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WEE Expo 2014 in Guangzhou

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The Chinese city plays host to the country’s robust elevator industry.

The 11th World Elevator & Escalator (WEE) Expo was held in the grand China Import & Export Fair Complex in Guangzhou, China, on May 13-16. It was the second time the global industry event took place in the southern Chinese metropolis, following 2012’s iteration. The expo has developed well, matching the pace of the robust elevator industry in China, along with the leading role the Chinese elevator industry has been playing in the world since the first WEE show, held in Beijing in August 1996. Prior to 2012, the event was held three times in Beijing (1996, 1998 and 2002), three times in Shanghai (1997, 2000 and 2004) and three times in Langfang (2006, 2008 and 2010). Unlike the case in any previous WEE, the venue and schedule of the next WEE event (at the newly built National Exhibition and Conference Center in Qingpu District Shanghai China, on May 10-13, 2016) was readily announced at the opening ceremony.

The giant oval-structured exhibition complex stretches nearly 1 mi. long, parallel to the Pearl River on Pazhou Island to the east of the slender Guangzhou Tower. More than a dozen motorway bridges have been built over the river, helping make the island one of the busiest commercial parts of Guangzhou. It offers magnificent views of the megacity, especially in the evening, when the tower and other landmark buildings are silhouetted with color-changing lights against the night sky. Based on the experience of hosting the well-known international Guangzhou Trade Fair events twice a year in the past, the fair complex was designed and built to meet every detailed requirement an exhibitor might have. The exhibition halls are accessible from both the main-street side and the roofed passage inside the building, which enables exhibitors to move exhibits and booth-construction materials in and out easily.

The total area of the exhibition complex is to be 700,000 m2. Its first phase is complete, providing 395,000 m2 in 16 show halls. Those on the first floor have an indoor height of 13 m for real lift installations and other machinery. The completed construction broke two world records in the building industry: the biggest floor area in a single structure and the longest (126.6-m-long) cross-span string beams used in a structure. Each show hall provides an exhibition area of 10,000 m2. The complex also features a 1-km-long roofed overhead corridor for battery-powered shuttle carriages moving passengers between the eastern exhibition entrance and Hotel Westin.

Security facilities are located at both ends of the complex. Level B serves as the central area for all organization and administration activities and information issuance; before the show opens, exhibitors register here for permits to run their booths, and during the show, visitors register here for entry permits. The long, spacious hall is equipped with 16 moving walks, 46 escalators and 29 lifts. The entrances are arranged in a line leading to the show halls down on Level One, accessible by escalators on both sides of a visitor gate. A 4.8-m-deep basement parking area on Level -1 is capable of holding more than 1,800 vehicles.

The event, themed with innovation, exchange and cooperation, proved to be another success, with more than 85,000 m2 of exhibition space and more than 800 exhibitors, including more than 100 elevator and escalator manufacturers and suppliers, and more than 700 part and component manufacturers and suppliers. The latest technology and equipment were on display to visitors, who numbered 112,000. In addition to the International Elevator Safety Forum on reforming elevator safety supervision and industrial development sponsored by China elevator-safety watchdog SESA, there were more than 30 workshops and seminars addressing high-speed elevators; intelligent control technology; new components, equipment and technology for the production of various components; the elevator and real-estate markets; and enterprise information technology.

On the morning of May 13, the opening ceremony (presided over by Zhang Lexiang) attracted some 200 VIP guests. Wang Runsheng, president of China International Trade Center (Guangzhou Trade Fair), delivered a welcome speech. Achim Hütter, president of VFA Interlift, expressed his congratulations, and Li Shoulin, president of the China Elevator Association, made the opening speech.

Having benefited from the government’s consistent opening policy and the strong domestic demand for elevators in the country, the Chinese elevator industry has developed dynamically with profound changes in the past 20 years. It features an ever-growing industrial scale and rapid upgrading process in both R&D and manufacturing capabilities. It has an annual growth rate of roughly 20%, and its total output is 633,000 elevators and escalators, of which 66,000 units were exported to 145 countries and regions, constituting approximately 70% of the world’s total new installations in 2013 alone. Meanwhile, the businesses of component manufacturing, installation, maintenance and logistics have also developed steadily, having created an industrial chain for the growth of the trade. By the end of 2013, the total number of operating installations in China exceeded three million, making up one-fourth of the world’s total. Although the per-capita shared number of installations in China has risen above the world’s average, it is still a far cry from the figures of the developed countries. Therefore, China still promises great market room and potential for years to come.

Inspired by the growing domestic market demand, the global leading manufacturers of elevators and escalators have been building R&D centers with testing towers in China. Such complexes are coveted by most manufacturers in the industry. Ever-higher testing towers have become visible landmarks in regions where the elevator industry is concentrated, particularly in the Yangtze River Delta area, covering Shanghai, southern Jiangsu and northern Zhejiang, and in the Pearl River Delta area surrounding Guangzhou and Shenzhen in Guangdong.

Another noticeable trend at the WEE Expo was the fact that almost all the major manufacturers have taken action in the global market, either by working closely with their local agents or setting up local operation facilities to handle sales and aftersales services directly in such major markets as the Middle East, Russia and India. Quality elevators and escalators and components from China have penetrated every continent. New technology demonstrated by exhibits included more user-friendly designs in cabins, car panels, indicators, interfacing systems and wireless elevator networks.

Elevator World, Inc. Executive Vice President T.Bruce MacKinnon and I had the great pleasure of meeting old friends at the Ningbo Xinda and Torin Drive booths. Just like the Chinese suppliers that are going global, many well-known brands from North America and Europe have played an active role in the Chinese market, defying fierce competition. For example, Italy-based Sematic has taken a successful market share with its featured products and services. U.S.-based GAL/Hollister-Whitney, together with its local business partner Ensota, showcased new Rope Gripper® models, for which more users in China are being found.

One of the perceivable changes in the exhibition halls over the decade is that the number of real installations has almost disappeared – your reporter did not find a single exhibit escalator to ride on, and installations taking visitors up and down were rarely seen. Experienced exhibitors seem to have wisely accepted more cost-effective ways to participate, having come to understand that the measurement of whether their participation was a success is not how much money they spent on the stand, but how many order forms were signed by customers.

Partly due to the early development of Shenzhen and Zhuhai in the 1980s and 1990s, and partly due to the fact that Guangdong people have a keen mind in doing business, Guangdong has remained one of the leading provinces in economic development in China since the 1980s. As booth-setup service is a must with such expos, contractors are busy from one expo to the next, offering to design any kind of stand. Video-equipment, furniture and potted-flower leasing seem to be routine businesses inside the show halls. The businesspeople there are like magicians capable of making any small business grow big. Guangdong people are often heard saying, “If there’s money to make, let’s make it together,” for they regard sharing opportunities in business as a commercial virtue.

Powered by the construction industry, along with the continued thriving economy, the number of both in-service and annually increasing installations by unit in Guangdong has ranked the highest in China. In 2012, Guangdong launched a reform in elevator safety administration, setting the pace to reduce accidents and injury rates of elevator accidents in public use (ELEVATOR WORLD, November 2012). In it, a random (spot-checking) inspection system is conducted, in addition to the routine yearly inspection and other administrative measures. With continued efforts by the authorized organizations and inspectors, the death and injury rates caused by elevator accidents have remained low in recent years. The National Elevator Quality Supervision and Inspection Center (Guangdong), Guangdong Institute of Special Equipment Inspection & Research and Shenzhen Institute of Special Equipment Inspection & Test all had their booths at the expo, showcasing safety devices and systems developed for field safety. In Guangdong alone, there are over 460,000 lifts and escalators in service, and nearly 100 manufacturers and more than 600 contractors doing installation and maintenance (by 2013 statistics). Challenges lie in the shortage of funds for the modernization and repair of old installations and unregulated field procedures (carelessness, irresponsibility or neglect) in maintenance and troubleshooting. These are among the main issues responsible for breakdowns and accidents of existing installations.  

An Interview with Wittur

by Annie Jiang

The Shanghai Elevator Trade Association (SETA) interviewed Wittur Elevator Components (Suzhou) Co., Ltd.’s leaders on the first day of the World Elevator & Escalator Expo. Executive Vice President Asia Corporate Marketing Sergio Biglino (SB) and Managing Director Li Shaohua (LS) talked about the company’s performance and marketing strategy in the Chinese market, and Wittur’s new developments and actions to achieve more success in China.

SETA: How has Wittur’s performance in the Chinese market been for the last couple of years, and what’s your expectation about Wittur’s market share in the components market in China in the near future?

SB: In terms of sales, we have increased 40% from two years ago; that’s our achievement in sales. I think there is much more than that, though: the company is now much stronger in such areas as management, people, competence and supply chain. In a few words, Wittur is much stronger than before; that gives us the confidence in the sustainability for business. We have state-of-the-art technology, reliable quality, premium service and solid progress, and we are preparing for further development.

SETA: Have you benefited from your new factory in China and how it works?

LS: Last year, we optimized the processing operation, mainly aiming to increase our volume to 1 million doors a year. We are not only paying attention to the volume increase, but also advancing new factory design and technology, increasing the capability for volume of different products. We focus on variety design, which is more flexible and environmentally friendly. For example, as for the painting line, we have advanced technology to deal with the wastewater included in our finishes: a new phosphate-free paint line with 100% wastewater recycling. We also use new technology to change the concept of productivity, which is totally different from two years ago. We are proud to say that all Wittur customers and government officials who visited Wittur’s new factory were surprised by it. On the whole, the factory is a big success and will support our sustainable development in China.

SETA: Nowadays, people worry more and more about elevator safety. Has Wittur made any recent efforts on product innovation for safety?

SB: When you think about safety, you have to think about where it starts and how you go along the way. Wittur products are designed on the basis of safety. We have a lot of existing safety products, such as safety gears, sliding guide shoes, overspeed governors, etc. In addition, we are increasing the people awareness of safety during the process to keep it stable, because, even if you have very good design, if the manufacturing is not qualified, you also lose all the safety. That is the reason we pay great attention to training people to increase their awareness of safety.

This new initiative, “Safety in Motion,” which we officially published on May 13, underlines the focus on safety all of us in the elevator industry need to have. We believe all passengers care about feeling safe while moving, even vertically. With Wittur, you can keep calm and just push a button, because we care about your safety, and we believe that the excellence of our solutions can be conveyed through their high factor of safety.

SETA: What’s your expectation for this exhibition, and what’s your point of view about this exhibition?

SB: What we want is to show our customer that Wittur is a global company. We are displaying a video showing 10 different factories around the world, in such places as Argentina, Spain, Australia, Brazil, Turkey, Italy, India and China. What we want to show our customers is that we have the same standards, codes, machinery, safety levels and regulations in all these factories, with the concept of safety first. We select products made in China, but not only in China. We are not able to show all our products during this exhibition, because our portfolio is very wide. We hope to give people the feel and sense of what we can do and what we can offer to the customers.

We want to stress our image as “safety” and “global”; we are different from other companies. We also want to let the customer know Wittur has a worldwide presence with local service and is able to provide the customer with timely services complying with the local market to reduce costs. Even in India and Russia, we are there, and we understand the local standards, local market and customer needs, all of which are the basis for Wittur to provide close and value-added service.

SETA: What’s Wittur’s next big move for exploring the Chinese market, and how do you plan to achieve your goal and win more customers’ trust?

SB: For the past few years, our market activities and demonstrations have achieved great success among our customers, and we still need to improve our position in China. Wittur now has 21 branches in China and has increased its sales force three times to connect with Chinese customers closely. We want to differentiate from the others, especially in technical innovation. In addition, Wittur also wants to build an “expertise” team. Employees are required to not only be familiar with products, but also have the ability to make solutions for customers. We will also distribute more news to provide the media with more information, because. . . it’s good to share with Chinese customers.

Annie Jiang is overseas manager for the Shanghai Elevator Trade Association.
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