BOSS Magazine spoke with the newly-minted President of Otis Elevator Company about the promise of Industry 4.0 and the joy of serving society through technology.
It’s been 165 years since Elisha Otis showed the world that people could be safely lifted well above their height with belts, pulleys, platforms, and brakes. Secure in the knowledge that upward mobility was at last a physical reality, cities developed into taller, busier, and more welcoming versions of their former selves.
To claim that Otis lifts the world to new heights is a trope that just happens to be true. A unit of United Technologies Corp, the people-moving technologies developed by Otis, can be found in 200 countries and territories worldwide.
Otis is an indelible part of our lives: from guiding a safe flow of traffic for millions of worshippers across Mecca’s Jamaraat Bridge during the holy week of Hajj, to helping travelers make their connections in a list of international airports too long to publish here, to constantly inventing newer and safer ways to give people of all ages and abilities access to the communities in which they live and work.
“One of the themes in my career has been a focus on technologies that impact the normal citizen, if you will, people and families,” Otis President Judy Marks told BOSS.
After 27 years at Lockheed Martin including leading two business units, Marks became President and CEO of Siemens’ Government Technologies, CEO of Siemens’ Dresser Rand unit, and CEO of Siemens USA. It should come as no surprise that Marks will lead one of the most important companies in the world through Industry 4.0.
“I love being with companies that have the ability to impact and apply technology, to engage employees, and to really make a difference in people’s lives with technology,” she said.
“For a little over 33 years I have truly had the privilege of watching technological advances, whether that be in mobility, data, or in the industrial space. It’s given me a unique opportunity to apply emerging and mature technologies in a way that actually does benefit society.”
Now Arriving: Industry 4.0
Legendary for its life-changing, industry-shaping innovations, data has long been a linchpin of Otis.
“We move more than two billion people a day in our elevators and escalators, and in that movement we’re not only collecting data about movement, but we’re collecting information on how buildings operate, how buildings are used, how traffic actually moves at the human level, and most importantly, how to keep everything moving in a life-critical way so people don’t get trapped, and so people can get to their destinations without a lot of queuing and without a lot of waiting,” Marks explained.
“We are in the hoistway, and we are in the spine of every building,” she added. “When you think of that physical layer, and you add the data into that, the tremendous information rich activity that goes on, we can be the spine of the building logically and virtually as well.”
With a BSEE from Lehigh University and a career leading companies specializing in safety-critical products, Marks is particularly proud of the Otis service organization that safeguards billions of users each day.
“We have one of the largest trade mechanic teams around and we’re very proud of our colleagues. We maintain two million elevators and escalators, so to us Industry 4.0 takes advantage of what so many other industrials are doing, in manufacturing, in product data models, and in configuration tools for sales and CRM tools. All of that we’re taking advantage of, but where we really take it to the next level is in service.”
She added, “We have invested significantly into what we call our service transformation, which is applying Industry 4.0 to the field, to the service mechanics so they have real-time information […] We’re very focused on service transformation because that’s such an important part of customer value-add including equipment availability and maintenance and, most importantly, keeping passengers moving.”
Aligning expectations for the current industrial revolution is one of the biggest challenges faced by today’s leaders, and Marks is ready to leverage her change management expertise through what undoubtedly will be myriad shifts within Otis and the larger industry.
“We really need to bring a mechanically focused organization that has been tremendously successful for 165 years into the digital age, and to do that it does take cultural change,” she stressed. “It takes change management, it takes understanding adoption and how much people can handle in terms of new technologies and tools, and then it takes—as I think a lot of people are finding with digitization— the ability to rapidly prototype, to try something out, to adapt it, adjust it, and time to fail quickly and to see what will work for people who have very different learning styles.
“We’re talking almost every culture around the globe, so how people adapt and how they learn, we have to get to that denominator, and then we have to let them be our champions, and we do.”
The company’s Champions Network is actively working to support buy-in and technological adoption at Otis sites around the globe.
“I think how [Industry 4.0] gets applied and the pace at which it gets applied, is all based on change management. I really don’t think it’s purely based on the technology, or the amount of capital you’re going to invest. It’s how it can be adopted, reduced to practice, and then put into operation.”
Accelerating the Pace of Change
“We are a 165-year-old company this year, and with that comes a tremendous amount of pride, especially as we look back at our history and realize that we started this whole industry with our innovation. We cannot rest on that,” Marks declared.
Marks spoke passionately about her vision for change within Otis.
“I challenge our team every day with increasing the pace. The pace of adoption, the pace of technology innovation, the pace of digital, the pace of truly responding to and predicting what your customers are going to need every day, every minute, everywhere around the world, and doing it with pace and with commitment.
“If businesses want to survive in the future, we have to adapt quickly. The pace of technology, the digital clock doesn’t move in months and years, it moves in hours and days, and industrial companies have to start moving in hours and days, and that’s where we’re focused. We’re focused on excelling, innovating and very rapidly laying the foundation for the next few decades.
“That’s our plan. Not only do we want to be around, we want to be the industry leader, and those are the plans we’ve put in place to do it. We’ve got a great foundation, we’ve got fantastic people around the world, and now we’re going to layer digital into every single thing we do. It’s going to start with invention and run all the way through from sales, to product development, to manufacturing, to service. It’s going to be full cycle, and it’s going to be full circle, and it’s all going to rest on data.”
Lifting Women on the Shoulders of Industry
There is perhaps no other time in history when the need for talented engineers and industrial leaders with STEM backgrounds has been more imperative. However, the number of women in engineering is not edging upward; women make up less than 15 percent of the American engineering workforce. In India, fewer than 32 percent of female STEM students choose to take a degree in engineering.
Throughout her entire career, Marks has worked to raise those percentages.
“There are challenges; some of them are cultural and in society, and others are mobility and access, so I think we have a responsibility. I know that I personally have a responsibility as an engineer and as a female technology leader to inspire and mentor this emerging group of our future,” she noted.
“I don’t understand why people would not want to take advantage of half the population, and the way we approach problem solving,” Marks shared. “Why wouldn’t we take advantage of all the diversity of thought that exists? That’s something that, to me as a leader, is imperative. I want to field the best team and the best talent globally. Why would I limit myself to not having access to them?”
Roughly 500 of Otis’ female employees belong to Forward, an employee network of volunteers focusing on recruiting, hiring, and retaining women for mechanical, technical and engineering roles.
“It’s great to have an internally employee-initiated group that want us to really move forward in creating these opportunities and environments where women can succeed.”
Great leaders understand the value of institutional knowledge on a cellular level, and Judy Marks is no exception. Her vision for Otis is clear, and she is looking to her global team to create its infrastructure.
“I bring an industrial background and leadership background, but the core knowledge of this industry and the domain expertise, the nuances of that–I’m surrounded by experts. I cherish that, and I trust these experts to tell me how things can work.
“Now I will challenge them and push them to move with pace, innovation, and new partnerships into the future because one of the leadership challenges in industrial, and a little bit in Industry 4.0 is, we have to push ourselves to what’s possible versus how we’ve always done it. That’s taking people out of their comfort zone, especially in successful enterprises and at enterprises where you have to go and implement the strategies and approaches that will get you there.
“To me, that’s all about data. It’s all about artificial intelligence. It’s about a connected enterprise, and that’s where we need to go, and we’re not unique in that at Otis.”