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China's elevator market rises inexorably on back of local demand

As the world's elevator factory in terms of output and sales, the World Elevator and Escalator Expo in Guangzhou showcased a market that was slowly maturing, with a renewed emphasis on product safety and environmental concerns.

Photo: Uplifting experience: installation in progress.
Uplifting experience: installation in progress.

The World Elevator and Escalator Expo in Guangzhou saw a wide array of related products on show, attracting exhibitors from across the world, including China, the United States, Japan, Italy and Australia. By general consensus, products that offered improved safety, quality, a price advantage or were custom-made had a distinct advantage in this crowded and competitive market.

While eco-friendly and customised elevators attracted considerable attention, a number of other products also proved popular, including a huge range of elevators, escalators and moving walkways. There were also platform lifts for the disabled, service lifts, elevator speed governors and steering wheels, as well as display and signal installations.

The latest statistics show that China has become the world's factory for elevators, ranking first both in terms of output and sales volume. As of the end of 2013, China had about three million elevators in operation. In the same year, the country's output and sale of elevators increased by 550,000 units compared to 2012.

Elevator sales climb rapidly

The Shanghai Hundred New Material Technology Co showcased a wide range of elevator door panels at the expo. Representative Feng Zhenjun said the company started producing elevator door panels made of composite materials in 2010. Output has since increased every year, with an annual growth rate of about 30%. Last year, the company produced 12,000 tonnes of elevator door panels with the figure expected to climb to 15,000 tonnes this year. Feng said he was, in general, very optimistic about the prospects for the mainland's elevator industry.

The Beijing Xin Sha Da Tong Elevator Engineering Co is primarily an agent for upmarket Italian brand home elevators. Company representative Sun Xiaoning said the domestic elevator market was developing rapidly, led by greater numbers of wealthy individuals who were extending their interest in interior design to elevator décor. At the same time, demand for residential elevators in the mainland real estate market has also been on the rise.

Naturally, elevator safety is a major concern, particularly as deaths and injuries caused by poorly-maintained and ageing elevators have been regularly reported in the media. On 1 January 2014, China implemented the Special Equipment Safety Law, regulating the production, installation, operation, use, repair, maintenance, testing and inspection of "special" equipment, including elevators. The law is seen as putting an end to dangerous elevator-related practices, with many expo exhibitors saying the industry was now paying more attention to improving product safety, while the manufacturers of low quality products were being edged out of the market.

Hundred New Material's Feng Zhenjun said the company placed great emphasis on research and developing safe composite material elevator door panels, with testing procedures now far more rigorous. Compared with traditional stainless steel panels, Feng said the composite panels register less vibration, are quieter and have a longer life span.

More innovation and better materials

Suzhou Genesis Elevator Systems Co produces and markets elevator door systems. Company representative Wan Tao said their products are on sale in more than 30 countries and regions, giving them a diverse customer base. Once again, he emphasised the importance of producing quality products in order to maintain a good reputation.

Innovation was also seen as a requisite foe success in the sector. Jiangsu Adin New Materials Co Ltd displayed several of its "MC nylon elevator transmission wheel" products at the expo. According to a company representative, these had friction coefficient 8.8 times lower than steel and 8.3 times lower than copper, in addition to being anti-corrosive, wear-proof and long-lasting, as well as very safe.

Jiangsu Naian Special Wire and Cable Co Ltd, founded in 1995, prides itself on its elevator safety record, with its flat elevator cables generally accepted to be of a superior standard. According to the company, its cable products can withstand 3 million simulated torsion stress tests and still show no signs of damage. The cables are also high-temperature resistant, and burn and oil resistant, which explains why they are so popular, particularly with companies that service Fortune 500 companies.

Photos: Multi-storey mechanisms: elevator controls on display.
Multi-storey mechanisms: elevator controls on display.

According to Sun Xiaoning, a senior manager with Beijing Xin Sha Da Tong Elevator Engineering, increasing affluence is wreaking huge changes in the market. He said: "When people become wealthy they are no longer satisfied with mass produced goods, but instead prefer more personalised products and they place more emphasis on custom-made products. For those industry players manufacturing and selling quality products this presents, without a doubt, enormous business opportunities."

At the expo the company exhibited an IGV home elevator cab interior decorated with a glittering "crystal waterfall" studded with Swarovski crystals against reflective glass-coated panels. The cost of such interior decoration is at least Rmb200,000 – not including the price of the actual elevator.

Sun said IGV is a foreign luxury brand with its elevators custom-made according to the size, design and components requirements of the buyer. He believes this is precisely the level of service and attention to detail that Chinese buyers are now looking for. For the rich and famous, such elevators are a sign of their social status. Even so, Sun admitted the number of domestic manufacturers at this level is limited and there is plenty of scope for improvement. Sun said his company started selling IGV elevators three years ago and, in the first half of the year, had sold more than 100 units.

Environmentally-friendly and eye-catching

Many exhibitors said using green materials to make elevators and related equipment is the subject of increased demand, as the cost is also lower than for traditional materials. This allows for wider profit margins while also meeting being environmentally-friendly requirements.

Shanghai Hundred New Material Technology's composite elevator door panels are made of stainless steel and alloys, which are more eco-friendly than traditional stainless stain panels that contain nickel, according to Feng Zhenjun. As nickel processing causes significant pollution, the composite zinc galvanised panels are a significant improvement and much less damaging to the environment. They also cost less to produce, especially as the price of stainless steel has been rising.

Among the most eye-catching products at the expo was Guangzhou Ruisong Technology Co Ltd's industrial robots. These were programmed to assemble all the components of an elevator without requiring any manual assistance. The robots, which significantly reduce labour efficiency and increase efficiency, proved a huge draw.

Elsewhere at the fair, the Foshan Wabon Electronic Technology Co was promoting its LCD elevator touch screen panels that display pictures and videos. At the same time, the Hebei Jinbo Intelligent Elevator Equipment Co Ltd was showcasing its intelligent elevator access system, which does not require swiping with an IC card, as the reader at the back of the elevator cab can automatically detect the integrated circuit card. This means the user can automatically be transported to the floor they live or work on without any other interaction.

Photo: On the up: the 2014 World Elevator and Escalator expo.
On the up: the 2014 World Elevator and Escalator expo.

The World Elevator and Escalator Expo 2014 was held at the China Import and Export Fair Complex in Pazhou, Guangzhou, from 13-16 May.

Xing Ping, Special Correspondent, Beijing

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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