Innovation has its advantages in lift repair too

A phone app allows Otis service technician Kumar H. Prasanna to conduct lift checks, including on noise and vibration levels. PHOTO: SHERATON TOWERS

Mr Kumar H. Prasanna whips out his iPhone and enters a lift. But unlike others who are reading their WhatsApp messages, the Otis lift technician is checking on the noise and vibration levels of the lift.

Within minutes, the 35-year-old is able to ascertain what is wrong, where previously he might have needed to wait for equipment to measure the lift's ride quality. Another service app provided by the company lets him examine the lift's "health" and its past check-ups.

The new technology, which is implemented in phases, is part of the company's drive to implement a digital transformation, and it comes amid a manpower crunch in the lift industry in Singapore.

In February last year, the Building and Construction Authority estimated that 1,000 technicians were needed in the next three years to meet the demands in the lift and escalator industry. A tripartite committee was set up by the Government with industry partners, including Otis, to support manpower development in the sector.

There are currently more than 2,000 technicians who maintain about 63,000 lifts and 6,000 escalators here.

"Innovation is in our DNA," said Mr Tony Black, president of Otis Service. "And the digital transformation is a big part of that."

He added: "It's really focused on people. Technology is an enabler for our people to provide quality service for our customers."

When asked by The Straits Times if older, less tech-savvy lift technicians here would warm up to the use of such apps, he said that Otis would specially train some technicians as "champions" for a peer-to-peer learning environment.

The company is also using big data analytics to predict lift breakdowns so that mechanics can do pre-emptive fixes.

Mr Black hopes that the use of apps and technology will draw more young people here into the industry, something other lift companies are aiming for as well.

Fujitec Singapore president Sugumaran N. Pillai, who was president of the Singapore Lift and Escalator Contractors and Manufacturers Association for 16 years up to last year, said that it is hard to draw Singaporeans into the industry.

"There is a wrong perception that the industry is more dangerous or difficult. There are many safety measures in place," he said.

He added that his company has "tried everything possible" to attract people but there are still manpower problems.

"It is a very difficult situation when the average age of technicians is exceeding 45 or 50 and new people are not coming in.

"It is a problem not just of today, but also of the future."

Derek Wong

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2018, with the headline Innovation has its advantages in lift repair too. Subscribe