Inspection Company-Employeed Testing Mechanics “Conflict of Interest”

I’m sitting here at a conference listening to a chain inspection company inspector’s op-ed on the state of the inspection industry. Highlights include TEXAS INSPECTORS BAD and MAINTENANCE CONTROL PROGRAM BAD. And then we have INSPECTION COMPANY EMPLOYING TESTING MECHANIC BAD. Cue “conflict of interest” claims.

So let’s take a look at conflict of interest here.

Scenario A:
Inspector meets with Mechanic employed by elevator contractor. Mechanic is 30 minutes late (because duh). Mechanic has no idea how to perform test. Inspector is there to critique Mechanic’s work and (usually) Mechanic will have to fix any violations Inspector writes. Mechanic is best friend of Inspector’s son. Inspector and Mechanic check “the important things” (yes, I’ve heard that as codeword for phone and emergency light). Mechanic points out non-violation and asks for a vague write-up on open-order item. Inspector and Mechanic talk about lunch and continue on in ‘good ole boy’ network bliss. Inspection may or may not happen, depending on the integrity of the Inspector.

Scenario B:
Inspector and Mechanic (employed by inspection company) arrive at location. Mechanic knows ‘test flow’ and is familiar with testing process. Mechanic has no interest in Inspector generating a clean report because it’s not a reflection of his maintenance work. Mechanic does not repair violations because, again, has no interest in giving his boss a clean report card (is also not allowed to perform repair work). Mechanic has no interest in generating non-violation open order items on report. Inspection may or may not happen, depending on the integrity of the Inspector.

Unexplained opinions of ‘conflict of interest’ always hide some sort of agenda (ie my company doesn’t hire testing mechanics, my competition does, so they’re wrong and I’m right). The real factor is the integrity of the inspector. A bad inspector will not perform inspections with EITHER a mechanic employed by a contractor OR a mechanic employed by the inspection company.


Elevator Instagram. Elevatorgram.

Because that’s what everyone’s been waiting for. Right? Right??

Of all the social media crazes, I haven’t gotten into Instagram. Until now. I get to take some cool pictures as an inspector. I’ll put ’em up on instagram.com/elevatorgram. Follow elevatorgram. Go on, check it out. All the cool kids are doing it.



The Role of Data in the Elevator Industry

One of my hobbies is dreaming up creative and easy ways to collect and use data in the vertical transportation industry. I know, I need more hobbies. However, this fascination has given birth to a few tangible database solutions that I, with the help of my ever-present mentor, boss, and mother, Sheila Swett, have coded. One is projectQEI and I mentioned it in an earlier blog post. The other is something I call projectShop.

projectShop is a mobile database app that collects data for elevator shops. It comes in a few different flavors – that is, there are different versions that do things like create tickets and other versions that store and collect data for maintenance checkcharts and various other MCP-like data. My never-ending dissertation is actually based on the latter. I’m interested in the way that this collected data can be used. To do this, I needed a shop to run my program. Luckily, with the connections of aforementioned mentor, boss, and mother, I was able to introduce the app to the elevator shop foreman at the University of Alabama, Steve Lake. Steve had been in talks with the IT department on campus to get some type of program together that would help him collect and store the maintenance data for his 200+ units. Luckily I was able to meet the requirements Steve had for this app and by the end of 2012, each mechanic was inputting maintenance data on iPads. The data was then pushed to the cloud where it was visible for all authorized users. The data includes over 300,000 separate checks per year on the equipment on campus. Each item can be either 1) not checked, 2) checked and good, or 3) checked and bad.

Ok. I have all this data. What can I do with it? For starters, I can transmit any problems to the shop foreman instantly. The second the mechanic or student worker marks a maintenance item as “bad,” I can have the server send Steve an email with the details. Or a text. Or a phone call with an automated robot voice for that matter. Instant notification of problems in the field is super important to a speedy response. Instead of notifications, I built a list of “open items” for Steve – sort of a “to do” list. When he addresses the item and everything is fixed, he removes the open item from his to do list.

Let’s look at the big picture for a minute. The U of A shop has only been using projectShop for a little over a month. Fast forward two years. How about analyzing the frequency of lamp replacements in car emergency lights and how much time mechanics take addressing the issue? Is it time to choose a different manufacturer or install LED fixtures? Running a report on the frequency of replacement items per elevator. Is it time for a mod on a specific set of units? Spotting trends in failures of components and heading off those failures with targeted or specific preventative maintenance could also be a benefit. Instead of service records being stored on paper in binders on a shelf, databases can automate these types of reports and provide useful data almost instantly.

How else could this data be used to complement a complete maintenance plan?


World Trade Center 1 Escalator Being Hoisted to 101st Floor

Freedom Tower Escalator

click to enlarge

Just a neat pic taked from One World Trade Center of an escalator being hoisted up for installation on the 101st floor. WTC 4 is seen in the background.


On the Subject of Gibs.

Door gibs, specifically hoistway door gibs, have gotten a lot of attention over the last couple of years. With the prevalence of motorized scooters, the point of impact in a hoistway door strike in more and more cases has dropped to the bottom of the door, putting more force on the gibs vs. the hanger assembly. Also, the lateral force that can be created by these scooters is significant. When we spec heavy duty (colleges, etc) elevator systems, we always call for reinforced door gibs. SEES’ Enforcer is a great choice, claiming to be able to “handle over 18,000 lbs of force!”

At any rate, here is a scary, trash-chute door situation I came across last week during an inspection. (The fire tabs were also not bent down on the gib assembly)


Elevator Gore: A Sad Day for this Car Door (and Door Operator)

Damaged Elevator Car Door and Door Operator

That'll buff right out?

Elevator Company Blames: Physics, vandal trash bins

Real Cause: A disastrous cocktail of missing car door gibs and a homemade door restrictor (installed previously by the current elevator “maintenance” company).

We were called out to survey some damage done by, what the elevator contractor described as, vandalism by trash. According to the account, the building maintenance men STUFFED the elevator FULL of trash bins, got in the car with the trash, rode the car down, and (at some point) the trash bins forced the car door gibs out of the tracks and the door caught a landing sill which curled the car door up and over the door operator, destroying everything in the process.

Upon arrival, we located the missing car door gib in the pit lying under a few pieces of trash. There appeared to be no damage to the gib or the mounting bracket. The door (now located in the machine room) was lying helplessly on a pair of trash cans. Beside it was a piece of angle iron which served as the car door part of the car-door-vein-and-fascia-tab-type door restrictor. The holes where the gib mounting plate attached to the door looked perfect. There was no signs of pull or “volcano-ing” of the metal which would indicate a vandal trash can ripping the gibs off the car door with violent lateral force. This tell-tale sign was, however, on the holes connecting the door restrictor bracket to the door.

Our thoughts: The maintenance provider failed to maintain the car door gib until, one day, the thing just fell off. Or maybe it vibrated off. The door swung out during down travel, perhaps gently pushed by a trash can, and the restrictor (which had a right-angle corner and not an angle and which was also not retractable) hit the landing sill. Without the ability to “ramp away” from the landing sill and retract, the restrictor angle pushed the door up. The elevator stopped due to the gate switch being opened.

The response from the elevator company was entertaining. I was accused of “not understanding physics” by a sales guy. lol.


projectQEI – inspect. submit. done.

projectQEI logo

projectQEI is an iPad app for elevator inspectors that practically eliminates paper usage. It collects data and signatures (signed on the screen with a finger), generates and distributes reports via email, and electronically submits the inspection to the Authority Having Jurisdiction – all before the inspector leaves the site. This alerts maintenance companies of deficiencies on their units immediately after they are found while allowing small business owners (inspectors) to focus on inspecting instead of paperwork. The data/reports are stored real-time on the cloud and can be accessed via a mobile device or a website using a computer. The app also has extra features including built-in code references/calculations and charting to represent data.

projectQEI Charting

One of the charts automatically generated by projectQEI (don't worry, this chart represents multiple inspectors)

This app has consumed me for the last 7 months (see social life, eating habits). It started as a self-study course project in Database Design during my senior year of college. It was then that the database structure was created. The program was meant to be a web app that simply collected and stored data. At the time, the tablets on the market were not “ready” for the public. There were a few transformer-style laptops, but they proved to be much too heavy, expensive, bulky, developer unfriendly, and/or WAN-lackluster to be used as a true mobile tablet. It was only when the first generation iPad was introduced did it snap – I could actually use what I learned in school for my job. I dusted off my old SQL statements and began the process that resulted in the app you see today. I was lucky in that my mom owned an inspection company and I could use the app on her inspectors to field test it. I also inspected with it and became the most critical of it’s beta users. The other inspectors were very… opinionated as well. That’s a good thing, though, as it resulted in a fine tune that only an inspector’s input could offer. projectQEI truly is an app made for elevator inspectors, by elevator inspectors.

To check out a demo vid, visit www.projectqei.com


Marketing with the Elevator and Its Fans

An elevatorblog.com reader sent me a video today. While this reader works for a marketing company and probably (definitely) had other motive, I thought the video was cute. It’s an ad for Hampton Hotels and features TJ Elevator Fan and his love for riding and filming elevators. There are a few other guys out there on Youtube with this interesting hobby (a hobby I don’t particularly “get” because after a day of looking at elevators, I’m pretty sick of them), but TJ is my favorite elevator fan. His website is www.tjelevatorfan.com and he just got 2M hits, which is really cool.

The video is also well done and I’m a sucker for good editing/videography. Here’s to you, TJ Elevator Fan.


(Love the BA knuck tattoos @ 1:34)


Commercial Arrangements in “Weird” Elevator Installations

I rarely post about grad school work. Mostly because if I’m doing it, I don’t have a lot of time for anything else. But I’m here taking a break from a paper I’m writing on the commercial and contractual arrangements of an elevator installation. Boring, eh? But there’s a twist. This particular elevator is one that I’ve worked on in a case study earlier this year. In addition to doing the whole up and down thing, this little guy also moves a total of two feet from the front of the hoistway to the back of the hoistway. And this x-plane movement isn’t a nice continuous slope from floor 1 to 9, it only occurs after a completely vertical run of 7 floors. That’s right, we’ve got another Ottawa Peace Tower on our hands. Well, it’s not exactly like the Peace Tower job. This elevator doesn’t really have a reason to move horizontally. The architect put the landing sill of floor 9 two feet into the hoistway… just because. This would be a good opportunity for a tangent on architects and how they can still be the bane of the elevator consultant’s existence, even in times of theory. But I shan’t digress.

So here’s the inclined abomination. The two sets of rails are shown in green, there are two sets of offset roller guides, and a plethora of other engineering issues addressed with which I will not bore you (one of my sections was titled “The Fleet Angle Wrangle”). But that’s the gist.

The Inclined Abomination

Movin' on up (and back)

The safety code and engineering obstacles of the project have been conquered months ago and now it’s to the actual business side of things. This is a bit more complicated than it seems. Who would bid such a thing? Otis. That’s the answer. That’s it. Otis is almost always the one who will be trusted, able, and willing to at least attempt installations like this. The spec might as well be a love letter to Otis. It will go something like this: “Dear Otis, I want a totally impractical elevator installed. Please send my client a bill that will equal the total cost of the building itself. Love, an elevator consultant who has been beaten and held captive by an architect.” Not even mentioning the rail production difficulties, liability, and the fact that the brief ends with “the client has requested that costs be kept low.” HA.

While I love punishing brain cells by developing the critical path methods for impractical vertical transportation installation scenarios, I could think of a few better things to do. Like marketing my awesome new app for elevator inspectors, projectQEI, which you should totally check out and use for all your inspection needs – www.projectqei.com. Wow, would you look at that. At least something useful got done.


UNITED 2012 – Atlantic City

The elevator people of the world are in Atlantic City this week for the mega convention of the year – UNITED 2012. Made up of the four big North American professional organizations (NAEC, IAEC, NAESAI, and CECA), this is the place to be. AND it’s in Atlantic City, which is just plain fun. I’ve already hit the boardwalk, pier shops, and Borgata where I turned $200 in table play to… a buffet comp. Sweet.

I’m definitely looking forward to some great edu seminars, networking, and a fun show. President’s dinner tonight – let’s start this show!

Just wanted to throw in my opinion for the Best Booth Award.

Matot's Dumbwaiter with Beer-o-matic Attachment

Matot's Dumbwaiter with Beer-o-matic Attachment

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