Lerch Bates Inc. Building Insight

Global Leaders in Technical Consulting for the Building Industry

(GOBS) Going Out of Business Soon

“Non-Proprietary” is a misnomer. “Proprietary” or “Non-Proprietary” is a term that is used improperly in the elevator industry.  Webster defines proprietary as:

  • Ownership of a right to something
  • Protected by copyright
  • Made by a person having special rights

By definition all elevator controls are “proprietary.”  Each manufacturer has ownership of the software code in the controller, their design is protected by patent, and only their company has right to make the product.  This applies to the international elevator companies as well as the local independent control suppliers.  Regardless of the OEM, any changes to the control logic must be done by the original equipment manufacturer.  Honestly this is needed to protect the riding public from an unqualified person making wrong changes to the software code.

So, since all controls are proprietary, the question should really be “Are the controls maintainable by someone other than the manufacturer?”  A “maintainable” controller is one that has:

  • Diagnostic interface
  • Parts Availability
  • Service Support

All available to the Purchaser and/or their selected maintenance company.  When these are denied then the product is non-maintainable and the owner feels hostage to the manufacturer.  But this feeling does not equate to “proprietary” and it should not be projected on all companies making these products.  The captor is simply engaging in bad business practices, and for that our industry needs a new term…I suggest we coin something catchy like “GOBS” (Going Out of Business Soon).

MRL elevators

MRL

Say it. M – R – L.  Learn it. Know it.  Believe it.  Embrace it.

MRL is the accepted industry acronym for the latest, most widespread innovation in elevator technology.  MRL is short for Machine Room Less.  The innovative feature that makes the MRL possible is a compact, energy efficient, permanent magnet synchronous motor (PMSM) gearless machine.  Gearless has traditionally referred to those monstrous, expensive, high speed machines that move elevators in high rise buildings from 500 to 2000 fpm.  But these new machines are much more compact, more energy efficient, much smaller, and as a result, can be installed within the elevator hoistway, eliminating the need for an overhead machine room.

The MRL has replaced the traditional geared machine type traction elevator that has dominated the mid rise elevator market, from 5-15 floors, for over 50 years and provides elevators at speeds of 200-500 fpm.  The MRL is also making a significant dent in the market for higher rise hydraulic elevators.  Where it was previously not unusual to see hydraulic elevators used in 5 or 6, even 7 stop applications where there was low to moderate use, the MRL now dominates.  The high costs of drilling for hydraulic jacks as well as the large motor size and high energy demands of hydraulic elevators make the MRL an attractive alternative.  The MRL is much more energy efficient and provides superior ride quality and overall performance than hydraulic elevators.

Do not be deceived, however, into thinking that there are no equipment room requirements.  Here in the US, elevator codes continue to require a separate fire rated enclosure, basically an electrical closet, to house the elevator controller.  The good thing is, this room can be located remotely from the elevator, up to 150 or more, depending on the manufacturer.  In European applications, the codes actually allow the control equipment to be located within the elevator hoistway, making the euro version a true Machine Room Less elevator.

But to call it “new” is a bit of a misnomer.  The use of MRLs has been growing steadily in US markets over the past 10 years, but has been a staple of European elevator markets for much longer.  The long and arduous process of revising US codes and meeting US size standards (SUPERSIZED) have slowed the introduction of the MRL in US markets.

All of the major elevator manufacturing companies now have an MRL product available in virtually all US markets.  Because the US product is relatively young, it continues to change.  Each company has come up with its own MRL solution, and has responded to the competition by modifying their designs to be competitive.

One of the difficulties in applying MRLs to the US market is the vast differences between the different manufacturers.  Otis has aptly named their MRL the GEN2, indicating the 2nd generation of elevators.  Whereas, in the past, an elevator was an elevator, the MRL has changed all that.  Traditional gearless, geared and hydraulic elevators have nearly the same structural, electrical and architectural requirements, regardless of the manufacturer. It was easy to design a building with elevator hoistways and machine rooms that can accommodate the products of multiple manufacturers, making it a very competitive marketplace and giving buyers plenty of options.  But now, because of this drastic change in elevator design (2nd generation,) and because each manufacturer has its own MRL solution, there are potentially significant differences between the products of different companies.  This makes the task of architects and consultants a bit more difficult and can limit competition and result in higher costs.

But make no mistake, the MRL is here to stay.  Every day there are more and more manufacturers of components that can be assembled into an MRL, and several manufacturers now offer a complete MRL package to independent elevator companies that can compete with the big boys.  And as this technology continues to evolve, the differences between the various manufacturers will continue to disappear, and more non-standard applications are becoming possible.  This is good news for designers and consultants, and more importantly, for buyers, who increasingly have options that offer the many advantages of the MRL.

Are Healthcare Insurance Costs the Real Problem?

As an operational and design professional, I have provided expertise which enables our healthcare clients to reduce operational costs and improve operational efficiencies. For the past thirty years, and working with hundreds of healthcare clients, I have found that pharmaceutical and medical/surgical supply costs represent a greater percentage of operational expenses than healthcare insurance.

This belief was strengthened after attending a recent healthcare conference. At this national healthcare conference, a well know healthcare speaker noted the current costs associated with hospital operations.  Costs were broken down into several categories and included:

Hospital operational costs, including such areas as:

  • Equipment Lease Costs
  • Supplies Costs (Medication, Med. / Surg. Supplies, etc.)
  • Physician Related Costs
  • Laboratory Testing Related Costs
  • Insurance Costs

This keynote speaker also noted that supplies represented the greatest opportunity to reduce operational healthcare costs and not healthcare insurance. I believe that our government should be challenging the healthcare industry to control supply and not insurance costs.

We should be improving healthcare operational processes in many areas: clinical operations, support service operations, procurement operations, physician practices, vendor relationships, business office procedures, etc.  Improving the economic performance of these areas has more potential than reforming the healthcare insurance industry.

How Does Your Organization Spell I T ?

Hiring a third party firm to audit your IT organization is beneficial, or perhaps essential,  if you feel you are not leveraging your resources to drive your business forward.  Our strategic objective for IT is to position our resources to pull the organization forward with enabling and creative processes, while using hardware, software and applications to add value to our deliverables.  Our IT history was reactive with inadequate support to challenges that were essential to our core business.  We were hurting ourselves through inadequate IT capabilities.

Small organizations often do not have qualified management resources to identify fundamental IT challenges and implement appropriate solutions. If this sounds familiar, reach out to a fully qualified third party IT support organization capable of assisting you in the following ways:

  • Root cause analysis of specific issues,
  • Developing a project team with a focused task approach,
  • Designing the right network solutions,
  • Directing appropriate hardware and software purchases,
  • Overseeing the corrective action process,
  • Avoiding unnecessary downtime during transition,
  • Avoiding unnecessary investments,
  • Completing the entire process in minimal time.

Assessing the various IT support organizations and selecting the best fit can be challenging. Begin with a well prepared RFP and network in the local business community to identify qualified providers that are well suited for your size and type of firm.  Interview candidates and question them in depth to understand their proposals and enable you to select the best partner firm.  Price should not be the primary factor in selecting an IT support organization.  This will become very clear when you drill down into the contrasting solutions offered by the various bidders.  Trust your gut instinct as to which firm offers the best solution and is the right fit for your organization at a suitable price.

Once hired, it is essential the third party firm be closely monitored and managed, and held precisely accountable for the project work for which they have been hired.  This investment has the potential to be an enormous enabler for your company if the process is a close collaboration to deliver the planned result.  Left to deliver results without both support and scrutiny of a third party auditor, your IT firm will likely disappoint with inadequate results.  A moderate investment to audit your IT organization through a third party company may well return multifold benefits and reduce opportunity costs which were previously not quantified.

What company can afford to have their IT department provide mediocre support?  Leverage IT as a strategic resource to drive the company forward!