As a result of elevators becoming ever more ubiquitous in line with the modernization of China's urbanization process, the aging of the population and the higher expectations in terms of quality of life, the safety, comfort and intelligence of the conveyances have attracted increasing attention. At the same time, the Residential Project Code (Draft for Soliciting Opinions) released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development this year, which included further specifications on the installation of elevators in residential buildings, has raised the bar in terms of requirements.
How is a high-quality elevator produced, and what characteristics should it have? On September 21, Hitachi Elevator (China) Co., Ltd. hosted Quality Open Day at its headquarters in Guangzhou. Themed “winning by always providing best in quality products and services, and taking quality management as the top priority of enterprise management”, the event included a series of instructional activities related to developing best practices around China’s Quality Month. Dozens of officials from the Department of Industry and Information Technology of Guangdong Province, the Guangdong Association for Quality and the Guangzhou Association for Quality as well as journalists, real estate developers, property management companies, and consumers, assembled at the headquarters to visit a production workshop and climb up the world’s tallest elevator test tower to observe the production process of a high-quality elevator.
Ensuring product safety and quality at the source
In recent years, there have been occasional incidents of elevator breakdowns and stoppages, and this has become a general concern of property managers and owners. The overall safety of elevators has become a key priority.
“Safety is the top priority of elevators” said Tan Xianguang, general manager of Hitachi Elevator Quality Assurance Headquarters. Despite the fierce competition across the industry, safety and quality must be given the highest priority, and no compromise can be made due to cost and time to delivery, added Tan.
From the traction machine and control cabinet to the button and door lock, all 20,000 parts of an elevator must be of the highest quality. As it is fundamental to good practices in manufacturing, the quality and safety of products must start at the source.
At the R&D center, the engineer simulated the falling process of the cabin frame in the design system. He constantly adjusted the parameters to observe the force and amount of heat generated by the elevator under different operating conditions. The system automatically checks design parameters and presents results in real time to help engineers determine the best design options.
Hitachi Elevator’s safety standards are even higher than those set by the government’s oversight authorities, while each model must be strictly verified and tested by the company before it is released for delivery.
Tan explained that “the elevator door lock must meet the service life requirement of being used more than 5.5 million times, while the static overload capacity of the elevator brake must be designed to meet a level of 190% (the national design standard is 125%) to ensure the highest reliability”. In addition, the elevator must also withstand all manner of challenges and be approved to enter the next step in production only after having passed the normal, abnormal, adverse and extreme working conditions test.
Hitachi Elevator operates four China National Accreditation Service (CNAS)-approved laboratories, with several approved testing project categories including elevator components, escalators, motors and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing. The number of recognized testing items ranks first across the whole industry.
Intelligent manufacturing process ensures quality
As China moves from a quantitative manufacturing country to a qualitative one, the country’s manufacturers have continuously upgraded their digital and intelligent applications. As an important component of the sector, the elevator segment was one of the first to do so and set the benchmarks.
Walking into Hitachi Elevator’s automated production workshop, visitors are immediately in awe of all the futuristic equipment. Six-axis robot arms are weaving up and down, AGV intelligent logistics vehicles are busily transporting parts and materials back and forth, automated touch-welding and palletizing robots are working methodically according to production standards.
“Intelligent production can not only improve efficiency, but is also the guarantor of product quality.” According to Tan, the company currently operates 17 automated production lines and 9 automated spraying lines including 34 robots, making up production lines with the most amount of automation in the industry and, by doing so, achieving high precision intelligent manufacturing.
With enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems (MES) in place, each important component of a Hitachi elevator is assigned a serial number or QR code, delivering full traceability through the storage of all full-life cycle data associated with the component. Hitachi Elevator’s traceability coding has taken the lead in connecting with the national elevator quality and safety traceability information platform, providing data sharing services for special equipment safety supervision authorities as well as for inspection and testing facilities, in addition to delivering comprehensive recording and retrieval of installation notification and use registration data at a countrywide level.
Quality testing is an important part of ensuring product quality. In the quality inspection process, the company has achieved automated inspection and detection resulting in improved efficiency and prevention of data tampering. After the data collected by the data interface passes through the quality management system (QMS), the inspection reports for performance of the materials and components can be generated to ensure the output of objective and authoritative data.
Cloud-based smart elevator
With the application of cloud services, big data and the Internet of Things, even the traditional manufacturing industry is ushering in a wave of intelligence. In the maintenance and aftersales segment of the industry, manufacturers who can provide more accurate, timely and personalized services will be among the first to seize the opportunity in the digital elevator era.
“Delivery is only the starting point, while the follow-up services and security post-delivery are also important.” Tan continued, explaining that through the establishment of a big data intelligent dynamic service model, the company has achieved whole life cycle management of elevators and their components.
Every Hitachi elevator delivered since 2013 comes equipped with a remote monitoring terminal, collecting more than 300 data points 24 hours a day. The data are transmitted to ELECLOUD cloud service center in real time, generating more than 600 pre-diagnostic pieces of information, which is equivalent to performing a dynamic onsite physical examination of the elevator, enabling management and maintenance personnel to be updated in detail on the operating condition of the elevator. At the same time, through the maintenance system and cloud service center, the platform can simultaneously deliver operational and maintenance information to the government safety and quality supervisory agency. These safety features allow for the realization of dynamic adjustments to maintenance procedures, automated dispatching of fault repair instructions, parts replacement planning and output of maintenance work information, providing powerful data and technical support for soon-to-be-finalized “on-demand maintenance” service model of the future. At present, more than 310,000 Hitachi elevators are connected to the ELECLOUD cloud service center, playing a critical role in ensuring the safe operation of elevators and improving service quality.
With the twin roll outs of the Chinese government’s Strategy of Prospering the Nation with Quality and the “double cycle” initiative (parallel development of a self-sufficient domestic economy alongside the traditional import/export model), the expectations in terms of requirements for the quality of elevators is constantly being reevaluated. With Hitachi Elevator having assumed a leadership role, the manufacturing sector is adopting digital and intelligent tools to strictly manage quality in line with the concept that safety and the quality of that safety is more important than any other aspect of the final product and its operation. By establishing the quality assurance system covering the whole life cycle of an elevator during which the quality of the product and the services offered in tandem with the product are constantly being improved, Hitachi Elevator has taken the lead in setting an example for the government’s Strategy of Prospering the Nation with Quality, and empowering all to achieve and enjoy a better quality of life.
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