Tag Archives: elevator maintenance

Don’t Guess – Know Elevator Maintenance

We have all had the experience: your car just stops going. The engine revs, but you just don’t go forward well at all. You “baby” it as best you can to your local mechanic, he hooks it up to a zillion diagnostic gizmos with plugs and wires, he updates the operating system, performs all the recalls and finally, after the plethora of the clamps and diodes are removed and the computer goes dark, your car is pronounced good to go. The problem is when you pick the car up, it makes it home, but the next day isn’t good to go at all. As a matter of fact, the vehicle isn’t going anywhere.

Guess what? Misdiagnosis.

Now you have to trudge back to the garage, make arrangements again to have it worked on, line up a ride and get ready to argue the bill.

In the world of elevators, building owners and managers see the same thing. The elevator is busted, a frantic call is made, tenants are freaking out and your phone is lit up like a Christmas tree with complaints. When the repair guy finally shows up, because you have seen this movie before, you strategically place yourself in the repair guy’s most likely path, with arms folded and foot tapping impatiently.  He fidgets with his tool belt as he walks, acting as if he is all set to dive in. As he nears, knowing that he can’t avoid a conversation, he spits out an excuse, a weak apology about being late and then says, “It probably just needs to be reset.”

Here we go again.

Then the waiting game begins as you pace like a striking teamster; all you need is a placard stapled to a strip of pine wood. When he finally emerges from the machine room door an hour later, he says, “All done, must have had a power surge.” After thank you’s all around and a hearty hand shake, he exits the premises. But then, not an hour later, it breaks down again. By this time it is after hours and the response is not so prompt.

DISCLAIMER: Before I go any further I just want to say that the vast majority of elevator mechanics are extremely capable and competent. I am talking about the small minority.

What was the problem? For some reason, the elevator mechanic was just guessing. The other options are limited. Either something else broke that miraculously presented the exact same symptoms, or the technician is just not that bright. So let’s be generous and assume incompetence instead of ignorance. How do you respond?

Rock and a hard place.

Let’s face it: at the time the elevator mechanic is in charge as only he can get the elevator running right then.  Only in extreme cases (or never) should a verbal confrontation ensue.  However, the next day, if you have seen this pattern repeatedly, specific actions should be taken:

  1. Contact the company that maintains the elevator. Go over the head of the elevator mechanic, other technicians, the sales guy or the dispatcher.  Especially if this has not been a one-time affair, consistent problems require a manager or owner of the maintenance company. Don’t settle for less.
  2. Don’t discuss the matter over the phone in detail. Instead express your displeasure and schedule an in-person meeting on your premises. If they won’t schedule a visit, it will show you how much they really care about your business. Skip to number 9.
  3. Prior to the meeting, review your contract! Know what you signed on for, before the meeting.
  4. Document, if you aren’t already keeping a list of ongoing problems and failures, costs associated, poor service, and failures of service do so or compile one. Check the elevator log in the machine room for visits and notes regarding the unit. Make a complete list of issues that need to be addressed.
  5. Don’t accept an apology until the problem is resolved. Far too often, the apology is just a tactic to diffuse a situation. It seems to be in everyone’s current customer service playbook. Instead, when someone starts with, “I understand how you feel, and I am sorry…” cut them off! Explain that the most important part of the apology is making the aggrieved party (you) whole. Sorry’s can be handed out, when the problem is fixed. “I’m sorry” has become meaningless, and the easiest words to speak in the English language.
  6. In the meeting, address the immediate situation first. Keep in mind, it is OK to ask for a different technician. Not all are created equal and you might have drawn the short straw when it comes to mechanics.
  7. Once the immediate problem has been resolved, start working on the longer-term or systemic issues.
  8. Take good notes, record action items and email a list of duties going forward so everyone is on the same page.
  9. Most importantly, regardless of how things have gone, send a certified letter to the elevator maintenance company and indicate that you wish to terminate the maintenance agreement. This will prove you are serious and give you leverage when negotiating future contracts. Also, if things prove to be an ongoing problem, then you have officially served notice. Keep in mind in most cases your letter will not kick in for a few years! That’s right you are tethered to this company for a while, but the certified letter will severe your relationship when the contract is up. Then you can find another, hopefully better company.

If you follow these steps, you at least can have a plan when it comes to the few times that there is consistent poor service provided.

 

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Close the Door on Elevator Repairs

Sill
A clean sill.

Elevator doors open and close all the time. As a matter of fact, according to the Elevator History website, every three days, elevators worldwide carry the equivalent of the Earth’s total population. With a global population of 7.4 billion, that’s a lot of elevator trips! And that means there are lots of doors opening and closing.

Mechanically, elevator doors are very reliable, especially when you are considering the total use, but they can, and do, have failures. The good news is that not all problems with the doors means a catastrophic breakdown, and there are some very specific, easy and safe actions you can take if your elevator doors aren’t working as well as they could.

The simple maintenance tips below can help keep the elevator and its doors running smoothly without waiting for the elevator technician to show up. This is especially true if the problems include slow closing doors or doors that are staying open when they are supposed to close.

  • Clean the sill plate – The elevator door sill is the usually metallic plate that you step over every time you walk through the doors into the elevator car. What you may not have known is that this is not just a transitional piece of decoration. It is the actual track that the elevator doors slide back and forth on. A small plastic piece on the bottom of the door slides back and forth in the sill track, so a small rock or even heavy dirt build-up can cause the door to become jammed or slowed. The solution is a good cleaning. Use a soft brush or vacuum cleaner to make sure the track is debris free.
  • An obstruction is not the only thing to look for in the sill plate. Check for any sticky substances. Many times, because the sill goes unnoticed, building maintenance personnel don’t realize the groove in the sill plate is supposed to be clean. They see a brown goo in the track and think it has always been there or should be there. Especially in high traffic elevators such as hotels, we see tons of soda-pop spilled in the sill. This creates a sticky film that often gums up the works and can impede the door from opening and closing. This is a little harder to clean, but try some soapy water and a mild scouring pad.
  • In most elevators today, there are what looks like simple black plastic strips that are on the edge of the door and on the door jamb of the elevator car from the floor to the top of the door. These are more than just a single light beams like the old days. They generate an infrared light curtain that if interrupted by any object, tell the door to open. This is to prevent the door closing on people and reduce injuries. These infrared lights can be interrupted by dirt or wax build-up from the wrong type of cleaning fluid on the infrared sensors, paint or even something just hanging in the way and being blown into the light path.  Give the black strips a good cleaning and make sure it is not blocked by anything. Be careful, though! Even heavy scratches can cause a false reading.

Of course, if you are not certain about what should be in the sill track or how to clean the components, call the elevator maintenance team you are contracted with and get a better explanation or schedule an appointment, but a good cleaning can go a long way in the operation of the doors. One thing for sure, we have seen all varieties of obstructions from pen caps and bottle caps to coins and pencils. All can stop the door from proper functioning.

Remember that if you add these cleaning tasks to the monthly building maintenance schedule, it should help keep the doors sliding like they should and close the door on some of the elevator repairs.

New Years Resolution to Improve

Move to Finish 4In this past year, Phoenix Modular Elevator has made tremendous strides forward in its effort to provide great service locally and an alternative to stick built elevators across North America. As most of you know in 2017 we moved to a brand new facility in Mount Vernon, Illinois and that has improved our quality and speed, with elevators flying through our production process. It has also given our service team more room to grow and more capabilities as well.

Part of our growth meant we needed to add more team members that do everything from welding and drywall to elevator repair, maintenance and service. To help make our service even better we have hired a purchasing manager to assist with getting the right parts in fast. As well as new service employees to maintain elevators across our region.

But we are not satisfied with standing still. Our goal for 2017 was an ambitious 40% growth over 2016 and we have surpassed that goal. But reaching the goal did not come easy. We knew we had to be able to have the space and equipment to service and manufacture elevators that to go well above fifteen stories and to be able to produce and service elevators in larger and larger numbers. Due to our new expanded facilities and service personnel we feel we can now provide elevator service to any customer regardless of the number of elevators they have in their building or buildings throughout the region.

We remain optimistic for 2018 as we are again projecting 40% growth and to help push us further down the road, we again are building new space and adding an additional concrete apron around the facility to make dropping off materials and components easier, more efficient, and faster.

The new building will be constructed and operational by March of 2018 and will house our maintenance and service team. They are the folks that keep all of the machinery of the factory up and running but also keep elevators all over the area running smoothly. The site will be complete with a repair bay for the fork trucks and other needed large equipment as well as inventory for service repairs. This will greatly improve productivity. It will also give us the space we need to develop and maintain more production and service equipment.  We have great ideas to improve our methods and now we will have the space to make them a reality.

This is a very exciting time for Phoenix Modular Elevator and we are looking forward to a happy New Year indeed. We hope your’s is just as prosperous.

All About Elevator Jacks

A view from under the elevator car of an in-ground jack.
A view from under the elevator car of an in-ground jack with the piston extended.

When it comes to many elevator applications, especially for buildings between 2 and 5 stories, you will find a hydraulic jack is a common, yet crucial part of the system that drives the elevator up. As a matter of fact, approximately 70% of all elevators installed are hydraulic in nature and contain jacks.  The jacks are part of a system that includes hydraulic fluid, tanks, motors, and pumps with the jack being the final piece of the system.  So, understanding the basics of the elevator jack is crucial if you are considering buying a new elevator or modernizing the jacks in an existing elevator.

Depending on the system you have, the distance your elevator travels, and the space available, you have several options available.

Click here for an explanation of each kind of elevator jack. 

Elevator U Report: Maintenance – It’s Just Business

Recently, I sat in on a great discussion at Elevator U regarding elevator maintenance. Elevator U is an organization that has an annual gathering of elevator pe

Elevator U Final

rsonnel from colleges and universities around the country. The conference is a great opportunity to meet and greet some great folks in the elevator business and to learn a lot of valuable information through taking part in the various seminars and breakout sessions about the industry. One of the speakers this year was Dr. Clemense Ehoff, an accounting professor at Central Washington University. He is a published writer on information specific to the elevator industry, especially elevator maintenance.

During his presentation, Ehoff made a couple of important points about the vertical transportation industry that ought to be paid special attention by those that own buildings with elevators…Click for the whole report.