You should care – Elevator parts are not all equal…but they are. Years ago there used to be a commercial that had the catch phrase “Parts is parts”. They were talking about chicken nuggets and not vertical transportation and their facetious point was parts are not all equal. There are better and worse pieces of the chicken to use in the production of a nugget.
In the home or commercial elevator industry that knife cuts both ways and a bit hard to explain. First, it is true there are differences company to company in components. But second, those differences are superficial at best and for a purpose. So the parts are not all equal but… still equal??? How does that work?
That doesn’t seem to make sense so let me explain this weird dichotomy by stating the following. Factually, most companies purchase the bulk of their components from the same group of independent companies. As a result an elevator, home or commercial, is filled with dozens of components and pieces that come from those various companies from around the world. The difference is largely relegated to different nameplates and logos being etched or painted on the components themselves and that is about it.
This gives the illusion that they are all coming from the elevator company you are buying from. Generally that is not true. As a result when you step into an elevator car most often very little of what you see or that makes it go up and down, comes from the name on the control panel. And in all likelihood the bulk of those parts are found in every other elevator you ride regardless of the company.
Also, the vertical transportation industry, for good reason, is highly regulated. Elevators in the United States make 18 billion passenger trips per year according to the National Elevator Industry Inc. For that reason alone it is very important that all parts must meet high standards. You just can’t put anything you want in the elevator as a component. They must be test and approved for quality and durability.
Alright, if only a handful of companies produce most of elevator components and all parts meet the same rigorous standards, how can they possibly be different? Well before I get to that I want you to know that I am not wearing a tinfoil hat. I believe that we did go to the moon, Elvis is dead and aliens had no part in building the pyramids. So what I am about to say is not a crazy conspiracy.
Here, goes. The big commercial elevator companies make the bulk of their profits in maintenance and not selling you an elevator. Shocked? They realized pretty early on that if any certified elevator contractor could provide maintenance, they could lose customers and money. People would simply shop around and find the lowest price for service.
The solution was two-fold. First, sell elevators that require the most expensive maintenance agreements regardless of the purpose. Second, place in those elevators components from manufacturers that will require special tools, passwords or programs to maintain the elevator.
If you combine those two principles with a confiscatory maintenance agreement you have a lock on maintenance income for that unit for decades. And there is really no way for the building owner to extricate themselves from the long-term costs.
So, despite elevator components largely being the same, parts are not all equal. This is by design and for a specific purpose that has nothing to do with the elevator ride or functionality.
Unfortunately, when asked, “What can I do?” the responses are limited. This is especially if you already have an elevator in place. It is not practical nor cost effective to replace the proprietary parts that force you into the long-term contract. It’s like the old adage, you pay for some mistakes forever. But learning from those mistakes is important as well as spread the word that you can make upfront decisions next time that will save you from the headaches and costs associated with choosing the wrong company.
The word to commit to memory is non-proprietary. Non-proprietary parts and components are simply those that any elevator technician can work on. They are not better or worse they are just accessible for maintenance from any company. You can even use the big elevator companies if you wish. It just opens the door to anyone to repair or maintain the elevator. So always, always, always have an elevator installed with non-proprietary parts.
Finally if you have any questions regarding what proprietary parts and components can mean to your elevator project please contact us. At TL Shield and MEM we pride ourselves on giving honest answers to your questions about elevators, home or commercial.
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