This Readers' Platform explains that

by Jan König

If you search for “digital transformation” on the internet, you’ll find the following on Wikipedia:

“’Digital transformation’ refers to an ongoing change process which has its roots in digital technologies, and which describes a digital revolution that affects society as a whole and — from an economic perspective — companies in particular. The aforementioned digital technologies are being developed in increasingly rapid succession, thereby paving the way for yet more new digital technologies. . . . The protagonists in this process are companies, individuals and associations, scientific bodies (via research and teaching) and the state itself.”

You can also find a quote from German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2014: “We have the opportunity to create a digital economic miracle. The question is, whether it will take place in Germany.”

With a specific focus on our sector and the companies within it, we are discussing such topics as Industry 4.0, cybersecurity, the cloud, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, data ownership, edge computing, predictive maintenance, blockchain, building information modeling, virtual reality, digital test methods, sensor technology and real-time monitoring of lifts and components. Faced with this abundance of topics, one immediate issue is the availability of the necessary resources and specialist expertise, plus the extent to which one can define framework conditions and interfaces.

In the meantime, these tasks have also been identified by associations and various official bodies. Yet, this work is still in its infancy. Even the main emphases and accompanying timeframes have hitherto been difficult to predict. Our industry’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are now explicitly called upon to play their part, yet the various development processes with their sometimes- considerable complexity can represent major challenges, especially for the above-mentioned group. In the context of implementing the necessary changes, one must also look at priorities within companies: European lift associations have already set up (or are establishing) committees and/or working groups, and the same applies to Germany (and VFA-Interlift, in particular).

To progress this issue, VFA-Interlift e.V. has established a Digitalisation and New Technologies department and will be launching a workshop on this topic. Moreover, there is huge interest in this issue, not least of all from multinational corporations. This should come as no great surprise. After all, these companies’ strategic directions and alliances, together with their technical solutions, have been featured in the media for quite a while now, and their interest in complying with standards they have already established for themselves ought not to be taken for granted.

The introduction of such standards into the market is also fully underway, so the technological and commercial advantage enjoyed by these companies is growing. Larger SMEs have already recognized this development and are working with varying degrees of intensity on solutions and their implementation in the field.

"Our SMEs are now explicitly called upon to play their part, yet the various development processes with their sometimes-considerable complexity can represent major challenges.

Most SMEs in our lifts sector lack the resources to pursue the necessary steps. This is probably also due to the fact that people often fail to see the added value and associated return on investment. Nevertheless, “predictive maintenance” offers added value to operators and lift companies. For example, preventive maintenance can markedly reduce the need for costly emergency services.

It’s clear that the way forward for industry in general, and our sector in particular, will rely heavily on digital transformation — a process that can no longer be reversed. At the end of the day, the only question is at what point in time the respective companies will jump on the bandwagon.

The necessary products (for implementation in SMEs, too) will be presented in Augsburg, Germany, at Interlift 2019. VFA-Interlift will be devoting itself to this area by arranging its own special exhibition, which — with the involvement of member companies — will examine some exciting topics.

Jan König, Dipl.-Ing. (FH), has been a technical officer at VFA-Interlift since 2012. He holds a seat on all the association’s standardization committees and on VDI commissions. At the international level, he works in Brussels for the European Lift Association. He can be contacted at email: