Russ Ward

Elevator Poll Opportunity to Change

Elevator Poll Opportunity to Change / Oct, 2023 – As most of you know we have been conducting a one of its kind poll. For the first time a poll was sent to the entirety of the construction industry regarding elevators. Architects, general contractors, engineers, design build firms and elevator professionals responded. Additionally, to have more clarity and to focus our efforts on real solutions we held a series of open forums where we discussed the results of the poll. We heard anecdotal stories that confirmed our findings and consistent reports of issues regarding the current traditional elevator industry.

After the poll and subsequent analysis we can say there is an opportunity to make changes for the better in the construction industry.

And that always was the point. The poll confirmed the problems that had always been rumored. Now we can begin a revolution to foment change that is solutions based. So in this article we are going to examine each of the five inferences the poll questions and forums confirmed and make some general suggestions for improvement.

Our Goal is to Lead an Elevator Revolution

After all, our desire is to improve an industry that has not substantially changed in how it installs elevators or deals with the construction industry for over 150 years. To make improvements we wanted to start with actual information from the people that deal with elevators and have to live with the challenges they present.

And then start the conversation about solutions. This is the beginning of the discussion regarding those solutions. We know where we have been and now we must start charting a path to where we are going in the future.

Unavoidable Inferences

The polling and results of the open forums are pretty telling. The current way the construction industry and elevator industry function or rather doesn’t function, is a problem. Both sides have points and counterpoints, but change is stuck because solutions are slow to come forward and then equally slow to be embraced. The poll reflected this with a well documented reticence to adopt each other’s, other options.

We are not hiding the results because we want a full discussion of experiences that back up or reject the results and other inferences from the data we missed. The bottom line takeaway; there’s a problem. So much so that some are grasping for solutions. But don’t take our word for it. We encourage you to look at the graphics and add your comments below as to what your impressions are or the inferences you draw.

This is the beginning of thinking through the issues and not the final word. Just a discussion of possible solutions. This is a continuing of the dialog. We look forward to your input and feel communicating with continued analysis will help both industries (construction and elevator).

With that said, here are early inferences drawn from the poll and open forums:

Poll Question 1

The overall customer experience is negative regarding the elevator industry. Over 88% feel the experience was horrible to needs improvement. Over 40% felt it was horrible to barely tolerable. No sugar coating it, it is not a good result. However, keep in mind this attitude shifts dramatically depending on occupation or role. 90% of design professionals believe their experience to be generally good. Easy to use websites for plans is a big help. Turns out however websites can’t install an elevator. This also means that the elevator industry focuses effort on the sale of elevator units, not difficulties of those downline from the decision.

Poll Question 1 – Possible Solutions

The results we found are uncomfortable. Keep in mind that this poll was sent to the elevator industry as well, so they know there’s a problem. The elevator industry front loads their efforts to the sale of the elevator and more importantly to the sale of the maintenance plan. That is their model. They know that if they are chosen they get decades of maintenance fees. So what can change the elevator market and its reputation? It is the market itself. Not to push the problem off to the customer, but until alternatives are explored by the buying public, the elevator industry will continue to be the monolithic monopoly it has become. Immediate considerations is to refuse to purchase an elevator with proprietary parts. Proprietary parts are the hook that keeps maintenance forever attached to the sale and handcuffs the buyer to the elevator company.

Also, consider moving the pain of the elevator selection to the front of the process. That is where longer-term issues can be addressed in the contract for the elevator. Once you are into or past the bidding stage it is in all likelihood too late to make a change as the hoistway placement and size has been determined. One solution being used by a frustrated builder discussed in our forum was to make the hoistway opening big enough to accommodate nearly any elevator. He felt it gave him more flexibility to shop and compare. The elevator problem is so great that losing building space was considered to be a reasonable solution.

The better option is prioritizing the elevator purchase before the drawings are complete and always purchase elevators with non-proprietary parts.

Poll Question 2

Delays are a huge issue. 65% in our poll say the elevator always creates delays. The nature of how conventional elevators are installed is the problem and solutions maybe limited unless you look into alternatives such as modular elevators. The hoistway is built along with foundation and there it sits until power and a controlled environment is secured.

At the end of any build, the pressure is on to finish up. Tensions run high as time is running out. One person we talked with about the frustration said, on a job the elevator company pushed out completion more than 6-months passed the expected occupancy date. Understandably he was apoplectic, but stuck and he knew it.

Poll Question 2 – Possible Solutions

The traditional elevator industry has no solution for the pace of the install. They will be done when they are done. The timeline for the elevator crew is often times at odds with the construction manager’s expectations. Increased communication can be a big help, but this can’t be just chatter. There must be clear timelines to be adhered to and notification of steps to completion must be communicated clearly to everyone involved. This is especially true regarding life/safety trades and when they are checked off as complete. One phone line can cause delays of weeks and costly change orders.

Explore other options. With modular elevators the elevator arrives already installed and can even be used as the construction hoist. It sets in a couple hours and the start up is a week long process not months. With traditional elevators, back ordered components, over-stretched elevator crews, and even poor weather can stall or even stop installation. When the installation takes place in a factory there are no such delays.

Poll Question 3

The most important consideration regarding the purchase is on-time start up and use. But there is no control over that with current industry standards. The conventional elevator is an immovable object stuck on the critical path. That creates a feeling of loss of control or helplessness.

Cost, Type of Conveyance and Structure are also concerns that sometimes present few options for improvement.

Poll Question 3 – Possible Solutions

Regardless of the type of elevator, the inspection process is out of the hands of the elevator contractor in most jurisdictions. These must be scheduled in advance. So the solution is to make sure you have a checklist of completed items, before the inspection is scheduled. Call backs can mean costly change orders and delays.

When it comes to costs that is often linked with conveyance. Watch out for being oversold. It has been relayed to us in any number of conversations that traction or roped units are being recommended for extremely short travel distances. The initial cost for traction units is higher as well as the lifetime costs through maintenance agreements. Quit over buying your needs.

Our elevator shafts are stackable to reach the height you need.

Additionally, cost of the elevator does not encompass all the ancillary aspects of the build, so at the end of the project the actual investment in the elevator is most often not known. How much money per stop is wasted due to call backs of mud and rock crews, flooring installation and painters? One construction professional indicated the traditional elevator costed him $30,000 to $40,000 more per stop due to call backs of other trades. He found another alternative.

If you want the elevator off the critical path a modular elevator is the route to go. The market for modular elevators is expanding with large elevator companies offering alternatives overseas and new companies starting domestically. Modular is the future for low and mid-rise applications.

Poll Question 4

There is flexibility! No one polled automatically keeps the same elevator company due to past experience. This means change is possible. But it seems the choice is pushed back to the bidding process creating a lack of flexibility and specs makes innovation difficult.

Poll Question 4 – Possible Solutions

Using your flexibility to make choices early is the best alternative. By the time you get to the bidding process all of the flexibility you once had is gone. You are locked into the same traditional models that you have always used.

The bidding process leads to specs that stifle innovation. As we have learned and discussed in our forums, elevator companies largely ignore the construction specs in any case. So why push the decision out to or past the bid process were you are now under more of the elevator company’s control?

By the time you are passed the bid phase, it is often too late to consider other alternatives without additional costs. All hope of innovation is gone. Ultimately, construction professionals are often locked into just a couple bad choices so leave your options open, it maybe counterintuitive but research and decide early.

Poll Question 5

Finally – Start up is the elephant in the room. It is a huge issue, but out often out of your control and even out of the control of the elevator installer, especially regarding inspection and final approval. Cost overruns are constant.

Poll Question 5 – Possible Solutions

One truism confirmed in our conversations is that lack of communication costs time and money on the project. One example was the push by the general contractor to expedite the elevator inspection. It led to the elevator being fully ready but life/safety aspects of the building were still not complete. That meant a failed inspection and then change orders to return for a second inspection. Open communication would have resolved that issue before it became one.

There are options that include a fully functioning elevator installed that can be used as the construction elevator and then converted to a passenger elevator once construction is complete. Knowing it runs and passing inspection as a construction elevator, is a big benefit to final turn over of the unit. It certainly speeds the elevator to complete readiness faster.

The Start of Something New

This poll and open forums led to a great new starting point for the construction industry to begin to change in how it views elevators and all the pitfalls. It also gives Modular Elevator Manufacturing and others in the elevator industry the perfect opportunity to change the industry from the inside out. We again are asking you to join us in this revolution. That does not mean buying a Modular Elevator Manufacturing System. It means looking at the elevator industry afresh and deciding early on what mode of vertical transportation works best for the project you are on.

We will continue to update and change our recommendations as responses pour in. Based on the response so far, it is evident there is a problem out there and we can begin to fix it together. The industry can change and improve its image, product and installation methods.

Also, by working together we can reduce headaches, improve start up times and cut costs. That will lead to better strategies and decisions when including an elevator in your project. Elevators will never be problem free, but they can be improved upon and that is our hope as we lead an Elevator Revolution.

In the mean time if you want to know more about the MEM Elevator System please let us know by clicking a link below. You can take a virtual tour of our factory where we openly discuss our process and the elevator industry. You can also request a Fast Track Quote if you have a project in mind and are curious about the solutions we offer. One more reminder – please comment below. Your input is important.

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4 thoughts on “Elevator Poll Opportunity to Change

  1. Sophia Martin

    Don’t be modest. Since we started using MEM, all our elevator problems have been eliminated other than the state inspection. There is no magic wand for that. Our whole team loves you guys. Great poll by the way. I can say that we would be much more positive now.

    • Russ Ward

      Thanks for your comment. With your permission I would like to use it on the website.

  2. Lanny

    This article is a game changer. How do you get this info out to more people? I had no idea that the profits of elevator companies is usually tied to the maintenance agreement. Not saying I am shocked, but no wonder the install is a pain in everyone’s butt.

    • Russ Ward

      We really appreciate your kind words. There are strategies to help when it comes to the elevator. I am glad we pointed a few out.

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