8 Questions to Ask When Vetting an Elevator Company

JW Moore Uncategorized

Finding the best elevator company for your project or existing system is not always an easy task. Therefore, we laid out these questions that should help you make a wise decision.

How long have you been in business?

When it comes to elevator installations, repairs, modernization and maintenance, technical knowledge & expertise is very important. Therefore, knowing how long an elevator company has been in business will give you a very good idea and an understanding of their experience and industry knowledge.  The elevator industry will teach a new lesson every day an we use lessons today that we learned 20 years ago.  That lesson may keep your elevator from going down.  Use someone with experience.

What is your area of expertise?  Commercial / Residential / Upgrades / Niche Industries

Most elevator companies have their “go to” type of projects. Whether it’s commercial, residential, or a particular type of facility (i.e. hotels, warehouses, office buildings, etc.) find out the type of projects that they’re comfortable with; then make sure that it aligns with your project.

Can you show me some examples of your work?

It’s been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so being able to see their completed work gives you an understanding of their design capabilities, as well as their experience.

The question I would ask is what are some of your most reliable installations and how were they designed?  An elevator system can look like just another elevator but be much different behind the walls and in the machine room. Elevators with a long history of reliability is who I would want in my building.

What is your discovery and design approach and process?

Each elevator company has a different approach to how they handle new inquires.  Ask them about their process in order to gain insight and understand if their process is in alignment with yours.

You have to ask the long-term questions.  How long do you want to have this elevator in service with the ability be serviced?  You can’t buy an elevator like you do a refrigerator where you take the entire thing out and replace it in 10 years.  Elevators are integrated in a building and should be designed with the ability to be maintained. 

What good does it do to have the latest design of a product that is going to be abandoned in 5 years?  This is what is being pushed when major manufacturers offer their latest R&D with their shareholders need for a return on investment, so they offer it to the market for installation before it has a track record.  In 3 years when they begin to see it costs too much to maintain it they abandon it and move on.  Meanwhile the building owner is married to what is installed.

We have a history of installing products that have a track record of performance which makes us late adopters, but our installations run longer.

Are your parts proprietary?

This is important to know because proprietary parts limit your options for repairs & maintenance, down the road.  I love my Apple iPhone. However, if I need service, updates, or parts, my only option is to go through Apple to get what I need. It’s a similar situation when using elevator companies that use proprietary parts and require special tools to work on their equipment. 

In reality this is a safety issue.  If a product that carries people throughout a building has the risk of being shut down for a length of time simply because you are limited on support options this is, by design, a safety risk.  What if someone who is handicap cannot access to the needed floor simply because the owner is “locked out” from being able to have their elevator repaired unless they pay the highest price (ransom) for their service.

What service/maintenance options do you offer?

The first step is understanding what’s important to you.

  • What are my legal obligations to owning and using and elevator?
    • Annual testing, documentation, record of maintenance in the event you are visited and audited by your local inspector.
  • After that how critical is the elevator to your operation?
    • Will I lose tenants or business if my elevator is down?
    • If the elevator goes down, how does that impact you?
  • Is a known expenditure for the elevator (each year) critical?
    • Do I want a fixed budget, or do I want to pay as I go when repairs are needed?

There are typically 2 types of agreements; limited service and full service. 

  • A limited service contract normally covers planned visits and gives you a reduced billing rate on additional service calls requested.  It’s also less expensive per payable term (i.e. monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.)
  • A full-service contract normally covers all, or almost all issues.  Planned visits are included, as are most callbacks (overtime calls may be included or excluded).  Because parts are typically covered, as well as labor on callbacks, it’s more expensive per payable term.
  • Buying trends have created another type of service that covers general service calls but wishes to pay or repairs on a pay as you go approach.  This comes in many forms and changes based on the service company.
  • If your equipment is proprietary which is sold by the major brands you will pay much more since it is limited in who can service it, by design.  Its not necessarily more advanced since people simply want to get to the next floor safely and reliably.  You don’t have to have a special design to accomplish this.  You just need a good design.

Make sure that you have a clear understanding of the elevator company’s service agreements, as well as their maintenance plans. Read the fine print around their parts to understand what might be proprietary and/or difficult to obtain.  You’ll want to understand what’s covered under your agreement and what’s excluded (additional expenses you may incur).

What is your response time in the event of an outage or emergency?

If your elevator or lift is critical to you (or your customers), you need to feel confident your elevator service provider can take care of any issues in a timely manner.  Ask questions like: What is your average response time to an emergency call?  Who does the phone dial out to?  If it’s not you, how do I let you know there’s an issue?

Do you have any references?

This goes back to experience. If they don’t have a list of satisfied customers that you can talk with, be wary of partnering with them on your project.  However, if they have developed strong relationships with customers that like and trust them, that’s a green light to move to the next step.

If you need help in your vetting process or if you would like some clarification on any of these questions, please feel free to contact us.  We are here to help!

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