Finnish KONE Keeps Lifting Asia

The Finnish elevator company KONE celebrates its 100 years anniversary in the world this year. In Southeast Asia, KONE has been active for over 30 years. A big anniversary happens very rarely and for that reason it is a good time to tell your history and celebrate says Arttu Salmenhaara, Managing Director for KONE in Southeast Asia.

KONE started their history 100 years ago as a small Finnish company which then merged into a Scandinavian company, then expanded into the European and North American markets. For the past 30 years, KoNE has also been well established in Asia. Actually one third of all KONE’s new equipment sales are from the Asian markets.

And the future for KONE looks bright according to Arttu Salmenhaara. According to him some of the mega-trends in society are favourable for KONE. Especially trends like urbanisation and population ageing demand for more elevators and escalators:
“Big cities mean bigger and taller houses, and population ageing makes a need for easy transportation. And that means there is a long term demand for our products,” he says adding that another factor is the rising awareness of safety in Asia, and a lot of older elevators in the region need repair or replacement.

Booming economies need to be lifted
Another factor that is a benefit to KONE are the fast growing economies in Asia. Big scale construction projects are booming all over Asia. One of the most exceptional is the construction of Marina Bay Sands Luxury Hotel Resort and Casino in Singapore:
“A project of this scale with more than 2500 hotel rooms is simply not possible without elevators,” says the Finnish elevator boss. And there certainly seems to be something about it when you take a gaze at this enormous three pillar monster of a house with something that looks like gigantic surfboard on top.

I met with him and two of his employees, project director Vincent Teng and technical manager Paul Hendry at one of the biggest KONE projects so far: The Marina Bay Sands.

The construction of Marina Bay Sands has been one of the most special and complicated in the world according to Arttu Salmenhaara. With excitement in his eyes, he tries to explain how the huge building was made:
“Nothing is built straight, first one part of the building was made leaning to one side and then the other side was built straightening the other side up, literally moving the building,” he says.

Up and down at Marina Bay Sands
“The elevators are built as jump lifts, which means they grow with the building. But just like the building the shaft was inclining and then later in the construction process straightened up,” explains KONE’s technical manager Paul Hendry, who has joined us seated in the delicate open restaurant-bar area at the luxurious hotel.

“Another fascinating fact is the speed in which the project has been done, in only two and half years it went from soil to full functional luxury hotel,” he adds.

“And not less than 18.000 workers were working on the project at the highest point” says Vincent Teng, KONE’s project director at Marina Bay Sands.

In Singapore, the construction business is booming, and for that reason workers were hired from both China and India. But also the size of the Marina Bay Sands is very rare. Even though KONE in Southeast Asia has many big projects in the future, most of them will not be bigger than one-fifth of this project.
“Before we started the project I was actually a bit scared like ‘Can we do this, can we really do this mega project,’ but we could,” says a smiling project director Vincent Teng.

The numbers
The exact number of people moving machines at Marina Bay Sands are 136 elevators in total and 10 escalators. 13 jump lifts and 10 low rise elevators up to 22 floors. In one building. All finished in 15 months.

The main elevators run at 7 meters per second. And the VIP elevators 8 meters per second, in fact the fastest in Singapore according to project director Vincent Teng.
“The biggest joy is to come here and press the button and it all works,” says technical manager Paul Hendry.

And it does indeed work, when we take the elevator to the rooftop bar and restaurant. In seconds we are at the top of the more than 200 meter tall building, which has a huge swimming pool, restaurant, bar, and palm trees at the rooftop.

When we go down again, we walk the stairs for two floors and then take the even faster VIP elevator and Vincent Tang reminds us that we are in the fastest elevator in Singapore running 8 meters per second, which is felt in both stomach and ears when we again stand at the ground floor.

Does the elevator boss take the stairs?
Yes – the Finnish elevator boss Arttu Salmenhaara and his employees do occasionally take the stairs, because it can sometimes be more convenient and it is healthy too the Finn says, in fact he and his team did one time take the stairs all the way up to the top of Marina Bay Sands.

Read more about the amazing construction, and see more photos at

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