August 31, 2020
People talk about a once-in-a-lifetime event that shapes their lives. For many of us, that event is likely to be the COVID-19 pandemic. To combat the virus, entire countries have come to a halt with severe restrictions placed on movement and travel. In the process, services that usually fly under the radar have come into the limelight.
One good example is the maintenance of elevators, escalators and automated walkways. When did you last think about the role they play in keeping society running? From hospitals to airports and metro stations to high-rise apartment buildings, these tireless and often ignored machines are vital to keeping people and goods on the move – something that has become even more critical during the pandemic.
“One of the most visible customer segments during this crisis was and is hospitals, especially those treating COVID-19 patients,” says Tomio Pihkala, EVP for the New Equipment Business at KONE. “Any delay could prove disastrous and so we need to make sure that their elevators are working at peak performance. We have provided special personal protective equipment (PPE) for our technicians to make sure that they are safe and are able to keep these buildings operating.”
Going the extra mile
At a time when different parts of the world are staying indoors, unsure about the delivery and speed of various services, KONE’s employees are ensuring that its equipment users can travel in and around buildings. In many cases, technicians have been celebrated as they go about keeping equipment running.
“One of my favourite stories is about a field technician in India who was welcomed with rousing applause into an apartment complex when he turned up, clad in safety gear, to get the building’s elevators up and running again,” says Pihkala. “This crisis has highlighted, in a very poignant way, the importance of our mission to improve the flow of urban life.”
In order to honour and celebrate the accomplishments of its workers around the world, KONE produced a series of videos that allowed employees in different geographies to capture their day and show how they went about adjusting to life and work during the pandemic.
“We saw how KONE employees really go the extra mile to serve our customers and to keep our equipment running. That was a huge inspiration,” says Pihkala. “We want to show the world what our people are doing, their experiences, and make their contributions visible.”
Communication is critical for a common understanding
Effective communication, Pihkala emphasises, is critical during a crisis. He calls it key to helping KONE’s employees effectively step up and focus on the important tasks of keeping customers’ equipment and services running during the pandemic.
“Everyone just needs to know what is going on. And it is also important to provide fact-based and reliable information when we have so many different kinds of news flying around,” Pihkala says. “So, we have put a lot of focus on consistent and daily communication with different stakeholders. In fact, you could say we over-communicate. The benefit, however, is that we are able to create a common understanding of where we are and take collective decisions quickly and effectively.”
Safety is the top priority for KONE, an issue that has gained new meaning and dimensions during the pandemic. In addition to keeping customers’ equipment in safe running order, KONE has provided additional support and services, like the cloud-based predictive maintenance solution KONE 24/7 Connected Services, to those customers operating critical sites like hospitals.
KONE has also used its vast global sourcing network to ensure those employees working in the field, maintaining, repairing and installing equipment, have the necessary protective equipment to keep them and KONE’s customers safe. It has also made various arrangements to ensure physical distancing while enabling employees to work remotely and still stay connected with colleagues and customers.
As the months pass, the pandemic situation only seems to fluctuate with societies either starting to reopen or introducing measures to make reopening possible. Throughout this, KONE’s focus is on enabling a safe return to shared spaces. To this end, in May, KONE introduced a range of solutions to make buildings safer from a public health perspective, with features like self-disinfecting escalator handrails, air purification systems for elevators, and smart people flow planning to help people maintain physical distance while interacting in common spaces.
“Our strategy is to do more than what is expected from us,” says Pihkala. “Additionally, we work closely with authorities to ensure that vital services are not interrupted and have helped design ways in which high-priority industries can be safely reopened. I am very pleased to note that we have received recognition from various parties and are considered the benchmark for safety in many countries.”