People Stuck in the Elevator – It was storming pretty bad outside the hotel my wife and I were at. All day long red flag warnings were out on the beach, so we decided to stay at the hotel for supper. We were strolling towards the elevator as winds howled outside and I said, “You know, I’ve never been stuck in an elevator.” with a laugh. I pushed the button and she said, “Well you just jinxed us.”
Both of us chuckled a bit and then we heard the inviting and all too familiar “ding” as the doors opened and we stepped onboard. The doors swiftly closed behind us but then the lights flickered and we heard an unexpected clunk.
Obviously the power had been interrupted and as a result the elevators in the entire hotel came to a screeching halt. Not only that, but I am sure all sorts of services were interrupted throughout the property. As we stood there we both knew better than to panic, so we waited.
That episode got me to thinking, if I were in charge of the building what should be done? I write a lot about elevators, but I rarely write on what the building owner or property manager should do when the elevator thuds to a halt. Not that this happens often.
Elevators get stuck rarely in the United States and injuries are even rarer. Especially considering that elevators move nearly the entire world’s population or 10 billion passengers a week. There is the occasional power outage or mechanical problem, but statistically only 1 elevator ride in 12 million or so results is some kind of issue and when it does happen it is extremely minor in nature.
But, my mind could not help thinking about when you are in charge and people are getting stuck in the elevator. What should be done? So, I came up with a list of steps if it ever happens to you. Feel free to borrow or print any of this list and keep it for a reference or reminder. Just remember the most important thing is to make sure the passengers stay safe and you do what you can to get the elevator moving as quickly as possible.
One last thing, everyone on staff should know if you are the auto-dialed, priority call for the elevator car. Sometimes the emergency phones are programmed to contact the non-emergency police or fire department in the local jurisdiction. They can also be programmed to contact your elevator service company directly. No matter who is called automatically, it still does not relieve you of your obligations to the passengers. So find out what floor and open a dialog. It shows you care. Most importantly don’t let people just stand there wondering. If you do they will be thinking more of escape than waiting which is always a danger.
Fortunately for my wife and I the emergency was relatively brief unlike Nicolas White. He spent 41 hours trapped in an elevator. When the power came back on in our case, the elevator system was reset and we zoomed down to the lobby without a further care in the world. We enjoyed a great gourmet meal and had several fun conversation about getting stuck…
But we did take the stairs back to our room.
Sometimes our blog posts are not all about selling elevators, but issues like people getting stuck in the elevator. They are often about general information you might find useful. So, feel free to comment below, ask any elevator questions you would like or follow future blog posts by signing up. However, if you do have a need for an elevator and want to know a general budget number, just click below for a Fast Track number. Also click to take a virtual tour of our facility. You can see for yourself what it takes to produce the best commercial quality elevator that is set in place fully installed in less than four hours. In any case we love hearing from you!
Elevator 101 is about the basics. See, being around elevators all the time can warp your perspective. You begin to think that everyone has a pretty high base knowledge of elevators and elevator lingo. We tend to forget that most people’s knowledge of elevators in the construction industry is limited to, “They are a pain in the rear end”. So, every once in a while it is a good idea to review what the basic terms mean. Reviewing this info is especially needed if you are going to be chatting with people in the elevator business about a specific project.
Overall there is too much jargon. Like talking to a doctor or lawyer, elevator people sometimes skip over things that are basic to them, but may confuse folks not immersed in the field. The intricacies of brain surgery or the meaning of habeas corpus (I think its a city in Texas), can easily pass us by and so can terms regarding elevators. We hope this will help.
So here is a list of basic terms that you should review, or bookmark before you talk with an elevator consultant, elevator sales person or even an elevator mechanic.
That above list is a good staring point. However, if you ever have a question feel free to call us whether you have the intention of buying a modular elevator or not. As geeky and weird as it sounds, we like talking about elevators.
Below is a handy diagram, a chart based on travel distance and some links.
Additionally if you want to know more about the modes of conveyance. Just click here for a full explanation. You can also click here for information on hydraulic units. You can also look at the dozens of articles we have available on our blog.
If you would like to know a bit about pricing for a project just click the button below to get a Fast Track Quote. But if you really want to know more about elevators, schedule a live, virtual tour of our factory. It is open to anyone with questions about elevators. We love showing off!
I have been writing blogs forever. Not literally of course but, for a long, long time. And I have never gotten such an overwhelming response as I did writing the blog post Dirty Little Elevator Secrets. People that commented were upset with the old elevator industry and had their eyes open to the hidden agenda for the first time. They felt duped and manipulated in some cases. The result was I was asked to expand on the differences between a true manufactured elevator and what big elevator companies pass off as manufacturing.
So, that got me thinking, maybe I should expose more truths about a business that hides as best they can what they do and how they do it. And, if the audience demands it you roll out the sequel. I hope this will not be a Jaws 5 or Titanic 2 kind of effort. The goal is to be more of a Godfather-esque redux. Godfather 2 of course. Godfather 3 was a train wreck.
So, get your popcorn and super-sized drink. Here we go. Let me start by asking a simple question. When is an elevator manufacturer, not an elevator manufacturer? I know it sounds like the start of a children’s riddle, but the question is sincere.
The answer begins with telling you about what we do and who we are at Modular Elevator Manufacturing (MEM). We are a true elevator manufacturing company.
The process starts in our factory by building an elevator hoistway out of rugged steel tubing. It is engineered to be self-supporting and can meet any earthquake or hurricane standards. We then finish the shaft with mold resistant drywall inside and out. This gives it the fire protection required by the building code of the location it is going to. It also ensures the elevator can sit through the building process onsite.
The rails on which the elevator car will ride are then put placed inside. Always plumb and always level. The heavy lifting is relegated to machinery making the task easier and safer for employees. This entire time the hoistway is horizontally, whether for a low or mid-rise project. It remains that way throughout the process to assure perfect alignment and ease of inspection.
While the hoistway is being manufactured, the elevator cab is likewise being constructed. We use tough Galvanneal (stainless) steel and not flimsy wood core products that can easily mold, warp or crumble. It is built on a metal platform, with the sling. The cab is perfect in alignment, fit and finish as jigs and templates are used to assure all the manufacturing is within the strictest allowances.
The roof of the cab is completed with all the wiring and safety devises required by code. Then the interior of the cab is finished to meet the most demanding of specifications. Keep in mind that the cab is constructed on a factory floor with plenty of space to work around with easy access to every nook and cranny. The area is well lit and inspections can take place at anytime with easy access.
At the end of the two separate assembly processes, the hoistway and elevator cab are married together. The cab, platform and sling are simply inserted into the hoistway. The wiring to the hall calls is then completed. Keep in mind through the whole process inspections are done.
This is what a true manufactured elevator looks like. A hoistway with a completely finished commercial quality elevator installed inside. All that is needed is for the elevator to be set in place (a process that takes about four hours). And for it to be started up (a process that takes less than a week). The modular elevator usually goes in first in the building process and then completed when electricity is provided.
Now for what the old-fashioned, supposed elevator manufacturers do. They pull together boxes of components, parts and pieces from any number of companies and ship them to a job site. There they sit taking up space and getting in the way. Not only that, the construction team has to make space for the components as well as the mechanic’s tools and keep everything under lock and key by contract. If anything goes missing, it is not the elevator company’s fault but yours.
Finally, when the technician wants to get to your project they arrive. But don’t make the mistake in thinking they are going to start right in.
If it is a cold morning (under 55 degree in the shaft) they have to wait until it warms up. Because cold temperature can void the warranty they won’t lift a finger. The way they install the elevator requires that it is working in some fashion. Especially, in northern climates it is said that the elevator mechanic doesn’t watch the time clock, he watches the thermometer.
Then one piece at a time the maintenance person wanders back and forth from crate to shaft bringing in all the pieces, panels and paraphernalia. They then screw, cobble, coerce, bend and bolt all the parts together in the tight, cramped and poorly lit shaft. And you wonder why the elevator rattles like a teenagers jalopy when finished.
Elevator companies have little regard for the safety of workers because the technicians are required to do the lifting. Back-breaking labor is needed requiring the lugging around of heavy rails. No wonder that,
“The major causes of lost-time injuries to elevator installers and repairers were being struck by an object, overexertion (especially in lifting), falls, and being caught in/between, in that order.”eLCOSH – Deaths and Injuries Involving Elevators
That being hit by an object is either by a piece being raised with a hoist in the tight confines of the shaft or someone dropping a part or tool.
All this is crazy. If they were truly manufactured in a factory setting it could all be avoided and the finished product would be much better.
Keep in mind that this installation and all of the pitfalls takes place last in the building process. So one misplaced bolt, one fried circuit board, one miscalculation or one injury can potentially delay the building for weeks to months. The rest of the project may be ready for occupancy, but the elevator brings everything to a halt. Also, if you raise any concerns or comments, you are viewed as the problem.
As they already have you over a barrel, more often than not you complain to co-workers or peers, but not to the elevator company. Fear of reprisals or slow-walking work looms in the back of your mind. But voicing your concerns wouldn’t matter anyway. You are stuck.
In the above scenario one company is a manufacturer…the other is not. I could be a little more forgiving if they actually manufactured all their own pieces and parts, but guess what??? Not so. They just bundle parts from a myriad of companies and ship them. They often use the very same companies we do for components. There is no real difference in the components used or the quality.
So if they in real terms are not elevator manufacturers, what exactly is their business model? How do they make money if they don’t really make the product they claim to? As a matter of fact, often times they sell their bundles of elevator components for little or no profit at all. At first blush you would say that’s crazy…until of course you look at what they do sell and how they sell it.
Otis in a recent SEC filing said, “New Equipment and Service, which, for the year ended December 31, 2019, contributed 43 percent and 57 percent of our net sales, and 20 percent and 80 percent of our total segment operating profit, respectively.” Most the money they are making regarding operating profit is in the maintenance agreement.
That is why they will sell new units for practically nothing, with proprietary parts and tools required in the product. That locks the builder, building owner or any future owner into a never ending contract. Often times the deal has clauses that guarantee annual increases and only short windows of opportunities to get out of the deal. When the jig is finally up you are locked in. And get this, even if you get out of one contract with the elevator company, you still have to have a maintenance company affiliated with the same brand. Only they have the proprietary tools for that unit.
You may be switching service providers but you will never leave the grasp of the elevator company once you ink the deal. It reminds me of the quote, “Just when I though I was out, they keep pulling me back in.” Michael Corleone – The Godfather: Part 3.
The character of Michael Corleone was in too deep and his choices were limited by his circumstances and very early choices made by his role. Ultimately, he is a truly tragic cinematic figure. Don’t be him. Don’t get in bed with a manufacturer who is not really a manufacturer and then realize it is too late regarding quality, building delays and unfair maintenance contracts.
They may have an offer you feel you can’t refuse, but look for better alternatives with the best elevator manufacturer in the business. MEM – quality elevators taking you to higher level.
To find out about alternatives click Fast Track button.
Elevator secrets mean more than you think, if you are in the process of buying an elevator for a building project. You need help! But despite pushing the help button none is to be found because there are dozens of dirty little elevator secrets the major elevator companies don’t want you to know about.
That should be no surprise, after all the elevator industry is more cloaked in darkness than the Illuminati or the New World Order. They tend to hide what they do and lurk in the fog regarding important items like: costs, timelines and motives. So, in this blog post I will shine some light on just two of the biggest elevator secrets. You will also be given tips on how to shed some much needed light yourself on an industry that desperately needs it.
But first, why do they hide the information? Let me tell you, it is not an evil plot devised by a cat stroking Bond villain. It is a more mundane motive. Money. If you, the consumer, are not given clear factual information, the likelihood is you will make poor decisions regarding vertical transportation. Also, you will become more reliant on the elevator company itself for the limited facts that are available. So your decisions will be made with few and skewed facts and that will ensure you bleed money and they get richer. The result is overall lifetime cost of an elevator becomes much higher than advertised. So let’s get started with just two elevator secrets.
The first of many elevator secrets is the real profit for the major elevator companies is based on keeping you under their thumb regarding a maintenance contract. Otis in a recent SEC filings said, “New Equipment and Service, which, for the year ended December 31, 2019, contributed 43 percent and 57 percent of our net sales, and 20 percent and 80 percent of our total segment operating profit, respectively.”
Did you get that? That means is that new equipment or elevator sales while important is no where near as profitable as the maintenance. And to keep the money rolling in, unknowing customers are being pushed into making decisions that increases the profit of the elevator company through the maintenance contract not the elevator itself. How do they do this?
The vast majority of people that ride in an elevator don’t give it a second thought. The doors opens, they walk in, push a button and go up. They do not care about the mechanical means of conveyance at all. But, selling up to a different type of elevator conveyance can make a bigger profit for elevator companies through the maintenance agreement. So…they push specific elevator types that increase the maintenance contract price. This is despite most riders or building owners not caring a wit about how they get from point A to point B.
So, when I personally speak to people that are being oversold on the type of conveyance it makes me a little steamed. Let me be blunt. If you are being sold a traction elevator (the kind with ropes) for a low-rise application you are most likely being oversold and more than likely being taken advantage of.
Why? Because the long-term maintenance contract for a 3-stop hydraulic elevator is around $200 per month (depending on where and other factors). For a 3-stop traction it can be $600 or more per month (depending on where and other factors). Need more convincing? Do the math. The lifespan of a typical elevator is 20 years (240 months). With hydraulic maintenance cost around $200 a month, that is $48,000 over the lifespan of the elevator. A traction elevator on the other hand, at $600 a month is approximately $144,000 over the lifetime.
Now you know why they upsell unwitting customers on traction when often it is not needed. They will even discount the initial sales price on traction units to make less upfront as a way to garner longer, more profitable returns. A real quick note, hydraulic elevators are not inferior just less expensive to maintain. Also, this is not a screed against traction units. Sometimes they are needed. We just honestly assess your project and make recommendations rather than selling you up to something you don’t need.
But that is not the end of the elevator secrets and profit motives. When the light bulb goes off and you realize you have been duped into overpaying and try to get out of the contract so you can competitively shop it, you can’t. That is because part of that cheap up front price usually includes proprietary parts in the elevator system. In simple terms, proprietary parts makes it impossible for anyone (other than the elevator company you bought it from) to maintain it. You are stuck. The elevator with proprietary parts requires special tools programmed for your specific elevator. There is no advantage to these tools at all they are just the keys to a prison you cannot escape from.
There are also lots of other contractual tricks of the trade to keep you locked in as well; like auto-renewals. Auto renewals are common place with almost everything now-a-days. Phone service to online entertainment auto-renews all the time. But elevator maintenance contracts often auto-renew with an annual increase built in and if you miss the tiny renewal window, you can’t get out. The contracts are often multi-year (usually 5 years) and are very lopsided in exclusions and other factors.
The second of the dirty little elevator secrets is the major elevator companies don’t really manufacture elevators at all, at least not in the way we generally think of manufacturing. They do produce some components, but in real terms they are bundlers of other companies parts and pieces. They crate them, ship them and screw them together on site, but the elevator is not manufactured at all, and the parts they actually make are limited. Believe it or not elevator companies have admitted that the real “manufacturing” takes place at the jobsite.
Think about it this way, if General Motors only crated up parts and dropped them off at your front door, you would not consider them to be a manufacturer. That would be a preposterous notion. Then in cold or heat, rain or snow, a mechanic would meander to your house at their leisure and cobble all those parts together in a process that takes months in your driveway. You would laugh out loud if cars were “manufactured” that way. Yet that is what is done regarding elevators.
This truth reveals a couple of realities. The elevators they sell are screwed together with very little supervision, inspection or quality control in dark and cramped environs and in all sorts of challenging conditions. Also, the safety and quality of the elevators rests in a single inspection at the end of the process when they are either given a green light or a punch list of code violations to fix. If that one inspector, in one visit misses something, they just do. Also, the code inspector is not necessarily looking for fit and finish, just functionality and code compliance.
Because traditional elevator companies just really gather elevator components from others, then anyone can buy those components and provide a better, truly manufactured solution. That’s what happens with a modular elevator. We purchase the same or comparable parts, and actually manufacture an elevator in a factory. It is much faster, greener and safer.
Inside a modular unit you will find the same parts because there are precious few elevator component producers. Where different parts are used, due to the level of regulation in the elevator industry, they are all high-quality. All must pass muster of regulating agencies and the elevator code. We just produce the product in a much better and smarter way.
What ultimately makes the difference is that modular elevators are actually manufactured in an assembly process. They are not pieced together in less than optimal working conditions. Imagine that! They are inspected daily for fit and finish. They are always plumb and square because checking quality is as easy as walking the factory floor. The units are produced horizontally so inspections are routine and daily.
Also, because it is manufactured you decide when it arrives. It is then shipped and is placed on-site. This ends workplace interruptions and the elevator is no longer holding up other’s work. They free up work space and the elevator is off the project’s critical path.
The set is less than a half a day. The startup less than a week. And get this, the elevator can be used for construction in some cases! A better elevator because the process is better. Same quality components, manufactured smarter.
Below is an honest list of things to look out for on your next elevator purchase. However, it is a bit self-serving. We feel MEM is the best alternative for quality, safety and cost-effective vertical transportation. However, your decision must be made based on facts and below are some to consider. So, look over this info to avoid some of the dirty little elevator secrets and feel free to challenge us with questions about our process and products:
Finally, consult, challenge and discuss. Biased? We are. But not regarding the conveyance type. We will be honest and fair. On our factory floor you will find hydraulic elevators and even roped hydraulic units as well to meet your needs. Our bias is based upon modular being a better way to produce elevators, not the elevator itself. We will recommend what you need and price anything else you want or have speced in.
If you are curious and would like more information just click the button below. In 24 hours we can produce a thumbnail price for any project. Remember with us there are no secrets! Just straight forward talk from people that care about you and your project that are highly experienced in the elevator industry.