THE lift division of Kone Corporation - established in Finland in 1910 - is today the world's third largest elevator company with a strong Hong Kong presence. The design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of lifts and escalators form Kone Elevators' core business. During the 1960s and 1970s, Kone enjoyed a rapid period of growth, which included the acquisition of several companies larger than itself, notably Westinghouse Elevators' European operation. In 1978, the takeover of British firm Marryatt and Scott, which had operations in Hong Kong and Singapore, established the company's presence in Asia. ''In those days, our main business was the supply and installation of lifts for government housing,'' said Peter Andrews, marketing director for Asia Pacific. ''In the mid-80s we began to seek opportunities in private residential and commercial buildings.'' According to Mr Andrews, Hong Kong buyers know what they want and demand high quality services. ''Lifts acceptable in Europe are not acceptable here. Customers seek high-tech installations that offer high-speed, and give a smooth ride,'' he said. ''The quality of finish, and aesthetic appearance of buttons and indicator panels are highly important.'' Kone's lifts are manufactured in Finland utilising highly automated production processes which ensure consistent, quality products. Some components flow through the process from raw material to finished product, without being touched by human hand. The Hong Kong office, which is situated in Trade Square in Cheung Sha Wan, employs 80 staff with an additional 260 installation and maintenance engineers. Hong Kong is also the regional base for Kone's Asian operations. Mr Andrews takes a positive view of Hong Kong. ''This is the most demanding and competitive market in the world,'' he said. ''Almost every lift company is here. To succeed means we have to show ourselves as a truly committed player.'' Kone's involvement in high profile commercial projects such as the Nethersol Hospital in Tai Po, where it is installing lifts with special features suitable to the needs of a hi-tech, modern hospital, reflect the company's growth in Hong Kong and Asia. ''The safety of our product is our number one objective. There are electrical and mechanical safety features built in to every system which operate independently of one another,'' Mr Andrews said. Kone recently hosted a seminar which was attended by 80 architects and engineering consultants, to promote its latest developments in lift systems designed for use in high-rise buildings. It also hosted the first Round Table dinner for senior managers from the property industry to discuss issues related to the lift business. ''Our involvement in these events demonstrates our long term commitment to participate in the local market. Our goal is to develop partnerships within the property industry; lifts are an integral part of the total project these days and add a key elementto its commercial value,'' he said. Increased activity in the China market has tripled orders since 1992. ''This increase in activity is also generating a review of some of our sourcing strategies. It is possible that, in future, some of our components for the China market will be manufactured locally,'' he said. A three-day seminar on doing business in China will be held from Wednesday to Friday. It will be attended by top company executives from Europe and local senior management. Kone Elevators' president Anssi Soila will take part. The company has expressed keen interest in the development of the new airport on Lantau island. ''When the project proceeds, we would wish to be in a strong position for the installation of lifts, escalators and autowalks,'' he said. Mr Andrews said the concentration of lifts in Hong Kong was higher than any other market in the world - good news for the company's future.