Lerch Bates Inc. Building Insight

Global Leaders in Technical Consulting for the Building Industry

End of An Era

We were recently visited by a major elevator company to give us an update on their products.  These types of visits typically include product updates, new developments, and personnel changes.  But this particular company also gave notice that they were discontinuing one of the industries stallworths – their “GD1 & GD2” geared traction machine.  Whilst this is not mainstream news it does feel like an industry milestone that should not pass without mention.

Why the End of An Era?  In the mid ’90s the machine-room-less (MRL) elevator was introduced to the U.S. market.  Within 15 years it has become the standard.  Over these 15 years we have observed an excellent and fierce competition between manufacturers – component innovations, product positioning, price wars, political influencing, and a few design flaws…and we even heard faint shouts of “get a horse.”   But there was always a fallback plan – the geared traction elevator.  But the momentum of innovation could not be stopped, and the fallback plan is no more.  Economics defines product lifecycles, and eventually manufacturers will choose to outsource vs. make when the lifecycle nears its end.  And when one of the world’s top three manufacturers chooses to buy geared machines because its geared sales are limited then we know that we are at the end of the lifecycle.

In 2007 geared elevators accounted for 20% of the traction elevator market, in 2008 that figured dropped to 11%.  No doubt, when the 2009 numbers are tallied, the percent will be even less.  Applications will be limited to custom designs or sales won by contractors who outsource to independent manufacturers.  There will always be a place for the inefficient geared machine, but as time passes, they will be less and less.

Cityscape Abu Dhabi

This year I attended the Cityscape Abu Dhabi, April 18 – 21st. It was an elaborate show that showcased the future development of the Abu Dhabi. The show floor was crammed full of booths showcasing the vision of the region’s most prominent developers.

Each booth included models of tall office and residential towers, hotels and villas, which outlined the developer’s vision of a new and modern Abu Dhabi. Some of the world’s most prominent architecture firms were also in attendance to promote their ability to design and create the new structures.

Attendance at the show the first day was light; many blamed it on the ash cloud that had brought most of Europe to a standstill the day before. In the coming days attendance increased with many local business people in attendance.

On two occasions, the highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his entourage attended the show reviewing each developer’s plan for the future. We received a communication on Tuesday that stated “Showing respect to Arabic cultural tradition and Islamic values, and by special request, Cityscape Abu Dhabi announce entry to the exhibition Exclusively for Ladies Only from 3pm – 8pm on Wednesday 21st April.”

“Whilst male exhibitor personnel are permitted to be present on their stands, in line with this initiative we respectfully request that male staff are kept to a minimum.”

“This initiative will gives local businesswomen who feel more comfortable dealing with other like-minded women, the perfect opportunity to visit the exhibition.”

This was a unique cultural event that we had not planned on.  Traffic during the “Ladies only” was time was light, with the exception of when the Sheikh attended the show with his mother. Both are considered royalty and the locals responded to their appearance at the show with the same excitement that you would see at a Hollywood premier.

Supply Storage in Healthcare Facilities

Proper supply storage in healthcare facilities help to increase work efficiencies and decrease nursing and materials management workloads.

Supply storage options in Healthcare facilities can include pallet racks, flow racks, standard and wire shelving, horizontal and vertical carousels, specialized wall bins, nurse servers or automated dispensing machines. How do you know which options to use within your facility? The determination of which option to use is easier than you think. First, establish the criteria that will be used to make your decision. We would recommend first to identify the different type of storage locations within your facility. These areas include patient room, decentralized clean utility room, centralized supply room, surgery, emergency, materials management and warehouse. Different supply areas will have different needs and thus require different equipment. (A Supply Chain manager would not put pallet supply racks in a decentralized clean utility room). Build a matrix to indicate which storage options are appropriate for each supply area. Click the link below to see an example of a storage chart matrix.

Supply Storage Chart

Please note that the cells containing a red dot indicate where the storage option is appropriate for that hospital operation.

The second criteria for deciding the appropriate storage option is using a financial analysis model to evaluate the cost impact of alternative under consideration. (An example is evaluating standard shelving, wire shelving, wall bins or automated dispensing machines for central supply rooms.) The financial model would take the following costs into consideration:

  • Labor (Supply Chain Technicians, Nurses, etc.)
  • Restocking
  • Equipment
  • Leasing
  • Inflation
  • Associated Construction
  • Repair and Maintenance

A life cycle costing model will indicate which option has the greatest financial justification. The third, and last, criteria is how flexible is the configuration of the storage option. Some facilities use built-in shelving and bins since these areas will not be remodeled. However, housekeeping becomes more difficult trying to reach under the lowest shelves. In addition, built-in units do not have the ability to adjust shelving up or down. Both of these issues do not arise when using mobile (wheeled) shelving.

Destination Control Observations

The latest and the greatest elevator innovation that is available on high end elevator control systems is Destination Control.  All of the major manufacturers of elevator control systems have their own version of Destination Control.   Schindler Elevator had the first installation in our market and leads the pack in total number of units, though Otis is not far behind.

Destination Control is available on both modernizations and new installations.  We are completing our first modernization project with destination dispatching control in the San Francisco office and I want to offer some of my observations:

First of all, while learning to use destination systems is very intuitive to the everyday user, the way in which the elevator control system actually assigns the calls is not necessarily so.  These systems have so many possible settings, and more and more are being added every day, that the technicians installing them often have only a basic understanding of the systems capabilities.  That’s not a knock on these guys.  Even the expert adjusters are discovering new wrinkles.

The systems use complicated algorithms and calculations to determine which car to assign to any given call and how to group calls together.  That does not mean that the first call entered will necessarily be the first call answered.  It also does not mean that a call will necessarily be answered in what seems to be the most logical way.
Let me provide an example:  the High Rise elevator group in this building has five cars, one of which doubles as a service car and provides service to one floor above and one floor below the levels served by all other cars in the group.  Destination Control is ideal for this type of application because there are, in effect, no hall calls, but only car calls.  If you want to travel to the 31st floor and there is only one car that serves the 31st floor, then the system knows which car can answer your call and sends that car to pick you up.  In a conventional two button system, you have only a one in five chance of getting the car that will take you to the 31st floor unless special controls are provided.

However, if you want to go from the first floor to the lower level, we’ll call it floor  0 (zero), and there are other calls in the system when you are picked up, the destination system may decide to take you all the way to 31 before taking you to 0.   I’m not entirely sure why this happens, and neither is the technician on the job, but I believe it has something to do with the elevator system trying to provide the overall best average “time to destination” and your short run from 1 to 0 just does not meet the necessary requirements.

There are adjustments that can be made to the system to prevent this from happening, since it doesn’t seem logical to take you all the way to the top of the building before going to just one level down.  But then, some other setting is changed, and you have another issue to deal with, such as the system telling you, “Sorry, no car available.  Try your call again.”  And in fact, the system can be programmed to say exactly that, or any other way you want to tell the passenger that they are out of luck, at least for the moment.

The possibilities of Destination Control seem to be endless.  One cool feature is VIP Service.  For that extra special tenant, you can provide a special code which, when entered, will assign a single car to that call and will take no other calls, thus giving Mr. VIP an express ride, all alone, to his desired destination.

But in the Post 9/11 era, probably the most popular feature of Destination Control systems is the ability to interface with card readers and building security systems to not only control, but monitor, who is going where.

By the time you read this, there are probably new possibilities, and most certainly new experiences with Destination Control.  Please share.

Welcome to Building Insight

We have a new blog space to go along with recent enhancements to our website.  We’re really proud of the evolution of our web site and now I expect to see a similar development in social media, beginning with our Lerch Bates Building Insight blog.

Building Insight should open up communications with people in the building industry interested in connecting with Lerch Bates on a completely open spectrum of topics.  We feel that there are many different forms of communication to connect with our clients and other interested parties and we hope you take advantage of connecting with us.  Some topics I hope to engage others with include: economic future projections, building industry technological advancements, corporate social responsibility, employee ownership, global project collaboration, landmark iconic projects, etc.

Thank you for visiting with us and we hope you come back often and help build dialog around our industry.

Bart Stephan