One of the most common questions we get at Phoenix Modular Elevator is, “How high can you go?” The assumption is that modular elevators have limits; maybe two or three stops at the most. The answer, however, may surprise you. Currently, we have a project that has a total 15 floors and there are more mid-rise projects in the production pipeline.
But there are some limits to be considered, and that would be the total length of our production floor in our factory. Currently, that equates to a lot of elevator; we can produce a pre-installed elevator in a hoistway over 450 feet long or tall, depending on your perspective. This is because due to ever-increasing demand for mid-rise elevators, our factory floor was recently doubled in length.
It depends on your perspective because we build our hoistways horizontally and then pre-install all of the elevator equipment while it remains horizontal. When finished, it is even trucked horizontally in 50-55 foot sections to the job site and is finally vertical when craned into place and ready for a technician to set it up.
So I am sure you are wondering, if it is delivered in sections or towers, why does the total length of the factory floor make a difference?
The answer is, we pride ourselves on our quality. The hoistway and rails are always perfectly plumb, perfectly square and perfectly level in every job we complete, even when the job calls for four towers or more, and that helps ensure quality is strictly adhered to.
The only way to ensure perfection is to build the hoistway together in one long piece with the sections pinned and bolted together until the elevator is ready to be shipped. Once the elevator car, wiring and assembly is complete, we simply unbolt the sections, shrink wrap them individually and load them one at a time on the trucks. They are then shipped as you need them or all at one time, depending on your construction schedule.
When they arrive at the site, the first section goes into the pit and is properly set. Then, the subsequent towers are lowered into place and bolted together. They fit hand in glove because they were built that way, all connected.
So why does this matter? Because ultimately, a smooth-riding elevator needs to have perfection. The rails need to be in alignment, with no rough joints or bumps. I am sure you have been in an elevator that rattles, shakes or shimmies. Instead of a nice quiet cab ride, it sounds more like a freight train hitting a bump on the tracks. That is usually because the rails were not placed properly or they have slipped in the clips that hold them in place. You will never have a problem like that with our modular elevators because they are carefully put into place and welded in the factory. Perfect every time can mean a better ride over the life of the elevator.
So how high can we go? Almost any height with unsurpassed quality.
The life and times of General George S. Patton is a bit of an obsession for me. I have read every book I can find about him and have seen the Academy Award winning film Patton more times than I can remember. The reason for my deep interest is that my grandfather was a lowly private in the European Theater of Operations during World War II in the 79th – Cross of Loraine Division and was under Patton’s command during some of his deployment. I still proudly have the shoulder sleeve insignia he wore on his uniform. The field of blue has faded with time and has smudges of dirt and grime but the silver Cross of Loraine is still clearly visible.
I am proud of my grandfathers service and so I seek out wisdom and all I can from one of the greatest leaders of his time that he served under. So what have I gleaned from General Patton? Plenty about innovation, leadership, management and business. Ironically the timeless principles he espoused can be seen daily at Phoenix Modular Elevator. How have we embraced and exemplified some of his more famous quotes? Read on to find out, but first, here are some of Old Blood and Guts’ more notable sayings:
“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
“If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
“Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
These words demonstrate a straight forward approach to army life but so much more. They speak to business and leadership outside of the military as well and so they apply daily to what we do at Phoenix Modular Elevator. We excel at innovative thinking, due to the freedom to experiment and improve processes and products. We recently saw this on our largest to date eight-story set of stairs for a project in New York. We worked as a team with many contributing ingenuity and fresh perspectives to accomplish the task on schedule and budget.
We see the benefits of outside of the box thinking, where problem solving is encouraged. Thinking differently is not frowned upon but seriously considered, tested and improved.
Our open philosophy of discourse allows for a free exchange of ideas and concepts at every level of the corporate structure. Constructive criticism and honesty is encouraged and exemplified from the president to the factory floor.
Through living out the quotes of Patton in today’s business environment, we have become the clear leader in the modular elevator movement with the largest and fastest growing modular elevator manufacturing plant in North America. We are on the upward path and continue to march forward to success.
Ultimately, if I were to dig a bit deeper into my psyche for the source of my desire to find out as much as I can about Patton, it is probably due to him being one of the war’s most renowned characters. There are volumes of histories and biographies that paint a clear and defining portrait of him, his escapades and his character. Yet my grandfather, who served honorably from Utah Beach to Bavaria has little to no similar marker to his gallantry or even a hint of his life from 1942 to mustering out in 1946. Just another in particle in the cloud of 2 million green clad American soldiers that fought in Europe for all the right reasons.
I search in vain on the internet and my eyes strain to closely examine old war footage on TV for fragments of information or for even a glimpse of a young “dog face” soldier from Southern Illinois. I am always disappointed. The memories that reside deep inside me of my grandfather are relegated to remain just wisps and flights; never tangible or more concrete. The result? The memory of one of the most influential men in my life is relegated to a box of combat ribbons, old patches, medals, some letters to back home and scattered newspaper clippings. It does not seem fitting so I replace him with a man who’s adventures are chronicled and recounted for all and for all times.
Thankfully, I have in my search for my grandfather and found the wisdom of his generation through Patton’s quotes and diary.
Funny thing. I don’t even know if my grandpa liked Patton or even saw him. Like many that participated in the WW2 he rarely spoke of his service. But I know, like Patton, Private First Class, Edward Earl Russell was tough, smart and a true leader. So I look to Patton and his words of wisdom to to fill in the blanks for my grandfather, because although he survived the war with the Germans, cancer would ultimately defeat him in 1974 before I got to know him well.
It seems that as the World War II generation fades further from our minds and the dust from old books replaces the dust of the battlefield, the principles they had can out last them. I am just glad that through the leaders of the Greatest Generation, we can still learn grow and innovate.
By Russ Ward, PME Marketing & Tim House, PME Engineer
MRL hydraulic elevators are all the rage right now and for good reason. As the name implies, there is no additional machine room space needed, as it is built into the hoistway, so there is more square footage available for other things in the building, at least in theory. That point is debatable, as some will argue this claim! But with all the advantages of MRL hydro, there is a known limiting factor that should be recognized and accounted for at this time; hydraulic fluid viscosity.
The issue regarding viscosity is there could be significant fluid cooling problems with MRL hydros. Basically, as the elevator travels up and down, the oil heats up as it moves through the pipe due to friction, and when the hydraulic fluid or oil heats up, the life-blood of the system can fail. The oil just thins out when operated above required temperature levels, much like oil does when your car overheats and gets too thin, especially for a sustained period of time.
This breakdown, or altered viscosity, creates several real problems that can harm your elevator or negatively influence the way it operates. It can cause leaks in seals, the elevator can have difficulty leveling and even wear out major components faster than they should. In addition, the lifespan of the hydraulic fluid itself can be shortened, meaning it will need to be replaced more often, creating increased costs for operation.
The reason MRL hydraulic elevators can sometimes run with fluid at a higher temperature is due to several factors:
First, the main problem is that air flow is the primary way that the elevator hydraulic tank (normally in the machine room) is cooled down. The oil flows in when the elevator is not in use, especially if parked at a lower floor. As it sits there, the oil in the tank is cooled by the surrounding air and air flow. That is why there are significant rules and regulations regarding machine room temps and one of the reasons that objects must be kept clear of the tank.
Some MRL elevators, with the elevator tank in the wall of the hoistway, will have a grate covering the area where the tank is sitting so when the elevator goes swooshing up and down, the air flow created will cool the oil. But not all are designed that way and sometimes codes prohibit the open area.
The second issue is that the motor placement inside the tank can be problematic. Again, in a normal hydraulic elevator tank, you find a submersible motor, pump valves and pipes. The key object and one that generates significant heat is the submersible motor. In the standard configuration, it rests near the bottom fully covered in hydraulic fluid.
In some of the MRL models, to save room, the tank is not horizontal but vertical and, as a result, as the jack goes up and fluid leaves the tank, the motor can be exposed to air without the benefit of being fully submerged. This can cause additional heat in the system. As a result, some companies restrict the total travel distance in MRL hydros. To combat this, others have put the hydraulic tank in the floor of the pit, but that has its own set of difficulties. Air flow can be restricted, depending on where it is placed, and if the elevator breaks down with the car at the bottom of the pit, it may be hard to get to a potential problem area.
Another problem spot to be considered is that the limited space in the hoistway or pit can lead to cutting down the power unit. This can especially be trouble for units with a total rise beyond 20 feet or more. By trying to save space, the power unit can be too small, creating more work and more heat generation.
All of these issues are magnified when the total travel distance is increased and when the elevator is in high use for very lengthy periods of time. A good example of this is a hotel that has very specific high traffic periods, especially if the hotel is four or more stories. With all the ups and downs, the oil is constantly moving and staying too warm for operation; the precious life-blood (hydraulic fluid) never really gets to sit in the tank and cool down. Also, because the hydraulic fluid is going up so high (in a four stop elevator), most of the oil can be in the jacks, possibly exposing the motor; so, over a long period of time, motor failure or jack seals may be compromised.
Because of the above, until there is a proven track record regarding MRL hydraulic units use at peak periods, we recommend caution when buying an MRL hydro beyond 24′ of total travel. Make sure you ask your elevator representative very specific questions to ensure a long elevator life.
Businesses have always been lectured about the importance of being on the cutting edge of technology, and MRL hydraulic units for longer total travel distances with high levels of peak use are just that. Just be cautious and don’t find yourself on the bleeding edge instead of the cutting edge!
The labor market is getting tighter and tighter, especially with a 3.9% unemployment rate, and actual jobs are now more plentiful than those seeking them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau is an arm of the United States Department of Labor and they track and report all things labor in the US. According to the official statistics, simply put, we have more job openings than people to fill them. This labor crunch is clearly evidenced by the most recent numbers of people filing for unemployment. It is the lowest rate since 1969 and many say it is due to employers holding on to employees because they fear not being able to find replacements. This trend is also demonstrated in a recent phone call we received at Phoenix Modular Elevator.
The phone call was from a manager of a regional elevator company that has new installations as a large part of their book of business. For the first time ever, he called us to get details on our modular solution that he had seen at a recent trade show. But strangely, it was not due to our fast installations (less than a week with standard hydraulic models), nor was it due to the price, which is usually very competitive. It was due to the fact that he was having significant difficulties in filling elevator technician positions with qualified employees in his company. That was leading to the unusual problem of people wanting elevators, the company wanting to provide them, but having no way to get them installed in any reasonable time.
As the manager started looking for solutions, he remembered us and modular quickly became the best way to provide elevators to a customer base that needed them.
But his questions were not all about installing more elevators faster. He dug deep during our conversation about quality and safety. He was not going to install anything that was substandard or less safe than what he could provide through traditional, old-fashioned elevator installation. To his surprise, he found that our high-quality commercial elevators have parts that are from solid, tried and true elevator supply companies and are always non-proprietary. This means that his crews could trust our product and get them up and running with little problem because everything from door openers (that come pre-installed) to controllers were from companies they were familiar with and liked to work with.
He also loved the fact that a modular machine room was available that comes largely finished with a tank, pump and motor already installed and ready to go once power is available. It seemed too good to be true, so he began to question safety.
Over the years, he had seen plenty of good elevator technicians forced to leave the business due to injuries usually associated with lugging around heavy rails and being forced into tight working conditions in very cramped elevator hoistways. Anyone in the elevator business can tell you it is not very kind to the back, and Tylenol is often gobbled up more often than M&M’s. He was extremely relieved to find a company that cares enough about elevator technicians to do most of the heavy lifting for them. No more rails to be installed in a vertical shaft and the car is assembled separately from the hoistway and inserted with all the wiring before it is shipped.
With all of these huge benefits, not only was he instantly sold, but he wanted to start selling them himself. We were able to provide the perfect solution to the problem of lack of qualified labor, and he found a quality solution that was not only faster to install, but safer for his employees.
The calendar has lost its final page and now it is 2019. As is the nature of humanity, we cannot resist the temptation to look back at 2018 and take a peak at the near future for Phoenix Modular Elevator; it was an undeniable success. Demand was way up and production continued to steadily climb. One trend that we identified was the growing market demand for taller modular elevators. As familiarity and acceptance continues to grow among architects, developers and builders, we continue to grow across the continent. The result is that hoistways that were once considered out of reach for us are now the largest requests we receive. We are certainly a far cry from where we were when we started some 20 years ago in an old shoe factory.
In that old factory, when Phoenix Modular Elevator first opened its doors, it was the best two and three stop elevator solution available to bring a building up to code for the Americans with Disabilities Act. The elevators were easily manufactured and swung into place faster than any conventional elevator could be, making the upgrade in accessibility easy and fast. Hence our slogan, “We make elevators easy!” But soon, it was discovered that new traditional construction, modular construction and large retrofit projects were a great fit as well. As a result, ever increasing floor travels became a larger part of the business.
Soon it was four to seven story buildings that were in our wheelhouse. Sure, we still produced lots of commercial-quality two-story models faster and safer than conventional elevators, but the mid-rise elevators we produced kept getting taller and taller. And that was when we knew a new home with more breathing room would be needed. In 2017, planing and construction began and by 2018, the factory was complete. We moved into the brand new manufacturing center, still centrally located for all of North America in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Turns out, when you ship elevators from the Alaska Ice Road to Prince Edward Island, Florida to California and all points in between, being on two major interstate highways is a good idea.
The new digs allowed for a less crowded factory floor to easily accommodate those larger hoistways; because in our world, when we say taller and taller, we really mean longer and longer, as our elevators are built horizontally. Any shaft that is over 50+ feet will mean multiple, stackable towers as our process entails building the hoistways with all the elevator components already inside. These stackable hoistways are a point of pride for us because they are always level, square and plumb to perfection due to our process and high-skilled laborers. So, when we have multi-piece elevator hoistways, the pieces are produced all lined up and connected so they are perfect every time. This meant more floor space was needed, especially when you get to four or more towers for one project.
Ultimately, due to the ever-increasing requests for seven to 22 floor elevators, we had to expand again. Fortunately, we planned for the future with a site and factory that was easily increased in size and our success permitted us to double our factory floor with an addition that will be ready by March 1, 2019. We are continuing to build and to grow but not just physically. Our capacity has also increased with additional professional staff in engineering, sales and logistics. This allows for more volume with the same customer service. We can continue to help you choose the best elevator for your application, produce drawings quickly and make sure it is shipped on time as requested. Phoenix Modular Elevator experienced a fantastic 2018 and we are positioned to expand even more for a prosperous 2019.
When considering an elevator for a retro fit project the best place to start is at www.phoenixmodularelevator.com. We have heard the stories time and time again about the elevator project slowing construction and running up costs, but they don’t have to. In the video a superintendent of a school receiving a modular solution talks about all the ways that modular helped out in a retro fit project. It also shows how the elevator was installed and why it was so crucial that the school get a much needed upgrade.
When you are producing a truly revolutionary product, there are often misunderstandings and communication gaps about how it works and why it is the absolute best product for the market. This is especially true when your invention was produced by thinking completely outside of the box and smashing the old-fashioned way of doing things so profoundly. Let’s face it; a lot of old-timers are more comfortable grasping buggy-whips than a new concept. So, they fight by filling people’s heads with objections and downright falsehoods. Also, there is a component of not wanting to change. Instead of looking for the best solution, copy and paste comes a lot easier and bad mouthing comes quicker than honest research, so myths are built.
The result is we get a lot of questions from people that are interested in the best elevator available for low and mid-rise applications, but they have questions that are, well, questionable because they have been so mesmerized by big elevator and modular detractors. We do have other forums we use to dispel the myths of the elevator industry. For a sample of how we have torn holes in dated premises, you can check out our two blogs, Elevator Schmelevator and Easy Up.
But for this blog post, we will cover some of the more common myths, disinformation and honest questions we have heard over the years.
Does your elevator sway in normal use?
“No. Are you crazy?” springs to mind. We think this myth comes from the fact that when engineering for earthquake-prone areas, every building (which a hoistway is often classified as) has to allow for some shaking. Our units can be completely self-supporting, so for earthquakes areas, there have to be allowances just like for any other self-supporting structure. But rest assured during normal use, our elevators that are self-supporting do not shake and if they reach a certain height for travel, they are attached to the building. There is a whole lot of engineering that has gone into the hoistways and elevators we produce. They are manufactured with steel, not spaghetti noodles, and safe in every respect.
Can your elevator be made without a pit?
This myth’s origin is easy to track down. For some, the term “modular” has the connotation to be for home, not commercial, construction, and depending on the brand of vertical conveyance, the pit depth can vary for in-home units. To contribute to the fable, our elevators have gone into some homes, but they are all commercial quality with a standard pit as required by law. So, if you have a little walking around money and want a home elevator just like you find in a commercial setting, give us a call. We will gladly produce you the fastest installing elevator, but you will need a standard four foot pit.
How can elevator construction be safer with modular?
You have to have the right tone for this question for it to make sense; incredulity and disbelief is the right way to read this. You know, like you have been doing something one way your entire life and you know there is no better way. Go ahead try it again. I see you are still struggling. Try stressing and dragging out the word “safer” and actually use air quotes with your fingers as you speak. There – now you get the tone. Now let me run the short list of why elevator construction and the work-site is safer with modular. No lifting rails, no building an elevator car one piece at a time inside the hoistway, no open doors to fall through, no scaffolding to erect, no CMU blocks to stack, no rails for counter-weights to install, no jacks to pick up and many, many more. If worker safety were really the concern of some people, all elevators for low and mid-rise would be modular. They are that safe!
Why is factory-built better?
Ahh, finally an honest question. We never roll our eyes when we hear this question because it really is the main reason to get a modular elevator instead of the old way of doing things. First, understand that the big elevator companies don’t really have an elevator factory. They have a parts facilities where they gather up what they need from other companies, produce a few things themselves and then box it all up and send them to a work-site. Think of it this way. Imagine buying a car and instead of a new Ford in your driveway, the Ford dealership drops off pallets of parts to make a car and then a mercurial technician stops by at their whim and puts the car together. You wouldn’t call it a manufactured car at all and quality would be suspect. That’s the old way of doing elevators. The right way is in a factory setting where quality is easier to manage, where consistency can be maintained, inspections take place, where the inspector can literally walk the hoistway and check rails for being level and plumb. Factory built is better.
Do you use cheaper parts?
Nope; another myth. It’s time to reveal a dirty little secret of the elevator industry. Ready? There are only a few companies that make each component of an elevator. From door openers to jacks, motors to sheaves, component companies are limited, and some of the big name brand companies make little more than nameplates. So all elevator parts pretty much come from the same manufacturers. Believe it or not, we have a part or two from a major elevator company in our elevators because in that specific case, they make a good quality part. The bottom line is that when you buy modular, there is no sacrifice in quality when it comes to the parts we use. Also, all parts always meet required codes.
A big elevator company said we needed a traction elevator for speed even though its less than ten feet of travel. Why are you recommending hydraulic?
Now we are getting to a personal bug-a-boo of mine. I hate it when people deceive to sell up. We all know what “selling up” is since McDonald’s started asking “Would you like fries with that?” The difference between McDonald’s and big elevator companies is that McDonald’s asks; they don’t act like a french fry expert and then tell people they must have golden strips of fried potato goodness due the burger code or you can only swallow your hamburger if you eat a handful of fries first. More than one person has contacted us to check if a two stop elevator with 10 feet of travel had to be traction because of speed. Really? In 10 feet, if the elevator hit its maximum speed, you would be peeling yourself off the floor. So why the up sell? Maintenance contracts. Traction elevators pull in a lot more cash each and every month. It is the same with proprietary parts. Elevators have them so elevator companies can bleed you dry in maintenance costs. Speaking of proprietary parts…
Why are you against proprietary parts?
After publishing several articles on this subject in our blogs, we got several questions about proprietary vs. non-proprietary. I got a little misty knowing that 3000+ blog visitors each month are actual humans and not bots just crawling our page. In any case, all proprietary parts do is turn the elevator owner into a hostage. The big elevator companies hold the tools and codes for repairs and will not release them. This ties the hands of the owner for the life of the unit. No matter what you do, you cannot get out of the deal and the elevator company can raise your maintenance costs at will and do maintenance and repair when they want. Unfortunately, not enough architects, GCs and building owners have learned about this game, so they will continue to be an unwilling partner or saddle end users with huge bills they can’t get out of. We never have and never will use proprietary parts. Proprietary parts are evil.
Are modular elevators approved by the government?
Our elevators meet or exceed every jurisdictional requirement for every governmental entity across the United States or Canada. From the Alaska Ice Road to Brooklyn, NY – Los Angeles, CA to Prince Edward Island, we have met codes for both the hoistway and elevators. To accomplish this, we have certified welders on staff to meet that need and we welcome outside inspectors to our factory when required. To top that off, we are also a big hit with the government itself. When you ride an elevator in many US bases and installations (we can’t say which ones), you will be in a Phoenix Modular Elevator including a fair number of VA Medical Centers. Yes, we are very much approved or can be approved in any jurisdiction.
Okay, you got me. Why doesn’t everyone insist on modular?
Ya got me, too. Everyone should. To find out pricing on a current project, just click the button below.
Are all elevator companies equally bad? This is a question posed in a forum on UrbanToronto.ca in the Design and Architectural Style section. For too many of the commentators in the blog, the answer is an unfortunate yes. Each respondent complained about the state of the elevator industry when it comes to repairs, but none really had the right explanation. It is true there is a bit of a shortage of elevator techs, but that is not the core issue regarding poor repairs. In other words, a technician properly trained can easily tackle most elevator problems, but what if there was something built into how we buy elevators in the first place that totally did away with any incentive to get the job done right? Find out the secret elevator companies want to keep hidden.
Every year it seems that the Holidays and Christmas season creeps up earlier and earlier on the calendar. What used to push into November is now full bloom in mid-October. Christmas songs start making their way into the muzak mix in stores and there is more red and green decorations than florid fall flowers. Keep in mind that I have generally been resistant to even picking up wrapping paper and Seasons Greetings cards in October and November. As a matter of fact, until recently the bulk of my Yuletide shopping was done exclusively on Christmas Eve! But this year I am admittedly part of the problem. That is because at Phoenix Modular Elevator we decided to try something different for holiday goodies that make their way to our customers every year. Find out what we tried that has everyone a little hungry.
No one wants to see yellow warning tape going up at job site, so here at Phoenix Modular Elevator, we talk a lot about construction site safety, especially regarding elevators. In other words, safety is a big motivator for us, not just when the elevator is up and running, but from the time the elevator hoistway or shaft is being constructed to the final installation of the elevator itself.
Why? Because we know there is a better way. Modular elevators are simply a safer alternative that need to be embraced by everyone in the building industry so injuries and yellow warning tape can be avoided. If we have said it once, we have said it a thousand times; if you care about worker safety, build with modular. Find out how modular makes elevator construction safer.