The Purrfect Gift – Long-Term Elevator Costs

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

My mother-in law has made several mistakes in her life, but few rank as high as her comment that one of our brand new kitties was so “absolutely cute” that she wished she could have one.

The story begins one cold, blustery day in December when my mother-in-law came for a short visit to our house. During her stop, she heard a muffled meowing coming from a crate on our front porch that had old quilting poking out between the slats. At once, she bent down to carefully peer into the well-insulated wooden box and saw a moving, purring mound of black and white fur comprised of a mother cat and four cute kitties all snuggled safely together. Almost everyone loves the sight of a four-week old kitty-cat and, if I can say it, especially women. After all, kittens are furry, fun, curious and cuddly, and these had a large sympathy quotient, as there was a bit of a chill in the air.

With Christmas looming large on the horizon, guess what brilliant idea I had and what the mother-in law got under the tree? A lovable, black and white kitten freshly weened and ready for all the affection a mother could supply. I didn’t leave her totally empty-handed with her new pet. She also got a huge bag of kitty litter, several bags of food, bowls and assorted toys.

Everyone was happy, right? My mother-in-law got a new friend, the cat was off the front porch and I found a sucker willing to take in a new border.

But then, as things tend to do, the shine comes off the penny a bit, when the cat (not cuddly kitty anymore) uses the antique couch leg for a scratching post, starts coughing up who knows what staining the carpet and seems to reject every brand of cat food costing less than $25 a bag. Let me put it this way; you know you are in trouble when the only food your cat can hold down consists of whole Atlantic herring, yellowtail flounder, chickpeas and sun dried green lentils. I mean, I don’t even know what “sun dried lentil” are!

An elevator can be the same in a way. Everyone is excited to get one and they arrive fresh and new with bright buttons and shiny doors, plus all the stuff you need; a ring full of keys that jingle when you walk, a tank full of oil and a friendly man that stops by every once in a while to keep it purring just like it is supposed to.

The shine comes off the elevator penny as well. It gets dinged and scratched from every day use, it shakes a bit and groans a little more and the costs keep piling up. Many don’t realize with cats you are talking about life span of costs of around 15 years. Vets, medicine, food, toys, time, destruction and on and on the list of expenses goes and builds. An elevator has a lifespan of twice that with a similar list of expenses. Oil or ropes, lube, parts, wear and tear and the biggest expense of all, monthly maintenance. Bigg elevator companies can charge as much as $250 for a hydraulic elevator every month,whether they come out to check the unit or not. For a traction unit, Bigg Elevator starts their pricing at $600 per unit per month. To make matters worse, the maintenance fee can be automatically increased at the whim of the elevator company. Don’t believe me? Check your current contract.

The bottom line is that when getting an elevator or pet, think long-term as far as the costs are concerned.

Long-term, know that the initial elevator investment is often the tip of the iceberg and Bigg Elevator can make the price look awfully attractive to get you locked in, until the boom is lowered with future costs. Instead, be a smart buyer and get what you need, not what is being pushed, before signing on the dotted line. As an example right now we are getting lots of calls from wary consumers being up-sold traction units with proprietary parts on two-story and three-story buildings. Not cool. They are more expensive up front and in maintenance costs in the long run and are simply not needed in most cases. Why saddle yourself with a larger bill than you need for the life of an elevator?

The long-term expense for giving a pet as gifts means weighing carefully the value of the relationship with your mother-in-law versus the cost of raising the pet yourself…well…looks like mom gets a puppy for Christmas this year.

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Manufacturing Day – The Bright Future


“What’s wrong with these teenagers?” Sit long enough on a bar stool at a diner or greasy spoon and you are bound to hear that sentiment expressed by someone. There is the notion that hard work in a manufacturing setting is not the work that the soft hands of the current generation would be comfortable with.

But at the recent Manufacturing Day, Phoenix Modular Elevator opened our doors to dozens of young people from Southern Illinois interested in manufacturing as a career. We found great hope and a bright future for the manufacturing industry in the young people we welcomed.  As a matter of fact, when we asked one of our tour groups who was considering a future in manufacturing, nearly every hand shot up immediately. However, that has not always been the case. For some time, manufacturing was downplayed in some circles and the future of manufacturing was in doubt. As a response to this misconception, Manufacturing Day was created.

Manufacturing Day began in 2012 and since then, the annual, nationwide event strives to correct public perception, that manufacturing is a sure sign of missed opportunity and a lack of realized potential in a young person or that working in a factory was somehow substandard. Nothing is further from the truth.

Phoenix Modular Elevator has participated in Manufacturing Day for two consecutive years and during both, students were given a chance to see the process of making a modular elevator, interacting with employees from sales and engineering to fabrication and wiring. You could feel the excitement as the factory was buzzing with personal stories of how employees found their way to careers in manufacturing and how young people could prepare themselves for a challenging opportunity in the factory environment. Questions about apprenticeships and getting their foot in the door were common, as well as certifications or degrees needed. The young people came to realize that in manufacturing environments, the employees are highly trained, well-paid and often work on state-of the-art equipment creating with their hands and minds real products that are in use everyday.

At Phoenix Modular Elevator, the students were surprised that the elevators produced have been placed all over North America, from Prince Edward Island to Los Angeles, Alaska’s Ice Road to southern Florida and also that the company has realized significant growth over the past few years. They were intrigued by the fact that we are currently in a factory that is only one year old and we are doubling the size and capacity of our manufacturing line by the beginning of next year.

In large part, the participants found the notion that factories are antiquated and designed for low-skilled workers debunked. They witnessed quality workmanship at the highest skill level and a workforce that was engaged in process improvement and the future growth of the company.

The funny thing… ten years ago, if you had gone to that very same bar or restaurant, you would have heard the very same comments or something similar bemoaning the state of young people. The truth is that every generation, when passed the torch of the future, are often criticized. It is a national pastime. But we at PME are taking a different approach. We are embracing the young people on the horizon of their careers, as they are the future; a very bright future.

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Elevator Flooded – What To Do

Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash

When dark clouds roll in, there is often concern for the elevator. This is because often the lowest part of any building is in an unlikely place; under the elevator. Almost every elevator sits atop an elevator pit and as the elevator often travels to all the levels of the building (including the basement or underground parking) the pit and all the elevator components are possible trouble spots when there is too much rain like we are seeing this hurricane season. Because flood waters can permanently damage the equipment, it maybe a good idea to know what you can do to keep the elevator safe in storms and in as good operating condition as possible depending on the circumstances.

First, remember that you can get a pit flood alarm system, a sump pump and back up electricity source for the pump. But those devices maybe OK for a leaky pipe or stopped up drain; they are usually pointless for catastrophic events where electricity will be off for an extended period of time. So what should you do if a hurricane is bearing down?

Here is a list of things to do:

  1. Use the elevator to evacuate those who need the elevator before it becomes an emergency. The disabled, children, and the elderly may be reliant on the elevator. People are looking to you to make important decisions for them. Listen to local authorities and heed their warnings. Evacuate when told or sooner.
  2. When in doubt don’t ride the elevator or permit others to ride. Play it safe. If water is standing in the pit at all, it is a bad idea to let people ride. Don’t do it!!! It is also a very bad idea for people to ride the elevator at the height of a hurricane or severe storm even if there is no flooding. A power outage could put people at risk.
  3. If you have multiple elevators, reduce the overall number of those in service to one, making sure it is one that goes to all floors. Once everyone is evacuated, reserve use of the elevator to emergency personnel only.
  4. For the elevators not is use, take them up to the highest floor available for hydraulic and to a middle floors for traction elevators. Make sure all the doors are closed to the elevator cars.
  5. Shut things down! Turn off all of the main disconnects for any elevator deemed unessential.
  6. In a low rise building, when it is time to go, run the last hydraulic elevator to the top floor, then disconnect the main for this elevator as well. Remember keep safe. If there is no time, don’t take the time to save the elevator if it means putting your life in jeopardy. For a traction elevator, halfway up will do.
  7. If possible sandbag the machine room doors and vents if it is predicted flood waters will get higher than the entrance. Also sandbag any penthouse machine to prevent blown in water.
  8. Make sure all the hoistway and machine room venting is closed or blocked.

All of the above are suggestions and pre-suppose that there is time. DO NOT PUT YOUR LIFE AT RISK over elevators. Don’t go anywhere near submerged power lines or handle wet electronics.

Once the flood is over, then call in a professional to assess damage and get the elevators operational again. Make sure you document everything you can from severity of damage to costs of repairs. Also take the time to do research before any flooding occurs. Here is a great place to start. The best way to handle a flooded elevator is to be prepared before hand.

Think Outside the Breadbox

manki-kim-378397-unsplashHow much longer could he stand it?

Charles P. Strite worked at a factory in Minneapolis, Minnesota and often visited the cafeteria for breaks and meals. Yet every time he ordered a simple piece of toast, it came to him burnt. There is no record as to whether he desired it dry, with butter, smeared with jelly or slathered in honey, but apparently no oleo or margarine could soften the scorched bread and no jam could sweeten its taste. Enough was enough; he had all he could stand. And who among us could blame him?  After all, man had already conquered air with motorized flight thanks to the Wright Brothers in Kitty Hawk; why, oh why, could man not produce evenly toasted bread?

This question soon became his obsession that ultimately put Strite on a collision course with history as his quest for aemulantur tosti perfectus (the perfect slice of toast) would shape the remainder of his life and the lives of all mankind for years to come. Strite may not have know he was a man of destiny, but he was, and despite crumbs of failure along the way, the golden-brown goodness of success would soon follow.

But destiny, fame and fortune through the cooking of sliced bread would not come easy, as few things do. There would be scoffers. The traditional way of toasting bread since time and memoriam was a simple heat source and then constantly flipping the bread by hand until done. That was the way grandpa did it and I am sure few saw the need for improvement, but Strite did.

He had the vision to see that the tools to accomplish his goals were well within his grasp.  Albert Marsh had already discovered the Nichrome filament needed as the heat source, electricity had been around since before the turn of the century, and timing devises were accessible. Also, electricity was not just available, but it was being placed in more and more homes and restaurants across the US. All Strite had to do was to bring the components together to simultaneously cook both sides of bread and then, almost like magic, be ejected or popped up from the heating device once done.

After years of experimentation, eureka! Strite finally realized success in 1919. He applied for a patent and the modern toaster was born. In 1921, he received U.S. patent No. 1,394,450 for his device, which became known as the “Toastmaster” and he was in business. His first patent was for a restaurant model that would ensure he would never face a burnt piece of toast looking up at him on a plate in the cafeteria again. But he wasn’t done. He created his own manufacturing company and followed with another patent, this time for a home version. His simple device would free people from the shackles of the labor intensive constant flipping of bread, the nemesis of chefs around the globe. Now cooks and novices alike at home, in greasy spoons to five star establishments, could free up time to be more efficient in the kitchen. The world was changed forever.

Was there success? Are you kidding? Coupled with an equally astounding invention of Otto Frederick Rohwedder – sliced bread in 1928 – and you have over a million toasters sold every year. A man who saw the flaws in something as simple as toasting bread revolutionized cooking forever.

The modern elevator has a similar story. All the components were there and well within grasp. But the grandpas in the old-fashioned elevator business pooh-poohed any new advancement and stymied real change in the market. Instead, they opted to stay in the box and ignore the possibilities of ground-breaking enhancements. Yet we at Phoenix Modular Elevator thought outside of the box to produce an elevator from a newer and better perspective. We have created a perfect replacement for the old-fashioned way of building an elevator, hoistway to car.

Making modular elevators is revolutionary because our elevators are safer to put in place and get running, more cost effective and faster to build and install. We are not selling a million a year…yet, but thinking big and in a different way to tackle a problem will always result in success. And success is coming. The world’s largest modular elevator factory is about to double in size to keep up with the increasing demand.

Somewhere I think, in my heart of hearts, that Charles Strite is looking down from his lofty position of world-class inventor with a tear in his eye and perfectly toasted bread on his lips, nodding his head in approval that his legacy of invention has not died. Despite those who don’t share our vision and would rather us continue with old ways,  we, like Strite, are leaning forward into the future one modular elevator at a time.

Its A Chairlift Not A Freight Elevator

ChairliftFantastic news for the elevator industry! Another chairlift has broken down and the building owner is shopping for an elevator as a replacement. That is the last sentence a building owner wants to read, however it is an all too familiar occurrence. The most common reason for failure is that the wheelchair lift is being used for everything other than wheelchairs and being used way too often under stress. Recently one building manager told me that he has heard that employees call wheelchair lifts “the freight elevator”.

That pretty much sums up the issue.

See, most wheelchair lifts and LULA (limited use, limited application) elevators use a cantilever system where the support for the load juts out from just one-side of the hoistway under the platform or car. Ultimately, the further out the load is shifted from that side, the more likely damage can be done, especially if repeated often.

Due to this design and other factors, the lifting capacity for most wheelchair lifts is around 500 lb to 750 lb and often they are restricted by law or specs to a wheelchair, the occupant and one attendant only. Also, if you are moving one item in a LULA or other elevator, code restricts use to 25% of the total weight capacity.  So, a baby grand piano (or any piano) is too heavy, a fridge – too much, a cast iron bath tub – a bit of a strain.  Just because you can fit something in it or on it, doesn’t mean that you should try to move it. Keep this in mind too; just because the lift moves up and down, doesn’t mean that’s OK. It may well be harming your lift and the further away the load is from the side with the support, the more harm you could do.

One particular case that illustrates this was a lift installed for an old building being used for events in a small town. To better accommodate guests with disabilities, they wanted a lift for vertical transportation. To save money, they went with a LULA (Limited Use Limited Application) lift. They thought that people with disabilities would use it occasionally. Limited use, right? But, after multiple return trips for repairs and frequent breakdowns, a video camera was placed inside the car to figure out the problem. Low and behold, the cause was discovered.

The video revealed the actual use was not limited in the least and was more appropriate for a freight elevator. We watched the video of a typical Saturday night as heavy sound and lighting equipment, chairs, food carts and caterers avoided the steps and used the little LULA that could. So much for limited use and application. This was no minimally used elevator for people in wheelchairs, but a lift used by many for convenience, to avoid trudging up a flight of steps and carrying lots of heavy things that no one wanted to lug. In one day, there were over 100 trips logged, many with too much weight.

Ultimately, the owner had only 2 options: limit the use to disabled people only, or to have purchased a beefier, commercial elevator. The first is difficult to implement and police, and can lead to user dissatisfaction. So the better option would have been to install a commercial elevator in the first place.

To avoid a similar fate, here are steps to take when choosing the right mode of vertical transport:

  • Be realistic about the use. Know that unless the elevator is supervised, people will use it for nearly anything.
  • Pick an elevator that meets the needs of the use. This may mean a simple chairlift, LULA, commercial passenger or freight elevator. Keep in mind that there are several capacities for LULAs and all elevators or lifts. Pick an elevator that fits your needs, and if you aren’t sure, ask a professional.
  • Listen to experts. Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding use and suitability of the particular model you are looking at. Call several companies that install elevators, not just sales representatives for LULA companies.
  • Get to know your code or ask. Depending on the building, location, and other factors you may be required to have something more than a wheelchair lift or LULA.
  • Shop carefully. There is more than one elevator company in the world and several lift companies. Look before you buy.
  • Find the right one for you with a certified installer you can trust. This is the team that will be installing and maintaining; make sure they are qualified.

If you have a lift or LULA and the problems are starting to pile up, think about your use. Consider that use may be outside of the abilities of the lift and limitations. Consider an upgrade if one is needed or track usage more closely. The bottom line is that LULA and chairlifts means limits and you need to be clear-minded about your needs, so you can get the right vertical transportation to start with. That way, you can avoid a replacement that drives up costs, needs a multitude of repairs, and the inconvenience of unnecessary shut downs along the way.