Orona’s Aspirations

Orona headquarters in Hernani, Spain

Spain-based global player has achieved its goals and set its sights even higher.

One out of every 10 lifts installed in Europe is by Orona, which exports to more than 100 countries, is present in 11 countries and has more than 5,000 employees. What was founded by a handful of cement plant workers in the 1960s as a cooperative focused on boiler fabrication shifted to the vertical-transportation (VT) industry in the early 1970s and has not looked back since. A focus on cooperative values and principles is all that remains of the boilermaker enterprise, but those values and principles continue to propel Orona forward. Orona Export Director Igor Etxabe (IE) talked with your author (KW) about where the company has been and where it’s headed in an ever-more digital and environmentally conscious environment.

KW: Tell me about the origin of Orona and what it is today.

IE: Orona is based in Hernani, Spain (the Basque Country), where it manufactures equipment and provides service to customers all over the world. The story of Orona’s cooperative society [an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise][1] began in 1964 with the formation of Orona S. Coop, an enterprise that was, at first, dedicated to boiler fabrication. It was created by cement plant workers, who, with other entrepreneurs, started a partner-cooperative venture.

In the past 55 years, a cooperative founded by 20 people has become a group with 5,300 employees with a presence in 11 countries. Today focusing on lifts, escalators and moving walks, we export to more than 100 countries, and our annual invoices total approximately EUR741 million (US$818 million). In terms of lift enterprises, this puts us in the top 10 worldwide and top five in Europe for lift enterprises.

The main production center, Orona, is at our Hernani headquarters. It consists of 70,000 m2 of floorspace and a 70-m-tall test tower. Orona boasts the biggest production capacity for complete lifts in Europe. In addition, we have a production center in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the Basque Country capital. It has a surface area of 27,700 m2 with the ability to expand by 8,000 m2. Together, these industrial centers have annual production capacity of 25,000 complete lifts.

We know the criteria an installation must meet and can develop solutions for modernization, installation, repair and replacement for every brand and model in the market. This familiarity with other brands lends itself to closer relationships with our clients.

KW: What are major milestones in Orona’s evolution?

IE: A few years after it was founded, Orona’s partners realized the growth potential of the VT industry and entered the lift sector. At the beginning of the 1970s, we began opening maintenance offices throughout Spain. The 1980s and 1990s were key for starting export activities.

In 2000, Orona went from a local to a global enterprise, as it had the capacity to develop its own technology. In 2002, the Orona Elevator Innovation Centre was created. This is a research center where Orona and its strategic partners have more than 150 engineers focused on technological innovation. In 2005, a strategic alliance was formed with Electra Vitoria S. Coop, which led to an increase in capacity. In 2006, Orona started the process of international consolidation, establishing a bigger presence in 11 countries in Europe and South America.

In 2014, coinciding with Orona’s 50th anniversary, the technological park Orona Ideo was launched. Here, every stakeholder taking part in the innovative process is gathered. In 2018, a strategic alliance with Electra Vitoria culminated in the merging of the cooperative societies. That milestone consolidated, even more, the cooperative experience that has been essential to facing future challenges.

KW: Tell me about the various facilities.

IE: In addition to the Hernani and Vitoria production centers, the corporate headquarters is in Orona Ideo, which we view as an innovative ecosystem in which enterprise, investigation, instruction and service to the community (through Fundación Orona) converge.

Orona Ideo is a 50,000-m2 complex composed of four buildings with an 11,000-m2 addition. One of the buildings is Orona Zero, our headquarters building, where 350 employees are based.

KW: What are Orona’s products and services?

IE: Orona offers a wide range of products and services including solutions for maintenance, replacement and modernization of lifts, escalators and moving walks. We produce lifts for existing buildings that lack an elevator and for newly built buildings. Orona products are designed to cover all VT needs for people and loads in all building types in a comfortable, safe and efficient manner.

Innovation characterizes the equipment the company offers and is, without a doubt, a key element for the good positioning we have internationally, especially in the residential and commercial markets. Orona seeks to create installation and maintenance solutions that are more efficient and competitive than those of the other OEMs. Lifts are provided with solutions that reduce energy consumption in every phase of the product lifecycle — design, manufacturing, assembly, operation and end of life.

Orona’s service offering is based on its wide knowledge of the market. We have great experience at the local level, reinforced by a qualified global support team all around the world. We know the criteria an installation must meet and can develop solutions for modernization, installation, repair and replacement for every brand and model in the market. This familiarity with other brands lends itself to closer relationships with our clients.

KW: The first phase of the Orona EU project, which established several key goals, was approved at last year’s annual general meeting (AGM). With the first year of the first phase (2019-2022) coming to a close, how is that going? What strides has the company made toward:

  • Bringing revenue up to EUR900 million (US$1.01 billion)
  • Increasing headcount to more than 6,000
  • Addressing challenges of digital transformation and innovation

IE: The company has progressed in key areas toward its 2022 objectives. The commitment and involvement of our people were reinforced with the launch of Orona University, the corporative university.

Additionally, the enterprise is investing heavily in digital transformation and innovation. It has created a digitization area that has developed technologically advanced VT solutions — particularly those involving sensors and connectivity — that give added value to our portfolio.

Besides the approval of the first Orona EU project at the AGM last April, the annual accounts of the company’s previous financial year were approved. In 2018, Orona achieved EUR741 million (US$818 million) in sales, a 5.10% increase over the previous year. In the international market, we represented 60% of total invoices. After the first semester of 2019, everything indicates the company will meet the objectives expected for this tax year.

Our objective is to double our dimension in Europe, while maintaining integrity in manufacturing, sales, installation and conservation.

KW: In which countries is Orona present currently, and how did it establish a presence in these markets? The plan is to be in 14 countries — three more than currently — by 2030, correct?

IE: Since 2006, the company has acquired a great number of enterprises, which has consolidated its presence in Europe. Nowadays, through 30 enterprises, it is present in 11 countries.

Orona has good positioning in Atlantic Europe, standing out in countries such as England, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Portugal, Norway and Spain, which puts it in a good position for growth. Our objective is to double our dimension in Europe, while maintaining integrity in manufacturing, sales, installation and conservation. Orona seeks to reinforce its position in Central Europe, where for some time now it has enjoyed success through its dealer network.

KW: Tell me about progress Orona has made toward contributing to the European Union (EU) Directive on Energy Consumption in Buildings. Have any of the Orona-developed net-zero elevators been installed?

IE: Buildings account for approximately 40% of energy consumption in Europe. Orona has successfully reduced the energy consumption of an ordinary lift by as much as 75% over the past few years, including energy-saving solutions, such as efficient LED lighting and automatic car lighting switch off, as standard. In this way, we have made an important contribution to the fulfillment of the EU Directive on Energy Consumption in Buildings, which stipulates that all new structures within the EU must be “nearly zero-energy buildings” by the end of 2020.

Orona has three self-sustainable lifts installed at its headquarters. The elevators are installed in the Orona Zero building, a structure designed with energy storage systems and photovoltaic panels used to generate renewable energy. The elevators use these systems to achieve net-zero energy consumption.

An analysis of data over a five-month period suggests the building’s energy storage capacity and reduced electricity requirements brought significant savings. The independent lifting principle allows for up to 85% savings on electricity costs and net-zero energy consumption.

Orona was awarded with the first Extraordinary Point for Innovation in Lift Technology by the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM®) ES for Ideo.

Orona development’s main building, Orona ZERO, achieved the BREEAM energy-efficient certification for lifts. This is an extra recognition reserved for design teams and manufacturers of products that incorporate components and/or procedures beyond the technological forefront as recognized by BREEAM, regardless of the classification to which the building is ascribed.

KW: What do you believe sets Orona apart from the other major OEMs?

IE: Orona is a cooperative in constant transformation, globally integrated, implicated with social and environmental challenges, which drives us to make sustainable buildings a reality and create richness in and bring value to the environment.

The company has its own business profile. Firstly, it is different from the multinationals in the sector because of its management model, based on cooperative values and principles. People are the main distinguishing element as partners/workers, and our DNA is based on three values: commitment, trustworthiness and agility.

Secondly, we stand out from local and regional enterprises due to our business structure and export models, which allow us to have our own teams in many countries, to have the ability to supply every component of a lift. This gives us a great level of autonomy.

Orona is able to manage the complete manufacturing and implementation of a lift, from design to equipment delivery. In addition, our export clients gain value thanks to the scale and knowhow developed by Orona through its presence in every stage on the value chain of the lift business in 11 countries.

KW: What is Orona’s business outlook for the next five years?

IE: Established goals include revenue of more than EUR900 million (US$988.6 million) and 6,000 employees in the next three years. The company seeks to face the challenges the sector presents in Europe, primarily regarding digital transformation and innovation. By 2030, the company aims to be present in more than 14 countries, with 8,000 employees and a turnover close to EUR1.2 billion (US$1.3 billion). We hope to double employment at our corporate headquarters to 700.

[1] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative
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