Category Archives: Think Beyond Elevators

Tales of Elevators Past – Life Lessons for the Holidays

Kelly HeadshotBy Kelly Schloss 

For my family, Christmas and the holiday season is a time to share and recount days past. This year, I’d like to do that in the form of an old cautionary tale of magical doors and a secret room. It is about the thrill of Christmas shopping with mom: discovery, fear, separation, reunion, and my very first elevator ride (that I can remember, anyway).

It all begins in the parking lot of a busy shopping mall during the Christmas season and walking past bell ringers in bright red aprons and dodging icy puddles on a chilly day at  a Chicagoland mall. I was an over-exuberant 8 year old, already straining against holding my mom’s hand or latching on to the stroller of my younger sister. I had been enticed by the tale of shopping for Christmas gifts over Thanksgiving turkey, cranberry sauce (yuck!), and mac and cheese, but had never experienced it for myself. As we moved closer to the entrance, I licked my lips with anticipation and strained to wedge myself in the door first.

As the door swung open, I was not disappointed. A world of wonder, tinseled in silver and gold, unfolded before me as I nimbly pushed my way ahead of the stroller to take it all in. I stood agog as my mother grabbed my hand with a firm, yet gentle jerk and said, “Hold my hand or hold on to the stroller, those are the rules. I don’t want you to get lost.” The tug-of-war with my mom’s hand had officially begun. But, I let her win as almost immediately all of the feeling remaining in my slight paw disappeared as every sense gathered up a stimulation which had not been experienced before.

My ears heard the call of “Merry Christmas!”and “Ho, ho, ho!” as it echoed from Santa’s workshop. I saw with my own eyes real (animatronic) elves laboring on the same toy train over and over, wicker reindeer just like you find at the North Pole, and an enormous button-eyed Teddy bear spinning endlessly on an over-sized wooden block. A blanket of white, puffy, fake snow filled the main intersection with a gigantic, brightly painted rocking horse at the center. The smell of yuletide roasted nuts and General Tso’s chicken wafted through the great hall from the food court nearby and everything was festooned in red and green ribbons from the tallest ceilings to the floor and there were more blinking lights than my eight-year-old eyes had ever seen in one place. People pushed and shoved, stuffed in overcoats and with packages and bags of all shapes and sizes in bright paper and trimmed in ribbons. All the while, trance-inducing Christmas music droned softly on in the background. I had reached an eight-year-old’s version of paradise.

I scarcely could take in all that was attacking my senses. I was in the throes of this exhilaration when I caught my first glimpse of the bright, gleaming, stainless steel elevator doors, gliding open just a few short feet away. I could not control the urges in my feet as I, in a daze of sensory overload pulled my hand from the firm grasp of my mother and bolted toward the now fully open elevator. I instinctively leaped to the middle of the car and turned around just in time to see the ashen face of my mom framed in the large door.

After seeing the look on her face I was dizzied, realizing the colossal blunder I had made. Momentarily, I lost any awareness of my surroundings as the next thing I remember was the swoosh of doors as they magically glided again, this time closed. It was as if some hypnotic spell had pulled me to the car in the first place and away from my mom and now I snapped out of my stupor just in time to see her lunge towards me as the doors closed.  Now the reality, like those once magical doors, was closing in on the fantasy that I had been building. Those shiny hatchways became snarling jaws of entrapment separating me from my family.

As the elevator jerked and my knees buckled, questions began racing in my mind. “Where was I going?” “What had I done?”

There was no escape. I looked desperately around briefly for a friendly face, but there were no children at all and I only found the drawn faces of zombie-like shoppers that haunted the now ever-shrinking elevator. They too, I am sure, had once been lured to the siren’s song of Christmas shopping in their youth, but the shine was far off of that penny and now the drudgery of the event gave them an antidote to the thrill and euphoria I had been experiencing. The sight of Santa Claus, silver bells, and gold trim did not stir them in the slightest and the helpless, far off stare of an eight year old, verging on tears, didn’t either. I let loose with a loud wet sniffle (international language of distress for children) yet none of the weary passengers gave me a second look. I was on my own and separated from the warm hand of my mom. Where was she and how would I get back?

Then, I realized that there was a big glass wall in the elevator. Try as I might I strained to look over the rail in hopes of seeing my mom. But, alas, my efforts were to no avail as I was just too short, even on tippy-toes and the window did not face the right direction. I was trapped with people I did not know, going to a place I had never been and hope was slowly draining from me. Also, in the back my mind I began to wonder about the reception I would receive if I ever did find my way back from the enchanted closet I had be drawn to. Would I be missed and welcomed with open arms? Or sent home and put in time out; the worst possible punishment for wayward children? As I was in deep contemplation (or as deep as an eight year old can be) a friendly bell rang out and the doors slid open again. People pushed out and more people pushed in as I stood stupefied by the process. Before I could even make a motion or utter a single word, the doors abruptly closed again and the elevator took off with a jerk, this time downward.

As it jolted to a stop and the doors opened wide and I could see my mom waiting. She lunged forward, grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the elevator and to her tightly. The feeling of relief was overwhelming and the warmth of her love overcame the fear of retribution or the magical, mesmerizing elixir of the surroundings of the mall center court. Even though I was still at Woodfield Mall, the magic dissipated as tangible reality of that hug hit home.

Don’t worry, we did finish the shopping trip, but I have no idea what we bought. My hand never left the stroller the rest of the day and I did get “time out” when we got home, but the adventure in the elevator has never left me to this day.

So what are the lessons of this tale of Christmas past? There are many: One is to not let the enticements and shininess of the world blind you to the reality of life, even in the holiday season. Another lesson: a mother’s hug has a higher value than all the Black Friday sales combined.  And, maybe, the lesson is to not feel silly about being mesmerized by an elevator as a child (they’re pretty wonder inspiring, even as an adult). Who knows? You might just end up working in the business one day.

Happy Holidays from everyone at Phoenix Modular Elevator.

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Solving Problems with Prefab Hoistways

Urban Life 2Recently, we have been producing prefab hoistways for a major elevator manufacturer in the United States. These contain no installed elevator, just the hoistway. The company we are working with sees the benefits of faster installation, the safety of the installation, flexibility in design, and higher quality that we offer as opposed to waiting around for a stick-built shaft.

It is easy to see why: having a completed hoistway craned into place means saving time and that means saving money. But having a prefab hoistway means more than just fast installation. Here is a list of reasons why every hoistway should be a prefab….Click here for the rest!

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When Faster isn’t Really Faster

1_thumbRecently, it was announced that the CTF Finance Center in Guangzhou, China broke records as the fastest elevator in the world to date. Believe it or not, it travels at an astounding 46.9 miles per hour straight up! Wow! An elevator in Shanghai, China (Shanghai Tower) finishes in second place with a speed of 42.8 mph and the fastest North American elevator clocks in at a paltry 22.7 mph in comparison. It is located at the Freedom Tower at 1 World Trade Center in New York. It is a bit slower but the show you get going up and down is worth it.

As it turns out, the elevator in your building is not breaking any world records, but, unless you are in the Willis Tower in Chicago or the Empire State Building in New York, you probably don’t need a three million dollar monstrosity that can hit highway speeds. Keep in mind that the world record holding building has a total of 95 elevators and only two elevators are the super fast ones and they only go from the first floor to the 95th where the world’s highest hotel resides. As a matter of fact, the CTF Finance Center has 52 medium and low speed elevators, as well as the two speed-demons.

Find out why speed is overrated. Click here. 

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Innovation the Key – Jefferson the Example

Monticello 1At the recent Elevator U conference, on the last day  we had the pleasure of leaving the final session, boarding buses and, as a group, visiting the historic home of Thomas Jefferson in Monticello. The Elevator U conference is an annual gathering of elevator and facility managers from colleges and universities across the country where participants learn more about vertical transportation, innovation in the industry, and make important contacts. We cannot give a higher recommendation for attendance to this annual event.

The visit to Monticello demonstrated the forward thinking of Thomas Jefferson, but also represented the forward thinking of Elevator U. Find out how vision applies to Elevator U and the elevator industry. Click Here.

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Piecing it all together

Puzzle FinalBy Russ Ward

My mother loved doing jigsaw puzzles. The more difficult the better, as far as she was concerned. These puzzles became family projects that we all worked on, especially in the winter while we were cooped up in the house on snowy days.

My mom was no novice of puzzle completion and had a strictly adhered to plan in putting them together that made a lot of sense: start with turning all of the pieces to the picture side and then find all of the corners. From there, the rest of the edge pieces were found and put into to place, making an outline of the picture. The rest of the puzzle, one piece at a time, would then follow.

Construction, especially with modular components, is its own kind of puzzle…Find out how modular can help with the puzzle of construction projects.

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8 Weeks Means 8 Weeks

Red DevilsFootballHigh School football is a great place to learn life lessons. Just a few include: (1) teamwork and planning leads extraordinary success, (2) hard work pays off, (3) how to win with grace, (4) how to lose with dignity, and, lastly, punishment is capricious and arbitrary.

Once upon a time, while I was playing football in high school, we lost a big game to a cross county rival. I did my job just fine. I blocked as I should, pushing myself and my opponent the extra yard. Not once did the guy across the line of scrimmage from me take part in any tackle. He never laid a finger on the quarterback or running back, and I did this without landing a single penalty. However, when the time came to pay for the loss, we all took the hit.

At the time, we had a punishment that has since been banned in most high schools as it was both cruel and unusual and was certainly banned by the Geneva Convention: the dreaded belly-flop.  It was a torturous drill that involved chopping your feet as fast as you can, as you moved forward in increments of five yards and then hitting the ground – belly first (hence the name) on each five-yard line when the maniacal, spittle-spewing coach blew his whistle, only to spring back to our feet and continue on our perilous journey up and down the dirt covered practice field.  Regardless of my personal efforts and my on field successes, I too had to join in the cloud of dust churned up by the 20 guys on the team going goal line to goal line. We can get you an elevator in just eight weeks …Find out how here! 

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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. Click to find out how fear can lead to bad decisions.

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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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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.

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