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.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

City of Chicago Firefighters Emergency Operation elevator mandate

City of Chicago Firefighters Emergency Operation elevator mandate

The City of Chicago is 15 months in on the Firefighters Emergency Operation elevator mandate.  The mandate has requirements only for elevators with existing phase II.  There is a lot of activity in addressing this issue within the building’s that are getting inspected.

First let us review the criteria

·         Building must be in the City of Chicago
·         Elevator must have existing FEO phase II controls
·         Elevators must comply with the following

1.    A permit is required to complete any modification required by Section 18-30-320

2.    Work required to comply with Section 18-30-320 may be completed without updating other features of the existing elevator to a later code. [This means that you don’t necessarily have to put rope grippers on or change the entire control system]

3.    Automatic recall of the elevators is not required.

4.    When the Phase II switch is turned to the OFF position and the door open button is released, the doors will close and the elevator will revert to Phase I Operation and will return to the designated level.  This must occur with the doors fully open and may occur with the doors partially closed.

5.    The elevator shall have an illuminated visual signal in the car station for Firefighters’ Emergency Operation.  The illuminated visual signal is not required to depict a fire hat if that was not required at the time of original installation.

6.    The elevator shall have an audible signal in the car station for Firefighter’s Emergency service operation

7.    The elevator shall have a “Car Call Cancel” push button in the car station

8.    Elevators at the designated level not on Phase II Operation shall return to group operation when Phase I switch is turned OFF

9.    Elevators not at the designated level when the Phase I switch is turned OFF shall return to the designated level before they can return to group operation

10. Existing keying may remain.  FEO-K1 key switches are not required.

11. There is no requirement to provide an elevator control panel[lobby panel] or update an existing elevator control panel[lobby panel].

12. The illuminated visual signal must be separate from the “Car Call Cancel” pushbutton for all newly-permitted work, however a composite visual signal/pushbutton which was previously installed pursuant to a valid permit and is clearly labeled “car Call Cancel” may remain and satisfies Section 18-30-320.

Where are the most common problems? – Most of the issues we have seen with newer

elevators is #4 on the list.  We se some without call cancel buttons or flashing hat
frequently as well.

[This car station is missing the visual car station items]

What are my options if I have phase II and do not comply?

1.    Modify the existing control system to make it comply.  There are auxiliary panel companies like Electrodyne that sell an auxiliary panel to make your elevator system comply. 
·         Lower cost option
·         Do not have to bring rest of the elevator system up to the current code
·         You are working with a system that may have been modified in the past that the wiring isn’t exactly as the drawings indicate
·         If installing on an existing elevator your money is going to a short-term solution

2.    Replace the elevator control system
·         A capital improvement that will benefit the building for many years
·         This will be a 100% solution to the current issue
·         Will require the building to bring remainder of the elevator system up to current code i.e. smoke detectors, flow switches, rope grippers, electrical upgrades, etc
·         Typically, is a more expensive proposition

For more information on Electrodyne’s fire panels go to -

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

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Old elevator controllers – ready for replacement

Last Thursday I went out to one of our jobsites in the City and stuck around to look at 3 different buildings we are going to be doing control replacement at.  Each building is unique in why they are doing their modernization and what they are.  From 3:00pm to 7:00pm I visited 4 buildings in Chicago and Loyola won.  As a Vincentian I begrudgingly acknowledge the Jesuits success.  

The first building I visited is in the Lakeview neighborhood, nothing terribly remarkable other than replacing a 1966 Otis Elevator hydraulic equipment with all new.

The 2nd building I visited was in the Lincoln Park neighborhood where the Montgomery elevator has been shut down for a significant period of time.  I first was at the building over a year ago to take a look.  They  had their landing system ripped off the wall somehow.  It also so happens they are about 5 years late in replacing their hydraulic cylinder to comply with the City of Chicago double bulk head mandate.  In the 2nd picture I can hear Urkel say "Did I do that".

The 3rd building I visited was in the Gold Coast neighborhood where the elevator got clipped for the new FEO phase II mandate.  It has a Vertitron controller that does not have the capabilities of putting the correct protocol for FEO compliance as mandated by the City of Chicago.  This building is just getting a new controller and fixtures.

The final building, I went to is in River North which has a Elevator systems controller put in by an independent in the 1980’s that fails the FEO mandate.  They will be getting all new equipment less their cylinder.  This one only has around 100 relays.

Nothing significant on this week’s post other than documenting running the gauntlet and seeing the variety of elevator control systems.  In a few months all 4 buildings will have brand new equipment that is a bit more user friendly.

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

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Chicago elevator maintenance – Good looking work

Last week I went to many building’s but two building’s stuck out in my mind.  You usually remember the really bad ones but in this case there was two good ones.

Building #1 – This is a building we maintain and I was meeting the new owner of the building.  The new owner was late so I poked around to look at what we had under the hood.  Everything looked great.  I always love seeing this on our jobs.  Colley put this elevator in 1986.

[Clean car top]

[Pit is pretty good] 

[32 year old power unit still looks good for its age]

[Controller is clean and well maintained]

Building #2 – I met a building owner in the wee hours of the morning to kick the tires on his elevator.  He had been told by Otis that his door scan is obsolete and it would cost $4,500.00 to replace so he got concerned about his other equipment when the sales person started pushing other modernization.  I took a look around and everything was clean, well maintained and running well.  This is a case of the elevator maintenance person doing a great job but the office personnel trying to sell sell sell.  Otis put this elevator in 1993.

[Clean car top]

[Pit is pretty good] 

[Power unit looks good] 

[Controller is well maintained] 

Take away - Both of these job are testimonials to good maintenance technicians that are doing right by the building.  Cleaning is one of the first parts to getting and keeping a elevator running well. 

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

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Hydraulic elevator cylinder replacement – What we found underground

We began working with a building for maintenance about a year ago and last week they called to say the fire department was out at the building due to smoke.  This was a sleepy hydraulic elevator installed by Otis in 1992.  The service person arrived at the building to find the hydraulic tank was empty.  The next day I went out to the building with the service tech and we isolated the leakage to be underground.

This is a picture of the cylinder when we began working at the building - Nice and dry.

This is a picture of the cylinder when we went through cylinder leakage discovery - Part of the 40 gallons of hydraulic fluid that didn't make it into the sump

This is a picture of what we found underground when pulling the cylinder out

[Field alteration to PVC upon installation - Not recommended]

[No bottom to PVC - was it cut off or is it still in the hole?]

[A bit bigger than a pin hole leak, notice the material around the hole. This was inline with the cut made in the PVC]

Observation – In the 21 years of working in the elevator industry I have heard of companies filling up PVC with water to get it down a cylinder hole or that did not put bottoms on PVC.  The company who installed this cylinder put a cut in the side of the PVC to get it to go down.  The company who installed this cylinder also may have cut the bottom off or the bottom is at the bottom of the hole, we do not know.  The deterioration of the cylinder from the exposure to the water is significant.  This could have been far worse if a larger piece of the cylinder had broken free instead of the pinhole.  I also have never seen a cylinder installed 3 times in less than 30 years, 1992 to 2018.

Newer technology – This hole has a significant amount of water in it that will fill the hole back up after the debris removal company comes to remove the debris from the hole.  A solution to work around the water is to install a cylinder bag.  This is a newer solution from Laird Plastics.  The cylinder bag is not buoyant like rigid PVC, it will displace the water when going down without the buoyancy.

Take a look -

Take away – In a niche industry such as elevators it is difficult to know who will be competent and do work in accordance to good work practices and the elevator safety code.  Make sure the elevator contractor you hire will do their job safely and correctly. This situation could have manifested itself much worse than a large bill to replace the elevator’s cylinder.

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