Sunday, August 6, 2017

Colley Elevator summer get together

Colley Elevator had its first of hopefully many summer get togethers.  This was a special one because we celebrated two long term employees upcoming retirement at the Chicago White Sox game.  We had 99 people attend the game with us.  We have two great people who will be moving on to their next part of life.  As coworkers we spend so much time together and get to know one another very well, this makes it exciting to see them move on.  Together we have 73 years of Colley experience leaving us, I am very happy we all got to share our time together!  

Both have known me since I was very little.  I worked side by side with Aida for 17 years in the office.  Dennis has guided me through understanding field work and has been my partner in the business for the last 10 years

 [This is a picture of the scoreboard!  Thanks Chuck!]

                                           [A group picture taken by Aida's son]

Thank you Dennis and Aida you will be missed!

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

Sunday, July 30, 2017

NAEC strategic planning session

Last week I was able to attend the NAEC’s strategic planning session in Asheville, NC. 

  [Sunday dinner before the meeting started and a toast by our current president]

Every 3 to 5 years the Association gets previous, present and future board members together to map out the strategic direction of the association.  A survey went out to membership a few months before our meeting to find out what needs the membership has currently and what needs they believe they will have in the future. The next step is at the meeting and includes reviewing survey results of member ship and throwing up ideas to meet the present and future need.

 [Day one of the two day planning session.]

While I have been on the board for 2 years, I am the youngest board member.  While I have been involved in the elevator industry for around 20 years, there are many people with much more experience and knowledge than I have.  I understood that when you get a group of motivated and competitive people who run and managed their own businesses or business units it may get crowded. The gravity of the knowledge and experience of my counterparts hit me Monday morning when we got down to business.  During the first breakout session, I was in a group with a few people that had twice the amount of contractor experience, 2 to 4 times NAEC experience and had a big presence during discussions.  I learned a lot from my interactions with these individuals and was very impressed with my counter parts.

During the next two days we took 50+ pages of data and 22 people’s contributions on how to serve the immediate needs as well as future needs of NAEC membership and boiled it down to something tangible.  The implementation time lines for these big ideas ranged from now to 10 years from now.  While I had been a part of a similar process it is amazing how the ideas shake out from data to ideas to implementation strategies.   

The brilliance of the process was taking all of our big, motivated personalities and capturing the strengths and knowledge that comes from different parts of the elevator business[Contractors & suppliers from California to Florida to New York and everywhere inbetween] and focusing it to transform a massive amount data into actionable items.  One of the keys of this successful exercise was that we had a great facilitator who could keep us on track and harness our energy.

During the last few hours on the 2nd day everyone was running out of steam as this process is challenging.  What we came up with during these two days was 10 big ideas and the back end strategies how to accomplish these big ideas.  As I reflect on the experience on my 2nd flight of the day to get back to Chicago I am very satisfied with our results and believe it is a good path for the association for many years to come. 

Frequently, I get asked what do I get out of being a part of the NAEC Board of Directors. This last few days was a reminder that every time I am involved in these activities, I learn from the process but I learn more from the people.   The NAEC is fortunate to have such great contributors and I am fortunate to have been asked to be one of them.

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Buildings flood and elevator damage

This last two weeks in the Chicago area saw a lot of rain, and consequently a lot of building’s flooded.  What to do when you building floods?

If possible shut your elevator off before water gets into the machine room – Do not shut the elevator off or go in the machine room if there is water in the machine room.

What to do after a building floods
            Get the water pumped out of the areas that are accessible and have water

            Put ventilation/fans in the area that flooded to move air around

            Have your elevator contractor assess the equipment

            Have elevator contractor assist in hoistway access to pump out water in elevator pit

            Make required equipment replacements

Hydraulic elevators – Hydraulic elevators may have damage to rails, cylinder, piston, packing, hydraulic line, switches, pit equipment & buffers, victolics, etc.

 [one of the pictures of a building we walked in on last week]

[The elevator pit after the water was pumped out of the basement]
[A photo of a building down the streets elevator pit]

Traction elevators – Traction elevators may have damage to rails, switches, pit equipment & buffers, compensation chain, tension sheave, governor cable, etc.

Each water damage situation is different in the affects to the elevator system so you should follow the lead of the elevator contractor to remedy.  Be aware that once a piece of elevator equipment gets wet it will not function the same, it may work but there will be lingering affects. Cables will begin to rust, contacts get corroded, pipes will get rusty, rubber will deteriorate and/or get hard and not perform the way they are intended.  All items should be addressed sooner than later or the lingering issues will become larger and create larger problems.

Take away – Consult your elevator contractor and follow their direction on how to properly repair the elevator correctly and complete the work quickly.

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

When is it time to modernize a elevator?

Frequently we get the question from buildings, “when should we modernize our elevator?”.  The answer will always be different depending on the traffic, environment, maintenance that has been performed on the elevator system and what a building’s expectations of the elevator system are.   I believe after 20 years a building should be looking into what their elevator company believes is the life expectancy of all the components of the elevator system.

Building traffic – A sleepy 16 unit building’s elevator will last longer than 48 unit building.  In the commercial environment if you have a stairwell in the front of the building it will save the elevator a lot of wear on tear then if everyone uses the elevator.  Every building will be different with their traffic flow.

Environment – If a building’s environment is good, no water or moisture, heated and cooled in winter and summer, treated well by the riders, etc the elevator will last longer.

Performed preventative maintenance – If the company or mechanic who is doing the maintenance is doing their job, the elevator will last a lot longer than if no one is going to the building or people are going to the building and not doing proper maintenance.  If you catch small problems before they turn into large problems you will be in a good position.

Expectations of elevator service – We service buildings that have a 50+ year old elevator and are ok with shut downs.  We service buildings with a 10 year old elevator that are not ok with any shut downs.  If a building’s expectations are to have reliable elevator service 100% of the time, they need to keep an eye on the elevator’s age and have an open dialog with their elevator contractor.

What made me think of this topic was a building we had been maintaining for a very long time choose to modernize their equipment, we had been keeping them in the loop with pricing and equipment conditions for at least 10 years.  Their equipment was 30 years old, well maintained and was reliable but they wanted to make sure their equipment was reliable for years to come.  We also ran into a building where their 15 year old elevator sprung a cylinder leak and they called all hands on deck to get their elevator back to service.  This was very expensive.  One building was prepared and one building was not prepared.  For the building that wasn’t prepared, who would think your elevator cylinder would go out when it is fairly young, but it happened.  The take away is to be prepared and have a dialog with your current elevator contractor, or call us and we can give you our recommendation.

 [This is a modernization we are doing for a building that has been on top of their elevator's life cycle and their expectations for elevator reliability.]
[If you can name the manufacturer of this car station I will be impressed, with that said when we start seeing an elevator's equipment turn obscure[due to age and other similar elevators being replaced] a building needs to be aware that it will be more difficult to work on and they need to plan to modernize]

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Modernization of an elevator traction machine

In Chicago we have some very old buildings and aging elevator equipment.  When working on a traction modernization we always take a look at the traction machine and figure out if the machine needs to be changed.  There are several items you in consideration replacing the machine.  I am by far not an expert on elevator traction machines but here are a few things I have learned.

Machine wear – This is a very important item to look at.  Is the existing machine in good condition?

Internal machine wear – You need to look at the machine to see if has wear on the gears.  Wear or uneven wear is typically indicative of lack of maintenance, bad installation or high usage.  I recently ran into a building that the gears had to be changed because the OEM had this machine on an “as needed” maintenance visit, which meant not very often, they ended up having to pull the gears out to have them replaced because the gear oil was very low.

Sheave wear – Most sheaves can be recreated by a machine shop.  We have used Titan Machine in New York for fabricating some sheaves that are out of production and they have done a great job.  There is a point where the cost for repair/recreation of sheaves exceeds the cost of new machine.  Once your drive sheave wears you begin to wear your cables and your lifespan on each cable typically is cut down by 50% each recable.  Again, if you are not watching this on maintenance you will have early wear and you will be chasing your tail to change cables to not wear your sheave more and to change your sheave not to wear your cables.

Logistics of changing an existing machine – 90% of elevator machines are located in a penthouse on top of the building.  This creates a challenge how to get a new machine into the machine room.  Some machine rooms have scuttle holes, some do not.  Some machine rooms have room to hoist, some do not.  One item you have to look at is how bad in the machine versus the cost to remove a building wall, ceiling, floor to get a new machine in.  We had a building that required a 3600lb machine to match the drops of the existing machine.  The issue was there was no pick points and 2 flights of stairs, no easy way to get the new machine up and the old machine down.  We ended up using a smaller machine with blocking[to get the correct rope drop].  This is not a high traffic or high-speed elevator so it wasn’t a huge concern about using a smaller sheave.  We recently had a building the should have had the machine replaced but since it was mounted in the attic of a historic building with slanted roofs we opted to retain the machine and change seals. Again this elevator was not a high traffic or high-speed elevator so it will hold up for a long period of time.

[This machine was on a 4' platform and has a slanted 100 year old roof making the replacement difficult, the building opted to keep the machine]

[A new machine going up to replace a 1960's Otis]

Future reaction points – This is the most important part of the equation.  Buildings are built with machine beams for the elevator that is originally installed.  At times, a new machine has different reactions which will require larger machine beams or a different layout.  This can create a significant problem if it isn’t paid attention to.  The problem being the structural integrity of the building.  If you are not knowledgeable of structural support I would recommend having a structural engineer complete the calculations prior to installation or recommending replacement.

Accessibility of parts – You need to understand if someone can supply, fix or fabricate parts if the machine needs component parts replaced.

Motors – Most motors can be replaced or rewound.  Some motors are obscure so an old Montgomery flange mount motor may not be fabricated by a 3rd party as an AC motor so the machine may need to be replaced if the controller is modernized.

Gears – There are still some machine shops out there that can fabricate gears, but at what cost?

Brakes – There are a few elevator brake providers that can work with any machine.  Again, there are obscure machines that make it nearly impossible to retrofit a new brake.  This is where a machine shop comes in to repair the old brake.

Speed & efficiency/Gearless machines – The “gearless” product is becoming very popular.  Gearless motors are smaller and can give you better electrical efficiency and can go faster than a geared machine.  Gearless motors also can have a shorter life than a typical geared traction motor.  The precious metals used for most gearless motors are created in China and also create a large amount of undesirable waste with their creation.

What I did not touch on is the cost of replacing a machine during an elevator modernization which often is the largest driver of if it is replaced or not.  The machine replacement is often the largest expense of the elevator modernization project.

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

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Elevator ladder safety - 3 point rule

Working in the elevator trade, the threat of falling while mounting, dismounting or climbing a ladder is a sure way to get seriously hurt. An insurance industry study showed that falls from ladders were almost 25 percent worse than other types of fall injuries. Whether you are working in an elevator pit or in the machine room safety should always be the number one priority.
Even an ankle sprain can play havoc with your ability to perform everyday tasks and can cost you big in terms of lost income and downtime. The biggest single cause of falls from a ladder is user error and failure to follow the three-point rule.
What Can You Do To Avoid Falls
No matter if it is an elevator pit ladder or an extension ladder, always use the three-point system to significantly reduce the chance of a slip or fall. The three-point system means three of your four limbs are in contact with the ladder at all times – two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
The three-point system allows a person to have maximum stability, support and control, thereby reducing the likelihood of slipping and falling. Be a winner; use the three-point system.


  • Always inspect the ladder before use.
  • Secure the base and top of ladder to prevent accidental movement.
  • Set the ladder on a firm level surface.
  • Look for and remove obstacles from the base and top of ladder.
  • Ensure that ladder rails extend at least three feet above the landing.
  • Always face the ladder when climbing up or down and while working from it.
  • Set straight or extension ladders one foot out for every three to four feet up.
  • Stand no higher than the third rung from the top. Maintain knee contact for balance.
  • Wear shoes with good support and check to be sure they are clean of mud, grease, or any slippery materials that could cause loss of footing.
  • Slow down and use extra caution before proceeding. Get a firm grip on the
This is a repost from our ECA friends at Bay State Elevator

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Obsolete elevator equipment – What does this mean?

From time to time we as elevator contractors run into older elevator equipment or not so old elevator equipment that is not supported nor sourced any longer.  One of the hard to swallow conversations for a building owner to hear is “your elevator equipment[part] is obsolete”.  What does this mean?  And how does effect you?

Definition of obsolete –

1. no longer in general use; fallen into disuse:
an obsolete expression.
2. of a discarded or outmoded type; out of date:
an obsolete battleship.
3.(of a linguistic form) no longer in use, especially, out of use for at leastthe past century
Compare archaic.
4. effaced by wearing down or away.

How this pertains to elevator full maintenance agreements – An elevator full maintenance agreement should cover your elevator system in reasonable conditions.  This would mean if a door part failed in normal operation, the elevator contractor would replace it and wouldn’t charge you.  If a solid state control board failed in normal operation the elevator contractor would replace it and wouldn’t charge you.  The obsolesce issue comes in play when a direct replacement is not available from the original equipment manufacturer

For manufactures that are still around but stopped supplying replacement parts - i.e. a R4 regen drive is replaced with a R6 regen drive and wiring changes are required, or a MCE white box requires replacement with a different solid state board set that is not a direct replacement, Virginia Controls had their electronics supplier discontinue their support of their MH2000 product line, their new solution is to install a MH3000 board set. These are three examples of companies that are still around but do not or cannot support their products with direct replacements. Or to make it more colorful, while some companies names are still on the parts, they have made financial arrangements for the warranty and technical support to be provided by a different entity.  The assumed life span of electronic parts & support should be 15-20 years. Please note to expect curve balls. [edit 6/29/17 with Virginia Controls clarification on the MH2000 control series]

For control manufacturers that are no longer around – Typically when a manufacturer “closes” its doors someone buy’s their assets.  This poses a difficult scenario where instead of a replacement of a board or drive, you may be required to replace the entire elevator controller.  In the Illinois area we had a contractor/manufacturer, Long Elevator, that was acquired by Kone.  Kone did not choose to support the Long product line for very long. Long Elevator installed many elevators in our area.  Now we are seeing board failures and replacement parts being unavailable. We typically first try to find a electronics company that can repair the solid state boards, if this is not successful or the board is not repairable the building is forced to replace their elevator controller.

 [A Long Elevator controller mounted on the elevator car top, these boards are not available nor supported, when a board goes out on this elevator it gets interesting, not a good interesting]

  [This is a very old ESCO controller, most of the parts are available with exception of the timers and relays which can be retrofitted]

 [A US Elevator with solid state boards, similar to the Long Elevator this gets interesting when a board needs to be replaced or repaired, as this was a more popular controller we have more outlets that are familiar with repairing boards, but there is no support nor has this been manufactured in many many years]

Hours of replacement - Please note that the replacement typical is covered during normal working hours unless you have a 24-hour maintenance agreement.

Why is the building responsible for paying for replacement for “obsolete” equipment – The simple answer is that is says this in your elevator maintenance contract.  The longer answer is as contractors, we have no way to predict the life cycle support for electronics or different product lines.  Contractors also do not have a way to predict what a future repair solution and cost would be if a product line is discontinued.  We know that a replacement of a power supply, microprocessor board, motor drive that is a direct replacement will have a parts cost of X and a labor cost of Y. At the end of the day while an elevator contractor does have a contractual responsibility to maintain the elevator equipment to the best of their ability, it is still owned by the building and the building does bear the final responsibility.

Planned obsolescence – Wikipedia

Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design and economics is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete (that is, unfashionable or no longer functional) after a certain period of time.[1] The rationale behind the strategy is to generate long-term sales volume by reducing the time between repeat purchases (referred to as "shortening the replacement cycle").[2]
Producers that pursue this strategy believe that the additional sales revenue it creates more than offsets the additional costs of research and development and opportunity costs of existing product line cannibalization. In a competitive industry, this is a risky strategy because when consumers catch on to this, they may decide to buy from competitors instead.
Planned obsolescence tends to work best when a producer has at least an oligopoly.[3] Before introducing a planned obsolescence, the producer has to know that the consumer is at least somewhat likely to buy a replacement from them. In these cases of planned obsolescence, there is an information asymmetry between the producer – who knows how long the product was designed to last – and the consumer, who does not. When a market becomes more competitive, product lifespans tend to increase.[citation needed] For example, when Japanese vehicles with longer lifespans entered the American market in the 1960s and 1970s, American carmakers were forced to respond by building more durable products.[4] A counterexample is Moore's law, stating that the rather competitive electronic industry plans for double computer capacity every 18 months, and the software industry plan for new program versions that require double computer capacity every 18 months.[5]

Purpose of this post – The purpose of the post is to provide some additional clarity of the murky waters of “obsolesce”.  It is a word no one likes to hear, it is a word that screams expense, and it is a word we have spirited debates over.  A solution is to talk to your elevator contractor about this and have a plan of action, modernization, repair, etc in a worse case scenario.

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