Dubai Expo 2020 kicked off a year later than originally planned, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As much of the world went into lockdown, the six-month-long offline mega-event served, in contrast, as a standing display of hope and innovation – and we’re proud to have contributed to its success. Over the three years of project execution, we didn’t record a single accident, fulfilled our promise to 11 major pavilions, and received an official letter of appreciation, all while helping the Swiss pavilion to scoop the Best Medium-sized Pavilion Award – in short, our expertise was on full display on the world stage.
"It was like orchestrating a symphony every day," said Mohammed Iqbal.
To say that Dubai Expo was a challenging project is an understatement. We provided 129 units of equipment for 11 large pavilions and took over the maintenance for over 50 third-party mobility solutions.
Overseeing several large projects simultaneously, under tight security conditions, was never going to be easy. But our project manager, Mohammed Iqbal, took up the challenge. His work involved – among other things – liaising with over 50 stakeholders to keep things humming along.
The Expo grounds spanned 5,000,000 m2, divided between 190 pavilions. The Expo had its own Delivery Management System to regulate the flow of vehicles entering and leaving the site. Each freight delivery was assigned only a 30-minute window to enter the Expo grounds – but coordinating this event alone could take a whole day. Local regulations, like the compulsory mid-day break during the summer to avoid exposure to high temperatures, forced us to coordinate between different teams spread across the Expo site, complicating the task further.
Mohammed Iqbal, Schindler Project Manager for Expo 2020 Dubai
third-party maintenance contracts
To stay on schedule, meet our customers’ demands, and take good care of our workers, we stationed a dedicated logistic team on-site and assigned two project managers for the first phase of the project execution. "It was like orchestrating a symphony every day," said Mohammed. "Challenging, of course, but we didn’t miss a note."
In March 2020, the first positive COVID case appeared on-site, leading to days of shutdown and to a string of new rules and regulations. A few months later, in September 2020, a few civil contractors involved in the construction of Dubai Expo filed for bankruptcy.
It wasn’t enough to discourage our crew, who were quick to adapt to the new rules and who kept the work going. Their attitude proved to be the right one: within a few weeks, new contractors had come in and taken over the construction contracts.
Another challenge came from the nature of the products our teams had to install at the Dubai Expo. Many of these innovations were so cutting-edge that our teams had never laid their hands on them before. Fortunately, the team could count on the support of our headquarters: our Installation Master Trainer, Subhish Subran, spent two weeks in Switzerland learning from the best, before heading to the Expo to pass on his newly acquired knowledge and to supervise the work.
Our teams had to overcome other hurdles along the way – some of them more tech-intensive than others. A brand new customized 65-inch Schindler Ahead AdScreen – a mirror doubling as a TV screen – was to be installed in an elevator car. The only problem: it was too tall to fit through the elevator car doors. To avoid damaging the product, the team had to remove the car doors, before inching the screen in, bit by bit, and securing it into place on the car wall. The process took an entire day.
Each pavilion wanted to provide a unique experience to its visitors – run-of-the-mill products wouldn’t cut it. Many of our products had been tailored to the unique pavilions they were housed in: Switzerland had requested escalator handrails engraved with snowflakes; India had wanted its elevator passengers to revel in the views of Taj Mahal at sunset; Belgium had envisioned an escalator encased in a tunnel of light, as if to propel visitors toward the future. We came through each time.
Among the customized solutions that we engineered, two stood out: the white-themed full-glass car interior designed for the UAE pavilion and the black-themed full-glass car for the Mobility pavilion. They perfectly matched the esthetics of the pavilions, while providing a unique user experience.
This didn’t happen just like that. This took grit, careful planning, and agility. Take for example the white elevator car for the UAE pavilion. Our customers had wanted to try out different combinations of materials, which would have meant working with several international suppliers – something that proved extremely challenging amid acute international shipping delays. We were quick to pivot: we sourced local suppliers, tried various design possibilities, and developed a prototype that we thought best captured our client’s requirements. When pavilion stakeholders came to examine the car, it was love at first sight: the car matched perfectly with their vision.
Three months before the grand opening, all Expo premises underwent a thorough security sweep. For us, it meant giving the Dubai police access to all our equipment, including elevator shafts – at any time of the day and night.
All our equipment was operational a month before the official opening. "As some pavilions were scrambling to be ready on time, all our elevators were fully ready for operation and waiting to serve visitors from all around the world," said Mohammed Iqbal.
When visitors came, they came in throngs. At the Swiss pavilion, 500 visitors on average used our elevators each day. Given the heavy foot traffic, our equipment required prompt maintenance if any problem surfaced.
Rajeshkumar Sekar, Schindler Service Leader, led a dedicated team of three technicians to maintain over 120 units on-site. Our team could reach all our units within 20 minutes for emergency cases and ensure normal operation resumed within an hour. Fast response is great. Fast resolution, however, demands more than boots on the ground: it requires up-to-date, in-depth insights into our equipment. And this is where Schindler Ahead Cube comes in.
Schindler Ahead Cube makes our equipment smart and connected: it collects and relays data from the controller and sensors installed on our equipment to the IoEE (Internet of Elevators & Escalators) cloud. Schindler technicians, who get real-time notifications, are able to analyze the data to determine if any actions need to be taken to avoid service interruption. In the event of unplanned shutdowns, our technicians know even before reaching the site what the matter is, and what they should bring and do to solve the problem as quickly as possible.
With advanced technology and timely support from our dedicated service team, our equipment didn’t disappoint. During the 180 days of Expo, we received plenty of positive feedback.
The Schindler maintenance team was very supportive during the Expo. Even during the period of crises, the Schindler team acted proficiently and resolved issues on time. I thank them for their hard work and wish them best of luck.
Umar Farook, UAE Pavilion, Facilities Manager - FM Hard Services
Despite several challenges, Schindler’s commitment in delivering the project with utmost safety, desired quality, and timely completion is greatly appreciated. I would highly recommend Schindler for future projects and to our clients.
Muhammad Amir, Mobility Pavilion, Site Manager of ALEC Engineering and Contracting L.LC.
The performance of the Schindler maintenance team was highly commendable during the Expo event, which enabled a smooth operation of the UK pavilion without any hassles.
Hemanth Ajith, UK Pavilion, QA/QC Manager of World Expo department of Pico, International LLC