Sunday, January 21, 2018

NAEC Board of Directors 2018 Mid Year meeting

Once a year the Board of Directors gets together for a mid-year meeting to go over NAEC association business and provide direction until our next meeting at the NAEC Spring Conference.  I write this because I get asked lots of questions from my coworkers and NAEC members.  What did you do when you were out there?  What do you get out of it?

NAEC - Board of Directors

Craig Zomchek - Colley Elevator - President
Gary Schuette - Midwest Elevator - Vice President
John Dodds - Kencor Inc - Secretary
LJ Blaiotta - Columbia Elevator Products - Treasurer
Robert Barber - Premier Elevator 
Tim Conkling - Capital Elevator
Rick Gable - Gable Elevator 
Don Gelestino - Champion Elevator
Henry Handel - Handel & Son 
Joseph McNally - McNally Elevator
Tom Thompson - Innovation Ind
Gina Valdez - Texacone
Cornelius Walls - Formula Systems

What did we do down there?

The location was at Sunny Isles, Florida about 30 minutes north of Miami.  This was a self-funded trip where the BOD paid their way to the meeting to volunteer their time.

[Welcome to Florida!]

We got to Florida on Saturday with the help of all four grandparents of the first daughter of the NAEC.  I am currently the president of the NAEC and am grateful for my wife, parents and In-laws for coming along to give us a hand.  The BOD got together and had a welcome dinner at the hotel restaurant which was sponsored by the current president of the NAEC.

[This is what our meeting looks like]

Sunday morning came and we began our meeting where we discussed some of our opportunities and challenges coming up for the NAEC.  Due to the Hurricane that disrupted the convention that was supposed to be in Orlando and the quick switch to Atlantic City we have some financial challenges from loss of revenue.  Fortunately, we have some great opportunities to drive revenue as well.  One which I will link is NAEC’s VTMP[Vertical Transportation Management Program].  This is a great program for new entrants into the business or for field personnel transitioning to the office environment.  The program is $1,600.00 for both sections[technical and business] or can be split up with a reduction in price.  I spent about 7 years learning the information that is available in this program so I encourage you to look into this to shorten the learning curve of having someone be a productive member of your team. Colley has already enrolled 6 people in this program.  Our meeting went about 7.5 hours, we adjourned to spend the next 6+ hours together for dinner and watching the NFL playoff games.  Bar was picked up by one of our BOD members.

More information on VTMP -

Monday we had a breakfast and took a trip to Miami where we spent the later part of the day in South Beach.  This is a time for everyone to get to know each other and talk shop.  BOD members picked up bar and food tabs during this trip.

[One of our stops on South Beach at The Clevelander]
[This was a pretty cool hotel/hostel we stopped at]
 [Finally dinner at Gloria Estefans Larios on the Beach]

What do I get out of being involved in the NAEC BOD?

I get asked this question a lot.  I get to spend time with people I look up to and peers in the elevator industry.  We share stories of where we came from and where we are going.   I get a chance to spend many hours with other contractors from all around the country who may do something different then we do or I can bounce ideas off of.  I have developed relationships with many great people who I can work with in the future if I need help and vice versa.  On the supplier side I get to spend time with the owners/key people from their respective companies.  If there are questions or issues I know where to go for the answers.  I heard some incredible stories of how companies started, how their companies grew and challenges their companies go through.  There are some big take aways from our off-script conversations that help me in our business.

What is next?

Spring conference is scheduled to be in Carlsbad California April 15-18. I have linked the agenda below.  Topics include OSHA silica safety training, carbon brush maintenance, freight elevator applications, 7 mistakes managers make, platform lifts, elevators in natural disasters, ERP’s for elevator contractors, harassment claims, safety roundtable, zero clearance entrances, residential elevator hoistway safety, control valves and more.  There is a supplier and contractor member session, open mic, golf, receptions, etc as well.

Take a look -

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Hydraulic Freight Elevator Modernization

Over the last 3 years we have been fortunate enough to have been working with the USPS on freight elevator modernization.  This project was chopped up into 3 phases.  The first phase was awarded to a different company but Colley completed phase II & III.  Here are some pictures of elevator #2 after all three phases have been completed.

  [Controller set up after phase II, before phase III - Phase II included door modernization]
  [New MCE control system]

  [New Courion control system]

The elevator control systems where installed by Automatic Elevator using Maida elevator controllers and Harris Prebble automatic freight doors.  We replaced the system with a Motion Control Engineering elevator controller and Courion automatic freight doors.

   [Old Quality Elevator power unit]

  [New Delaware Elevator power unit]

The elevator’s hydraulic power unit was initial fabricated by Quality Elevator, Niles, IL and replaced with a Delaware Elevator unit.  A Maxton valve was utilized. 

   [Old Adams Elevator car station]

   [Old Adams car station]

  [New Innovation car station]

The elevator fixtures where originally from Adam’s Elevator and replaced with Innovation Industries.  Each land has position indicators & security fobs.

  [New Courion hatch door and Innovation Hall stations]

All of automatic hatch doors and car gates had been replaced with Courion.

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Colley Elevator’s end of year get together

We have out annual end of year get together last night and it was great.  We had over 50 people turn out to Pin Stripes – Oak Brook, IL for dinner and bowling.  It is always nice to catch up with everyone outside of work and with their significant others.

The Friday before I stopped at one of our job sites where we are replacing freight doors in an explosion proof environment.  It is always amazing to see the hard work and amazing feats that elevator people do every day.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, from the person who answers the phone to the person who completes the field task, it takes a team to make things run well.  A thank you to everyone who is involved!

I got to thinking about how much knowledge and experience we had in the room and am always wowed reflecting on it.

We had 5 of our retirees that had a total of 126 years of service call Colley if you add it all up.  Without their hard work we would not be here!  They laid the groundwork for what we are doing today.

Colley's current employees have 266 years of collective experience working at Colley which is an average of 9.5 years[at Colley Elevator]. 

We have a legend who has worked at Colley for over 54 years!

Outside of our lives at Colley we have some great stories that include being
            World travelers
            Rock star(s)
            Bostonian hockey pro
            Professional football player - On Thanksgiving
            Real Estate mogul
            Motor cycle customizer
            1st generation immigrant
            Army veteran
            Record producer who turned down Fall Out Boys first record[they have only gone                  on to sell 7.5 million records]
            Air Force veteran
            Garbage compactor repairman
            Car/truck enthusiasts
            Hot rod racer
            Marathon runner
            Electronic wizard
            Born in a log cabin
            TV producer
            Pro bowler
            Hockey Player
            The list could go on

*I may be exaggerating on some of these

It is the eclectic group of people with the eclectic experiences that makes our company great!  I love learning all these unique things about the people we work with and their significant others, it makes us who we are.  It makes us a great team!
I had a great time and here is to a great start to 2018!

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Year in review Colley Elevator Blog - 2018 Elevator Blog

I reflected at our first post, it was on February 20th, 2014 and was about water melting all the snow on the ground flooding buildings.  We had 900 elevators in our portfolio at that time which was a lot for our company historically.  Almost 4 years later we have over 1300 elevators in our portfolio, added 4 routes, doing higher rise modernization projects and we continue to grow.  All of this would not be possible with out the help of all the great people who work at Colley and worked at Colley over the 109 years of our history.

Over the last 4 years there have been 187 blog posts.  This is a small feat compared to Tom Sybert’s elevator radio show[] being around for 12 years.  But we will keep working at it!

 [This is the guy writing the blog]

This is a post reflecting on the last year of blogging, it also can be used as a reference to find topics you may want to know more about.  If you ever want to know about something let me know and I can write about it.  Many of the topics I write about I learn about as I am writing the blog.

Importance of elevator data tags – 1/2/17
Elevator Fireman’s service phase I & II – 1/9/17
Poor elevator portfolio maintenance – 1/15/17
Elevator hoistway & pit access – 1/29/17
Private residence lift accidents – 2/11/17
Chicago elevator maintenance & FEO – 2/19/17
Elevator U – 2/26/17
Chicago Fireman’s Service [FEO] – 3/5/17
Chicago Elevator Modernization – 3/12/17
Elevator Fireman’s automatic recall – 3/19/17
National Association of Elevator Contractors – 3/29/17
Hydraulic elevator modernization – 4/2/17
Traction elevator modernization – 4/8/17
Elevator maintenance records – 4/16/17
Hydraulic elevator overdue for modernization – 4/23/17
Hydraulic elevator noise – 4/30/17
Accidents in elevator hoistway – non elevator trades – 5/7/17
Elevator door restrictor – Adams hatch latch – 5/14/17
Elevator door restrictor – GAL mechanical – 5/21/17
Elevator door restrictor – SEES – 5/29/17
Elevator door restrictor – ECI/GAL Canada – 6/4/17
Elevator door restrictor – Electrodyne – 6/11/17
Door restrictor wrap up – 6/18/17
Obsolete elevator equipment – 6/25/17
Elevator ladder safety – 7/4/17
Modernization of an elevator traction machine – 7/11/17
When is it time to modernize? – 7/16/17
Buildings flood and elevator damage – 7/23/17
NAEC strategic planning session – 7/30/17
Colley Elevator summer get together – 8/6/17
Elevator machine room temperatures – 8/21/17
Elevator pit hazards & safe access – 9/5/17
Staying sharp – continuing education – 9/10/17
Staying safe – Elevator worker safety – 9/17/1
Readable Fireman’s phase I & II instructions – 9/24/17
NAEC – 2017 elevator convention – 10/1/17
Traction elevator modernization – 10/8/17
Elevator cylinder removal – 10/15/17
The “green” elevator installation – 10/22/17
Elevator modernization – High Voltage – 10/29/17
Elevator pit hall of fame – Volume #1 – 11/5/17
Elevator pit hall of fame – Volume #2 – 11/12/17
Chicago elevator maintenance traction – 11/19/17
When is it time to plan a elevator modernization – 11/26/17
Hydraulic elevator modernization – 12/2/17
Elevator controller hall of fame – 12/10/17
Elevator motor control – 12/17/17

I would like to thank everyone that has taken the time to read the blog.  I would like to thank all of my coworkers, inspectors, consultants, suppliers, friendly local competitors, friends I’ve met being on the board of directors for the NAEC for making 2017 a great year!  My 2017/2018 advice - Get involved, learn, find your passion and when you look back on the year you will see how much you have grown professionally, personally and socially.  If you didn’t do it this year, 2018 is right around the corner, make a difference in your life and someone else’s life.  We are only here for a short time leave your mark.  I wish everyone a safe and happy New Year!

 [Make it a great year from my home to yours!]

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Elevator motor control – Generator versus motor drive

I was doing a walk through on four elevators that we needed a number of things for and I was looking at a older Virginia Controls elevator with a MG set.  This controller had one cabinet for the controller portion and one for the generator and motor control.  The other passenger elevator in the building had been modernized and had a motor drive.  It was a night and day example of how technology removed so many failure points from the elevator system on traction cars.  At one point in the elevator universe this was cutting edge technology, but technology moves on. 

Existing machine – This was a machine most likely replaced in the late 1980’s early 1990’s.  Good bones, if it where to be replaced again it would be replaced with a machine just like it. 

Existing controller – Holy smokes this has a lot of relays in it.  How many guys carry a relay tester in their car?  More relays more potential problems.

Existing Generator – This is an item that kept elevator guys busy changing brushes to keep the generator going.  There is an art and a process to replacing brushes.  If a generator is not maintained it will be a very expensive proposition to repair or replace it.  Oh yeah there is also generator dust.  The 2nd picture is the data tags from the generator, there is an incoming AC side and an outgoing DC side.  It took me a few years to wrap my head around this when I first started in the business.

Existing motor control panel – This is a panel with resistors, relays and phase protection.  If you look you can see there still is a mercury phase monitor on this controller.  Be careful how you dispose of this, mercury does not go away and is dangerous.

New style motor control – This box which is approximately 24” x 18” replaces the giant motor control panel and generator.  There are maintenance items to perform on this device but not nearly as much as the generator.  This is a great device, it makes life a lot easier for elevator technicians.

Why did this elevator have a generator? – Back before the motor drive was invented they used DC power to allow the elevator to have better leveling accuracy.  AC power plugs into the generator and DC power is sent to the motor.  It got rid of the floor accuracy problems of single speed AC motors and two speed AC motors. Tesla Vs. Edison. Tesla won but…. Edison’s DC power was cleaner, efficient and easier to control.  But you needed generators nearby.  Tesla’s AC could but run with wires over long distances without generators nearby.  AC power also fluctuates over time, in America 60 times a second. 

Take away – For most applications you can get rid of the elevator generator and you will get rid of a lot of your headaches, or potential headaches.

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Elevator controller hall of fame – part #1

Here are a few of our better controller pictures of the last few years.  These typically make us cringe when we see them, hopefully they are going to be moded, but sometimes we decide it is a good idea to do maintenance on them.  I want to know when the person who was working on some of these controllers decided it was time to stop and throw in the towel.  There is one picture of one of our accounts we inherited and we went on to clean up the wiring. Each picture has a bit of the back story and narrative below it.

This is from an elevator in Oak Park, IL.  While the controller is troubling to look at there was exposed multicable run in the machine room and car top, I’ll share those pictures with you later.  We didn’t end up getting this modernization but we did get the 2nd car to do a year and a half later.

It is always cool to go to a building where the company you work for originally installed the elevator system 40+ years ago.  In this case Colley installed this elevator in Hickory Hills, IL in the early 1970’s.  What is not cool is to see what someone has done to this controller over the years.  A few minutes after I looked at the controller and took the information down I went in the car and saw there was a bullet indentation in the car door.  I stared at it thinking… why would you shoot a gun at the car door?  The shooter was standing in front of the door, there is no hole in the cab door, just a dent, where do you think the bullet went?



 This is what I call a Friday at 4pm repair.  You are supposed to go back and eventually correct what you did to get the elevator running.  Well… It wasn’t corrected.  We went in an straightened out the wiring in the controller and in some electrical boxes.  This is a pretty cool before and after photo.  

[Car #1]

[Car #2]

 The next two are controllers that for some reason we thought would be a good idea to take on maintenance.  This may come to a shocker, some of the features didn’t work right. This controller installation is a disservice to our trade.  The company who installed these was so proud of their work they wrote their name with sharpie on the machines they installed.

I was at a State of Illinois Fire Marshall Elevator meeting and a building was brought up to explain why they haven’t done X, Y & Z.  There was a spirited debate and the inspector who went to the building stated “this was one of the worst examples of “maintenance” he has ever seen”.  I was curious about what could be so bad and thought perhaps the inspector was exaggerating.  About 4 months later I got a call for a 2 car modernization from someone I worked with while he was working for a different building management company.  He explained the situation and I said “ah ha! I know this building from the State of Illinois meeting!”.  When I got there, I saw what the inspector was talking about, it was all true.  Did you know Montgomery Elevator dabbled in oral hygiene in the mid 1960’s?  

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Hydraulic elevator modernization – Chicago, IL.

This is from a building that we just modernized.  The elevator was originally a Otis Elevator from 1965. We have previously replaced the cylinders in the building due to the City of Chicago cylinder mandate.  The elevator was in rough shape when we completed the cylinder replacement 3+ years ago.  When I went back to do the engineering the car ran like a cross between a haunted house and carnival ride. We did not maintain this elevator prior to modernization.

  [Old Machine room layout]

 [New Machine room layout]

Elevator Controller – On this project we used a Smartrise Engineering hydraulic controller to replace old Otis relay logic control system.
[Old Otis controller with finger contacts circa 1965, lots of relays and contact points]

[New Smartrise hydraulic controller]

Elevator power unit – We replaced the Otis dry power unit that was leaking everywhere that had a previous valve replacement with a MEI power unit with a  UC4 valve.

[Old dry power unit]

Elevator fixtures – We used Innovation industry surface mount hall stations to cover the existing fixture holes at 50”+ and bring the button down to 42”.  The car station has a digital position indicator, emergency light, emergency phone and ADA compliant buttons.  This building owner wanted a different type of push button style then we typically use.

[Old Otis car station with phone offset]

[New Innovation car station]

[Old Otis hall station with button at 52" +/-]

[New surface mount Innovation hall station with push button at 42" ADA compliant]

Elevator door operator – We replaced the old Otis door operator with a new GAL MOVFR II.  We replaced all the car and hatch equipment with new Otis door parts.

[Old Otis door operator held together with electrical tape]


[Old Otis car door set up]

[New GAL MOVFR II car door set up]

I always like seeing the before and after of our modernization projects and see the dramatic transformation.  This elevator should be good for 20-30+ years.

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.