as Otis? Are they able to do business (manufacture, perform maintenance) at all? 

MP: It has been almost a year and a half since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. As editor-in-chief of a specialized magazine, I felt the need to understand how Ukrainian elevator companies are operating today, having overcome such a long period of crisis, so I recently met with Ihor Tkachenko, CEO of Zavod Euroformat Ltd. Using this Ukrainian elevator manufacturer as an example, one gets a clear understanding of the situation in terms of the challenges the company is facing during the war, and learns how these challenges are being overcome and production is being established. Despite an almost complete standstill in construction, the Euroformat plant continues to operate. In the words of Tkachenko, the 2019 pandemic crisis in Ukraine made the company “ready” and, in a sense, helped it respond quickly to the events of February 24, 2022. EUROFORMAT is a group of companies that have committed themselves to a common set of business principles. When the full-scale invasion began, the group of companies had already adopted a well-established, crisis-management protocol for responding and adapting the business to external, force majeure circumstances. Such a response involves a total reduction of costs to baseline levels to support production operations and retain key personnel to operate the plant and manage necessary production processes.

The CEO of Zavod Euroformat Ltd. emphasized the enterprise continued its activities in the most difficult first months of the invasion because it was also supported by both Ukrainian financial institutions and foreign partners that reacted quickly to the situation in Ukraine and provided financial assistance (including on a non-repayable basis) in the first three to four months of the invasion. The company director stressed that he was most proud of the fact that the Euroformat plant continued to service its loans throughout the war. Against all odds, the Euroformat plant is in the process of construction of new production facilities (which, unfortunately, had not been completed prior to the full-scale invasion), which is why additional credit and financing programs are being sought.

In response to the question of whether the company has been engaged in the production of elevators all this time, Tkachenko said that, in the first year when demand for elevator equipment was almost non-existent, the Euroformat plant differentiated its production activities by shifting to metal products manufacturing. The company started serial production of potbelly stoves during the winter season and also manufactured a variety of metal structures to meet the market’s and its customers’ needs. Thanks to its dedicated specialists, the company was able to adapt its facilities to meet atypical production needs.

Today, the company remains in a tough spot, much like it did on February 24, 2022. However, the biggest difference between today and February 2022 is that we now see the potential for further recovery of the company’s operations and the future of the country as a whole. “The company is involved in many programs aimed at rebuilding Ukraine, which will both help restore our country and provide jobs for the plant’s employees, develop Ukrainian commerce and support the economy,” Tkachenko said to sum up the current state of affairs. Fully aware of the difficulties faced by Ukrainian businesses (some more affected than others), the Euroformat plant has developed custom, flexible payment options for its partners purchasing elevator equipment. The companies engaged in construction and installation are now able to purchase Euroformat elevators under a special lending program through a reliable partner bank and purchase equipment on favorable barter terms.

Confidence in the future of our country remains unwavering among Ukrainian entrepreneurs. “Like most Ukrainian companies, Euroformat is making every effort to survive and preserve jobs in these trying times for Ukraine,” Tkachenko said. “We all understand that our internal rebuilding and reconstruction resources will be key to the country’s development after the victory.”

[Ukrainian lift manufacturer Euroformat] started serial production of potbelly stoves during the winter season and also manufactured a variety of metal structures to meet the market’s and its customers’ needs.

KW: How are elevators at vital facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes being handled, if at all? 

MP: This is an important issue. All elevator organizations are working as hard as possible to ensure the smooth operation of elevators in these facilities because everyone understands that human life depends on it. Spare parts are changed as quickly and efficiently as possible, elevators are modernized, etc.

KW: Approximately how many elevators does Ukraine have now? 

MP: There are approximately 90,000-95,000 elevators in Ukraine. About 60-70% of them are old elevators that need immediate modernization or complete replacement. Before the war, each city in Ukraine had different co-financing for elevator modernization or replacement. It could be 95-5%, where 95% was financed by the local government and 5% by the elevator residents (property owners), 90-10%, 70-30%, 50-50%, but also 100% financed by the residents themselves. Today, the situation is different in each city. There are cities with funding for elevators, while others have none, saying that there is a war and no money. Therefore, residents replace various components to keep their elevators running. Elevator imports to Ukraine fell in half in 2022. And this is good, given that we are under martial law.

KW: Has the number of elevator accidents increased due to the current situation in Ukraine?

MP: Yes. The situation is extremely difficult. Martial law in Ukraine and the constant shelling of infrastructure and energy facilities have had a negative impact on the operation of elevators. Because power outages occurred throughout Ukraine, there were emergency shutdowns of entire cities and towns. Therefore, there were cases when people were stuck in 50 to 100 elevators in one city at the same time. People waited from five to 10 h to get out of an elevator, and passengers were released during air raids and sometimes even during the shelling of cities. With the power outages, as well as due to over- or under-voltage in cities’ power grids, frequent elevator breakdowns also began and safety devices, motors, control stations, transformers and other elevator equipment failed as the power supply was turned off and on many times in a day. The equipment simply could not withstand such a load. And there are delays in delivery, depending on the elevator manufacturer and the availability of spare parts from an elevator company. Of course, the cost of spare parts is also an important issue, as not all residents of high-rise buildings have the ability to pay for a spare part. As of today, the situation with power outages in Ukraine has improved which, in turn, helps ensure the safe operation of elevators.

Letter From Ukraine
Inside the Euroformat plant; image courtesy of Euroformat

KW: Tell me about the market participants in the service and modernization field prior to the war.

MP: Ukraine’s elevator industry was in deep crisis, namely: 

  • 70-75% of elevators have exhausted their technical resource of safe operation.
  • There are flaws in the legislative and regulatory framework.
  • There is a shortage of qualified personnel.
  • The level of dispatching of elevators is decreasing every year, decreasing by 50% over the past 30 years

All of this is due to lack of a qualified, focused, centralized management to defend the rights of the entire elevator industry. Having completely destroyed the system that kept the elevator industry in good condition in the early 2000s and having failed to create any other system or body to carry out state coordination in this area — and most importantly, its development — the elevator fleet found itself in a state of collapse. The problems began back in 2004 when the Republican production association Ukrlift, which solved many issues in the elevator industry, was liquidated. Ukrlift provided both methodological and production assistance, as well as basic and advanced training for employees in the elevator industry. In fact, Ukrlift solved all issues in the elevator industry. Most importantly, it was considered by all higher authorities, both political parties and trade unions, as well as ministries and committees. Unfortunately, there is no such organization in Ukraine today. That is why the elevator industry today has neither a unified tariff policy nor a high quality of elevator maintenance. Most importantly, no one can say exactly how many elevators are in operation in residential buildings, how long they have been in operation and how many are out of service.

Taking into account all aspects of this problem, in my opinion, the most effective step in regulating relations in the elevator industry would be to create a separate unit within the structure of the Ministry of Community and Territorial Development of Ukraine. This unit should include such separate departments as regulatory and methodological support, pricing, prospective development of the elevator industry and others. In addition, the unit should include the so-called Conciliation Council, whose members are managers and leading specialists of elevator companies in the different cities of Ukraine. Such an important industry, which primarily affects the safety of building residents, cannot be supervised only by new owners of residential buildings (condominiums, managers). Self-regulatory organizations would be the coordinator and controller of the elevator industry development.

KW: Tell me about the consequences of the legislature intervening in the pricing structure for elevator service fees. 

MP: The issue of pricing for elevator maintenance is a very urgent problem and needs to be significantly improved. To date, the legislature has not brought the regulatory framework up to date. Even today, there is no ministry that deals with the elevator industry to the extent necessary. The legislative framework that currently exists does not improve the life of elevator organizations, but rather increases pressure and does not simplify or improve the regulatory field. There are many conflicts, contradictions and inconsistencies between different legal acts, but the legislature is not going to eliminate them, which leads to negative phenomena in the work of elevator organizations. It is also a problem that elevator operators, as competent representatives in their field, cannot submit their draft regulations for approval at the legislative level, and employees of various executive authorities and ministries have no idea what an elevator consists of or how it works. In general, elevator operators are unable to make changes to the existing regulatory framework. As long as uninformed individuals develop and approve regulations for the elevator industry, there will be problems in this area.

KW: You had said the Ukraine lift market needs a fundamental transformation to progress and grow. What should this fundamental transformation include and, in the end, do you think the war will have a positive or negative effect on that?

MP: The Ukrainian elevator market needs to be restored in a planned and phased manner. First of all, based on information about the condition of elevators in the regions, all elevators should be divided into four groups: 

  1. Elevators that no longer make sense to repair or modernize and should be replaced with new ones
  2. Elevators that, due to their technical condition and service life, require mandatory overhaul in the first place and after an expert examination will be able to operate safely for another 10-15 years
  3. Elevators that, according to the technical conditions of operation, need to undergo scheduled overhaul or modernization in due time so they do not end up in the first group in a few years
  4. All other elevators must be maintained to high quality, and all work on the replacement of individual components or parts must be carried out in a timely manner. 

Of course, it is impossible to solve this problem in one year. Therefore, in each region, it is necessary to develop (taking into account the inspection of elevators), a long-term plan for the restoration of the elevator industry over the next three to 10 years. The war cannot bring anything positive to the life of every Ukrainian. But, after the war, we will all wait and hope that, with reconstruction, every Ukrainian will see a positive outcome.

Elevator World Associate Editor

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