How to choose an Elevator Maintenance CompanyDoug Guderian
These are some of my personal observations and suggestions from many years of involvement in the elevator industry and in running elevator maintenance companies.
Consider using the manufacturer or installer of your elevator equipment as a maintenance provider
The manufacturer or installer of your equipment will have the best access to parts and technical support if the elevator is less than 5 to 10 years old. After that time, the expertise and availability of parts is usually more widespread. However, having access to parts and technical support does not necessarily mean that a local service provider will use those resources or that you will get good service. The level of service and support that you receive is usually more closely tied to the service philosophy of the individuals managing the local elevator service locations and to the tools and abilities of the local elevator mechanics. For older equipment, the manufacturer is often more interested in selling new equipment than in training their employees to continue to maintain the older equipment. For older or non-proprietary elevator systems, the same parts are available to most companies in the industry. In these situations, you want to find the company with the best mechanics, the best service management, the best local and truck parts stocking program and the best service philosophy and systems.
For these reasons, a good local elevator service company can often provide better maintenance and service than the manufacturer or installer during any part of the elevator’s life cycle. The companies that perform the elevator installations are often not the ones who are equipped to provide the best maintenance services.
Find the best local provider of elevator maintenance services
Talk to other local building owners and managers and ask them who they use and what their elevator maintenance experiences are like. When talking to the elevator company get references of other local buildings that they maintain. Be sure to get and follow-up on some references on buildings that have similar, or identical, equipment to yours. This will allow you to ascertain if the company has the expertise and support to maintain your elevator. Ask if the same local mechanic, the one for whom you received the positive reference, will be servicing your elevator. Ask questions about the expected performance relative to the performance criteria below. If you enter into a maintenance agreement, it is prudent to ensure that you have a way out if the maintenance company does not perform the services that they commit to.
Measure the performance of your elevator maintenance company in the following areas:
- Number of service calls per year. Most elevator companies track this statistic. A very good service company will have an average number of calls per elevator per year on their portfolio of less than 2. (Some even achieve about 1 call per elevator per year!) The average company aims for about 4 calls per year, but don’t usually even achieve this level of elevator reliability. There are also companies whose average service call count per elevator per year is 10 or higher. As you can see from these numbers, there is a very wide variation in the service performance of different companies. The good companies make it a priority to try to locate the root cause of the elevator malfunction, rather than just resetting the elevator and waiting for the same problem to resurface again.
- Number of chargeable calls per year. One of the factors that cause this number to vary considerably is the type of building. A student residence will typically have more elevator abuse and chargeable service calls than a retirement residence. The billing philosophy of the service company is another largely variable factor. Some companies will typically only have a chargeable service call on average every couple of years. Other elevator maintenance companies will try to charge for almost every service call regardless of what the cause was, or what should be covered in the maintenance contract.
- Typical cost of a service call. With a good elevator service company, 60 to 90% of the service calls can be corrected within 1 hour of on-site time. Many companies, however, have a minimum billing time of 2 to 3 hours. With typical industry hourly rates in the range of $175 to over $300 per hour in regular time, the charges can add up quickly. Also find out what the traveling time charges and expenses should be for your location. Ask about any other charges such as mileage, fuel surcharges environmental fees etc. With all of these variables, the minimum cost for a chargeable service call during regular working hours that takes only a few minutes on site could be as low as $200, or well over $1000 depending on the company you choose.
- Average number of TSSA directions. Sound elevator service companies average 1 or less TSSA directions per TSSA periodic inspection. Some of the less diligent companies regularly have 5 or more directions per periodic inspection by TSSA. The industry average has historically been between 2 and 3 directions per inspection report. There also seems to be a significant variation in the number of directions written from inspector to inspector. The good companies and the good elevator mechanics get to know the idiosyncrasies and preferences of the local inspector and make sure that the appropriate items get the extra attention that they need to save the elevator owner the costs of additional follow-up inspections from TSSA.
- Time to correct TSSA Directions. If the owner and contractor work together to complete their appropriate directions and communicate the completion to the inspector with the voluntary compliance form, the costs of a re-inspection by TSSA can often be avoided if the directions have a low severity rating. For directions not subject to voluntary compliance, they need to be completed within the time frame required, or they may be subject to triple fees for the Owner for the follow-up inspections by TSSA. The best maintenance companies have systems in place to help owners ensure that they can avoid the triple fees.
- Average number of TSSA shut downs. The average performance of mandated annual tests in Ontario become so poor that the TSSA has started shutting down elevators due to non-compliance. Exemplary elevator service companies average 1 or less TSSA shut-down per 100 TSSA periodic inspections. Some companies do not even bother scheduling required elevator tests until TSSA writes a direction or shuts an elevator down. The industry average is about 4 TSSA shut-downs per 100 TSSA periodic inspections and this number is climbing! It is the building owner’s responsibility to ensure that these mandatory periodic tests are being done. Ask your maintenance contractor to show you how you can monitor his work in the Log Book to ensure that your elevator is in compliance with the legislation. Ask if you will get a credit if the work is not done on time.
- Number of inspections. Many contractors do not even perform the required or contracted number of preventative maintenance inspections! Ask specifically how many preventative inspections will be performed on your elevator. Many maintenance agreements are cleverly worded to give the impression of monthly inspections, but don’t actually commit to a regular monthly inspection. The resulting service is often only 4 or less inspections per year. Again it is good to regularly monitor the contractor’s work in the Log Book to ensure that your elevator is in compliance with the legislation and that you are getting the inspections that you expect. Ask if you can get a credit for missed inspections. Also watch for the far-too-common practice of back-dating missed inspections. When comparing one contractor’s price to another, ensure that you are comparing the same number of preventative maintenance inspections.
- Elevator down time. Some companies typically arrive within hours or less for a service call and almost always have the elevator repaired in short order. Others do not respond as quickly and regularly leave the elevator down for a day or more waiting for parts. Some of the smaller manufacturing companies do not even provide service around the clock, 7 days a week! Ask what you can expect and then monitor the performance to see if it lines up.
For more information on keeping your elevator maintenance costs to a minimum, feel free to download our Whitepaper entitled “Top 6 Avoidable Costly Service Calls”