Tag Archives: elevator

This traction elevator is one we toured at Elevator University.

Safety: A Primary Concern of Modular

Traction Elevator OU
All safety gear is a must.

If you work in construction at all, you’re probably familiar with the the term “workplace falls”. Two past headlines concerning workplace falls involving elevator shafts include: “Worker Critical After Fall Down Elevator Shaft” and “Man Recuperates After Surviving Fall Down Elevator Shaft.” In the first example, the scaffolding the man was working on collapsed. He fell down the shaft and suffered two broken legs and a broken pelvis. He is expected to make a full recovery.

The second man didn’t fare as well. He was finishing concrete near an elevator opening when he lost his balance and fell 45 feet, breaking both his vertebrae and ribs. Fortunately, he still has feeling in his legs and plans to walk again in the future. A third recent accident is under investigation, but it seems that it was an accidental fall down a hoistway as well, this time resulting in death.

The first two are the  luckier elevator hoistway construction accidents, as the workers did not lose their lives. But, like all workplace accidents, these injuries could have been avoided. Part of the problem involves traditional stick-built elevator construction. The old way of how the elevator shaft is built is inherently dangerous. The shaft is constructed in the building and as a result, hatch doors are open for months while other construction trades work around the shaft. They are to be closed off with appropriate warnings but, because installation takes so long, the openings for the elevator doors are often ignored and result in a hazard for anyone who visits or works on the job site.

This has a negative impact on both the employee and even the employer. An unfinished and hazardous elevator can mean accidents that drive up costs and lost man hours as well as the human toll of injury or death.

One way to avoid many of these accidents is to have a complete modular elevator brought to the site, craned into place and then installed in a week or less. Modular elevators have all the doors on the elevator hoistway closed and locked until the elevator is installed and functioning. This prevents falls down the shaft. Also, there is no long wait time for the elevator to be installed. It arrives at the site and is fully functional in less than a week. It can even be placed before other construction begins on the building. Modular, in many circumstances, is the solution to the safety problems that are experienced when dealing with an open elevator hoistway.

Another example of the danger of old-fashioned elevator installation are the rails. The modular elevator comes as a completed unit with all the components already installed–there are no rails to put into place. Elevator installers will tell you that because there is heavy lifting involved, as well as working in a cramped, vertical elevator shaft, rail installation is one of the most hazardous tasks to tackle in a traditional installation. With a commercial quality modular elevator, they and the car are installed in the factory which leads to another safety advantage.

However, if you must work around a stick-built shaft, follow these tips to avoid becoming a statistic and taking a long fall down the open hoistway:

  1. Stay out – If you are not a licensed professional, stay out of the elevator hoistway. If you are an elevator professional, remember your training, don’t get sloppy and never risk injury.
  2. Personal fall arrest system – If you are working in an area where you can fall more than six feet, a deceleration device or body harness is needed. Safety nets may also be part of the system.
  3. Cover the openings – Most of the falls involving elevators are missteps through open shafts or openings for elevator doors. Cover any floor hole where people are walking and make sure it is clearly marked “hole.” If you are working near an open elevator door, make sure it is marked well and a guardrail is put into place.
  4. Have an extra spotter – When you are directing a crane operator or moving an object where you cannot see your feet, get extra help to watch out for holes and openings, and objects or terrain that could cause a stumble.
  5. Training is a must – Make sure everyone on the job site has had the proper safety training. Proper safety gear and techniques can save lives.
  6. Get help for any heavy lifting – Rail installation is not a one person job, so don’t try to be a superhero.
  7. Analyze the job site for potential hazards before you start work and make sure you are well acquainted with any dangers or risks – Make a plan to deal with those risks and follow that plan.

According to OSHA, of the four fatal accidents (falls, struck by object, electrocution, caught in/between), falls account for a third of construction fatalities. Do what you can to eliminate the possibilities of a job site fall. Lastly, if the safety of the construction crew is a high priority for your project, consider an alternative to stick-built elevators. One option is a quality commercial modular elevator as an alternative.

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.

Speed Does Not Mean Fast

1_thumbRecently, it was announced that the CTF Finance Center in Guangzhou, China broke records as the fastest elevator in the world to date. Believe it or not, it travels at an astounding 46.9 miles per hour straight up! Wow! An elevator in Shanghai, China (Shanghai Tower) finishes in second place with a speed of 42.8 mph and the fastest North American elevator clocks in at a paltry 22.7 mph in comparison. It is located at the Freedom Tower at 1 World Trade Center in New York. It is a bit slower but the show you get going up and down is worth it.

As it turns out, the elevator in your building is not breaking any world records, but, unless you are in the Willis Tower in Chicago or the Empire State Building in New York, you probably don’t need a three million dollar monstrosity that can hit highway speeds. Keep in mind that the world record holding building has a total of 95 elevators and only two are the super fast ones and they only go from the first floor to the 95th where the world’s highest hotel resides. As a matter of fact, the CTF Finance Center has 52 medium and low speed elevators, as well as the two speed-demons.

So, if you can build an elevator that goes that fast, why aren’t all elevators designed the same way? Let’s start with the turtle like speed of most elevators you will find; believe it or not, most elevators are designed to travel at a blazing 100 to 200 feet per minute or between 1.14 and 2.27 miles per hour for buildings 10 stories or less.  This means that if you’re traveling between two floors that are 10 feet apart at 2.27 mph, the trip would take 3 seconds, right? Well, not exactly.

You are missing an important part of the equation. When you push the button in any elevator, it doesn’t immediately blast off at 2.27 mph. If it did, most people would be knocked to the ground; the elevator has to ramp up to top speed. Acceleration and Jerk (rate of change of acceleration) are human comfort considerations that must be taken into account when looking at elevator speed. The practical limits (for math geeks) are 4 ft/sec^2 acceleration and 8 ft/sec^3 for jerk. If you are a math nerd, or you’re wanting to test out your math skills, this is a good place to start. Keep in mind, these formulas represent the the very top limits of elevator movement and are aggressive but acceptable. Anything beyond these levels and the car becomes a roller-coaster or the Tower of Terror. To ensure a real smooth ride, technicians use around 70% of these levels.

Just for general purposes for a comfortable ride, the ramp up will take around 3 seconds. You also have to consider a similar ramp down for another 3 seconds. In other words, if traveling ten feet, the maximum speed may never be achieved due to the ramp up and ramp down before you arrive at the next floor.

Whether the elevator can go 2 miles an hour or the speed of light, there must be an acceleration that is comfortable for the people riding in it. That means that in most applications, with elevators starting and stopping at several floors, up and down, the elevator car rarely tops out at the possible speed it can travel. This, then, explains why there are 52 elevators in the CTF Financial Center that are low or medium speed.

So to answer the question “Why aren’t all elevators made to go nearly 50 miles per hour?” It’s because in most applications, other than extremely high high-rises, the cost is absolutely out of proportion to the benefit and, in most examples of elevators, the top speed would never be realized anyway.

Keep Your Cool – Winning the Temperature Battle

Clean Machine RoomIn our office, there are a handful of dictators vying for power, and yes, they know who they are. They run roughshod over the whole office, seizing control, forming alliances and flexing more muscle than Mussolini in pre-war Italy. Because of the internal power struggle, there is more drama, intrigue and manipulation than in an episode of Game of Thrones as hopes are raised then dashed, and the struggle for control reaches a literal fever pitch.

What is the object of their desires? What do they wish to control beyond anything else? The office thermostat. Since the advent of modern history and the birth of Willis Carrier (of Carrier Air-conditioning fame), I feel I am safe by saying there is nothing that has affected more lives, created more tension and led to more divorces than the temperature control on a heating and air-conditioning unit. The problem is some like it hot and some like it cool, and they are willing to do anything to get their way.

When it comes to your elevator machine room, there is also a temperature struggle, and the consequences of that brawl may be more significant than just a little discomfort or office politics. The challenge is keeping the temperature inside the machine room within the set standards. Elevators need consistent temps and therefore, the thermostat needs to be a priority. Some sources note that temps need to be between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit and this is backed up by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in a report entitled “High Temperature Operation of Elevators.”

But is that rule of thumb always the best for optimal temps for elevator operations? If you get it wrong, setting the temp too high or too low, it can lead to inefficiency in operation or ultimately even complete shutdown.

For a more reliable source, we should turn to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). They literally wrote the safety code for elevators and machine rooms and is the most reliable source for elevator operation. Their code calls for there to be a natural or mechanical means to keep the air temperature and humidity within the guidelines of the manufacturer. So what do you do, as the required temperatures can vary depending on who produces the elevator equipment? The code still has the answer. It requires that inside the machine room, permanently posted, there must be a sign that shows the temperature and humidity range for that particular machine.

Especially with summer heat on the horizon, now is the time to make sure the machine room air-conditioning and heat is in proper order and the temp and humidity fall within the proper parameters. If you have any specific questions or concerns, make sure and consult your elevator technician.

As for the office thermostat…buy a lock box, set the temp the way you like it and swallow the key. Remember the hand that controls the temperature controls the office.

Grand Opening Success

Grand Opening 1The 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, Grand Opening 4“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 Grand Opening 2that 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, Grand Opening 3trucked 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.

Click here for more info and photos.