The demise of the hydraulic elevator was forecast with the introduction of the MRL traction elevator about 20 years ago; In spite of this new design conveyance, the hydraulic elevator is again beginning to thrive in the US market. The threat of replacement by the MRL traction elevator is now waning. Hydraulic elevators are still viewed by many within the industry as the best selection for many buildings, in most applications for travel of 50 feet and less, the hydraulic elevator will perform as well as a traction elevator. However, speed and travel is a limiting factor.
With new cylinder and well hole designs. the hydraulic elevator is expected to last longer than ever. The environmental risks and concerns are lessened with the encapsulation of the cylinder and the use of the cylinder liner and bulkhead. The initial construction cost is less than an MRL alternative. The operating costs are less than anticipated.
Construction: The conventional hydraulic elevator installation usually sells for about 35% less than the competing design MRL Traction elevator.
Energy: The pump motor in a hydraulic elevator is only energized when the car is running in the up direction. When the car is in the down direction only the low voltage solenoid valve is energized, resulting in a virtual zero cost to operate.
Preventive Maintenance: Hydraulic elevators are usually less costly to maintain. A typical four stop hydraulic elevator costs about 25% to 30% less per year for a "full maintenance" service when compared to a traction elevator.
Now let's look at a maintenance service program for a hydraulic elevator from the service contractor's point of view. What starts off as a good deal for everyone, begins to sour. Even when the contractor receives an increase in the service price each year, the aging equipment, deterioration of the oil and need for frequent parts replacement causes increased callback and repair time. This cycle begins to erode the profit margin of the contractor along with the customer level of trust and satisfaction.
Call Back Maintenance: (Hydraulic and Traction) In fact, this service area has become an additional revenue stream for the contractor when service call backs are not covered by the service contract, or the overtime portion is billed to the customer. To some contractors, increased unscheduled callback time is not an additional labor cost because the route mechanic is expected to complete the route service along with callbacks responded to during the month. To meet the demand of service calls on the route the contractor has to allow sufficient time for servicing the elevator. This flawed concept results in frustrated mechanics and added revenue for the company. The company still receives the payment from the customer. However, the many negatives of methodology are hidden in the form of opportunity costs to the owner and contractor. What is this doing to the contractor's overall reputation? What about the degradation of the equipment? These are real costs, consider why the rental car industry services their vehicles every time they are returned.
Litigation Cost: Under the "call back" service program noted above; how many liability claims is the contractor forced to defend against claims for improper operation of the elevator? This methodology has resulted in increased litigation and liability insurance costs for the contractor and industry.
Maintenance Control Plan (MCP): A program modeled after the automobile and aviation service standards. There are many new service technology ideas for keeping an elevator in top operating condition. so how do we deliver this to the customer? The issue is delivering adequate service time to perform the good maintenance protocols. The ASME A.17.1 2013 Code for the Maintenance Control Plan (MCP) is emerging as the new standard for prescribed elevator maintenance. The program includes the details for each service task to be performed. The programs are available for both owner and contractor.
Points to Ponder: How much more effective could a technician be when servicing accounts with fewer callback interruptions? How much better quality effort could be delivered to the customer when a service visit takes place? How would the public perception of the service contractor be with their fleet of elevators operating efficiently, and without noise, leveling and reliability issues? How predictable would the replacement of parts be? Accurate predictions would result in more efficient and reliable uptime. Would reliability command a premium service price in most hydraulic and traction markets? The MCP program can produce a higher level of customer satisfaction. The contractors that are looking for 10, 20 years plus, or; "lifetime" contracts can realistically offer this custom service program to premium clients.
Michael Fagan, QEC is a nationally recognized Elevator Consultant with over 50 years of industry experience in elevator Design, Construction, Modernization, Maintenance, and Repair. As a Managing Partner at JSG Elevator, Mr. Fagan interfaces with Federal, State, and Local governmental agencies and universities, owner representatives, architects, managing agents, and elevator code authorities in the locations of operations, new product availability, and reliability research.
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