Recently, we got an all-too-familiar email when following up on an apartment complex bid we had put together on an elevator project. We had been asked to provide a bid for a new project, and about a year had passed since the project had been awarded. We were not the vertical transportation solution chosen. However, this type of email exchange is something that has become very common for us as the prospective customer checks their wallet at the end of the project and finds out it is empty.
In answering our question about how the project was going, the customer responded, “As you know, the contractor went with a conventional unit, which on the surface is cheaper. However, if all the costs were included, I’m sure we picked the wrong one. Anyway, I like what you are doing and will look forward to working with you in the near future.”
He went on to say that the person in charge of accepting the bid had failed on a number of levels leaving many scratching their heads and wondering how the cost got so far out of whack. First and foremost, the cost analysis completed had not included the expense of building a stick-built hoistway. Our units, of course, include the hoistway, complete with finished doorways and hall calls ready to go, with the elevator car inserted in our factory and all of the wiring already complete. It is ready for installation, whether traction or hydraulic. The four-by-four-inch tube steel hoistway is wrapped in drywall to provide a one- or two-hour fire rating and will accept any finish, whether it is going on the interior or exterior of a building.
The customer was also frustrated with the constant delays of the project by the stick-built elevator company. Starts and stops are not unusual on a big apartment complex project, but the delays coming from an elevator contractor can be maddening. Keep in mind, the old-fashioned stick-built elevator companies will say they have a 16-week lead time, but they are not including construction of the hoistway. This means that the elevator hoistway is the first thing built and there it sits until the project has the electric turned on. Then they start placing the rails and building an elevator car inside the hoistway (the dumbest way to build an elevator). Weeks to months later, it is finally finished. We have an eight-week lead time and less than a week installation. One of our current clients estimates our solution can shave six months off the total construction time. Faster completion means quicker occupancy.
Third on the list of complaints was a steady stream of change orders. When we price a project, we don’t just throw rough numbers or standard designs out there that do not match your expectations and then change-order you to death when it is not what you wanted. We take the time to read the specifications closely and deliver a proposal as close to the final price as possible. We know this keeps us from being competitive on some jobs, but we are willing to take that chance. Knowing what you as the customer want and delivering an accurate bid are important to us, and we hope it will be for you as well.
Lastly, ongoing costs of long-term maintenance agreements drive the cost of the elevator way up when dealing with the Goliath elevator companies. Over a 25-year span of time, maintenance for a single three-stop traction unit from a major elevator company is nearly $180,000. Many unknowingly are inking a lopsided deal that spans the best ten years of the life of an elevator and auto-increases every year. Our elevators have non-proprietary parts that allow for flexibility and shopping of maintenance contracts. This can be a significant savings over time. Our elevators also come with a one-year initial maintenance contract that can be shopped if the customer is not satisfied with the service.
For all the above reasons, the prospective customer felt buyer’s remorse. We may have lost the first bid, but we gained a life-long customer in the process. Hopefully, you will skip the pain of overpaying and start with a modular elevator from Phoenix Modular Elevator.