Understanding the Elevator Industry – The elevator industry seems like a tough nut to crack. They tend to keep to themselves with their own language and their own priorities. They do not even like to talk about anything beyond your need for them. And so far the cloud of mystery is working pretty well. Motivations remain obscured. The technical jargon overrides any conversation. The result is the construction industry remains beholden to just a handful of providers. This is despite the elevator being a rather simple product. One box going up and down inside another box.
But can it really be that simple? It is more complex than that for sure, but the obfuscation by the elevator industry does not help their reputation.
In this blog post I am going to uncover just a few truisms of the elevator industry from the inside. In that way you will understand them or us better. Then you will be able to make more informed decisions regarding vertical transportation. So, here’s the short list. They may shock you and shake your current understanding of the elevator industry, but here they are. I will write about each in more detail below:
Now let me be clear, I am not passing judgement on the ethics of elevator companies. It is just important to understand the industry better. Our hope is that this will allow you to make better choices on your next project.
For most manufacturers, when you buy the product it ends the process. You have what you want. They have what they want (in the form of payment). Both go separate ways unless there is a problem. Not so in the elevator industry. It became apparent early on that there is a ton of money to be made in maintaining elevators. Also, as the product improved over time, it became even more profitable. The parts became more reliable and standards improved. The maintenance contract was born.
To substantiate that point, Otis in a recent SEC filings said, “New Equipment and Service, which, for the year ended December 31, 2019, contributed 43 percent and 57 percent of our net sales, and 20 percent and 80 percent of our total segment operating profit, respectively.”
Did you get that? That means is that new equipment or elevator sales while important are no where near as profitable as the maintenance contracts. Why does this matter? Because selling a type of elevator that maximizes profitability in the maintenance contract is the goal and not necessarily what you need.
One real quick example. In a low rise project often the most cost effective and best functioning elevator is a hydraulic unit. Of course that depends on several factors. Yet people have been upsold and bought a traction unit (one with ropes) when one is not needed in the least. The cost of the maintenance can be three times as much for the traction unit.
Understanding that can change perspectives on the unit required. And there are many other factors that can be influenced with that knowledge. One certainly would take more time to consider the maintenance contract and care less about the up front cost of the unit.
An often overheard phrase regarding elevators is whether parts and components are proprietary or not. Proprietary in the elevator industry does not generally mean what it does in most other industries. Proprietary components outside of the elevator business usually indicates something special. It is something that sets one product apart from the others. Or it can mean something they want to keep secret from the competition.
Not really the case with elevators. The purpose of “proprietary” parts in the elevator industry is not to hide some special trade secret or technology. After all it is just a box that goes up and down in another box. It is to prevent the building owner from hiring a different company to maintain the elevator. As mentioned above that is where additional profit comes from. If proprietary parts did not exist, any elevator technician could service any elevator regardless of brand. Proprietary parts primary purpose is to keep you locked in. Unlike most any other product, you just can’t buy a different elevator once the one you picked is in place. They have you and they know it.
Never shackle yourself to an elevator company by using proprietary parts. Ever. There are alternatives.
Have you ever been to a factory? I have had the pleasure of touring all sorts of manufacturing plants in my life time. From sausages to automobiles I have seen it all. In those facilities it is much like what you imagine. A product starts out in a simple form traveling down a line. During the trip components are added or processes completed. At the end, like magic, a brand new car rolls away or a delicious link of smoky pork sausage is made table ready.
If you are thinking about saving time and trimming costs, the traditional elevator cannot be your solution. Why? Because your jobsite just became an elevator factory.
That process is not what it looks like for big elevator companies. They do produce some components, but in real terms they are bundlers of other companies parts and pieces. They crate them, ship them and cobble them together on site. But the elevator is not manufactured at all, and the parts they actually make are limited. Believe it or not elevator companies have admitted that the real “manufacturing” takes place at the jobsite. The parts for all elevator companies come from a very limited pool of actual manufacturers.
It would be like ordering a car from Ford but instead of a drivable vehicle its like getting a crate delivered with all the parts. Then, they would send a crew to assemble it in your drive way. That is how traditional elevators are created.
This is important because a “quality” sales pitch is nothing more than that unless there is a different process all together. All elevator parts are largely the same and where they differ, they still have to meet the same rigorous standards. Could you imagine the quality issues and interruptions if your car were assembled in your garage? It really is crazy.
Why does that matter right? Really, why does it matter where the manufacturing takes place? It matters because that explains why it takes so long for an elevator installation. Also, if you are thinking about saving time and trimming costs, the traditional elevator cannot be your solution. Why? Because your jobsite just became an elevator factory.
If you choose a traditional elevator company, you will be a lot better off mentally if you just accept the way they do things. Then resign yourself to handing your site over to them until they are done. Things cannot change because the process does not change. You will never be able to hurry a project or even predict a completion date through the traditional elevator company. Believe it or not they have been installing the same way since before the Civil War…our Civil War…in the US. No other industry has moved that slowly regarding innovation.
Why are there delays? Because for the elevator to be assembled, you have to have the right factory conditions and all the necessary parts at your jobsite. One missing part can mean days of delays. If the building gets too cold the elevator crew leaves. This all slows down the process and gives little room for real improvement and no control.
The reason you have lost control of your project is it is now a manufacturing factory for an elevator.
This is usually where you would find the pitch. I have made a compelling argument now I just need to close the deal right? Wrong. At Modular Elevator Manufacturing we know the MEM Elevator System is a much better alternative than traditional elevators, but we also know that acceptance will not come overnight.
The traditional elevator companies are engrained in the construction industry. We know this! So although we care about sales, we care more about the long run. Education is the key. We need to simply inform people as to why things are as they are. Over time we will be viewed as the solution we are and we are willing to accept that. In the mean time we want to be a part of the discussion, a resource and able to give important elevator industry information. We are hoping to bridge the gap between the construction industry and our industry that will lead to better processes, innovation and installation. Our better way through modular elevators will win you over eventually. The MEM Modular Elevator System is actually factory produced and have tons of benefits, but we know recognition of that comes with time.
However, if you want a tour of our facility just click the button below. You can also request a quote if you have a project in mind. We would be glad to supply you with thumbnail numbers.
Quality is crucial when it comes to anything we buy. That is especially true when we are talking about a commercial quality elevator. The stakes are high and a shaky elevator ride can give a person a lasting negative impression. But more than that a commercial quality elevator carries passengers. So there is a need for quality for the sake of the safety of the elevator riding public. Quality is important. Yet it can seem illusive as with most projects the elevator is the biggest moving object in the build and extremely complex.
Additionally, apart from safety and overall building aesthetics (feel of the ride) there are many others reasons why quality is so crucial too. A lack of hitting high standards also cost time and money on projects. We have all experienced a time when we made a purchase only to return the item for a replacement and then had to return it again. Frustration, waste, anger, agitation and disgust filled our minds as we get in the car for the third time. With quality there is assurance, peace, pride and pleasure.
So how do we achieve our high standards and why do we say “commercial quality elevator” so often?
First we tend to say it a lot because of factors beyond our control. Perception can be misleading, but in the minds of many a reality. With modular there is sometimes the perception that with the ease modular provides there must be compromises. The product in many ways seems to good to be true so mentally there is a leap to possible issues that don’t exist. We have been working diligently for decades to dispel that notion. In every project we produce we care deeply about quality and it shows. So in reality it is more of messaging to correct a perception may have had some grounding in fact, but is now decades past its shelf life. We are quality at MEM.
We also sometimes have pushback from a threatened industry. The monolithic elevator industry sees the writing on the wall, but due to their business model, they cannot extricate themselves from the traditional elevator build and installation. They have literally been doing elevators the same way since the mid-1800’s. No kidding. Elevator installation has not changed since the Civil War… our Civil War… in the US… over 160 years ago! In 1859 the Cooper Union Foundation Building had an elevator shaft built in (even though passenger elevators were not available). Then, once completed the elevator was brought into the shaft on piece at a time just like today. That model has not changed since. What other product on Earth has seen less innovation in its process since the 1860’s? Innovation threatens so they attack.
In a nutshell, the above are the reasons we stress our quality so much.
More importantly, how do we achieve quality? We can say we have quality and that quality is worth having, but all that talk is completely nullified if we can’t produce it. We do and I came up with five ways we assure quality with every project going out the door:
This refers mostly to the hoistway, elevator car and sling and other items we manufacture in house. The factory process uses templates, quality materials and well thought-out and practiced procedures. For instance our cab is tough Galvanneal steel easily produced to exact sizes by use of templates and guides. We would never use flimsy particle board covered in glued on laminate. That kind of cheap product is apt to warp, expand and flake.
This term encompasses the pride of the team members at MEM and their experience. It begins with the sales representatives. They are the most informed and knowledgeable people regarding modular elevators and elevators in general you can find. This is crucial as they guide the process from beginning to end. They set the pace and know each project completely and intimately. We also meet every jurisdictional requirement with licensed welders, electricians with years of experience and employees that have pride in their work. Lastly, we thoroughly inspect every elevator we manufacture with a 10 Point Inspection – Check List. Using that list a certified elevator technician performs the inspection. In this way you can be sure that when we ship an elevator, it is the quality we promise. We also provide consistent inspections through out the build.
Dirty little secret…they are all the same. It really does not matter the name plate on the control panel in the car. Every elevator contains roughly the same components. All the parts have to meet the same high standards regardless of the company providing them. High-quality standards are demanded and required by law, by jurisdictional code and by regulation. We abide by all to produce quality everytime.
Our factory process produces consistent quality. But that does not mean we are stuck in old ways or not flexible in design. We think though what we do, provide for flexibility and constantly assess how we can improve. We test and update our process as needed. Additional benefits including being inside a factory. Cold and heat do not interrupt our manufacturing, nor do they act as an impediment to consistency. Whether we like it or not if it is snowing outside at 20 degree, traditional construction suffers. This is seen every time a traditional built hoistway it not plumb or level. Our building practices are perfect every time and on time every time.
Two quick points. Our design is based on more experience than any other modular elevator company. Also, the engineering is improved consistently over time. We have made design improvements that others have not. Also, not only do MEM elevators meet the engineering standards of difficult Seismic areas, they are also used in high wind or hurricane areas. The MEM Elevator System is also designed for more efficiency in installation and setting the elevator. Our experience in the industry makes us the leader in design and engineering.
When we say our team has a fully-installed commercial quality is set in four hours we mean it. The same goes with start up. When power is available we can have your elevators running in a week. This is due to our superior quality. Our team consists of elevator people through and through. Passing inspection easily is the rule because of the design, engineering, production process and quality.
It is one thing to talk about quality and quite another to see it. So we invite you to see it firsthand. You can click below to schedule a LIVE VIRTUAL TOUR. We will pull back the curtain and let you see what we are doing, how we do it and why it is the best option for all low and mid-rise projects. The difference in quality will be clear. Of course during the tour you can ask any questions you want. We are open with our process and proud to show it off.
If you have a project in mind already click the button below for a FAST TRACK QUOTE. We will contact you for additional particulars, but will provide you with a budget number with in 24 hours. There of course is no hard sell or obligation. We just want to be able to answer your questions, find out your challenges and help be a solution. That is how we are a part of the elevator revolution.
Elevator system out of the box thinking. The most recent project for Modular Elevator Manufacturing (MEM) was a retrofit elevator for California State University – Long Beach. The demand for updating dormitories is growing. Many colleges and universities across the country are improving the dorms they built decades ago. They are hearing from students and parents, want to be code compliant and convenience are the main reasons. I mean who wants to carry boxes up three flights of stairs on move in day? But updating comes with challenges so an elevator system outside the box of normal thought is in need. Usually, our elevator solution is a fully installed elevator. It is a placed hoistway and all the components in less than four hours. But challenges on this job required a new way of looking at things.
As you can see in the above photographs our normal procedure had to be changed. Usually we just crane in a fully installed elevator. In four hours you can have a a fully installed elevator in place and ready for start up and inspection. But, due to the terrain in this particular job the crane could not carry the full load. The result is a little out of the box thinking was required.
As pictured the hoistway is placed first. Then cab is then inserted into the hoistway. The roof is placed next and finally the modular machine room.
“…our decades of experience allows us to provide the innovation and nimbleness for any project.”Hugo Beltran – MEM Vice President of Sales and Marketing
It all came to together with no problems, thanks to the MEM production team. And just like in the factory, the elevator car slipped in perfectly on the rails and into the shaft.
And it was still under four hours to complete the full set. So, the customer had a completely installed elevator by noon ready for the start up procedure. Quite an accomplishment.
Hugo Beltran, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at MEM was proud of the creative thinking of the team. Everyone came together for this unique build. He said, “The MEM team performs at a high level and there is tremendous flexibility in the product. Those two factors plus our decades of experience allows us to provide the innovation and nimbleness for any project. It really shows in our success.”
In other words if you have a project for any low or mid-rise application MEM should be your first choice. Anywhere a traditional elevator can go the MEM elevator system can be a replacement.
According to Beltran, even if it takes some out of the box thinking. MEM loves a challenge.
“The key is letting us know early in the project.” Says Beltran. “If we are included at the outset of the process our system fits in smoothly and easily. Even with unique challenges.” And over the years, MEM has had several unusual challenges to say the least. The team completed a corner post elevator that no other company would take on. Glass elevators are a frequent request and large capacity elevators are a snap for MEM.
Another challenge for the entire project that updated the dormitory was the timeline of completion. Traditional elevator companies are slow. Installing the various elevator components involves carrying each into the hoistway one piece at a time. Also, elevator doors and frames are often the last components put in place.
That in turn slows down the rest of the build. Call backs are necessary. Exterior finishers, electricians and other trades must return to finish once the doors are installed. That means up to $30,000 an opening or more. There is no slowdown of other trades with the MEM system.
In conclusion, you can partner with us too! If you have a low to mid-rise job that needs an elevator system click a button below. You can sign up for a live, virtual tour of our facility. Or you can get a FastTrack budget number for your project. We will honestly answer any questions you may have. We can supply you with a Fast Track quote in 24 hours. MEM – Quality Elevators taking you to a higher level.
Elevator Wild Cards – We have all been in a friendly game of poker. In my youth I would spend hours with middle-school friends playing penny ante poker, usually in a dimly lit and musty smelling basement. To make the game more interesting, we would employ all sorts of wild card variations. They went from the mundane deuces wild to one-eyed-jacks and suicide-kings. Then there was my personal favorite, jacks-n-fives (big fan of the Jackson Five in the early 70’s).
I remember often sitting smugly with a wonderful natural hand raising as I went. In my clutches was a full house; hard to beat indeed. And to see those two nines and three queens staring back at me from my tight little grip gave me nothing but confidence. The result was a heaping mound of copper coins and the occasional nickel in the pot waiting for the final “call.” A world of wealth and pride for a 6th grader in 1975.
Like a scene from an old western I would lick my lips with anticipation and then spread my cards, declaring “Full house!” Only to be out done by two wild deuces and two lowly fives, four-of-a-kind. Rats, beat again!
We had lots of fun but, I came to the conclusion pretty early on the word “wild card” was a negative. It was not a positive term at all because it altered the game. Using them took a competition of skill and chance to a child’s game of pure luck. And, there is a difference. One is a challenge that can be calculated, anticipated, played with strategy and an understanding of rules and agreements. The other was completely blind and random.
So let’s openly show our cards for a second as we get the elevator part of the blog post.
In the serious business of construction, how much do you want to rely on chance, pure luck or wild cards? The building industry is highly reliant on calculation, anticipation, organization, strategy and agreement. Luck or wild cards should play no part, but it does. Every time you contract with a traditional elevator company job completion becomes blind and random.
It is the nature of how the elevators are installed in the old-fashioned way that makes them so untenable and unpredictable. Let’s face it, you do your end of the work. The hoistway and pit are made ready according to specs. There they sit for months. Because, once the cement dries you lose any and all ability to complete the elevator on your time schedule. And now your project completion rests with an elevator crew showing up when they want, completing the work on their time schedule not yours.
Instead of a fair game where everyone knows the rules you end up playing poker with a dealer that can make up cards wild at their discretion. You might as well throw out all of your laborious planning and scheduling.
Your strategy becomes the hand you were dealt. Begging, pleading, arguing, yelling, threatening and coercing are the only tools at your disposal. There is only hope and nothing is in your control. For the proactive project supervisor or superintendent this becomes maddening to say the least.
All the planning goes out the window. Not only do you have to wait for the elevator on someone else’s time schedule, you have to work around all their tools, elevator components, excuses and the elevator guys when they decide to show up.
But beyond that, due to the traditional elevator process entrances and door frames go in last multiplying problems. It falls to you to reschedule or call back the rock and tape crew, painters, floor prep and flooring contractors, even electricians and sprinkler workers. They are all delayed until the elevator is finished.
But there is a better way. What if the elevator were 100% in your control with no wild cards? You decide completely when the fully installed elevator is placed. Beyond that what if that elevator could double as a construction elevator?
Suddenly you could have all the trades pushed forward in sequence as all the entrances arrive completed, not when the elevator contractor can get to it. The result is a significant savings (click here for an amazing account from a project superintendent).
The MEM elevator system can make that happen. The commercial quality elevator and hoistway arrives as one finished product off of our assembly line. It comes on a flatbed truck when you want it. Here’s a video of one being placed. Your responsibility is largely the pit poured to our specifications. You tell us when you want it to arrive. That’s a big deal in an industry that thrives on timelines and completion. All that is needed regarding the elevator is time for start up and inspection.
In addition to the dollars and cents savings, there is an overall reduction in the mental stress and aggravation caused by traditional as well. There is peace of mind knowing the full installed elevator is placed often at the beginning of the build.
The benefits are clear and going with MEM is no gamble. We have been providing the best elevator solution for low and mid-rise projects for decades.
Also, there are no limits to the types of projects that we can assist with. The MEM elevator system can be used in new construction or retrofit. We have simple models for ADA compliance to full-sized hospital elevators. Our elevators can be used in parking garages to apartment complexes. Anywhere a traditional elevator can go we can too, only you control when it is delivered.
So end the high-stakes gamble on traditional and go with the your best bet; the MEM elevator system. To get started, click the button below to get a budget price or schedule a virtual tour of our factory and see how we consistently deal a winning hand.
My Monday morning observation when deep cleaning points to modular and modular elevators. When going through my desk in what should be an annual ritual, but too often neglected, I ran across an interesting item. Buried amongst the broke watches, a plethora of wires that go to who knows what devises and batteries (none of which still held a charge), I found a true vestige of the past; the old business card folder.
I remember wanting one when I first graduated from college as it was considered a true and genuine indicator that you were in business, much like the now rare, rigid leather briefcase. The folder was unique as it was a single place to put all of your valuable leads and contacts. It was one step above the old Rolodex as it was leather bound and portable.
I paged through the clear plastic sleeves of cards chuckling over the graphic design style of the various rectangles of 100% rag, 16 point stock that populated the folder. Each was a prized bundle of information I had collected over time and was once held dear, like a Stan Musial baseball card, but now I noticed how few were even still relevant. Businesses had closed or changed names, people had long since moved on or the information was out of date with AOL email addresses and FAX numbers prominently displayed.
But the cards, yellowed with time, were not the funniest part of what I discovered from my perspective. It is the very notion of keeping a catalog of cards categorized based on business type and then alphabetized all in a literal folder. The time for that kind of system has declined to the point of uselessness, worth little more than short lived amusement. That is why, despite a couple decades of usefulness, it found itself shoved to the rear of an over-packed desk drawer.
A better system for keeping track of people and business connections has emerged and in honesty leaves the old folder in the dust and ultimately in the circular file.
I have seen that change too in the elevator industry. There was a time not so long ago that the big elevator companies held a universal monopoly and if you were going to construct a low or mid-rise building you had to pay homage, live within their timelines and buy what they were selling. Thank goodness the old stick-built alternative is due for the dustbin of history just like my old business card folder.
Now if you want a high-quality commercial elevator you simply have to call MEM or email them for FastTrack numbers. Once you place your order you can break away from the control of the elevator industry for good. They no longer can dictate what you can do on your job site, building project or pocketbook. You will be free to schedule elevator work when you want it done, not the other way around. Free to choose who you want the elevator maintenance company to be with a fair contract, not one laced with automatic increases and non-proprietary parts. Deep cleaning indeed.
The barnacle encrusted elevator industry is and will fight back, but the march of time is lined up against them and ultimately modular will be the first and best choice for everyone. Not because it is new (it has been around for a couple decades now), but because it is a better solution. Faster, smarter, greener and can be less expensive.
That can all be said because building a hoistway in a factory, out of the elements and off site means higher quality, truer construction and no delays. Then putting all of the elevator components in the the hoistway while it is horizontal means no safety concerns of lifting heavy parts. The wiring goes faster and the cab is built to more exacting specifications. Just better.
So engage in a little deep cleaning and clean out your desk of all those old drawings, plans and specifications and get ready for the future with modular elevators.
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