The Ups and Downs of Elevator Maintenance

May 1, 2008

Most elevator service companies provide plans to fit nearly all budgets - find the one that works best for your buildings

Elevators are the epicenter of modern buildings; their maintenance is critical to building management, ensuring smooth building operations and offering reliability for tenants/occupants. Building executives with facilities in need of elevator repair, maintenance, or upgrades have dozens of services at their disposal. Most elevator service companies provide a menu of plans designed to fit most budgets. Standard contracts offer assurance that a technician will show up if there's a problem. Comprehensive contracts manage all facets of elevator operation.

The challenge for building executives is to match appropriate service levels to keep operations running smoothly while staying within a monthly budget.

Plans and Contracts
Inspection agreements and inclusive contracts are the two most common types of service programs. Recently, service companies began offering variations to better suit customer needs.

A basic plan typically covers an inspection and report of necessary repairs. Some include lubrication of system parts (most attractive to building executives who oversee buildings with older equipment). The price point on replacement parts makes other options cost prohibitive.

An on-demand contract establishes a more substantial connection with the service company. With this kind of contract, labor rates are usually predetermined, but not included in the contract fee. Parts are extra as well.

Full-service maintenance plans include parts, labor, and preventive maintenance. If the building's function and equipment dictate a full-service maintenance plan, routine visits are scheduled. Specifications may include how frequently a technician will be on-site to perform maintenance and what exactly will be done. This involves documentation in elevator-equipment rooms and in logbooks on every controller.

All-inclusive contracts are the most expensive. Charging a set monthly fee, the service company bears the risk that an elevator may need significant repair.

Individualized Attention
Client-specific programs enable customized maintenance plans for each building. An initial step in selecting services is to look at building function, population, and demand on its elevators.

Service providers should also evaluate existing equipment, noting the manufacturers and ages of the original equipment: Equipment installed within the last 5 years has different service requirements than equipment installed 20 years ago. Technicians should also be intimately familiar with the original elevator equipment and have access to spare parts, necessary software, wiring diagrams, and other documentation.

Service providers should also work with building management to consider the plans for the building. If the owner intends to sell the building in a year or two, then a basic plan is probably a better fit than a comprehensive plan. Older equipment might require building executives to develop an asset-management plan to extend service life until funds are available to pay for upgrades.

In addition, specifics on maintenance funding should be examined. Sometimes, the terms of a lease, particularly triple-net leases, require tenants to pay for repairs and upgrades.

Reputable service providers will do more than just meet the contract's technical requirements. They should be willing to make recommendations for upgrades and improvements to meet current or future standards, educating customers about the industry and the latest code revisions for safety.

Stuart Prior is executive vice president of Americas Business Unit at ThyssenKrupp Elevator, Frisco, TX.

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