• Chunichi Shimbun


Made-to-order people movers, including spiral escalators and elevators with doors bearing elegant Islamic designs made at Mitsubishi Electric Corp.’s Inazawa Works, are becoming popular in Asia.

As the domestic market approaches saturation, Mitsubishi Electric is using the eye-catching and unique products made at its plant in Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture, as advertisements to boost offshore sales.

The spiral escalator uses a special system that combines both rotating and vertical movements.

The company got the idea from the spiral staircases in European towers and began developing the special escalator three decades ago. Mitsubishi Electric receives an average of three orders per year, but received 12 orders for a department store erected in Shanghai last year.

The price tag can be ten to 20 times higher than a normal escalator. But as department stores in China compete to become more luxurious, the spiral design conjures images of a rising dragon, an auspicious symbol in China.

For its custom elevators, Mitsubishi Electric makes doors with Arabesque and geometric designs that have spurred many inquiries from Muslim countries, including hotels in the United Arab Emirates and high-rises in Azerbaijan.

The surface of the doors are coated with a special smooth material that reflects gentle light to create a magical atmosphere.

“It’s not something other companies can imitate,” a company sales clerk said with pride.

In May, the company also installed the world’s fastest elevator, in a 632-meter building in Shanghai. The lift takes 53 seconds to reach the observation deck on the 119th floor from the second floor of the basement.

Mitsubishi Electric also won an order to install South Korea’s fastest elevator, in Pusan in July. The company was able to reduce noise by streamlining the car and installing a device to reduce swaying.

About 900,000 escalators and elevators are produced annually worldwide, with two-thirds of them landing in China, whose construction boom is making Asia the industry’s main sales target.

Mitsubishi Electric, Hitachi and Toshiba Corp. , as well as Otis and Schindler from Europe are all competing, driving prices downward.

Mitsubishi Electric mass produces at factories overseas, but the Inazawa Works produces made-to-order items, selling about 500 units a year.

The production volume for those special items is less than 1 percent of the total, but “if we can install unique lifts that increase the value of the building, it will raise the brand image of Mitsubishi Electric,” said Shigeru Yabuta, 40, head of the sales team’s overseas planning division.

“The increase in sales of our made-to-order items can also lead to more business opportunities for other products,” he added.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Aug. 2.

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