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.