Snake Bit – Fear and the Elevator Business

curie_lab_photoby Russ Ward

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” – Marie Curie

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions, as it can create anxiety, foster poor decision making and even immobilize the victim. I, for instance, suffer from ophidiophobia, or fear of snakes. It really is beyond just being scared of them or a simple dislike. It is a deep hatred, and when it comes to snakes, my judgement is indeed clouded.  For instance, I live in a rural area and so you hear tall tales of the scaly creatures ending up in everything, including toilets and car dashboards. When my mind drifts, it tends to drift towards a myriad of “What if’s?” What if a snake gets in the bathroom? What if a snake is in my car? What if I see one in my yard? This has led me to keep a garden hoe within arms reach of my front door, just in case.  I check my car thoroughly each morning before hopping in, and I tend to hover more than relax, if you know what I mean.

Now I can tell you, as a relatively sane man (depending on who you ask), this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  These slithering creatures are a helpful and beneficial part of the ecosystem, keeping disease carrying rodents and insects in check. They are an all important element of the circle of life. However, I can tell you the happiest part of that circle for me was when I saw a snake snatched up from the ground by a Red Tail Hawk and carried off into the distance. As that glorious bird of prey slowly drifted towards the sunset, a tear literally formed in my eye as gratitude for that hawk’s actions swelled my heart. But nevertheless, my disdain for all thing snake is still irrational.

Another common fear, especially in business, is the fear of the unknown. This can sometimes be a great guard against poor choices and force a deeper look when one is needed, but it can also be a blind spot for business if rejecting something out of hand is the standard instead of the exception. Some folks in the elevator industry have exhibited this kind of fear when it comes to the modular industry.  The concept is rejected out-of-hand without proper research or deeper analysis. For instance, many elevator installers are unaware that the bulk of the work of installing a modular elevator is the very same work performed on every installation and that modular elevators are designed to make the installation go fast and as headache-free as possible.

They are also designed to be installed quickly, so with a modular elevator, you won’t have tons of man-hours tied up in hanging rails or building a cab. Both of those items are checked off the to-do list as they come pre-installed in a hoistway. A hoistway, by the way, that is designed to meet all the building codes, including those for earthquakes and hurricanes for every jurisdiction in the US and Canada. This means a faster installation that takes only days can be placed conveniently into an already busy schedule. And as we all know, more installations mean the more opportunities for maintenance contracts.

Getting past fear is a difficult chore, but the benefits outweigh the risks; of course, unless you are talking about snakes.

If you want to do a bit more research, here are a couple of short videos  and a personal testimony that demonstrate how easy the installation process is. The testimonial is a Phoenix Modular Elevator customer regarding their first-hand experience with the time and ease of the getting the elevator they wanted installed. If you would like to be considered to be an installer for projects, click here.  We install across the United States and Canada.

Marie Curie was right, “Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

How to Buy an Elevator 101

Interior PhotoVolumes have been written about elevators. A simple search can tell you all you would ever need to know about their history, how they work and even more about components such as buttons and cabs. But one thing that seems to be lacking is solid advice on actually buying an elevator.

With this in mind, we have compiled information to keep in mind when thinking about purchasing any type of vertical transportation, whether it be a LU/LA, modular or stick-built elevator.  The first list is information that you should acquaint yourself with before starting the purchasing process, while the second list is a set of questions to consider when talking with an elevator company.

  1. Assess your needs. Why do you feel you need an elevator? One common reason we hear is to comply with current building codes, but beyond that, what are you hoping to accomplish with an elevator? You can meet codes easily enough, but is that all you are hoping to do?
  2. Think hard about use. Do you see the elevator being used for passenger traffic, freight or both? How often do you think it will be used and for what purpose? Is a gurney compliant elevator wanted or even required? Here’s a short story about what happens when you don’t think it through.
  3. Where will the elevator be placed? An elevator is no small item. In most cases, it is the largest moving object in any building and it takes up significant space. It is not just the shaft or hoistway; there also has to be some sort of machine room unless utilizing a machine roomless system. Elevators can be on the outside of the building or in an internal space. You should also prepare yourself for the bad news that it won’t work where you want it to go. Help from a consultant, architect or local elevator company may come in handy.
  4. Learn some basic terms. On the surface, elevators seem easy enough. You push a button and the door opens, you push another button and it takes you to your floor. However, there is a catalog of terms that apply specifically to the elevator industry. To have an initial conversation, you need to understand basic terms like travel distance, hoistway, car or cab, hall call and stops.
  5. Before you call, know how many stops the elevator will have and whether the doors are inline (all on the same side) or front and back.
  6. Consider overall timeline for completion. Sometimes it makes little difference, but for a stick-built elevator, you are talking months. With a modular elevator, the same elevator can be manufactures and installed in 10 weeks or less.
  7. Lastly, consider the design of the elevator. Stainless steel is common, but several design options are available. Here are a few samples.

Part of a discussion with an elevator professional is you asking questions. This is the best way to get the information you need to help you in your decision making process. All of the questions below can be answered by an elevator professional. If the company you have contacted refuses to answer the questions below, start shopping for a new company.

  1. What type of drive system is recommended for my specific project based on floor travel? Options include holeless hydraulic, in-ground hydraulic, traction, machine roomless and roped hydraulic. Each type has a price and a length of travel they are usually recommended for. Avoid being pigeonholed by choosing a company that can’t provide all types of elevators. Also, any quality elevator consultant or elevator company should be able to help you determine the best option.
  2.  Are the various parts of the elevator proprietary? Proprietary parts can mean short-term savings but long-term headaches. It is best to avoid them if possible and purchase an elevator with non-proprietary parts. Even the National Association of Elevator Contractors is objecting to the use of proprietary parts because it drives up costs.
  3. Who will complete the installation and who will perform the maintenance once it is installed? When thinking about purchasing an elevator, a maintenance agreement has to be part of the thought process. Go over the contracts with a fine tooth comb and realize many have clauses that are five-year deals with automatic increases built in. Here is a series of articles on contracts that you should look at before you buy.
  4. What is the price of the elevator and what is the anticipated annual cost of maintaining the elevator? Depending on the type of conveyance for the elevator and usage, annual costs will vary.

We hope you find this list helpful, regardless of the choice you make. Feel free to contact us at any time to discuss your project or to ask general questions. Of course, we do hope you will consider a Phoenix Modular Elevator for your next project. If you have one in mind, click the button for a free quick quote.

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Manufactured Elevator Quality

Three Towers

by Russ Ward

It makes me chuckle when I hear people say there are several elevator manufactures. In reality, there are precious few that actually engage in manufacturing. The definition of manufacturing is the making of goods or wares by manual labor or by machinery, especially on a large scale. The rub is that the big four elevator companies do not make goods or wares.

Instead, what they actually do is produce some elevator parts. The rest of the parts are produced by subcontractors that supply several companies. When an order is placed and the elevator leaves the warehouse, it is not recognizable as an elevator at all, but several components that then need to be screwed, wired, bolted, hung and placed inside a pre-existing or stick-built vertical shaft.  The real elevator manufacturing takes place inside the vertical stick-built elevator shaft on the job site. Until it is assembled, it is not a ware or a good but a box full of parts.

It would be the same if you ordered a car from your local dealership and were handed the keys and a giant crate full of parts. In a few months, at their convenience, they would send a technician to trudge over to your driveway and put it all together. Of course, because the assembly takes place outside, the work would only be conducted when the weather was nice, and if the manufacturer forgot any of the pieces, work would halt until the part was found and shipped. No one would make the argument that the car was manufactured until the technician was finished putting the pieces together.

You may be thinking I am nitpicking or playing semantic games. Who really cares if the elevator was manufactured or just thrown together on the work site? You should care if you are considering a project that requires an elevator because true manufacturing creates a dynamic where price is lowered as efficiency and quality is increased.

Manufacturing increases efficiency by smoothing out the process of building an elevator into a seamless, step-by-step progression that creates a final product. Adjustments and improvement can be made during the manufacturing process so production time is shortened. Phoenix Modular Elevator’s lead time is only eight weeks for a standard model. Not only that, because it is a finished product, ready for installation, the time to get the elevator up and running on-site is measured in days, not weeks or months.  Also, the weather is never a factor in manufacturing an elevator. It is produced on an assembly line indoors with no delays due to rain, snow or sleet.

Also, having a manufacturing process is a way to decrease product cost. Logically, it follows that if it takes a shorter time to manufacture an elevator, fewer costs are incurred during manufacturing. Total man hours are reduced, and having all of the parts available line side means a smooth-running process that cuts costs. There are no charges for travel time to and from the job for the whole installation crew and there is rarely a time that the elevator is in the way of the rest of the construction taking place. Don’t believe me? Here is a video testimonial of an actual customer that was amazed at the process and the results.

The secret to the Phoenix Modular Elevator manufacturing process is that our elevators are built horizontally. This makes it easier and faster to make, resulting in increased quality. More attention to detail can be accomplished in a horizontally-built unit in a factory setting, where strict tolerances are observed.

Lastly, manufacturing an elevator increases safety not only during the manufacturing phase, but also for the overall job site. Workers are not vertically assembling parts and pieces in less  than optimal weather conditions. Most fatal accidents in construction zones are due to falls from heights, and open elevator door hatches and a protruding elevator shaft only exacerbate this problem. Until the elevator contractor finishes the installation, accidents and injuries are an increased probability. With a factory-built elevator, the finished product rolls off the factory line onto a truck and is freighted to the job site, where it is craned into place. All the while, the doors for all of the floors are closed and locked. There are no open hatches to contend with, just a finished and set elevator. Reduced injuries and work hazards are always a benefit for the contractor and workers.

Manufacturing is the best option when the project requires an elevator. Just remember there are only two true manufacturers, and Phoenix Modular Elevator is one of them. We are ready to provide you with the best manufactured, quality elevator built to your specifications. For more information about what makes manufactured elevators a better option, visit www.phoenixmodularelevator.com.

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Footprints on the Ceiling

142ofc_copyI remember a Classics Illustrated comic book from my youth telling the tales of Abraham Lincoln. One of the stories involved Lincoln gathering a group of younger boys and having them step in the mud with their bare feet. As a prank, Lincoln held each of them upside down and had them walk their feet across the kitchen ceiling, leaving muddy footprints as they went. When his stepmother, Sarah Lincoln, came home and saw the muddy footprints on her ceiling, she threatened to spank him.

Lincoln was 6 feet 4 inches tall at the time, and I can all but imagine seeing the future President bent over his stepmother’s knee, stovepipe hat and all. Also, his stepmother’s initial reaction to the unnatural site of footprints on her ceiling would have been priceless.

Sometimes when our elevators are craned vertically into place and the inspector or elevator technician is in the hoistway for the first time, they, too, have a reaction like Sarah Lincoln. They see footprints going up and down the hoistway walls, along guide rails and around hatchway door openings. Some have even asked our installation crew where the footprints came from and how they could be up and down the vertical hoistway. And no, we don’t hold people upside down.

That is one of the challenges we face when describing the Phoenix Modular Elevator process of manufacturing. In the mind of most elevator professionals, they think vertically when they enter a hoistway or elevator car. It only makes sense, as they have spent years, if not decades, inside a vertical shaft.  For them, it is hard to think of it any other way.

However, our elevator manufacturing process is born horizontally. The hoistway is not built on a work site, but out of tough 4×4 inch tube steel in our production facility. Once the frame is laid out, it is plumbed and squared to make sure the shaft is always perfectly square and straight. Phoenix Modular Elevator workers and inspectors are able to walk alongside the frame, inside and out, testing welds and checking quality. As the frame is constructed, it is placed on a machine that can literally spin the hoistway, so welding in 2×4 C-studs and placing fire-rated drywall takes hours, not weeks. When one side is done, the entire hoistway is rotated to the next side. The guide rails are then installed, leveled and inspected. We know when a hoistway leaves the factory, it is completely square and the guide rails are straight and level.

During this whole process, a great crew of quality inspectors, welders, drywallers and finishers stroll through the hoistway, leaving footprints. Mystery solved.

Simultaneously, the cab is completed to the customer’s specifications. Again, the cab is not inside the shaft; instead, it is built in a separate area of the factory and not in a cramped hoistway. This means building the car is safer, easier and faster. When the car and hoistway are complete, we simply insert the cab in the still-horizontal hoistway. All connections are made, the car and counterweights are roped if needed, and it is ready to be transported by truck to the work site.

So the magician has shown his trick. How did the footprints get up and down the hoistway walls? The hoistway is never vertical until it gets to the site where it is installed faster and easier than a site-built elevator.

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Hotels + Modular = The Perfect Solution

Red Roof InnHotels built prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have a decided disadvantage when meeting the needs of potential customers. With only stairs to transport guests to upper floors, people with some disabilities have limited choice of the rooms they can occupy. It also means that people who do not want to carry luggage up a flight of stairs may seek other accommodations.

This issue  will likely grow. With the graying of America, the number of disabled persons will continue to increase from the 57 million current reported by the US Census Bureau. That is a whole lot of people that a hotel without an elevator may not be serving well, or at all.

Since the passage of the ADA in 1990, it has become an expectation that access will be provided. However, many older hotels are not accessible beyond the first floor, and although it is perfectly legal for older hotels to be grandfathered in and avoid ADA requirements, it may not make for the best customer experience. This can also lead to a lower rate per room for higher floors. To combat this problem, one hotelier was able to meet his patrons needs by placing a modular elevator on the exterior of the existing structure.

An ancillary benefit of the modular elevator addition is that employees were no longer lugging heavy laundry carts and other items up and down stairs. The elevator increased staff productivity and morale while also reducing the potential for work-related accidents and injuries. It was a win for the hotel, not only because it opened new possibilities for customer and employees, but because the installation was easy and fast.

For a commercial-quality modular solution, another benefit is time. A hotel does not have to close its doors for an extended period of time during installation, as a modular elevator is lowered into place by a crane in under half a day, and installation can be completed in a week.

The end result is a more profitable, safer hotel that provided access to more potential customers and a way for workers to be more efficient and productive.

Phoenix Modular Elevator Wins Award of Distinction

Award PhotoPhoenix Modular Elevator (PME) has been recognized by the Modular Building Institute at the World of Modular Conference by being presented an Award of Distinction. The award-winning project features a modular elevator for Center Grove High School in Greenwood, IN, the site of the newly built Ray Skillman Stadium.

The purpose of the ADA- and gurney-compliant elevator was to access the two-story press box at the top of the bleachers, allowing both people and equipment to be moved more efficiently. The elevator has nearly 50 feet of travel with a 3500 lb. cab capacity and is finished in school colors. PME was tasked with ensuring the elevator would be ready for the start of football season, less than three months away when the project began. The total time for the completed functioning elevator to be designed, built and installed was only 78 days. In comparison, a similar sized stick-built elevator would have taken 8 months or more.

center-groveA total of three modules comprised the finished product. The elevator hoistway was broken in two sections for shipping purposes and a modular machine room that housed the hydraulic pump, motor and elevator controller made up the third.

PME president Allison Allgaier was honored by the recognition: “We supply a lot of elevators to the commercial modular building industry, so it’s gratifying to be recognized by our customers’ premiere trade association.”

The entries were judged by a prestigious panel of architects and experts in the modular field. They were scored on a number of criteria, including architectural excellence, technical innovation, cost effectiveness, energy efficiency, and calendar days to complete.

PME is an elevator manufacturer that produces high-quality, commercial modular elevators. A modular elevator is comprised of a steel hoistway with the elevator car and components completely pre-wired and installed inside. They are manufactured horizontally, trucked to jobsites, craned into place and installed in less than a week. This makes PME elevators the fastest installing elevator available. The units are found across the United States and Canada and used in schools, medical facilities, universities, hotels, stadiums, amusement parks, office buildings, government buildings and churches. Phoenix Modular Elevator has been constructing modular elevators since 1995.

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Real Life Example of Savings With Phoenix Modular Elevator

two-elevatorsWhat is the difference in the two elevators pictured above? $100,000 and 30 weeks.

One of the most common questions we get asked is, “Will installing a modular elevator save us money?” The typical–and honest–answer is that it depends on multiple factors. But we were fortunate to recently encounter a real world example of two comparable projects, one stick-built and one modular, where we know the full build costs on each.  And the results are stunning.

The two jobs are pictured above.  They were both in Southern Illinois, in 2016, about 30 miles apart.  Both were retrofits on the exterior of brick buildings.  Both were 2-story buildings, though the modular had an extra ground-level stop on the rear.

The elevator on the right was stick-built.  It was a bid job, and the total construction cost, including all the site work, hoistway construction, and elevator installation, was $249,998.  The project took 10 months from start to finish.

The elevator on the left was modular.  It looks shorter than the stick-built elevator on the right, because it accesses the basement, so one of the stops is below ground. The total construction cost was around $150,000.  And because the GC dug the footings and poured the pit while the modular elevator was under construction, total project duration was 2 1/2 months.

So is there always a cost savings with Phoenix Modular Elevator? Again hard to say, as it depends on many factors that vary by geography. We do know that modular always saves time.  And if you are in the market for a high-quality commercial elevator, why not find out if modular will save you money as well?  In 5 minutes we can give you budget pricing to allow you to compare.

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Time – The Most Precious Commodity

russ-head-shot-2

By Russ Ward

Being raised in the the 1960’s and 70s, my friends and I actually lived scenes from movies like Stand By Me and The Sandlot, as well as television shows such as The Wonder Years.  We were close-knit compadres, and many life lessons sprung from the hijinx and innocence of suburban neighborhood living in small town America. Even today when the “gang” gets together to reminisce about days past, there are still nuggets of knowledge that we glean from the stories we tell. For instance, while speaking with a childhood friend recently, I learned an important lesson about time and how precious it is.

That friend was Abe, one of the brightest, most introspective men I know. However, this wasn’t always the case. He, as was the whole gang, was a victim of poor teenage driving habits, often confusing the left pedal with the right. We were all novices behind the wheel with a long list of escapades and close calls where the vertical foot pedal (the gas) was employed rather than the horizontal one (the  brake).  One day on his way to school, all of those close calls and confusion cost Abe significantly, as the front of his parents station wagon made the acquaintance of an innocent automobile.  Word of the accident spread quickly, and later in the day, as the broken hulk of the automobile sat lifelessly in the driveway of 15 Buena Vista Drive, my friends and I stood in the street laughing, making broad gestures and wondering aloud what would become of poor, hapless Abe.
His father was the serious sort and not to be trifled with. Although he was a great and generous man, he played the part of stern father perfectly. He rarely smiled in our presence and he had a glare, through deep bushy eyebrows, that could melt most teenagers right out of their Chuck Taylors. Plainly put, if all of humanity is blessed with one superpower each, this dad’s extraordinary ability was his teenage-dissolving gaze. Couple that vision with the vivid imagination of three hyperbolic teenagers gawking at the dented Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon and one could only imagine the scenes we pantomimed as we brashly discussed the looming punishment that Abe would be facing. Little did we know that behind the bay window of the house that faced the street and the twisted steel hulk of a station, stood father and son.

What was surprising was not what the father said about the three stooges at the end of the driveway. Instead, as I listened to Abe tell the story years later, I was most surprised by his father’s overriding premise that the toll the accident would ultimately take would not be relegated to a bent bumper and caved in fender, but rather to time lost.

After all was said and done, what the father was most displeased with, besides the dented car and the antics of three knotheads,  was the many hours lost due to meetings and phone calls with the insurance company and car mechanics. In his wisdom, he knew time lost would never be found again, a lesson that was not lost on Abe through the years. He knows that the problem with time is that it is often difficult to quantify, like a mist that slips past us unnoticed. Because of this experience, he is more cognizant of the clock and how precious each second can be.

You’re probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with modular elevators? One of the benefits of modular elevators is the time savings.

A construction expert put it this way: traditional elevators have a minimum six month installation time, regardless of the upfront estimate. Modular elevators, on the other hand, can be installed in as little as one week. He went on to say that, using rough math, if installing an elevator in a hotel of 100 rooms at approximately $100 per room per night takes six months to install, this results in approximately 180 fewer days of occupancy. This comes to 1.8 million reasons to contact Phoenix Modular Elevator and find out more about the fastest installing, quality commercial elevator in the world. As Benjamin Franklin observed, time is fleeting, but it is also quantifiable. Just ask Abe and his dad.

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A simple elevator button panel from phoenix modular elevator.

All Eyes Are On Your Fixtures

interior-elevoatr-car
A clean professional look is often warranted.

In a CNN online article about boutique hotels,  the focus was on impressive finishes and features of various boutique hotels around the world. The story highlighted several pieces that made up the architectural design and set the hotels apart, enhanced the experience and told visitors exactly what the hotel is all about.

For instance, in the article it shows the lobby of the Hotel Vagabond in Singapore. It is outfitted with several imposing pieces, including a golden elephant “hoisting” up the main elevator. The work was designed by artist Franck Le Ray and his artistic ability certainly added a unique touch to the lobby. It gives the visitor’s eye plenty of opportunities to remain busy while waiting patiently for the elevator. Beyond that, it lets you know precisely where you are, in a unique place that is fun and exciting. Cladding the hoistway with the impressive sculpture was certainly a departure from the ordinary, but the lesson learned should go deeper.

The lesson is not about putting a massive pachyderm in your lobby at all, but instead forces the question “What message do the elevator fixtures, hall calls, car interior and hoistway finishes say about the building you are in?” Most likely, if you are reading this blog post, you are not in a Singapore hotel, but that should not prohibit you from thinking about the message your elevators give to visitors. It is important because the one place that you know for sure people will look in your building, beyond almost anywhere else, is the elevator and its fixtures.

Think about it. You go through the lobby with your eyes darting all over the place. You are taking in the visual cues from the front desk to the lobby furniture, but then all that visual stimulus stops when you press the elevator button.  You look down at the button, give it a gentle poke and your eyes move immediately to the floor indicator. Unless interrupted, it generally stays there until the elevator arrives. You then walk into the elevator car, taking in the look and feel, and again your eyes shift to the floor indicator light. That’s a lot of time and opportunity to tell people about your organization by the look of the car and the fixtures. Sometimes the elevator conveys a professional feel with a clean, simple, efficient buttons and displays. Other times, something more quirky or modern is warranted.

The same is true with the hoistway. If the elevator is on the outside of the building, it should enhance or at least work with the architectural vision of the building. If the elevator is a free standing element of the lobby, it has to be carefully integrated with the interior design.

Fortunately, if you are thinking about a new elevator, Phoenix Modular Elevator has a solution that is right for you. We have flexibility to make architectural design easy with a hoistway that can be clad in any material you need, even a golden elephant. Also, the interior of the elevator car can be custom made, from standard laminates, stainless steel to unique coverings such as barnwood or any combination of the three.  The fixtures can also be any style or type available, from a classic look to modern. This will help your architect design the impact you are looking for.

From simple, off-the-shelf elevators to one of a kind masterpieces, we can accomplish anything you desire. Your building lobby may not need a golden elephant, but never let limited options prevent you from that if it is your dream.

The fastest installing elevator begins with a quick quote.
To get an elevator start here with a quick quote!