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4 Ways You’re Shortening Your Vertical Transport’s Life

Aug. 21, 2014

Don’t overlook these critical maintenance requirements.

Are you neglecting your elevators or escalators? Deferring maintenance for this out-of-sight, out-of-mind equipment is more common than you might think – and it can seriously impact the reliability and lifetime of your vertical transportation systems.

These four missed opportunities are all too common among building owners and FMs.

1) Your Contract Doesn’t Include Everything It Should

If you outsource maintenance tasks for your elevators or escalators, it’s imperative that you make sure the contract spells out exactly what the service provider has to deliver and on what timetable – otherwise, your definition of “preventive maintenance” likely varies from what you’re getting.

“Sometimes when people buy maintenance services, the provider may just show up once every six months, add a little oil or grease, and see if everything looks OK. They’re not really getting maintenance,” explains Richard Humphreys Jr., president of Vertical Transportation Consulting. “No cleaning is done, so dust collects in the relays. The brushes in the motors aren’t checked, so when they wear out, elevators start misleveling and causing tripping hazards. Unwillingness to spend money on elevators is a major problem.”

FMs have a tendency to concentrate on the price of maintenance contracts rather than the services provided, adds Chris Smith, director of marketing for Schindler Elevator Corporation.

“You should have an account representative who can explain all of the fine print,” Smith says. “What are the different levels of contracts? What is included and excluded? Will I get any extra bills, and if so, where are they coming from? Will the burden be on me if a part becomes obsolete?”

2) You’re Saving Money by Cutting Corners

Deferring maintenance doesn’t just lead to early equipment failure – it can be a recipe for disaster. Code requires that all elevators have functioning telephones with dedicated phone lines, but a surprising number of buildings lack this fundamental provision, Humphreys says.

“People will sign off on fixing the phone, and then as soon as we’re done, they’ll have it taken off the bill to save money. No one uses it, so let’s cut it off,” explains Humphreys. “Sometimes building owners will try to pull off putting a cell phone in there – how will that get charged?”

One client even tried to get away with leaving a walkie-talkie in the elevator as a stand-in phone, Humphreys adds.

“I went straight to the elevator, got in, let the doors close without pushing any buttons, and started trying to call someone on the walkie-talkie,” says Humphreys. “Of course the battery was dead. They had to shut it down until they had a phone.”

3) You’re Looking at the Wrong Metrics

Elevator reliability is often measured by uptime or availability of equipment, Smith explains, but focusing on this number doesn’t tell the whole story – a misleveling elevator presents a major trip and fall risk even though it’s still technically usable.

“Another way to measure reliability is through some type of callback measurement,” Smith explains. “At Schindler we use mean time between service calls – how many days go by between calls. Have those metrics available and ask providers to track them. Ideally, it should be available 24/7 on the Internet where it can be completely transparent.”

4) You Don’t Have Time for Routine Cleanings

Dirt can cause a surprising number of issues, Smith says. A simple once-over on a regular basis can significantly lower your risk for potential accidents.

“The comb plates on escalators capture a lot of dirt and grit, and people can slip and trip just on that buildup,” explains Smith. “With elevators, there are thresholds for sills – it’s a grooved area that accumulates dirt and debris. That needs to be vacuumed out regularly. Building owners could definitely help themselves just by taking care of those two things.”

About the Author

Janelle Penny | Editor-in-Chief at BUILDINGS

Janelle Penny has been with BUILDINGS since 2010. She is a two-time FOLIO: Eddie award winner who aims to deliver practical, actionable content for building owners and facilities professionals.

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