elevator-repairJerry Seinfeld does a bit about the exorbitant prices that are charged for everything that is sold in airports. To quote he says, “Do the shop owners really not know how much this stuff costs everywhere else in the world?” I’ve always wondered the same thing and never understood why so many people are willing to get ripped off everyday to keep these crooks in business. A six ounce container of Chobabi yogurt for $2.99 in the Atlanta airport is out and out robbery but legal in the area behind the TSA security check point through which no food or drinks are allowed to pass … as if anyone could ever hijack an airplane with a ham sandwich.

This major rip off is perpetrated every day because once you have passed through the x-ray machines and/or body scanners and the “Legal Shakedown” is over you are a captive consumer with a very limited number of choices to obtain the sustenance that is needed during a long day of travel by air.

So what you might be thinking does this have to do with the elevator industry? Well it’s all about having choices! Without which you are certain to get ripped off.

On high-rise projects all of the major multi-national elevator companies are usually considered to do the elevator installation work and there is no doubt that there will be at least three or more bidders that have been pre-approved by the projects’ architects and their elevator consultants. And on publicly funded projects, in some cases there may be four or more elevator companies competing. Under these conditions no one ever questions whether or not the bidders will be capable of performing the needed work and these projects will be competitively bid. However on some elevator modernization projects consultants’ specifications only allow proposals to be taken from one pre-approved elevator equipment manufacturer preventing their clients from obtaining competitive bidding and creating a situation that is not unlike the food vendor situation in airports.

There is no doubt that the pre-approval process of numerous elevator equipment suppliers can be tedious, however it is essential to assure that the money spent on elevator equipment is done so wisely and that the bidding process is conducive to a situation where building owners and managers will get the most for their money.

There are numerous non-proprietary controller manufacturers of equal stature and capability in the elevator industry yet we are still seeing a number of elevator specifications that list only one manufacturer as being pre-approved to supply the control equipment. And this is particularly the case on high-rise modernization projects, which according to industry analysts are likely to be required on tens of thousands of units a year during the coming decade.* That’s a lot of equipment and a lot of money that will have to be spent by elevator equipment owners. The more choices they have the more likely it will be that their money will be wisely spent.

It’s a spec writer’s privilege to develop their specifications around one manufacturers equipment on privately funded projects where their clients may be willing to pay the additional cost that will come with a single sourced product, however, on publicly funded projects this is in violation of “the public trust.” When spending public money to upgrade elevators, competitive bidding of elevator equipment is essential and bids should be taken from at least three companies. To do otherwise is, as Seinfeld has also lamented, “ripping everyone off,” which is not what any specification writer should be striving for.

Competition is also good for the equipment manufacturers as well as the installation and modernization contractors. Competition keeps organizations on their toes and encourages them to find better ways to do things as well as to constantly improve the products and services that they provide. But most of all it gives the equipment owners the choices that they need to be sure that they will have the opportunity get the best elevator installation and/or modernization that they can for their money and for the occupants of their buildings.

Competition is good for everyone and this can only be obtained if you make sure that you always have choices.

*It is estimated that of the 900,000 elevators in operation in the US, 65% of them are in excess of 25 years of age. If these units are upgraded during the next ten years we may be looking at nearly 60,000 units a year that will be in need of modernization.

Robert S. Caporale, MSc

Robert S. Caporale is the Vertical Transportation Editor for High Rise Facilities. He has over 50 years of experience in the Building Vertical Transportation industry working as a VT System Designer, Certified Elevator Inspector (QEI) and as the Editor of Elevator World Magazine.