Off-Site Construction Expo – Perfect

OSCE2018In almost any industry,  there are a plethora of trade shows. So when you finally find one that is a great fit, you like to let others know about it. The Off-Site Construction Expo (OSCE) has been one of the best, and this opinion is not from a novice. At Phoenix Modular Elevator (PME), we attend lots of trade shows because we fit into many different categories, including the construction industry, elevator industry, modular building industry, etc. The list goes on and on because we can, and have, attended many shows for specific sub-groups such as hotel owners or building managers to name just a few. All have their pluses and minuses.

With that said, our Sales and Marketing team just got back from the Off-Site Construction Expo that took place in Berkeley, California sponsored by the Modular Building Institute, the American Institute of Architects – San Francisco and several corporate sponsors, including USG, dryvit, Wesco, Skender, Precision, ExaLeap and Mr. Shrinkwrap. The expo was perfect.

You may ask, “How can a trade-show be perfect?” That is an audacious claim, but I can back it up.

First, the location. It was not the typical cavernous, half-filled, concrete hall that echoes like the rim of the Grand Canyon, but a more intimate setting on the campus of University of California – Berkeley. The confines allowed for discussions and opportunities for long conversations outside of the hall without the usual trek to a hotel across the street. Everything was very simple, but very well done. Additionally, the northern California area was tailor-made for our business. Our solution hit the need of the region we were in perfectly. We really opened some eyes. The fast delivery and installation of a high-quality commercial elevator made the day of people so tired of fighting stick-built elevator companies.

Second, the structure. One day – need I say more? There are some trade shows that are so big or so poorly structured that the vendor area is open for days on end. We end up honing our juggling skills with stress balls between rushes or playing “Name that Tune” against other vendors using the piped in muzak (we always win). The constant checking of the wristwatch just makes the whole day pass like it is stuck in molasses on a cold day. The opposite was true at the OSCE. We were busy at every time we were supposed to be. Also, the speakers were not just hawking goods but bringing important information to the table while also taking questions. It wasn’t just preaching but in-depth, thoughtful answers. Even the mealtime was well planned out and timed. We had just enough time to get our meal, meet someone we didn’t know and break bread while talking about the industry.

Third and most important, the attendees. I have no idea what mystic arts were employed, but it seemed like every attender needed and wanted to hear about PME. The booth was busy with a steady flow and we were able to provide several quotes for new jobs and ones on the books. Too many trade shows are filled with swag hunters and fellow exhibitors looking for conversation. OSCE was filled with opportunity, as all of the booths were buzzing with activity. I have never been involved in a trade show that had so many positives. Kudos to all the folks at the Off-Site Construction Expo! They have everything down to science; the location, structure and attendees.


NAEC Purpose for PME

NAEC FinalThe National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC) meets every year, this year for the 69th time in Atlantic City, New Jersey  from September 24 – 27. It is being billed as the “Largest Vertical Transportation Show in North America” and without doubt, it is just that. There will be opportunities for education, building connections in business and seeing what’s new in a huge exhibitor area. Phoenix Modular Elevator will be a very active participant; stop by booth #1846 to say hello!

For instance, on Tuesday, September 25th at 1:00 pm, PME President Allison Allgaier and Marketing Manager Russ Ward will be leading a roundtable discussion on how to become a course provider for the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The course presentations are commonly referred to as “Lunch and Learns” and have been very successful for us. We get a great opportunity to tell architects across North America about the health, safety and welfare aspects built into high-quality modular elevators during these lunchtime presentations. It is something others can do as well and we will be available for questions and answers to help you get started.

Also, in addition to exhibiting,  we get to see what is out there on the trade show floor. At PME, we are forever looking for ways to improve our elevators and how we deliver, install and maintain them. More than one idea from NAEC has turned into an improvement.

But the real purpose of our visit to Atlantic City is not for the parties and one-armed bandits, or even leading a roundtable discussion; it is meeting elevator installers that are looking for a great product to put in their line of business. See, the elevator industry through modularization is on the cusp of a transitional move forward and leading the way with the innovation is Phoenix Modular Elevator. We have seen exponential growth over the past few years as people become more acquainted with the company and what makes us unique to the building and elevator industries. That uniqueness, to state it plainly and simply, is due to the fact that we offer a manufactured, commercial-quality elevator that is safer and faster to install than any traditional elevator available at a comparable price.

Faster and Safer

Faster? Think days, not months, for the hoistway and elevator to be fully installed and functional. Safer? No heavy rails to to lug around, no cab to install in cramped spaces, and no open hoistway hatches to fall through.

Elevator technicians have confided with us, stating that Phoenix Modular Elevator has eliminated the most dangerous and time-consuming aspects of the elevator install. Manufacturing a completed hoistway, with the elevator car and rails already installed, that is pre-roped and pre-wired, makes all the difference. But not all are ready for a new age. There was a time when innovation, especially in regards to safety, was a paramount concern, but, inexplicably, many are still holding on to old technology that puts installers at risk.

Fortunately, many are now starting to see the benefits of less potentially harmful physical labor. They have come to the same conclusion we have: modular elevators are just much better than old fashioned elevators for the people that have to do the installing and the speed of the installation is better for the customer.

Modular elevators are a win/win all the way around.

For the elevator installer, the primary benefit is safety. But the speed of the install has an ancillary benefit as well. The number of elevators under lucrative maintenance contracts can be increased by the right company because you no longer have to tie up a team of elevator technicians for installations that take months on end. Instead, the fast install means more elevators can be installed in a shorter amount of time, thereby putting more elevators under maintenance agreements. In the time one team installs a single traditional elevator, you can have a half-dozen modular elevators installed.

You may not be willing to step in this new business model, but your competitors might. So, you can ignore the trends of safety of elevator technicians and the benefits of fast installation, but just remember that others are getting on board and fast. We have doubled the total number of installers selling and installing modular elevators in just a few years. They see the value and profitability.

If you attend NAEC, stop by booth #1846 and talk with us about your future and the future of the elevator industry. We would love to listen. If you are not attending NAEC and would like to be considered as an installer for Phoenix Modular Elevator, just fill out the simple form here and someone will be in contact with you shortly.

Three Stooges to PME – History of Modular Elevators

6a00d8341c5fc853ef01348883d390970c-450wiModular buildings have been around longer than you think. In the United States, Sears started offering their version of modular in the form of self-contained kits in 1908. These are often claimed as “modular” but in reality, they were an all inclusive truck loads of parts and boards pre-cut for specifically purchased plans.

This unique style of home building is forever immortalized by the Three Stooges in “The Sit Downers” where the Stooges attempt to build one of these homes for their new brides (be patient the home arrives 7 minutes in). Larry sums up the Stooge’s problems with the pre-cut lumber when he exclaims, “There’s nothing ready cut about these houses every board is too long.” So much for Sears’ foray into modular.

Older than the Stooges

Most people don’t realize that modular building pre-dates the Sears and Roebuck catalog and Moe, Larry and Curly (I refuse to acknowledge Curly Joe or Shemp) by decades. The first known modular building that was factory built and site erected was called the Manning Portable Cottage. The cottages were built in Great Britain and shipped to Australia of all places starting in the 1830’s. Hundreds were sold. Not only that, the Quaker movement “Down Under” saw the value of modular and ordered meeting houses. There is still one around today in Adelaide, Australia and it is a recognized heritage site. Although the meeting house was shipped in over 60 packages, it is recognized as truly modular.

Today modular is vastly different with totally completed segments ready for homes, hospitals, schools, office buildings and almost any other type of building, temporary and permanent (see a video here). It is in a huge growth spurt due to speed and quality.

Modular Elevators

The history of the modular elevators is much shorter, but just as important. People with disabilities in the United States had been struggling with access for as long as the republic existed and the increase of above-grade, multi-level buildings in urban areas with stairs exacerbated the issue. Most often unintentionally, building owners were creating barriers for people that had mobility problems.

As leaders and the public became more aware of the difficulties through activism and information, governmental solutions were demanded. That demand grew slowly, but ultimately, resulted in new laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed by President George Bush in July of 1990. But the struggle of people with disabilities to have access to jobs, housing, and goods and services did not automatically disappear with the stroke of a presidential pen, despite what President George Bush said at the time of the signing:

“It will ensure that people with disabilities are given the basic guarantees for which they have worked so long and so hard: independence, freedom of choice, control of their lives, the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream….It will guarantee fair and just access to the fruits of American life which we all must be able to enjoy. And then, specifically, first the ADA ensures that employers covered by the act cannot discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities. Second, the ADA ensures access to public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, and offices.”

Now the search was on to find a fast and easy way to tackle all those buildings with stairs, help people comply with the new law, and allow access for everyone.

Infinite Access Born

Surprisingly the solution was created by three men in Southern Illinois at a small company called Infinite Access. Richard Black, Kevin Phillips and Stanley Holtkamp worked on and ultimately patented the modular elevator as a retrofit solution. The first intention of the new invention was to find a way to lower an elevator into a pre-poured pit and have it up and running in a matter of days. As building owners scurried to find a fast cost-effective solution to vertical transportation to comply with the law, modular elevators quickly became the best option.

The company continued to grow and produce elevators.

But, it wasn’t long before architects, building owners and contractors saw that a broader application of the product was possible. Not only were modular elevators perfect for retrofit projects, but also new construction, temporary, and permanent modular as well. They were tired of being held hostage by “Bigg Elevator” and timelines that seemed to drag out forever.

Phoenix Rises

In 2009 seeing a great opportunity, the assets were purchased by another company with production continuing in the same Mt. Vernon, Illinois factory and with largely the same personnel. But a new company was born. Phoenix Modular Elevator (not the city, but the bird) saw the potential of the world’s fastest installing elevator and took steps to improve production and increase sales. As growth occurred, factory production expanded to capacity and with projected growth exceeding 40%, a new factory was built.

Today Phoenix Modular Elevator is the leader in the modular elevator business, the largest producer, with the biggest most modern facility dedicated to modular elevators and most innovative product line. The line of products offered include: hydraulic elevators, machine roomless hydraulic, traction and machine roomless traction. Hundreds have been successfully installed in 30 states and four provinces in Canada. Also, the future remains bright for Phoenix as growth continues and people continue to  look for ways to increase accessibility, save on construction costs and reduce time for installation all while providing a high-quality, safe product.

Respect the Code – Elevator Code Bible

Code BookI bristle at calling any book, “The Bible”. Not necessarily for the notion that something is authoritative and has the last word in matters of the law, but because it can reduce the Bible to a bunch of codes and rules which is not the case. But when it comes to elevators, there is an actual bible (grandma I hope you noticed the small “b”). That bible is the American Society of Mechanical Engineers – Codes and Standards A17 and CSA B44 for our Canadian friends.

The primary purpose for this code is clearly stated by Norman B. Martin, a proponent of the ASME Codes and Standards and highly respected Chief Elevator Inspector for the state of Ohio. He said the following:

“I think the ASME Codes and Standards committees’ most important work is to be able to provide consistency throughout the nation and through North America…An elevator is an elevator and if you build an elevator in California, you should be able to sell it in Ohio, and if you build it in Ohio, you should be able to sell it in Ontario. As such, I think the consistency across the board with the North American standards has allowed that to occur; provide a base level of safety, and allow each jurisdiction to be able to enforce it properly.” Link

His point is that without ASME standards: chaos would reign, safe and unsafe would mix like Labs and Poodles, confusion would hurt commerce, and the safety of the elevator-riding public could be compromised. Truer words have ne’er been spoken.

But what happens when an inspector is unfamiliar with the code or a state or other government entity tries to make changes to elevator standards without directly consulting ASME first? Nothing good and usually problems, delays and compromise.

We recently ran into a rare rogue inspector on a project, that will remain nameless for obvious reasons, where he insisted that the elevator pit light had to be fixed to the pit wall. Of course our lead engineer (with over 20 years of elevator experience) pointed to the applicable code, but that wasn’t good enough and the entire project was put on hold while we awaited more information. Ultimately, we were proven right of course. Read the info from ASME here! But the time and frustration on our part and the customer’s part was real.

When it comes to some states and other governmental agencies, we are seeing new subsets of existing codes, usually stemming from those agencies trying to flex some bureaucratic muscle or divas with a wish list of unrealistic expectations that often conflict with the wisdom of ASME.

A case that illustrates this clearly was one that involved handrail location in an elevator car. The inspector and the “new” code insisted on a certain location for handrail placement, but they were utterly wrong. And when I say utterly, I mean it. The location the inspector and code was touting and requiring was in direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ASME and the elevator code of the state the project was located in. Again I will refrain from besmirching the inspector or the team that came up with the aberrant code, but again they would not budge. It left us with a true Hobson’s choice. We could either violate ADA, ASME, and state code or not have the elevator pass inspection. No choice indeed. We opted to civilly argue our case to the powers that be, hoping for wiser heads to prevail. Again weeks passed as did dozens of emails. After all the evidence was gathered, we once again prevailed. But our additional investment of time, emails, and research could not be recouped despite being proven right.

So what does this ultimately mean? It means that the ASME code is the bible for elevators and more. After all, they have been at the code and standards creation business since 1884 and have been writing elevator codes since 1921. They don’t just “kind of” know their business; they have literally written the book. Violation of those codes, for lack of better words, is a sin that should not be engaged in. That is why every elevator we produce meets or exceeds ASME – A17 and CSA B44 codes and always will. After all modular is not just faster, but also higher in quality and safety.

Banana Splits and Manufacturing Standards

Banana1While waiting tables in college, one of the duties that fell to me as part of the wait staff was preparing desserts. One of the most popular requests was the classic banana split. It was easy enough, right? Not so much. There was actually a policy, standards, and procedures sheet in the training and reference manual that encompassed the proper way to make the specialty dessert. This meant that every customer got the very same dessert with the same style of cut banana, the same toppings, the same whip cream, the same nuts and cherry and the same boat or dish everytime.

The result was perfect quality.  And unparalleled deliciousness.

Having standards, policies and procedures is important to any business and the more that a product can be produced in a controlled atmosphere with strict standards and procedures, like a factory, the more likely the result at the end will be perfect in quality. That is one of the advantages the modular industry creates when producing room units for hotels, business offices, classrooms, bathroom pods and of course elevators.

For instance with the banana split we were instructed in exactly how to cut the banana to save time in production, but also provide a superior product. That meant instead of simply cutting the banana long ways like you generally find, we were told to remove half of the peel and then use the remaining half to hold the banana as we made slices. We could then pick up the fully-sliced banana by the peel and not get our fingers or the cutting area sticky. Also, by cutting the banana into slices the customers were happier because they did not need to wrestle with trying to cut the banana with a spoon. They were already cut into perfect, bite-sized slices ready to be eaten.

It was well thought out and not haphazard at all. And it was a standard that was closely adhered to, meaning that the end result was perfect for speedy production, but also met the needs for the consumer.

Modular building is similar. Everything is planned out well in advance with specific standards in place for each project. This makes the build much faster than stick built, but also results in exactly what the end-user specifies. Each finish is chosen, each fixture purchased to the customer’s desires and then the project is finished to precise standards.

Also every dollop of ice cream of the banana split was always the same in volume and size as was each flower of whip topping. The sprinkles of nuts were measured and a single cherry topped off the dish to perfection. Again thought and balance of presentation was considered, but also the proportions and amount of the components made waste an impossibility.

Likewise with modular: the steel, wood, wiring, plumbing, trim and drywall are always in perfect harmony with need and functionality, leading to efficiency that cannot be seen in any stick-built project. You will not see a stack of wasted resources in modular building.

Well, what if you don’t like pineapple? Good question! I don’t like it myself (especially on pizza). I want a hot fudge banana split, or only strawberry and chocolate. No problem, just because there are standards doesn’t mean that you can’t mix things up. As a matter of fact because the waste and time are reduced by better production practices, it takes less effort and resources to make the banana split you want.

A big mistake that people make when determining if modular is a good fit is, they think that the whole project is always stamped out of the die the same way, all the time. While true there are usual standard finishes available, making changes, enlarging areas and altering design is not a problem. Again because modular is a thought out process and not a haphazard exercise, changes are easy as pie…or banana splits!

I hope you have a clearer understanding of why modular is the best option for most building projects and give it consideration for your next project. It just makes sense. If you have any questions about the modular business, feel free to contact us at your convenience and as members of the Modular Building Institute, we can direct you to the right folks. If you have a project in mind click the link below.

Now, I have to go, for some reason all this talk about modular building is making me hungry.


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Tough Love – Time for Elevator Biz to Grow Up

Button PushWe all have that moment when we need to hear the truth: to ignore it means growth will cease and improvements halt.  When it comes to elevators, that time for truth is now and so we need to dish out some tough love. Often times we associate “tough love” with teen angst and pimply, overwrought middle-school students, but as it applies to our industry as well as the elevator business, it is at a crossroad. As an industry, vertical transportation sits astride two differing paths and it is time for a sober conversation, not hyperbole and not blind to truth.

That crossroad is between the old fashioned stick-built method of elevators or the more modern modular elevators and whether modular ultimately makes sense for all low to mid-rise elevator applications. Should modular elevators be the first choice?

To make an assessment a few facts about elevators, modular and stick-built is in order.  So here is a list of truths that the industry needs to come to grips with:

  1. Modular is here to stay. Despite the best efforts of those in the weary old-guard elevator business, modular elevators are being placed in more and more locations around the US and Canada. Phoenix Modular Elevator had 40% growth last year and on pace for nearly that same growth this year.
  2. The elevator business is too busy. Maintenance and current installs are stacking up and delaying construction. To keep up with demand the growth for the occupation of elevator technician is 12%! That is just to keep up. One of the ways to lessen the time burden of installation is to go modular as an alternative. We just received a call from a frustrated general contractor that couldn’t even get thumbnail numbers and no promises for six-months. Depending on the location in Canada and the United States there is a big shortage of qualified technicians.
  3. Don’t waste your best assets. Our industry is too smart to be hanging rails. We have very busy and great elevator techs across the continent, but unfortunately too many are lugging rails and screwing together elevator cars instead of setting up elevators to run properly. When you have limited resources, you must use those resources wisely. With modular elevators the grunt work is already done leaving professionals to do the work that is needed.
  4. Safer. Speaking of grunt work, a report by the Center for Construction Research and Training found the major causes of lost-time injuries to elevator constructors were being struck by an object, overexertion (especially in lifting), falls, and being caught in/between (such as between the elevator shaft and the elevator) in that order. Too many elevator technicians strain themselves installing doors, lifting rails and building elevators cars in cramped spaces. Modular does away with all those risks. They are safer to install.
  5. Financial commonsense. With modular elevators many more units can be installed faster. This will generate more income quickly on lucrative maintenance contracts for growth minded businesses. The business that adopts the modular concept will be installing more units than competitors and win the race of picking up maintenance agreements. After all commercial quality modular hydraulic elevators take only a week to get up and running.
  6. Quality is the same or better. One of the biggest arguments against modular is quality. The argument is largely out of lack of knowledge as elevators are highly regulated with very specific standards, modular or not. Also, there are just a handful of companies that produce most of the components in any elevator. We use those standard, highly regulated parts! When it comes to the hoistway, ours are always plum and level and so are the rails. They are fixed in place by welds that are inspected closely for quality. Every hoistway is constantly measure and tested because of the production process. No stick-built elevator can compare.

So what is the outcome of the above truths? When we say faster, safer and smarter we are not just saying it. It is true and modular warrants consideration for most project.

With that said, the primary take-a-way is if you are operating an elevator company, contact us to find out how to start installing modular elevators today for all of your low and mid-rise projects. They are safer and more profitable. We can put you in touch with some of our installers and assist you with training. Most of the new installers we have are surprised at how fast and easy they are. Also if you have been contacted to install a modular, don’t be afraid of the product. They go in all the time in almost every jurisdiction in the United States from New York to Los Angeles.

The elevator biz is at a crossroad. Make the wise choice, go with modular.


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Hoistway Only Packages

FIrst Shipping outTime is always the nemesis of the construction industry.  Everything done at the job site is measured in minutes, not hours, and squeezing even a small amount of time out of a project can make a big difference.

The problem is that, often, cutting time off the completion of the project can only be accomplished at the cost of quality. As the old saying goes, “I can do things good, fast, or cheap. Pick two.” So it is very rare when a high quality product is available at a fair price that can accomplish your goals quickly. However, that is just the case with Phoenix Modular Elevator hoistway packages.

As we all know building the hoistway or shaft is a real time suck on any building project. Hoistways are often the first thing that goes up on a job site and temperatures and weather conditions can play havoc with the erection of the shaft and the schedule of the whole build. Buying the hoistway from us easily solves that problem. Our hoistways are produced quickly, because they are manufactured on an assembly-line in a factory with no weather delays. They install quickly in just a handful of hours. But more than that they are higher quality than the stick-built alternative because they are always produced plumb, straight and come fire-rated. Lastly, the investment is comparable in cost.

Here are the benefits of a Phoenix Modular Elevator hoistway:

  • Perfectly plumb due to our process, easy inspections and quality controls.
  • Custom dimensions and they are stackable for any height.
  • Manufactured in three weeks.
  • Installed in a few hours.
  • Already fire rated.
  • Interior or exterior placement. Wherever you need them at any point of the build.

Options Include

  • Free standing. Single towers need no special bracing or tied to the building.
  • Can be gravity load bearing.
  • Pre-installed rails means perfectly plumb every time. Less for the elevator installer to do.

Of course we can produce the hoistway with an elevator pre-installed as well.  The elevators are comprised of our steel hoistway with the elevator car and components installed inside and completely pre-wired. This makes our elevators and hoistways the fastest and easiest to install in the elevator industry.

If you are looking for the best way to trim time off you next multi-story project, a hoistway or elevator from Phoenix Modular Elevator is the wisest choice.


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Presidential Facial Hair – Razor Blades – Elevators

Ranking the pantheon of presidents of the United States is somewhat of a pastime. You can look at everything from GDP to foreign policy to find the right criteria.  However, one of the more creative rankings of our Grand Poobahs comes in an area often overlooked; the category of facial hair. There has been more than one chief executive sporting whiskers of various lengths in a myriad of styles, so ranking them can be a challenge. I will give it my best shot here. By the way, be patient this really does have something to do with elevators.

96053-004-859609B6One cannot forget the almost alien looking Martin Van Buren. His fin like sideburns was an obvious attempt at trying to direct people’s attention away from his bald head. Also, despite his facial growth, it is not true that he was the inspiration behind the “Shape of Water”. He was sporting his fancy whiskers before the word “sideburns” was invented (what a trendsetter). But because he does not have the full beard or mustache, I have to rank him third from the top.

Get the rest of the list here and find out what on Earth this has to do with elevators! 


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Our latest install! We make elevators easy!

Every elevator needs to be this easy and fast to install. Just give the video a watch and then call us for your next multi-story project.

Find the Magic Number – Elevators Per Building

Photo by Scott Szarapka on Unsplash

Talk about a tricky subject! Few try to tackle it in a blog because no matter what I write, there will be people that take exception. Why is this not just some simple formula with occupancy numbers, building type and square feet? Because it is more complex than that. So don’t worry I will get to rough numbers to help guide you on your project, but with a few caveats. The most important being, a qualified elevator consultant can be a huge help in this area. Consider finding the right one. Now on to the things that you should consider.

The number of elevators needed has a lot to do with many factors that may not be known when a building is in the planning stages and the first thing that gets dropped into the architect’s plans are the ways to go up and down in a building. So do your best with the list below so you can take the rough numbers I am providing and tweak them closer to your needs. Here are the things to consider…click here! 

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