For almost 150 years, Swiss-based Schindler has been a world leader for elevators, escalators, and moving walks. With a reach that spans roughly 100 countries and over 1,000 offices, the company has operated in the MENA region for seven years and previously with distributors. As skyscrapers were erected all across the region in the wake of the oil boom, Schindler Middle East was perfectly positioned to deliver its long-standing expertise. Far from complacent, the company is focused on fine-tuning its competitive strategy, expanding territorially and developing its talent base.
Schindler’s remit covers the manufacture, installation, and servicing of elevators, escalators and moving walks, as well as the added ability to modernise legacy installations. As well as delivering the most high-tech engineering in the industry, the company also specialises in providing building transit solutions in line with the latest safety and reliability standards.
Through a series of offices, distributors, warehouses and affiliates, Schindler Middle East has operations in Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Oman, and Jordan. All told, the region is served by seven main branches and six distributors, as well as training centres in Jeddah and Dubai. In order to ensure that this offering consistently delivers for customers, the company has a strong improvement programme in place, which brings together all aspects of its operations, spearheaded by the company’s R&D department.
Matteo Napoli, UAE Managing Director explains: “We have a culture of continuous improvement - we never stop looking for improvements to our operations, our processes, and our products. Mostly we are delivering input related to the field in order to provide continuous feedback on the process, material, and tools so that these can be improved and we can bring more innovation.
“By sending information back to our headquarters and every branch in each territory makes us aware of these improvements. We value customer feedback because it pushes us to continuously improve our operations.”
Schindler is also in the process of further aligning its distribution channels to more closely meet the needs of its customer base. Not only does a distributor need to make economic sense for the company, it also needs to meet the company’s stringent standards, which includes a particular focus on health and safety.
Schindler’s industry necessitates that its 3,000 Middle East employees are not only well-trained in health and safety measures, but also a variety of essential technical skills, which is why the company has developed a robust talent management programme. Alongside its holistic training protocols, Schindler also enables its employees to progress to new levels of responsibility. Alongside pathways to senior management, members of the workforce are also able to develop their expertise across the company and specialise in a variety of fields.
Philippe Boue, Schindler’s Middle East Managing Director explains: “Our business is a people business, especially when it comes to maintenance. We developed management systems to make sure that our field technicians are safe and that they live the values of our company.”
He adds that Schindler combines its years of experience with the latest best practices: “We make a distinction between technical training and general training. Everything related to technical training is done in house. We have more almost 150 years of history, expertise, and experience that is passed on in training courses but when it comes to new innovations or general training we use a mix of in-house and external. When it comes to training for our leaders and senior executives we may often source technical training from business schools to get fresh views.”
The company still bears the surname of co-founder Robert Schindler and, as Napoli explains, retains a strong sense of identity: “This is very peculiar market compared to many others in the rest of the world, because we are all basically expatriates. One of the most important values is that we are a family company and we want employees to feel part of the Schindler family.
“To attract, retain and motivate our employees we have a solid training plan, which encourages job rotation; we have a retention plan for loyal employees company with a rewards package.”
Many companies would become complacent with such an established and developed offering as Schindler, but it is keen to remain in control of its destiny and therefore has a number of initiatives in place to keep ahead of its competition. An example of this is its willingness to utilise technology to facilitate communication; via its Field Link platform, engineers are able to utilise mobile technology to order parts and liaise with the company call centre.
Napoli adds: “Technology is, of course, a clear success factor in our operations to differentiate our product and services from the competition. Lately, we have invested a lot in terms of digitalisation.
“We have embraced the digital world and we now see technology as more than just tools or gadgets - we are really focused on embedding our processes to make us more efficient and more competitive.”
The company, Boue explains, is also in the process of refining some of its supply chain processes in order to operate more efficiently: “We are also working on continuous improvement programs for our subcontractors in order to deliver the best quality for every single project.”
Always keen to keep abreast of future technologies, Schindler Middle East is engaged in a number of innovative, high-profile ventures. Most prominent of these is the Solar Impulse project which aims to develop long-range, solar powered aircraft; 2015 saw the longest solar powered flight in history between Abu Dhabi and Hawaii. The company has also been instrumental in the development of a solar powered elevator, which will enable businesses to seamlessly reduce their carbon footprints.
Schindler Middle East has developed an already strong presence in a region that has experienced substantial growth, and it is set to continue on this trajectory. Having invested considerable time and resources in ensuring that the business is firmly in line with the demands of its customers, the company has been able to demonstrate to the world that it is home to some of the most talented and innovative engineers on the planet, and that its position is very much secured for years to come.