Recently on an elevator modernization job undertaken by the Phoenix Modular Elevator’s service team, some artifacts from the 1920’s were discovered. Not only was there a rack of tools from nearly 100 years ago, but diodes, relays, chains and gears that looked better suited for the set of a Frankenstein movie rather than an elevator machine room. Even our well-seasoned crew leader at the site was stunned enough to snap a few shots before work began.
This real old elevator and machine room faithfully gave service from 1926 to present, but finally gave up the ghost. Many would attribute that kind of longevity to the simple design. There were not many bells and whistle on elevators in the Roaring Twenties. Others would say that craftsmanship and attention to detail were the key and that just doesn’t exist anymore in this age of mass production and plastic. But a more likely answer is the owner and elevator service company had a long-term commitment to service. We see hundreds of elevators each year and commitment to service seems to be the biggest difference between the elevators that have a long life and those that don’t.
But unfortunately service is starting to take a backseat in some respects.
Years ago in the elevator industry, the standard was monthly service. Every time the calendar flipped to a new page or month you could expect the friendly elevator technician to show up and inspect, test, grease, adjust and oil. Hands got dirty and wrenches were turned. With this elevator that meant the technicians were committed and cared for this venerable old mechanism, made evident by the longevity of the elevator itself.
Currently the standard is not monthly in most maintenance contracts as defined by the bigger companies. Wiggle words have started creeping into contractual language and now “monthly” has evaporated from the lexicon and has been replaced by the term “periodic”. Even in a circumstance where the customer had the definition of periodic in the contract changed to be defined as monthly the elevator company tried to only show up when they wanted. When the elevator mechanic didn’t show up as expected the customer fought and won but that is a battle few undertake. The customer that argued the terms of their agreement was hoping the elevator in their building would surpass the usual 25 years of service and give a lifetime of reliability, like the one we recently modernized.
All they really need is great, consistent maintenance and little luck. Eighty years later Phoenix Modular Elevator may have another modernization to do and whoever is around then can marvel at the technology from 2018.