By Eric Lazear
Even seemingly small elevator issues can quickly impact an elevator’s safety and operations. Full breakdowns obviously cause downtime, impact the accessibility of your property, and potentially lead to costly repairs. Facility managers and executives can minimize the risk of breakdowns by engaging with a trusted provider for a regular, scheduled elevator maintenance plan to address the small issues that can lead to a potential future failure.
There is however another layer of preventative maintenance. By doing some simple checks and knowing what to watch out for, facility staff can be proactive and avoid unnecessary repairs over time. Elevators have many mechanical and electrical components to keep track of, so conducting a check can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.
This article highlights the main elements of a standard elevator system, and what to look for to ensure operations continue to run smoothly. It will also discuss how to know when a potential problem warrants a call to your elevator maintenance professional.
Elements Of A Standard Elevator System
A typical elevator has several key components: the cab interior, the cab exterior (including floor landings), the elevator pit, and the machine room or control room. Even with a regular maintenance plan, it’s a good process to review each element in between service visits.
The elevator cab interior is what most passengers think of as the “elevator” since it’s what they normally interact with. It is also an area where problems are typically easy to spot. The most common cause of service outages here is a problem with the doors, which are often caused or made worse by people propping the doors open or jamming items in the tracks. One simple way to reduce the occurrence of door issues is to remind users to never force the doors to remain open, but it’s also useful to routinely check the door tracks for obstructions—even small ones—that could cause damage over time.
Other cab interior checks that can take place on a regular basis include making sure both overhead and main button panel lights work, and testing the emergency phone to ensure it is operational, has clear sound—and, most importantly, is answered by the right person on the other end. All of these elements help ensure passenger safety and quick professional response in the event of an emergency.
After an interior check, take a look at each floor’s exterior landing. Just like with the cab’s interior, ensure that all call buttons and indicator lights are in working order. Look for dents or scrapes in the doors, which can often signify a bigger problem. Lastly, test any destination dispatch or secure elevator access systems you may have in the lobby, and remember to keep all elevator entrances clean and clutter-free.
Another key part of an elevator check is the journey experience, which can be tested by simply taking a ride from the ground floor to the top and back. Consider the following questions during the ride, and report any noticeable issues to your service professional:
● Is the ride smooth or bumpy, including stops and starts?
● Are there any noises or vibrations?
● Is there consistency of speed?
● Does any particular floor feel different when the elevator passes it?
When To Bring In Experts
For elevators that have a machine room, this will be located either directly above the elevator’s hoistway, or on the ground floor or basement of a building. Checks of the machine room should be left to qualified and certified service providers, since they contain major components like elevator controllers, pump units, motors, and generators. A facility operator should never interact with elevator machinery, but can help to keep the machine room in good shape for technicians by making sure the room is accessible, with no oil or water leaks, and with a temperature regulated at 50–70 degrees Fahrenheit.
The bottom of the hoistway is referred to as the elevator pit. It is located below the lowest floor and serves as the elevator’s foundation. For safety reasons, the pit should only ever be accessed by trained, qualified technicians equipped with the right safety equipment. If an item is dropped through the elevator door gap or if any garbage has accumulated in the pit, this should only be removed or retrieved by a technician. It is best practice to contact your provider as soon as you become aware of any items in the pit, to avoid potential interference with the elevator’s functionality in any way.
Regular, thorough maintenance will keep an elevator running properly. A good elevator service mechanic will also help make your onsite team aware of what a well-functioning elevator should look and sound like, and therefore make it easier to identify if something is out of place. If your facilities team notices anything unusual, it should be reported to the maintenance team as soon as possible. However, there are many components which only be inspected by professionals as part of a routine maintenance plan, such as cables and wiring. Your elevator maintenance company can properly check those parts of the cab that are not visible or accessible to a layperson, like the cab roof, hoistway, and emergency hatches.
By incorporating some of these simple assessments into your facility’s regular maintenance schedule, problems can be prevented or caught before they escalate—minimizing downtime, and maximizing the lifespan of your elevator and its components.
Lazear is Chief Revenue Officer at American Elevator Group (AEG), where he manages sales and business development programs across the AEG network of companies. With more than 40 years of solid experience in sales and operations, Lazear offers a practical perspective on elevator lifecycle management and cost-effectiveness to building and facilities managers.