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Trusted solutions: Oliver Riess

Dormakaba is what’s known as a ‘hidden champion’. Although you don’t see its products, you may use them every day. It might be a sliding door, an office entry, a ticket gate at the airport, a safe lock or a revolving door.


But in the security systems industry, there is no hiding this champion. And with more than 150 years of experience, dormakaba is widely recognised as one of its leaders, setting a global benchmark in smart access and security solutions. In 2020, Oliver Riess, Senior Vice President Operations, celebrated 25 years with dormakaba after starting in the tool shop in Germany in 1995.

“My grandfather worked for the company, and as I was interested in engineering, I stumbled into it,” Oliver chuckles. “After working my way up to a tool designer and then into operations, I was offered an opportunity as a project manager in China.”

The timing was perfect, with major growth and development planned for the region, including the global merger of the Dorma and Kaba brands. Originally established in 1862, the Kaba company went public in 1995 before merging with Dorma in 2015 to form dormakaba.

“Both Dorma and Kaba had strong brands although slightly different product strengths,” Oliver explains. “Their product portfolios were very complementary.” After a number of successful projects, Oliver was asked to lead the post-merger integration for Asia–Pacific.

“This involved identifying synergies, group and brand communication, and settling market and legal structures,” he recalls. “The integration was very successful in APAC.”

In 2018, Oliver was appointed Senior Vice President Operations, responsible for the APAC region including India, South-East Asia, China, North Asia and the Pacific. “The company has always helped me to develop and provided opportunities to grow,” Oliver says.

Today, with 15,000 employees worldwide and subsidiaries in more than 50 countries, dormakaba’s security solutions are found in more than 130 countries. Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Changi Airport Terminal 4, the Barangaroo business district in Sydney, and Shanghai Tower (with its 50 revolving doors) in China are among the major projects in dormakaba’s Asia–Pacific portfolio.

So what does the dormakaba brand represent? “Our brand value is ‘trust’ and it’s in everything we do,” Oliver says. “There’s trust in the company, our people and our customers, who trust we’ll deliver quality product solutions. Everyone is proud to be connected to the company.”

Operational excellence

“We offer a good mix between local products and production, and our global product portfolio. With both India and China within our region, there’s a strong local demand that we try to meet,” Oliver says. He shares an example, explaining, “In Asia, huge revolving doors are preferred, so we provide these locally rather than offer standard sizing from our global product range. I think this has been a success factor in APAC.”

In terms of its geographical footprint, the company is widespread with factories, logistics centres and assembly centres serving the local markets in India, Singapore, the Pacific and China.

Everyone is proud to be connected to the company.

“We’re close to the customer in each country,” Oliver says. Operational improvements are being made at both a micro and macro level. “At a micro level, we look at how we produce our products. We’re driving continuous improvements and efficiencies in our production process,” Oliver says.

“At a macro level, we’re creating centres of competence for optimisation and to drive more insourcing.” The company is committed to fostering sustainable practices through its value chain with initiatives in labour, human rights and ethics, and a growing focus on energy usage.

“Our sustainability charter is a global initiative driven by our leadership team,” Oliver says. “We have an annual sustainability road map with training, workshops and audits.” Safety standards are also a priority and although these differ by region and country, dormakaba APAC is setting its own standards.


“We want to ensure every employee is safe in our workplace,” Oliver says. As businesses ground to a halt with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, dormakaba’s experience reflected that of other multinationals in the region.

“Ensuring the safety of our staff was our top priority. However, as our supply chain is interlinked globally, if a region is down, that may cause shortages in another region,” Oliver reveals.

“We activated our global network. Support provided to our China operation was then reciprocated to other areas of the group as they became affected. This crisis was an opportunity to showcase how we can work together within the company. If you have a well-established network, when a crisis arises you don’t need to learn how to work together.”

The importance of long-term relationships with supply chain partners became apparent during the pandemic. “When you have history that’s mutually beneficial, it helps in times of crisis,” Oliver points out. “We have strategic suppliers, whose support and knowledge we value during challenging times.”

But Oliver is realistic about the future of supply chain partners. “I think in today’s time, you can’t have every supplier with you for a long time,” he concedes. “There’s pressure, competition, and we need to have clear and strict benchmarking.”

Future goals

Curiosity is a core value for the dormakaba Group as it aims to “look ahead and out of the box” working towards innovation leadership in the security industry. The team is encouraged to watch for new trends and concepts, and help develop future-oriented solutions.

Recognised in 2018 by Thomson Reuters as a Top 100 Global Technology Leader, dormakaba is building a balanced innovation portfolio through a yearly investment in research and development of around 4% of annual turnover.

“Customers want to see less of us now,” Oliver laughs. “In the past, hotel doors would have a big and bulky lock. Today, although customers want heavy and secure, they want it within the door so it can’t be seen. That’s the advantage of our products.


“We’re also fast-forwarding into digital cloud-based technology, which is an exciting revolution for the industry.” When asked what role dormakaba APAC plays within the wider global group, Oliver answers easily.

“APAC grew very fast after the merger and while it doesn’t have the same scale as our traditional markets, there’s a great deal of potential in many developments,” he explains. “Our goal is to grow fast and profitable, drive the APAC business forward and continue to be a major player in the region.”

Airport and transportation are a key focus for dormakaba APAC, with the company providing integral products including ticketing and immigration gates, door closers and locks. With new airports being planned in India and China, this creates an exciting opportunity.

“The company culture is another priority – we are strongly driving for a ‘blue’ culture,” Oliver continues. “We define culture as blue, red and green, where red is aggressive, green is passive and blue is a coaching and collaboration-style culture where people can develop and speak out. We’re creating a place where people like to work.”

Leadership success

“As well as being a solid company, we’re long-term oriented – you can trust that we’ll be here tomorrow,” Oliver says. “There’s a great deal of trust in the people in this company. From the CEO and COO to all levels, we’re driving the culture of an open company where you can speak out and your input is valued.

“All the success I’ve had has come from my ability to build a very good team and steer them in the right direction. I think that’s what a leader has to do. After that, the team should get the credit.” With 18 years in Asia, Oliver has a good understanding of both the Eastern and Western cultures.

“I’m a bridge between both cultures – there’s still a lot of misunderstandings,” he says. “Over the last few years, there has never been a time without change, new projects or new initiatives. I enjoy the challenge. I can get my head around a project, bring people to the table, set targets and then see success.”

With both Dorma and Kaba enjoying 100-year-long histories, there’s an intrinsic pride in working for this company.

“We have a joke – actually, it’s not a joke, but when most employees walk through an entrance or a building, they will always look up and down to see if there is a dormakaba logo on the door closer,” Oliver laughs. “Even my young daughter does this. There’s a real feeling of pride.”

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