Saturday, May 19, 2018

Chicago Elevator Association [CEA] – Night at the Races

The Chicago Elevator Association [CEA] is the longest running elevator association in the country.  Each year they offer several scholarship opportunities for a minimum of four $500 scholarships to students pursuing a post-secondary degree. Any daughter, son, stepchild or grandchild of a CEA member in good standing is eligible.

This years event was at the Hawthorne Race Track – Cicero, IL.

The CEA is such a great organization to be a member of and this event bolsters their commitment to not only bettering the elevator industry but those who have children moving forward in their education that are a part of our elevator industry.   This event was a good time for a good cause

If you didn’t apply this year, there will be a next year, get your applications in!!!

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

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Proprietary elevator controls Vs. Non-proprietary elevator controls

As an independent elevator contractor, we do a lot of educating of building owners on what type of elevator control system to purchase.   As independent elevator contractor we spend a lot of time talking about proprietary vs. non-proprietary elevator equipment. 

We will talk about both proprietary and non-proprietary elevator systems

Definition of proprietary - As an adjective, belonging to ownership; owned by a particular person; belonging or pertaining to a proprietor; relating to a certain owner or proprietor. Proprietary refers to ownership or characteristics relating to ownership.

What proprietary means to an elevator owner?  This means that the XYZ company who installs this equipment owns the ability to discriminate service tools, technical support and parts for the elevator system.  Legally the elevator contractor has to supply parts for the elevator system but they do not need assist in troubleshooting or sell the diagnostic system[even if the diagnostic tool technically belongs to the elevator owner when they purchase the elevator].

Examples of proprietary elevator systems – Otis, Kone, Schindler, Thyssen Krupp[to name a few].

[Otis 211 elevator controller - proprietary]

[Schindler 330A elevator controller - proprietary]

[Kone KCM elevator controller - proprietary]

[Thyssen Krupp TAC 20 elevator controller - proprietary]

[Thyssen Krupp TAC 32 elevator controller - proprietary]

Maintenance costs of proprietary systems – maintenance costs of proprietary systems are usually higher then non-proprietary systems.  The reason the costs are higher is that there is a less supply of contractors who will work on proprietary equipment.  Less supply of service providers = higher prices.

Definition of non-proprietary - not registered or protected as a trademark or brand name; generic.
(especially of computer hardware or software) conforming to standards that are in the public domain or are widely licensed, and so not restricted to one manufacturer.)

What proprietary means to an elevator owner?  It means that anyone and everyone that is qualified to work on elevators has access to software, diagnostic systems & technical support.  More flexibility with an open architecture plan.

Maintenance costs of non-proprietary systems – Maintenance costs for a non-proprietary elevator system will most likely be less because you will have a larger supplly of contractors willing to work on the elevator system.  More supply of service providers = Lower prices.

Examples of non-proprietary elevator systems – MCE, Smartrise, GAL, Vertitron Midwest, Virginia Controls, Elevator Systems, Elevator Controls among others.

[MCE elevator controller - non-proprietary]

[Smartrise elevator controller - non-proprietary]

What is the best thing to do as a building owner or property manager?  Educate yourself on what is being sold to you.  I walk into meetings with educated people who are mystified with this elevator bid process and they have no idea what they are buying.  I hear “The Multinational corporation guy brought us fancy folders and had a flashy presentation and said “I promised you anyone can work on our equipment””.  I have to spend time explaining what the pros and cons are for each elevator system are.  And when the building owner hears that the proprietary systems do not supply technical support on their system, they begin thinking about it long and hard. My opinion is that there is nothing to gain by tying yourself to one vendor with a proprietary system.  If you have elevator company ABC install your controller, in 5 years if you don’t like ABC you would like to flexibility to hire company DEF, or company HIJ or whomever.  Non-proprietary systems gives you this flexibility. 

Note - As far as quality all of the elevator systems listed in this post are good operating platforms, the take away is how much flexibility do you want as an owner of equipment in the future to insulate yourself from a non competitive market place for elevator maintenance.

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

Sunday, May 6, 2018

IAEC[International Association of Elevator Consultants] annual forum– Chicago, IL – April 25th-28th 2018

One of the cool things I get to do as the President of the NAEC[National Association of Elevator Contractors] is to attend the IAEC annual forum.  I have never been to this and was excited to get to experience it for myself.  The IAEC is the International Association of Elevator Consultants. 

I attended the opening night reception and vendor booth visitation.  I had just seen a majority of the vendors in Carlsbad California at the NAEC Spring Conference but this time they had a table top set up to show their products.  I also got to talk with some old industry friends and met Paul Rosenberg who is a consultant in the Milwaukee area.  Colley Elevator used to install Rosenberg equipment many moons ago so it was pretty cool to meet someone who has a link to that because we still have some Rosenberg equipment on maintenance and some artifacts around the shop.  There was also a silent auction to benefit the EESF.

Janus line seizing device - this can be used when you had multiple elevators that share the same phone line or to reduce the number of phone lines.  You have to buy the seizing device as well as replace the car station phone.

MEI/Vertitron's mobile app - Steve from Vertitron showed me the new mobile device that will work on any newer elevator controller that will allow you to make calls from you phone.  We don't run into this very often but once in a while we do get a request so it is good to know there is a source.

Wednesday began the education part of the forum.  I did not attend this because I was away for 4 days the previous week and have a day job and saw a majority of the continuing ed in California.  They had some great topics about oil analysis, freight doors, dumbwaiters and platform lifts, Elevator World gave the State of the Elevator Industry address among other things.  During the evening they had an event at the Untitled Super Club which was a unique experience.  During the dinner I got to talk to a number of consultants and suppliers about some interesting industry topics.

Thursday was more education and vendor visits.

I had two very long days 6am to getting home at 10pm but this was a very cool event that I’m glad I got to be a part of.  I saw familiar faces and met some new ones.  We are all a part of such a niche industry so it is great seeing people who share the passion as much as I do.  While anyone can call themselves an Elevator Consultant, when you meet some of the really good ones, it is very impressive on their breadth of knowledge and experience.   

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

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Elevator constructor fatality – Columbus, Ohio

Whenever I hear of a fatality in our trade it hits home hard because I am in a position where I would be getting the phone call and handling something like this if it ever where to happen at our company. Everyone I work with I know well and care about.

The summary of the fatality is a elevator constructor in Columbus, Ohio didn’t come home Wednesday, April 18th after an elevator that was being constructed came down on him.

I was sitting at a lunch meeting at the NAEC spring conference with another independent contractor who has a branch in Columbus Ohio and he showed me a text about this that he had just received.  It was eerie.

This was a tragic event and I encourage everyone to take some time and ponder all the times we had close calls or did something we should not have been doing.  I’m linking a fundraiser page for the elevator constructor’s family.  I donated, you should too.  This was a young guy with a family.

Take away - Take some time to talk about safety within your company and learn from events that occur.  IUEC formed a safety committee that discussed accidents in our local, make some time to go [I need to follow my own advice].

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

Sunday, April 22, 2018

NAEC Spring Conference 2018 – Carlsbad California

April 14th – 18th 2018 was the annual National Association of Elevator Contractors[NAEC] spring conference in Carlsbad California.  This is the purely education and social event of the year that is in a relaxed environment.  If you have not attended one of the spring conferences I would recommend you go to the next one in Naples Florida 4/14/19-4/17/19.

*Many of these days there was multiple sessions going on at the same time I only am documenting the ones I went to.  There was a lot more going on then what I could get to.


I shot in the office at 3:30am to get the next weeks schedules out and tie up some loose ends before catching a 10am flight to San Diego. Saturday evening the NAECs Board of Directors had a dinner where we got to see a fantastic sunset.  This was the first time we got together as a board since our last meeting in late January.


7:30am started with our Board of Directors meeting.  During this meeting we had a full agenda to get through and which big news will be coming soon!  The BOD provides direction and decisions for the NAEC based on committee work and NAEC staff input.

3pm – contractors member session – This is a session where the registered contractors[72 registered] come together to discuss topics in their areas.  We went through MRLs, MCP’s, bad dept, OSHA, maintenance agreements, consultants and a few more topics.  Everyone had a different take on each item we talked about and it was interesting to see different view points and different experiences.

4pm – Meeting of two of the education arms of the NAEC to run through some cross over topics.

7pm – Welcome reception – This is the spot where everyone gets together the first time and kicks off the Spring Conference as a group.  Good food, lots of drinks and a good time.  


8am – Opening breakfast – This is the first formal event of the conference where the President gives the State of the NAEC address and we had Dr. Dewett give our key note speech.  It was also noted that GAL’s Mark Yako had an outstanding balance with Craig Zomchek for $44.00.

 [View form the podium]

[ Dr. Todd Dewitt]

9:30am – OSHA update – Silica safety training – Led by Delaware Elevator’s David Smart we learned the history on Silica and the new requirements for Silica.  It was a mixed bag in the room of people who knew and did not know or maybe knew a little bit.  This was a CEU qualifying presentation.

Golf tournament – Most went on a golf tournament – those who didn’t went to the Open Mic

1:30pm – Open mic – This was led by the NAEC’s vice president and was a quaint but great conversation on more things that contractors and suppliers had on their minds.  Industry consolidation, union pressure, OEM competition, new construction where all topics discussed from US and Canadian contractors and suppliers.


8:30am – Carbon brush maintenance for elevator applications – Everything and anything having to do with carbon brushes for motors and generators was gone through during this presentation.  By Ron Crader of Advanced Carbon.

10:15am – Mike Ryan from Peelle gave an interesting take on the resurgence of freight elevators based on the changing economy.

10:45am – Human resource information on “7 mistakes a manager makes” – Karen Hopkins of the Hopkins Group went thought a lot of information on new requirements and what managers could be doing better.  This was a packed house!

1:00pm – Platform lifts – a full disclosure – Patrick Edwards of EHLS gave his take on the requirements of platform lifts.

5:30pm – An evening reception


Round table discussions – This is a presentation and Q & A on different topics.  There where 6 options and only 3 slots so you had to pick where to go.

Zero clearance elevators – This was an interesting topic for security doors on elevator hoistways.  The issue of a security door on hoistway entrance is in direct conflict with FEO but NYC has just allowed it, following suit may be other larger markets.

Safety committee round table – We spent some time on silica and OSHA getting more involved in our trade.  Policy on parking cars and texting while driving was also discussed.  

Harassment claims – Protecting your company – This was a discussion on how to provide policy on preventing issues at your company.

1:00pm – Control valves – Abe from EECO gave a presentation on valves

7:00pm - Dregs party – This is the final gathering to say your goodbyes to new friends and old friends.  This is also where GAL’s Mark Yako publicly paid his $44.00 debt to Craig Zomchek.

11:00pm – On a plane back to Chicago’s ORD.

It was a great conference with great educational items, some of the best I have seen at a conference.  I met a few new faces and got to see a lot of familiar faces.  I got a chance to have lunches and dinners with people and had some great discussions about the association and our own businesses.  My favorite time was spent going out one on one with one of our suppliers for an earlier dinner and spending time at a dinner with two guys who have been around the industry many years who have a wealth of experience and are just all around good guys.

I get asked what I get out of being on the NAEC’s Board of Directors.  When I was elected to serve on the board I knew 20% of the people who go to these events.  Now I know or am familiar with 90% to 95% of the people who attend.  It is a really cool thing.

I also get asked what do I get out of being involved in the NAEC going to the events.  I see contractors and suppliers from all around the country and we get to talk about what is going on in other markets.  I do get to learn quite a bit from the education items from the normal sessions as well.  So when I get back to my company I can share these things with others and hopefully make our company a better place to work and add an competitive edge. 

Next NAEC Stop - Atlantic City for the Annual Convention - September 24th - 27th 2018

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Traction elevator modernization – long over due

We will be working on a building that is long overdue for a traction elevator control modernization that is long overdue to replace the legacy control system that was installed.

The elevator machine will be retained as it is good condition and to replace it would be challenging based on the access to the machine room and the historic nature of the building.

New cab and door operator will be installed.  As you can see the humidity from the elevator pit has taken its toll on the equipment

The elevator pit equipment will be replaced due to the exposure to water over the years.  The water is so bad in the pit they decided to give its own access point/walk in pit.

This modernization is years in the making.  When we are done we will post the after pictures.

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

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Elevator industry consolidation - Titans ready to clash

In business school we read case study after case study about industry consolidation; beer companies, consumer products, etc.  Industry consolidation is occurring right before our eyes in the elevator universe, right now.  For someone like me this is a really exciting to watch the market research, selection of companies, acquisition and execution.

To my knowledge the two biggest suppliers to independent elevator contractors in the industry consolidation are GAL and Nidec.

GAL – Out of the Bronx, NY having just been acquired by a private equity firm called Golden Gate Capital, GAL owns GAL, Hollister Whitney and GAL Canada[was called ECI].  Since GGC’s acquisition they have acquired Courion[freight doors] and Boremax[hydralic cylinders & power units].  GAL will soon have local offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.  Their wings have expanded and it appears they have big plans to crash the markets.  But remember that private equity firms typically only keep companies 5 years after acquisition and strategy/process implementation.  

[GAL presenting at the Chicago Elevator Association Thursday April 5th, 2018] 

Nidec – Nidec is a international technology/motor company that has owned Motion Control Engineering and Imperial Electric for a number of years.  Last year Nidec acquired Canton Elevator[elevator package provider].  I have not heard of additional plans moving forward to change their business landscape.  Long term, does Nidec hold on to their elevator/motion/motor control portfolio or spin it off to a private equity firm?

Lots of sharks circling the water to get into the elevator market so I wouldn’t be surprised if a 3rd entrant begins consolidation in the North American market.

What this means?  I would believe this should create a more competitive environment in the short term then when one gains a critical mass of market share, prices will rise. A 3rd entrant or evolution will inevitably come but, will they be a direct competitor like Coke to Pepsi or a RC Cola.  Who will buy who?  Or will the independent nature continue to be strong in the elevator universe?  Will the long standing friendly supplier/competitor relationships turn into rigid chokehold posturing like Iron Sheik’s camel clutch?  Large independent commingled family business is leaving and Corporate America’s strategy is coming.  Where do you fit?  What will you do?  Where will you buy?  Who do you stand by?

2 weeks ago I was in a meeting at a Condominium and was asked why our prices are 40% lower than the OEM’s for a vanilla 5 stop modernization.  My answer was simple, because we are in the long-term relationship business not short-term maximization of for profit business.  How much will consolidation effect our supplier/contractor relationships?  Could it get better?  Faster lead times?  Better technical support?  Market research that will evolve into what customers want?  This is some fascinating stuff!  At least very interesting for me.

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