You just got a brand new elevator or completed an elevator modernization. On the way out the door, the elevator technician gives you a quick demonstration and a ring full of keys. As the maintenance supervisor, property manager or building owner, you already have enough keys on your chain to drown if you fell into the swimming pool, and the elevator guy just gave you five more! What do all these keys do, and do you really need them all on the key chain you carry around everyday?
The problem is that the answer to this question varies due to elevator components, location and function. For instance, here is a catalog of keys and locks from a company often used when manufacturing commercial quality elevators. As you can see, there are hundreds of locks and keys for a wide variety of applications.
The most common keys are for fire service and access to the elevator, lights, and fans. But do you need to keep these keys handy, hanging off your already sagging belt? The answer is a resounding no. Elevator keys are specifically designed to be used for servicing the elevator, making the elevator inoperable or for firefighting purposes only. Unless you are a trained elevator technician or firefighter, you should not use the keys at all and should keep them in a safe location away from the public. In other words, do not use the elevator keys!
To be completely technical, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators addresses keys for elevators. You can find the information in ASME A17.1 – 2013, Section 8.1, where it designates that the elevator keys shall be kept on the premises, readily accessible to the proper personnel, but not accessible to the general public.
The keys do a number of things that primarily involve only the elevator technician and firefighters. Rather than unnecessarily adding to your growing key collection, keep them in a safe place away from the public.
In 1996, Kone introduced the world to its first Machine Room-Less traction elevator (MRL), and worldwide, this design has become common for medium-sized buildings. While regulations, code requirements and new product hesitancy have made growth slower in the United States, we are now seeing steadily increasing installations.
The MRL elevator is attractive due to emerging technology that significantly reduces the size of the electric motors normally used with traction elevators. This gives elevator manufacturers the option to replace the large machine room used to accommodate the motor with a small, more efficient motor placed in the overhead at the top of the hoistway. Instead of accessing the machine via ladders onto a roof, it is serviced from the car top.
However, just because it is becoming a common choice doesn’t mean the MRL is the right elevator configuration for your project. Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of MRLs to consider when looking for a new or replacement elevator.
- Energy savings – Some of the early claims were an energy savings of up to 80% compared to hydraulic units. However, closer examination has revealed those numbers may be inflated. This is especially true when comparing travel up and down, as hydraulic units are extremely efficient when going down. It is now thought that the running costs are reduced about half as much as previously thought, depending on use.
- Space saving – There is no doubt that without a traditional traction machine room, construction is simplified, as there is no need for rooftop access and the hoistway protrusion above the roof is smaller. Architects may appreciate this flexibility.
- Comparable durability, ride and safety – Early concerns were the MRL would not be as safe or as durable as a standard traction elevator, or the quality of the ride might suffer. MRLs have proven to be just as safe and comfortable as standard overhead traction, though they haven’t been around long enough to prove or disprove long-term durability.
- No hydraulic oil used – Currently, there are some environmental concerns with oil usage and possible oil seepage or spills, especially in elevators with in-ground jacks. MRL’s can alleviate those concerns. However, many of those concerns are now overstated, as all in-ground jacks must be contained in PVC liners. Also, hydraulic oil can now be made from biomass instead of petroleum.
Some of the downsides of MRL’s to consider:
- Higher initial investment – They simply come with a higher price tag for low and medium rise applications.
- Higher standby power requirement – While in operation, they are an energy saver, but when they are inactive, they use more energy than hydraulic elevators.
- Higher maintenance costs – MRLs, like traction elevators in general, have more moving parts and are thus more complex to service. Thus maintenance costs are typically higher.
- Higher repair costs – Due to part availability, repair time could be longer and more expensive. Also, many components must be refurbished or repaired at the manufacturer.
- Harder to service – The basic thought is that the elevator car top will serve as the service platform for the motor. If the elevator car cannot be moved to the top of the hoistway, getting to the motor safely may be a problem. Access to the motor needs to be considered before installation.
The takeaway is that there are several positives and negatives when it comes to making a decision about MRL’s. Depending on the project, age and condition of your current elevator, an MRL may make sense in the long run. On the other hand, in some circumstances, a hydraulic system is superior in initial investment and long-term maintenance.
It is important to gather information before you decide, and it helps to know the amount of traffic you are expecting, the total travel distance and what, if any, environmental concerns you have when thinking about a project. To get more guidance on the decision, we recommend you get an unbiased opinion from a company that offers a wide variety of elevators, including both MRL and hydraulic options or elevator consultant. The engineers and consultants at Phoenix Modular Elevator are ready and willing to discuss all of these elevator possibilities at any time.
The official grand opening for Phoenix Modular Elevator was a tremendous success! Nearly 100 of our friends and partners came out for a celebration that included a ribbon cutting, a few words from Mt. Vernon Mayor Mary Jane Chesley and Phoenix President Allison Allgaier and facility tour.
For the first time the public was able to see the new 25,000 square foot manufacturing plant that is now the largest modular elevator manufacturing facility in North America. The visitors got to witness production and hear from the team that assembles the modular elevators. With the new building the factory is more efficient and the team has more room for larger jobs and more elevators. Allison Allgaier, in her short speech indicated that, “With the new factory we are expecting production to double this year over last year’s numbers.” Mayor Chesley said that it is, “Wonderful to see a plant thriving and growing in Mt. Vernon.”
Phoenix Modular Elevator is proud to be the first resident of the new industrial park and is appreciative of the assistance received from the city, Jefferson County Development Corporation and many others that helped make the new plant a reality.
The new manufacturing site has already shown great improvements to the process of producing the world’s fastest installing elevator. Due to the larger production area and the fact that the factory is now on a single level, the process is smoother and easier. It allows assembly and manufacturing areas to be more organized and keep all inventory lineside. Multiple overhead cranes have streamlined the moving of elevators through the shop. Since moving into the new plant, three full time employees have been added and future growth is expected.
PME is an elevator manufacturer that produces high-quality, commercial modular elevators. A modular elevator is comprised of a steel hoistway with the elevator car and components completely pre-wired and installed inside. They are manufactured horizontally, trucked to jobsites, craned into place and installed in less than a week. This makes PME elevators the fastest installing elevators available. The units are found across the United States and Canada and used in schools, medical facilities, universities, hotels, stadiums, amusement parks, office buildings, government buildings and churches. Phoenix Modular Elevator has been constructing modular elevators since 1995.
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Everyone wants to see the friendly elevator guy with the big smile and the big handshake. After a merry greeting and traditional backslapping, he disappears down the hall and goes to work. Thirty minutes later, you hear the familiar sound of the tool belt jangling toward you and you know you are about to get a full report. But, after 40 minutes of discussing the weather, family, friends, fishing, the best BBQ in town, the nuances of abstract animation in the film noir era, oh and the elevator, he leaves. Both of you are the wiser for solving the world’s problems, but are you lighter in the pocketbook for the casual conversation.
This may be happening more than you think. How often do you actually look at the contract or repair bill and compare it to actual time spent on the elevator itself? Or do you know exactly what the contractual terms of your agreement are? Some may be billed a flat fee for certain maintenance regardless of time spent, but others may be paying for every five-minute increment. The terms are very important to know.
Each and every person who hires an elevator contractor understands that they will pay for time to repair and maintain elevators. No shock there. This normally comes in the form of a flat monthly fee with some exceptions for work outside of the scope of the contract. Others choose more comprehensive contracts that cover nearly all costs other than vandalism, intentional destruction or “Acts of God.” Also, hourly rates can vary widely depending on the geographic location and availability of technicians. Shopping the hourly rate may be a great place to start when looking at cutting the expense of maintenance, but actual time on the job may be hiding a bigger problem. Time actually spent on the job may not be matching what you are paying for.
Here are some things to be aware of that can increase costs.
- Forgotten tools – Have you had to pay for trips back to the shop or to the hardware store? Do you know if you have?
- Chitchat time – Are you forking over fees to find out what the weather is like in Bemidji or how the Bears did?
- Extra assistance – The elevator guys shows up with a team. Not sure if it is training or “bring your extended family to work day,” but you need to find out.
- The magic act – The incredible disappearing elevator mechanic. First you see him and then you don’t. Where was he for the past two hours? You checked the machine room and elevator and no one was to be found. Did he dematerialize into another dimension only to reappear suddenly just in time to go home?
- Lunch break, coffee break, smoke break – It is hard to swallow paying for all three of these in an hours time but it can happen.
- Whoops – The elevator professional drops his pliers from the top of the car and they end up in the pit. Oh well, one more unneeded trip to the dungeon.
These are just a few things that you maybe paying for that you are not even aware of. But, there are somethings you can do to alleviate the problem.
- Know your contract. If you are paying a monthly fee that is all inclusive and the elevator tech is a chatty Cathy and you like the banter..who cares. Enjoy the conversation. On the other hand, if you are being charged for every second that ticks off the clock, it’s time to reassess.
- Insist on a sign in and sign out every time they come and go. This will accomplish a couple of things. First, it will help alleviate the disappearing act. It will keep you informed on progress, it will make the technician more responsible and you will have a chance to find out what is going on with the elevator.
- Always check the maintenance log! It is your right and if “routine maintenance” is all that is written and it took two hours, there is a problem. Also insist that a log is kept in the machine room. This should be added to your elevator plan.
- Open a dialog with the technician. When he seems to be working a long time, safely track him down and ask what is going on. Remember, this is your building and you are granting him and his company the privilege of working on it.
- Open a dialog with the dispatcher or supervisor. Do this before problems start if they ever do. You should be on a first name basis with the person that tracks the time and services of the technician. This may also get some of your basic questions answered for free.
Remember the vast majority of elevator technicians are hard-working, want to fix problems right and have integrity when it comes to the people they service. However, that does not mean that you shouldn’t check their work and build into your routine a time to do some follow up and re-reading of the contract.