Sunday, October 15, 2017

Elevator cylinder removal – It won’t come out

We do quite a few cylinder replacements and each one of them is a bit different.  I always tell building owners that 80% of cylinder projects go well, 10% have some additional challenges[additional costs], and 10% go sideways and require a well driller.  This is the challenge before you even get a chance to see if you get a bad hole.

We are doing a project at a logistics center and while I was there I heard our compressor from the street[located at the 1st level, 2nd landing in the open air garage].  I have to say I do get excited when I hear the compressor ripping and mud spraying everywhere. When I got down to the elevator pit[B level, 1st landing] I saw the jet pipe stuck down 32’ +/- down the hole trying to break the suction/concrete. The pit channel/head/buffer combination did not help any.  It reminded me that each hole is a bit different and presents its own challenging.

This typically is the first big challenge of the project.  I will highlight two methods that we use when we have a cylinder that won’t move just from tugging on it.

1st method is using an air compressor to move the earth below and break the cylinder free from suction.  Be aware that your line will get very hot and you need to place the compressor in the correct place[not inside]

2nd method is using jacks.  This method is a bit more intensive and could be required when some kind soul dumped a bag of concrete down the cylinder hole after installation.  Perhaps the concrete was put down there to stop water from coming in the hole. 

Cylinder replacement is a difficult job that takes a lot of heavy lifting and good technique. Adding the requirement of trying to get a stuck cylinder out of the ground adds to the challenge of being an elevator person.  At times we are doing 4 or 5 cylinder replacements a month so we get a chance to see all sorts of oddities, each one is different.

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Traction elevator modernization – Chicago, IL

I always like before and after pictures of elevator modernizations that we complete.  This particular building was built 90+ years ago as a 8 story walk up.  In 1987 an independent installed a 250 FPM traction elevator in the middle of a stairwell with a blind counterweight hoist way.  The existing controller was having issues and the original manufacturer of the controller was not supporting it any longer.  We replaced the controller, door operator & related equipment, fixtures & motor.



This particular building was challenging for a number of reasons; rope gripper placement, architectural tube steel used for rail support, electrical clearance issues, governor location, 90+ year old brick, room being used to store non elevator material, etc.  Maybe it is because when I started at Colley we didn't do too much traction work but every time I see a machine painted I get stoked. 

Equipment we used - Smartrise Engineering, Reuland Motor, Innovation Industries, GAL MOVFR, MAC door equipment, Hollister Whitney rope gripper.

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

NAEC – 2017 elevator convention – Atlantic City

We had a convention scheduled for Orlando, FL.  A hurricane called Irma came and 12 days later nothing short of a miracle occurred and we had a convention in Atlantic City, NJ.  For those who do not know a convention takes about 2 years to schedule so making these changes in such a short amount of time was amazing.  Hats off to the NAEC staff and exhibitors for doing the heavy lifting to make this occur.

[Show floor]

Once a year North America convenes to the NAEC convention where almost 200 exhibitors show their products and services.  Due to the dramatic move there was 143 in Atlantic City who came.  This is a great time to see product and services but also get some education.

There where round tables featuring information on employment law, best practices, insurance costs, mobile technology, A18.1 code update, safety compliance templates & new hiring orientation.

[NFPA update by Lee Rigby]

There where speakers on maximizing rope life, retaining DC machines, control of hazardous energy, roller guides, fire code changes, risk & liability in phone monitoring, inclined platform lifts and vertical platform lifts, confined space, mechanics guide to safety inspections, elevator drives and competing in the proprietary market.  Some of which qualified for CEUs.

[Reception prior to dinner dance]

There where some receptions, a great dinner dance, a chance for the next generation of elevator people to get together for lunch and finally the dregs party which was at Bass Pro shop[which was surprisingly great].

It was a long week, but all and all it was an incredible convention and I appreciate everyone’s hard work[NAEC staff] that put it on as well as the exhibitors who participated.  I learned a lot from the scheduled events and got a chance to talk to suppliers and contractors all over the country about what is occurring in their areas.  I always take away a lot from this event.  

 [I did have one free night open]

Next year’s event will be in Atlantic City.  Go to for more information.  

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Readable Fireman’s phase I & II instructions

In the past, I would get an inspectors write up indicating the halos needed to be changed on the Fireman’s phase I & II instructions.  I believe this to be more of a nuisance write up then a legitimate one.  Over the years of sitting in educational events and completing training for first responders[fire departments], I realized the importance of having clearly marked instructions.  After doing fire department training I realized that all fireman are not trained in running cars on fireman’s service, they do not know it by heart and the instructions may be imperative.  If a fireman is in the car he is thinking about getting the elevator to the floor he or she needs to get to so it is important that key switches are marked clearly and instructions are legible.

 [Fireman's service phase II instructions are hard to read on the muntz/bronze back ground]
    [Call cancel button fogged & cracked, phase II switch postion markings are worn away]

What made me think of this is being at a hotel where I had a hard time reading the key switch and instructions.  The deterioration of the markings are most likely from years of using cleaning solution to clean the car station.

Take away – If you are a building owner or an elevator maintenance professional be aware of the FEO instructions and if needed get new instructions and new halos so if there is an emergency the first responders can use the FEO properly quickly.  While hopefully FEO will never need to be used in an emergency, if it is needed time is of the essence and it could be the difference between life and death.

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Staying safe – Elevator worker safety

There was a 2nd accident on September 8th in Toronto that took a life of an elevator mechanic in the last two weeks. Please be careful out there.

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Staying Sharp – Continuing education for elevator professionals

Last week we had our annual 10 hour continuing education course on the elevator code.  We had over 30 elevator professionals at our training area to get their CEU’s for State Licensing or QEI.  While it is always 10 hours and is a long day, I do enjoy this class.

When we graduate high school, associate’s degree, college, union school, trade school, grad school, etc there is a thought that we do not need to continue our learning.  “I just finished school, I’m good” this is wrong.  As technology changes, as codes and rules change, as changes become faster and faster, it is imperative that we spend the time learning.  Lifelong learning needs to be in everyone’s vocabulary.

This is an exciting year for the Illinois area.  The State is adopting A17.1 2016, The City of Chicago is adopting A17.1 2016, there are FEO mandates looming around, there are future mandates on the horizon.  You learn about these new things by putting your butt in the seat.

As inspectors, elevator inspectors, sales people and support staff it is very important we are aware of new technology and code changes.  It makes our jobs easier, makes advancement easier and helps us master our craft.  When we master our craft it takes a job and turns it into a passion.

I am a huge proponent of continuing education and lifelong learning and encourage everyone in whatever industry you are in to always continue to learn and challenge yourself to learn new things.  At times learning is uncomfortable and you may feel like you are never going to know or master these ideas.  This is a common feeling, just like in grade school, you will catch on and things will begin to click. But if you do not try, if you do not take the time to learn, if you do not try and advance your skill set, you are limiting yourself.  By not trying you will never fail at that task, but you will fail at reaching your potential.

Where do I find learning?  NAEC, NAESA, CECA, CEA, NEIEP and other elevator organizations offer opportunities on a regular basis.  We all can miss a few episodes of Everyone Loves Raymond or How I met your Mother, both shows will be here when you get back.

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Elevator pit hazards & safe access

There have been some recent accidents involving elevator pits.  Pit safety is one thing that is of the utmost importance but we at times are complacent. This posting will be vague as non-elevator personnel should not be entering pits.  It is intended to be a refresher and remind us of close calls we have heard of or experiences so we do not repeat them.

Pit hazards

1.    Inadequate refuge space
2.    Inadequate lighting
3.    Improper access
4.    Tripping hazards
5.    Unsafe or lack of pit ladder
6.    Moisture/water/oil
7.    Moving equipment

[example of pristine pit conditions elevator mechanics run into]

One of the more important items is planning, look at the pit, identify the key pieces of elevator equipment and safety equipment as well as refuge area.  As we see in the picture sometimes there is a lot going on in a pit.

Lock out tag outs are a big item we need to remember to do when we are not needing to move an elevator to perform work.

Barricade the hoist way door if it going to be open more than 5”.  Even with two people performing a task, the 2nd person always tends to have to get something, be aware of this item.

Be aware of the hoistway door unlocking device pinch points if the door is under power.  If you haven’t experienced this, try your best not to, it isn’t pleasant.

Always be aware of the stop switch location and its position.

Always test the stop switch to make sure it actually works.

Never stand on a pit aldder when the pit stop switch is in the on position.

The Elevator Safety Handbook has processes for accessing a pit safely that goes into depth on the correct way to complete this task.  I wanted to list the high points that we may be over confident in.

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