Otis Elevator Company is the world's largest manufacturer of vertical transportation system. The company was founded in Yonkers, New York, USA by Elisha Otis, who invented the safety mechanism of the elevator should the hoisting rope break. This was created due to an accident with a freight lift at an local factory that injured the people using it[1].



Otis was founded by Elisha Otis in New York, NY, USA, after he demonstrated the special safety elevator mechanism in the Crystal Palace Exhibition in New York City in 1853.
Elisha G. Otis

Elisha G. Otis

By the end of 1856, Otis had sold more than 40 elevators, all freight models. In 1857, the world's first passenger elevator was installed at E. V. Haughwuot & Company in New York, NY.

In 1861, Otis' elevator safety brake was patented (US patent: 31128A[2]).


Otis safety brake patent

After Elisha Otis died of diphtheria in 1861, the company was continued under his two sons Charles and Norton. Soon, the company was renamed to "Otis Brothers Co." with Charles as the company's president.

Otis elevator demonstration 1854

Demonstration of elevator safety system in Crystal Palace New York.

In 1868, Otis developed a steam-powered passenger elevator and in 1870, the company introduce a water-pressured hydraulic elevator.

In 1875, Otis invented the elevator governor.

In the 1880s, Otis has established branch offices in London and Paris, and had installed elevators in the Eiffel Tower, London Underground, Glasgow Harbour Tunnel, etc.

In 1889, Otis installed the first 2 elevators of the first sucessful electric elevator model at the Demarest Building in New York, NY.

In 1892, Otis installed the first elevators with the Unit Multi-Voltage (formerly called Ward Leonard) principal, for smoother ride quality.

Otis invented the automatic elevator in 1894 and was installed in the residence of Mrs. E. I. Shepard. It was the first recorded automatic (operatorless) elevator with push buttons.


Otis developed the escalator technology in 1895 and was introduced it in the Paris Exposition in 1900, a step type escalator. After that, the same escalator was installed in a department store in Pittsburgh, PA (Possibly Kaufmann's).

In 1898, Otis greatly contributed to the high speed water hydraulic elevator.

Otis also made another type of escalator, called the cleat type escalator. This type was probably not popular, and was made for only maybe 20 years.

Otis invented the gearless traction elevator in 1903. The first commercial installation was at the Beaver Building in New York City, NY.

Otis invented the geared traction elevator in 1908. The cable wrapped around the motor multiple times.

Otis invented the modern style geared traction elevator in 1911. Now, the cable only goes over the motor. This technology is still used today. Also in the same year, Otis installed their first elevator in Germany.

In 1915, Otis invented the self-leveling elevator, which they called the Micro-Drive. This elevator provides accurate stops at floor landings for the comfort of passengers. It was first used for the U.S. Army Bases during wartimes.

In 1921, Otis offered their first complete elevator maintenance service to Otis elevator owners in Springfield, IL.

In 1924, Otis introduced a high speed semi-automatic elevator, called SignalControl. This elevator could make accurate automatic stops from twice the speed possible with manual operation. It was first installed in the Standard Oil Building in New York City, NY. In the same year, Otis made their first modern style automatic door.

In 1925, Otis introduced Collective Control, the first ever selective-collective elevator system with a "memory", thus eliminating the need of elevator operators. This might have been the first Otis elevator model with fully automatic doors, but it is unconfirmed if this system always used automatic doors. Otis's Collective Control elevator was first installed in St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago, IL.

In 1931, a double-deck elevator was introduced by Otis. The first one was installed in the Empire State Building in New York, NY.

Possibly in the 1930s, Otis started using steel steps for escalators.

In 1948, Otis introduced a high speed fully automatic elevator, called AUTOTRONIC Elevatoring. Now, elevator operators were completely obsolete, and the elevator cars are operated automatically and electronically as a coordinated group. The first installation of this elevator was completed at the Atlantic Refining Company Building in Dallas, TX in 1950.

On July 7, 1976, after a hostile take over, Otis became a wholly owned subsidiary of United Technologies Corp.

In 1979, Otis introduced the Otis Elevonic 101, a fully microprocessor based elevator system for high-rise buildings.

Otis introduced the Otis Elevonic 401 elevator in 1981 which was equipped with synthesized automated speech, information display and security features.

In 1983, Otis introduced a computerized dispatching service called OTISLINE. This service runs 24 hours a day and designed for Otis elevator mechanics. Initially, the service was only available in North America but it was later introduced in France in 1984 and China in 2000.

In 1988, Otis introduced Remote Elevator Monitoring or REM, which is a diagnostic system for checking and monitoring elevator performance from distant locations. In 1995, the system was expanded to 8 of 18 countries by introducing REM III.

Otis purchased UK's oldest elevator company Express Lift Co. Ltd. of Northampton as well as Evans Lifts of Leichester in 1997. Later, both companies merged together to form "Express Evans".


In 2000, Otis introduced its machine-roomless elevator product, Gen2, which replaces conventional steel cables with flat polyurethane coated steel belts. It also features a smaller, energy-efficient gearless machine. The Gen2 elevator was introduced to the North American and Japanese market in 2003.

Otis introduced its destination dispatch system called "Compass" in 2005, which is similar to Schindler Miconic 10 elevators. In 2013, Otis introduced its new generation "CompassPlus" destination dispatch.

In 2013, Otis launched a new residential Gen2 Switch elevator that eliminates the need for three phase power, is solar-power capable, and uses battery technology to continue to run when the power goes out.[3]


Otis has its headquarters in Farmington, Connecticut, USA and has major manufacturing facilities in America, Europe, and Asia. They have ten research centers globally, and eight area headquarters located in:

  • Farmington, Connecticut, USA
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Paris, France
  • London, England
  • Philippines
  • São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil
  • Shanghai, China
  • Singapore

Otis also have two tallest test towers. One is the Bristol Test Tower located in Connecticut, USA with a height of 384 ft (117 m), and another one is the Shibayama Test Tower located in Shibayama, Japan with a height of 505 ft (154 m). The Shibayama Test Tower is currently Otis's tallest test tower.

Notable products



Main article: Otis Signal Control

Signal Control was the world first semi-automatic relay logic controlled elevator system from 1924.


Collective Control was the world's first automatic relay logic controlled elevator system from around 1924. This system had automatic doors, and most likely 5 speeds. This system did not support very high speed applications.


Main article: Otis Autotronic

Otis Autotronic (automatic electronic) was an automatic programmed elevator system introduced in 1948. Unlike the earlier push-button models (Signal Control), these elevators were large, fast, and could change speeds and adjust their schedules to suit traffic demands, as well has having the ability to bypass hall calls when the car is fully loaded.

Elevonic 101

Main article: Otis Elevonic 101

Elevonic 101 was the first completely micro-processor-based elevator control system. It was introduced in 1979.

Elevonic 120

Elevonic 120 was a micro-processor-based hydraulic elevator, which was launched in 1994.

Elevonic 220

Elevonic 220 was a low-rise micro-processor-based traction elevator, which was launched in 1996.

Elevonic 401

Main article: Otis Elevonic 401

Elevonic 401 was the first "human-engineered" elevator with synthesized speech, information display and security system. It was introduced in 1981 as the second product of the Elevonic class for high-rise applications.

Elevonic 411 and 311

Main article: Otis Elevonic 411 and Otis Elevonic 311

Elevonic 411 and 311 were introduced in 1989 and were the most advanced elevator systems in the world. A year later, the modernization series for both models (411M and 311M) were launched.

Otis 2000

Main article: Otis 2000

Otis 2000 was a series of elevator models mainly for the European markets, although it was also available in the Asia Pacific region. It was launched in 1993.


Skyway was the first AC gearless elevator in the world with large load capacity and Double Deck elevator (1998). SkyWay has another name called "Super Double-Deck Elevator System (Chinese: 超級雙層升降機系統)".


Main article: Otis SkyRise

SkyRise is Otis's high speed gearless elevator for high-rise buildings.


Main article: Otis Gen2

Gen2 is Otis's flagship brand of machine room less elevators sold since 2000.

OH 5000

Main article: Otis OH 5000

OH 5000 is Otis's current mid to high-rise elevator model. This model is also manufactured by Xizi Otis since the early 2000s.

Compass / CompassPlus

Main article: Otis Compass

Compass (now known as CompassPlus) is Otis' destination dispatch system, launched in 2005. Since 2013, it is known as CompassPlus.

Otis SkyBuild

SkyBuild[4] is Otis's self-climbing elevator system used during construction where the elevator climbs one floor at a time as the building rises. Each jumps can be accomplished between shifts, thus reducing impact on other trades. Once the building is completed, the permanent elevator is put into service as Otis SkyRise. This system is very similar to Kone JumpLift.


This is a freight elevator model made by Otis and Xizi Otis in China.


OmniHome is a residential elevator only sold in Taiwan. It is made with OEM parts from E-Feng Machinery Co., Ltd. of Taiwan.


Moving walks

Note: Some of Otis's moving walk models are known as Trav-O-Lator.


Remote Elevator Monitoring

Remote Elevator Monitoring (REM) is a diagnostic system for checking elevator performance from a distant location. It was introduced in 1986 for North America, expanded to France in the late 1980s and subsequently to other countries.


Notable acquisitions



Country name Country Remark
Aitken Spence Elevators Sri Lanka
Caribbean Elevators N.V. Curacao and Bonaire Since 1988
Darwish Elevators Co. Qatar
Electra Elevators Ltd. Israel
Titan International Ltd. Malta


Company name Country Remark
Fred Stieltjes & Co. Indonesia 1910s?-19??
PT. Citas Engineering Indonesia 1965-1992[12]
PT. Pembangunan Perumahan Indonesia 1960-1964[15]
Sime Darby Malaysia

Notable elevator installations

Main article: List of notable Otis elevator installations

Elevator fixtures

Accidents and incident

  • On 13 May 2003, an upward escalator at City Hall MRT station, Singapore suddenly reversed, flinging some 20 people on it backwards, including a woman who was pregnant.
  • On July 24, 2009, a group of 8 people were trapped for 8 hours in an Otis elevator in Toronto. A repair man who tried to fix the elevator fell more then 20 floors to his death.
  • On December 14, 2010, an Otis escalator installed in the International Trade station of Shenzhen Metro Line 1 retrograded without notice, causing 25 passenger injures.
  • On July 5, 2011, an Otis 513MPE escalator installed at Beijing Subway Line 4 Zoo Station escalator changed direction without notice, causing 30 people to fall. One boy was killed and 27 people injured, prompting China to halt the use of the escalator model.
  • On March 25, 2017, a long Otis escalator which ran from the 4th to 8th floor of Langham Place in Hong Kong, China, malfunctioned which caused 18 people injured. The escalator suddenly stopped, reversed and then sped up. The cause of the accident was suspected to have been caused by a faulty drive chain and the emergency brake system failed to work[16].
  • In February 2007, the European Union regulators fined Otis Elevator 225 million Euros for being part of a price-fixing cartel. Other manufacturers such as ThyssenKrupp, Schindler, Kone and Mitsubishi Elevator Europe were also fined similar amounts in the same cartel.
  • On December 19, 2015, an older Sovietic elevator modernized in 2001 by Otis MCS-300 at Ostrovityanova 49 in Moscow, Russia, young mother rolled her stroller into the elevator and the elevator suddenly broke the rope and as a result of the arrival of one floor stroller ripped and 10 month old girl died.


  • Otis elevators in Japan which were installed prior to 2005 are branded as National OTIS. This is because Otis products in Japan had routes directly sold by the company and routes to sell via Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (now Panasonic). The "National OTIS" brand was abolished as a new cooperation system was established between Matsushita Electric and Otis in July 2005.
  • Otis has also dabbled in horizontal automated people-mover "shuttle" systems, such as the Otis Hovair.
  • In some parts of the Canary Islands in Spain, Otis is known as "Zardoya OTIS" (Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, and La Gomera) and "Schneider OTIS" (Tenerife).




Landing sills nameplates



AMAZING OTIS Series 1 Hydraulic Elevator @ Lexus, San Diego, CA-0

AMAZING OTIS Series 1 Hydraulic Elevator @ Lexus, San Diego, CA-0

Otis hydraulic elevator with Series 1 fixtures in Lexus, San Diego, CA, United States of America

Notes and references

  1. The Secret Life of the Lift (Secret Life Of Machines Series 3 (1993) by Tim Hunkin) - YouTube
  2. US 31128A: Improvement in hoisting apparatus
  3. Otis launched new residential solar-powered Gen2 elevator
  4. Otis SkyBuild brochure
  5. Merged with Xizi Elevator Group in 1997. It is one of Otis's largest subsidiary companies. Name changed from "Xizi Otis Elevator Co. Ltd." in 2017.
  6. Established in 2001 as a result of merger between Otis and LG Elevator in 1999. Sigma is a subsidiary of Otis Elevator Korea and a brand of South Korea manufactured-Otis elevators for overseas market.
  7. Express Introduction - EXPRESS
  8. Otis Fensom Elevator Co. Building the North American Elevator Company - Elevator Scene
  9. Renamed to Stigler-OTIS until 1987, but not all elevators.
  10. Wadsworth Lifts Limited merged with Becker Equipment & Lifts Limited in 1986 and became Wadsworth Becker. It was sold to Otis Elevator Company in 1988 following a loss of trading results.
  11. Wadsworth Lifts Limited - 30 November 1988 (PDF)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Originally a distributor of Otis elevators and escalators in Indonesia from 1964 until 1992. Otis had a joint venture with the company in 1992 and took over it in 1995, becoming PT. Citas Otis Elevator.
  13. Rangkuman Tentang Citas Otis - PT. Citas Otis Elevator (Indonesian) (archived)
  14. Otis Brazil Completes Acquisition of Mitsubishi Electric’s elevators and escalators Business in Brazil
  15. "Sistem "Sky Lobby" mengoptimalkan pemakaian lift" - KONSTRUKSI Magazine, October 1989
  16. VIDEOS: 18 injured after 45-metre-long escalator reverses and speeds up in Mong Kok - Coconuts Hong Kong
  17. Maintenance hotline plate galleries (C) (

External links


News Report

Major elevator companies
DoverExpress LiftFujitecHitachiHyundaiKoneMitsubishi ElectricOtisSchindlerSigmaThyssenthyssenkruppToshiba
Full list: List of elevator and escalator companies
See also: Third-party elevator maintenance companies
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