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KONE: Moving people through the Czech Republic more than 100 years

Danilo de Rossi speaks about managing KONE’s Frontline & why safety comes first

 How do you move a group of people from A to Z or from C to G in the smoothest and safest way possible? If your travel involves going up (or coming down) take the advice of Danilo de Rossi, Managing Director of KONE a.s. for the Czech Republic and Slovakiaand an expert in the field of vertical travel. Depending on where you need to go, how fast you need to get there and how many people need to be moved, his team can custom design an elevator, escalator or automatic building door, using KONEs People Flow technology, that best suits the need at hand.

De Rossi has spent the past twenty years of his professional career working for KONE, a Finnish company that is one of the global leaders in the elevator and escalator industry. As the need to move people from one location to another has increased, the past century has seen KONE expand from being a strong European business to an industry front-runner in global markets such as the Asia-Pacific and North America. In 2015, KONE had annual net sales of EUR 8.6 billion and at the end of the year close to 50,000 employees. Rated in the top 50 for innovation by Forbes, KONE uses green technology, eco-efficient power and a strong emphasis on clear communication and teamwork to move millions of people through the world each day.

As a KONE Ambassador, De Rossi’s own journey has led him around the world – from Rome, where he started in the industry as a fitter, to Milan, London and Hong Kong. 

On his journey, he learned various aspects of the business, from leading a specific Installation Sector in Hong Kong to managing section teams on London’s Frontline. His latest post is Prague, Czech Republic where he heads KONE’s Czech and Slovak Frontline with nearly 300 employees – a team made up of engineers, customer service representatives, installers, maintenance workers and other staff.

From his international experience, De Rossi says, “I think it's interesting that all happy customers are similar across the world, but unhappy customers are very specific. What makes a customer here happy is somehow not different from my experience across the units in London, Milan, Rome or Hong Kong.”

In a constantly changing, competitive industry, KONE is a godsend for developers who want a solution that optimizes quality, offers competitive prices and focuses on sustainability. By understanding the traffic patterns, KONE’s solutions support the specifics of a project’s design. Keeping open lines of communications with customers is one of the company’s key aspects to success. Making sure that KONE can deliver the promises that it makes is another.

When the developers behind the new AZ Tower in Brno, which at a height of 111 meters is the country’s tallest skyscraper, needed a solution to optimize traffic flow for the businesses, residences and recreational spaces that would be housed in their new project, KONE got the job. KONE has also been responsible for outfitting landmark developments, such as the City Tower office building (the country’s second tallest skyscraper) and the Metronome or ArtGen office building in Prague as well as AuPark, RiverPark and Tower 115 in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Although KONE components have been used in the Czech Republic for more than 100 years, in 1991, KONE acquired its first Czech company Pragolift a.s. Soon afterward followed KONE’s acquisition of the Czech and Slovak companies Kovopodnik vytahy s.r.o, Slavik spol. s.r.o. and WALDOOR s.r.o. With each acquisition, KONE aimed to assimilate the newly arrived companies into the KONE corporate culture and work ethic.

Today, KONE has a branch office in each of the larger Czech and Slovak cities, which enables the company to maintain a close working relationship to its customers. In 2004, a KONE manufacturing plant was built in the Czech town of Ústí nad Labem, one of only three such plants in Europe. With the manufacturing plant located squarely in the heart of Europe, the company is able to react quickly to customers’ requests.

Although much of KONE’s business in the Czech and Slovak countries is new building projects, the company is also involved in providing innovative solutions in a region where old elevators and old equipment are still common. De Rossi says, “You wouldn't drive a car that's 50 years old, but people ride an elevator that's 50 years old without thinking about it. As part of our job, we are dedicated to modernizing the 50-year old elevator to bring a better, safer product to people.”

Two mega trends to understand in the industry are the increased demand for safety and the rising need for mobility for an aging world's population. De Rossi says, “Today there is much more visibility than there used to be. We are on stage all the time with technology and the interconnectedness of the world. I'm a big advocate of quality that makes a difference to our customers. If quality doesn't make a difference to our customers, than we are effectively lost in translation. We need to add a real value that our customers can see and use.”

One KONE innovation for improving the people flow in narrow spaces is called the KONE MaxiSpace™, a concept that did away with the elevator car's counterweight in the shaft, so that the size of the elevator car could be expanded. A bigger car offers increased mobility and comfort for people with disabilities, families traveling with strollers and general end-users.

With its Finnish heritage, KONE has also always been on the forefront of green technology. KONE has its own eco-efficient, and the company was the first to launch the A Class elevator, a product grade which consumes the least amount of energy. KONE was also the first company to offer roomless technology, which removed the motor room used in the hydroelectric elevators, saving power while increasing space and comfort.

For KONE, success in a modern business world means keeping traditional Finnish cultural values, which emphasize listening, team contributions and humbleness, but still being open to diversity. De Rossi says, “It’s all about listening to the whole team’s input and working together to find an answer. Diversity is attractive because a solution often requires looking at a challenge from a different perspective.”

To emphasize this point, KONE calls their employees ambassadors and is committed to helping each employee realize the importance of his or her contribution to the team. In De Rossi’s Prague office, one of KONE’s Czech employees has been with the company for 46 years. When De Rossi arrived, this long-standing employee was a valuable asset, from giving De Rossi information about the company’s Czech history to helping De Rossi with the Czech language. In honor of the employee’s recent 70th birthday, the Prague team put together a surprise party to celebrate.

Throughout the company’s innovations and technological advances, safety remains a driving force for KONE. The company prides itself on doing everything it can to ensure that clients, employees and end-users are able to move safely in an increasingly complex world. To this point, KONE Corporation even runs a campaign to educate school children about escalator safety usage. An educational cartoon and an online game (no language necessary) featuring Max and Bob (a mouse and an elephant) teach children to ride facing forward, to hold the handrail and to make sure their shoe laces are properly tied before getting on the escalator.

Although he’s only been in the Czech Republic since November, De Rossi is enthusiastic about his new location and the possibilities of KONE’s future here. De Rossi says, “I really like the energy that you find in the people. Lots of people want to do good things. I'm taking Czech lessons to help with the language. When you have the attitude, then you are able to do a good job.”

With the rapid rate of global expansion, perhaps De Rossi’s next journey for KONE could land him putting elevators and escalators on the moon.


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