KONE may have a history spanning more than a century, but it doesn’t confine itself to traditional methods and instead prides itself on innovation. Started in 1910 as a machine repair shop in Helsinki, Finland, KONE is now one of the world’s leading elevator and escalator providers, present in more than 60 countries.
The company’s vision is to offer the best ‘people flow’ experience by developing and delivering solutions that enable people to move smoothly, safely and comfortably. It employs more than 57,000 employees around the world, aiming to “help cities become better places to live in”.
KONE entered the Hong Kong market in 1980. Its Managing Director in Hong Kong, Henry Cheung, says the company is continuously looking for new ideas to keep customers moving from one KONE machine to the next.
“It’s similar to the rail or airline industry where people have the means to go somewhere,” he says. “We’re working with the customer, we are listening to them, and these ideas become our product or surface.”
KONE’s latest technology is “so intelligent, it’s predictive”. With an eye on safety, the 24/7 Connected Services means predicting, maintaining and acting before breakage. The company’s elevators and escalators can now “speak their minds” and keep technicians one step ahead of what’s happening. The result is fewer faults, improved safety, full transparency and ease of mind for users.
With challenge comes change
Henry joined KONE at the perfect time, when the company was looking for a fresh perspective. The management team was recruiting a few key members from outside the company and even the industry. “They were looking for someone with new ideas,” Henry says. “They decided that outsider thinking would be the right fit.”
Henry was appointed Managing Director in September 2018. In the first five months, his focus was on changing the team’s mindset from a traditional to a more modern approach.
“The first thing we did was get a new office,” Henry says. “We are embracing activity-based working, and now we have an open-plan set-up. We have discussion corners, which people make good use of.
“We are one of the early adopters of this concept among businesses in Hong Kong in the lifts and escalators industry. It’s a new way of thinking, but the staff are excited about it.”
In his time as Managing Director, Henry has faced challenges like any other executive, particularly with finding stability in an unstable economy.
“Our economy’s structure is highly dependent on China. If China does well, we do too. The challenge is how to maintain our success if there are negative economic factors. We have almost 1,000 staff in Hong Kong right now. We must ensure that we are capable of sustaining them.”
At the same time, the company is undergoing expansion, so Henry must recruit new staff and train them to be qualified engineers. Another challenge is overall system safety. “The first thing we do is safety checks. Safety is of utmost importance. So, safety checks are something we do every day.”
To help ease the pressure of day-to-day concerns, Henry leans on a reliable group of suppliers to ensure that they are using top-quality parts for their products. He acknowledges that without the suppliers, the company would not be able to do what they do.
“We can’t win the customer without our suppliers,” Henry says. “They are part of our team and if they have any concerns, we will do whatever we can to help them.”
“We can’t win the customer without our suppliers. They are part of our team.”
In his spare time, Henry enjoys playing golf – a KONE tradition – and listening to music and travelling with his family. Last month, he and his wife visited their 40th country. “I’ve been to many places, such as London, the European Alps and China to see the Silk Road,” he says. “But if I had to choose my favourite destination it has to be backpacking around the city of Hong Kong.”
The smart city
KONE boasts an open-minded culture. As a Scandinavian company, Henry says it is particularly innovative and it works efficiently and effectively. Its Hong Kong operations are focused on assisting the country in becoming a smart city.
The government is currently pursuing smart city development and is looking to “improve urban managements, enhance the quality of life for its residents and promote sustainable development”. “We’re pushing for it to move forward,” Henry says.
“I sit on the governor’s advisory board of the smart city development. We’re preparing the blueprint for building a smart city in the next 10 years. I’ve promoted these ideas to our government officials so they can envision a smart future for the city. I do this for the common good of Hong Kong’s citizens.”
“I do this for the common good of Hong Kong’s citizens.”
Along with a belief in the common good for the people of Hong Kong, Henry enjoys his work because his passion is engineering. Hailing from a family of engineers, the discipline has been part of his life since childhood, and it motivates him to continue his work.
“I love it. It’s in my blood for one thing. My family always talk about engineering and development, so we have this interest in common. I’m also trying to do my bit. I serve on many boards and councils to contribute to society. It’s not much, but it helps.”
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