Elevating to a higher standard

An elevator company with branches all over the world has been making a name for itself in the South African marketplace.
The mission of ThyssenKrupp is “to continue to grow strategically and profitably. Innovation and quality are hallmarks of our products and services and assures lasting customer relationships,” and it rings true throughout their quality workmanship.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator, a German company, is one of the world’s leading elevator companies. It has had its South African subsidiary for over twenty years and the South African landscape has proven to be a great success for ThyssenKrupp. Worldwide, the company has over 42,500 employees in 900 locations. The South African branch, though extremely successful, is of a small proportion with only 77 current employees in the division to date.

The South African outlet has been making waves within the elevator industry in South Africa and working on a number of notable projects. The branch imports, installs, manufactures and maintains lifts and escalators according to John Wainright, Managing Director of ThyssenKrupp in South Africa.

The business structure of ThyssenKrupp is set up in six operating units. Four concentrate on the regional elevator business in Central/Eastern/Northern Europe, Southern Europe/Africa/Middle East, Americas and Asia Pacific. The two other units focus on escalators and passenger boarding bridges as well as stair and platform lifts, and some for private homes.

Notable projects

ThyssenKrupp has been working on a number of notable projects. For a relatively small operation, ThyssenKrupp South Africa’s expertise and services has landed them some very prestigious and coveted jobs within the industry.

One such job is the elevator installation the company provided for South Africa’s first high-speed rail route, the Guatrain rail project. The route runs from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to Sandton. The train travels at speeds up to 160 kilometres per hour, and takes only fifteen minutes. It is unprecedented in South Africa and ThyssenKrupp’s installations for the rail prove its excellent service.

The rail opened up for the first phase of the World Cup, bringing great attention to the new high-speed transportation link and ThyssenKrupp.
Wainright says, “Currently, the train project is our biggest one.” He also noted the increase in business during the world cup which was highly beneficial to the company.

ThyssenKrupp will continue to work on the second phase of the high speed rail which will be extended to Pretoria. They will provide a total of 24 escalators and 27 elevators for five stations on the Gautrain rail network.

Future growth

The company’s growth structure is relatively natural with hopes to continue to contribute to the South African elevator and escalator industry.

Wainright says, “We are growing organically and turning out new projects. We are continuously adding new installations and units into our portfolio of work.”
The company to date doesn’t have a factory in South Africa and imports their products from other countries instead of working in-house.

“They are all made in factories around the world. We get equipment imported from China, Brazil, Spain, Germany and France from worldwide companies,” he says.
ThyssenKrupp has no plans of manufacturing in South Africa. Because the South African economy is relatively small it is difficult to compete with larger players like Chinese manufacturers. Though some lift companies were at one point manufacturing in South Africa they ceased production, mainly, because of this reason.

“Twenty years ago before ThyssenKrupp entered South Africa lift companies manufactured locally but they have now all shut down their manufacturing plants,” says Wainwright. “It’s very difficult to compete. We are a very small economy and it is more efficient to import from worldwide factories.”

The company also has an in-house training program and a knowledge transfer program that nurtures employees and foreign technicians. “They come mainly from Spain and Portugal to work with our teams and learn about our operations,” he says.

Competiveness

The business prides itself on having the best equipment possible. A major stand out for ThyssenKrupp South Africa is the service methodology and the amount of employees they have working on units in comparison to other big name companies.

“We have more people working on fewer units than other companies,” says Wainwright. Our competitors, for example, will have one technician for over 60 to 100 lifts and we’ll have two technicians for fifty lifts or at least one technician and an assistant. We have more man power per lift than other companies.”

Wainwright adds that regardless of the company size, they are extremely committed to service. “We are a small player in the market but we are committed to growth and to service and we are looking to organically grow with those core principles,” he says.

ThyssenKrupp’s exceptional worldwide reputation stands for itself, but it is in the quality of service and product that their South African market has thrived. From outstanding projects like the one-of-a-kind high speed rail they have been commissioned to provide escalators for, the small branch is making a name for themselves and will continue to do so within the escalator and elevator industry in South Africa.