Ask any handyman, shade tree mechanic, do-it-yourself-er, or even professional and they will say that using the right power tool or hand tool for the right job makes all the difference. If you have ever tried to take lug nuts off with a pipe wrench you know what I mean and the wrong type of screwdriver can give you bloody knuckles, a massive headache, or worse.
But finding the right tool isn’t as easy as it sounds. After all there are over 30 different types of drivers used to turn screws from the simple Frearson to the familiar Phillips, the Dzus to the 12-spline flange. Fortunately, there are also over 20 different kinds of hammers for beating a screw in if you have misplaced your favorite Pozidriv driver or stripped out the head.
What is even more maddening is when someone intentionally hides the tools you need, making your job even harder, if not impossible. In many respects that is the tactic of big elevator companies. They have essentially been hiding tools from you and playing keep away with them, making working on your elevator very difficult or impossible. This is done by creating software tools crucial to elevator operation, diagnosis and testing, and making them proprietary. In other words if you want to have work done on your elevator you often have to use a specific software program that only they have and they will not let you borrow it or buy it.
If more people knew that was part of the deal, they would very likely have never agreed to install an elevator requiring proprietary tools in the first place. But, big elevator companies know that keeping the initial cost of the elevator low is how they get jobs and the buyer is usually looking at the cost of the unit sold, not the cost of ongoing maintenance.
Imagine if that took place with a car purchase. The price is right and even lower than comparable vehicles and it looks great in the brochure, but in the fine print a lopsided maintenance agreement is included, saddling you with a monthly charge whether you need the maintenance or not. Then without prior notice the cost of the agreement goes up and then up again. When you are finally able to extricate yourself from the deal, the car company holds on to the tools like the firm grip of death so no one else can work on your car. The result is that over time, your car is vanquished to the confines of the garage as tires go flat or brakes start to squeal unless you reinstate the atrocious agreement that you just got out of. Wisely, you would never stand for that. But that is very often what happens with elevators.
What consumers usually don’t know is often the elevator maintenance agreements are far more lucrative than the elevator sale itself. Big elevator companies understand that coming in lowest on the bid or cost estimate not only nets them a tidy profit from the elevator sale, but usually 25 years of income on maintenance. So to keep winning bids and wooing prospects, they generally keep the unit sales price down, maintenance costs up, and the proprietary tools often lock you in “or else”.
Some will say that I am exaggerating or just plain, old “making stuff up”. They insist that there is no way a company would prefer non-functional elevators to possibly losing a dime and that they would not intentionally harm the buyer of the elevator by keeping needed tools from them.
Well, guess again, because when I say intentional, I am not exaggerating! In Berks County Pennsylvania they had to learn the hard way when Otis Elevator was so determined to keep the tools out of the hands of a customer, that it took a court order from a federal judge to get the necessary tools. Finally, after legal wrangling and the judge’s involvement, Otis Elevator Company handed the tool over. As usual, Otis fought tooth and nail. Their intention, made clear in court documents strongly appeared to allow elevators to sit inoperable because they wanted to deliberately prevent the county from getting their hands on the tool for the elevator the county owned. Yes the county should have read the fine print, but this practice needs to be more widely known.
Usually these blogs end in a ray of sunshine with a list of to-do’s to help prevent costs or to assist in keeping your elevator running smooth as silk. But this time the list is very short.
My advice: never, under any circumstances, buy an elevator that contains proprietary parts or requires proprietary software tools to program or diagnose. All of the major elevator manufacturers can supply non-proprietary controllers with their packages, if you specify as much. If you are part of the bidding process, realize that the low bid is not always the best choice and maybe just the “come on” to trap you in a contractual hell. To combat this, always figure the bid to include 25 years (life of the elevator) maintenance cost estimate into the final projection. Make sure to read the fine print and include the automatic increases. Also, if you are looking at buying a building with an elevator; my advice: never buy one with an elevator that contains proprietary parts and tools. Because if you do, you could have Bigg Elevator holding all the cards in the form of proprietary tools.