Tag Archives: elevator repair

Elevator U: The Myth of Maintenance Teamwork

pierre-etienne-vachon-116891 (1)
Photo by Pierre-Etienne Vachon on Unsplash

Long-term planning for elevator maintenance takes cooperation from several parties and often is equated to teamwork. However, the idea that a team is always the solution to the problem often misses the bigger point. At the recent Elevator U conference we learned a lot about the various people that make elevator maintenance systems work but, surprisingly, the word team was never mentioned.

This is may be because when you hear the word “team,” you think of a group of individuals all dressed in the same uniform striving for victory, all pulling in the same direction. Even though everyone’s in-game goals may be different, victory for the team is always the objective, so they cast self-wants aside for the win.

Baseball is a great example of this. The goal of the pitcher is to strike people out, force a simple ground ball or “can of corn” pop-fly, but sometimes they have to intentionally walk an apposing player to ensure a win. The batter always wants to drive the ball for a hit, but every once in a while a sacrifice is required above the attempt at a dramatic homer. A selfish player or someone that has goals apart from on field victory is never a welcome addition to the team, even if they are great players. The goal should always be the win; not the individual’s desires.

Although we would like to think that elevator maintenance is a team sport, with everyone pulling in the same direction and willing to sacrifice for the good of the team, oftentimes it is not. The result is that managing elevator maintenance needs to come with the realization that everyone might just be dressed in different uniforms and they may not be playing on your team at all. This is not because people in the elevator business should be considered corrupt or lazy and out of hand; it is because the various components needed to have good elevator service usually have differing goals. The people it takes to keep an elevator running are sometimes working in opposition to each other so instead of a team, it should be looked at as a partnership.

This is why it’s important to ask: Who are my partners and what are their motives?

The elevator company – They are who you have the actual maintenance contract with and their goal is to make money by providing good service and products. If keeping you happy makes them money, all is good. When you cost them money…well, that’s another story. To confirm this fact, look over your current contract and see who the language favors. You will find that it is a very lopsided document. There is nothing wrong with them wanting to ring the cash register as often as possible. They have a lot of responsibilities which cost them dearly: they employ people with their revenue, provide upgrades and improvement, and even engage in R&D to make elevators safer and better functioning. Making money is not evil, but it’s important to realize that it is their goal.

The repair personnel – Sometimes they are on your team and other times they are not. Often times the technician’s goal is to simply make it though the day with their sanity intact. They have lots of stops to get to and there’s pressure from the company to maintain lots of different elevators plus special projects. They also must be efficient, punctual, and represent the company in person to you, all while making money for the company. They must live in the impossible world of making each customer their number one priority or at least feel that way. They can be reliable and loyal, but their bread is buttered somewhere else. Keep in mind they straddle this fence all the time and a good relationship is a plus. But be warned! You can’t fire them, but you can make sure they are where they are supposed to be and repairing what they are supposed to. Also, all techs are not created equal and you may have drawn the short straw.

Next in the line up is the building maintenance or facilities department – Their goal is, first and foremost, to solve problems, keep their job and avoid pain. A person responsible for maintaining the whole building may know very little about an elevator, but has the nearly impossible task of keeping it running (with the help of the certified elevator tech) and assisting with or making long-term decisions on the elevators in general. Recently, I had an opportunity to meet several of these great folks at the Elevator U conference. The conference is for college and university staff, administrators, facility managers and elevator technicians to learn about and discuss challenges and gain information to problem solve. I was surprised by the number of first time attendees there were and many had no background in the elevator business at all. You may find that a facility manager has technical training in another trade all together or may specialize in business or management and may completely hate the elevator responsibilities as it may not be their bailiwick.

Sometimes they have little or no time to deal with the issues raised regarding elevators and so they acquiesce to the wishes of experts (elevator techs) for expediency purposes. Modernization can roll off the lips of the facility department personnel, because they may not be as concerned with the bottom line.  Also, remember this department or individual is the first line of defense when it comes to complaints from both users and superiors and that’s something else they have to deal with on a day to day basis.

Finally, the building owner or facility manager – This partner has the goal of keeping the elevator running as smoothly as possible with as few shut downs for as little money as they can spend. They may actually break out in a rash if “modernization” or “major shut down” is even uttered. They feel like the elevator is a money pit and essentially believe that, since installed, the elevator keeps costing money in service contracts, shutdowns, and repairs. They know that the elevator is necessary, but ultimately they have the job of running a business or organization in the black and out of the red which leaves them with little patience for stoppages.

This disparate group of misfitting parts makes up the partners (or team) that have the duty to provide a safe, efficient elevator for the public. Holding them together may just be an impossible task.  But understanding their professional goals is a good place to start and always keep in mind that consistently reminding each other of the ultimate goal of providing safe vertical transportation at a reasonable cost. This may lead to more appreciation of each other and, who knows, maybe a little sacrifice every now and again for the benefit of the team.

Lessons from Crime

Just because a guy calls himself an elevator repairman doesn't mean that he is.
He seems official enough, he’s carrying a clipboard!

On Monday I pulled into the parking lot, grabbed my lunch and half empty coffee cup and casually strolled into the office. I was stopped by the people at the front desk with shocking news. We had been robbed! The building was broken into over the weekend. Missing items included a lap top, some tools and a few other items including a credit card.

When that happens you kind of kick yourself and then chalk it up to experience, tighten security and move on. But a different lesson started to emerge from the incident when the detective from the local police department showed up to tell us about the progress on the case.

The officer relayed like most criminals, the guy that broke into our office was no Mensa member. He took the credit card and immediately went to his friendly neighborhood Walmart store to make a small charge; more than likely to test if he could get away with getting something larger. For the police it was as simple as looking for the transaction from our credit card records and voila we had a great snap shot of the would be master criminal. He also went to an ATM to try to withdraw some cash. A difficult proposition it you don’t have the PIN. But, again although he didn’t hit the jackpot, he did get several quality photos taken of himself! Suitable for framing.

However, the Walmart photo revealed the lesson that we can all learn and apply to our businesses. When he waltzed into the store he was wearing a hard hat and a day-glow safety vest. I guess he was trying to look official or like he was a hard working, lunch pail toting, regular guy with some authority, all decked out in his costume. His trick may have gotten him some undeserved respect in Walmart, but what this rocket scientist didn’t know is that ultimately it just made it easier to find him in the photographs the cops needed. It was not a case of Where’s Waldo! Let’s face it day-glow, construction yellow kind of sticks out like a sore thumb, painted day-glow yellow.

The lesson is that work sites, large buildings, schools and other areas with and without elevators have lots of people coming and going all the time. Some are wearing hard hats, some are wearing safety vests and rarely there is a check of ID or verification that the person wandering around is who they are representing they are.

It is a good idea to have a “check in” area for workers, contractors and subcontractors and keep close tabs on who comes and goes. Just because a person says they are from your elevator company doesn’t mean that they are. We feel it is not a nuisance to be asked for a company ID. If you have your suspicions call in and ask the company.  This is especially true if  it is someone you don’t recognize or hasn’t been to your building before. This lesson is even for owners of smaller buildings who sometimes tend to be more trusting. For elevator companies it should mean that introductions should be made and checking in is a must before you get to work.