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A New Generation Of Elevators And Escalators Move Beyond Reliability Toward Innovation

An elevator from Mitsubishi Electric

When people think of elevators, the first thing that likely comes to mind is when they were inconvenienced by one, whether it’s the elevator in their office building that always takes 10 minutes to arrive or the time they were stuck for hours. If people are talking about an elevator, they are usually complaining. 

“Everybody has an elevator or escalator story, and it’s usually not a positive one,” said Erik Zommers, senior vice president and general manager for Mitsubishi Electric’s Elevator and Escalator Division. “Through our quality offerings, we’ve been changing that.” 

The industry standard for callbacks — equipment failures that require repairs — can range from two to 15 calls per elevator per year. According to a report from Mitsubishi Electric US Inc., the cost of these incidents can be staggering. Monthly callback and repair fees can reach into the thousands of dollars, while concessions to guests/tenants to make up for rough rides or getting stuck in an elevator run up to $2K per incident. 

Along with these financial consequences, callbacks can cause serious damage to an owner’s ability to sell the building or retain tenants. Zommers explained that a history of frequent elevator failures will be reflected in a building’s records and may reduce the price a buyer is willing to pay. On top of that, when tenants get fed up from dealing with faulty elevators, they will often either start searching for new office space or use it as a negotiating tool for rent concessions. 

“The impact of unreliable elevators on a building’s bottom line can be devastating,” Zommers said. “This is why Mitsubishi Electric is dedicated to delivering the most reliable elevators in the market.”  

Today, Zommers said, Mitsubishi Electric’s electric traction elevators average less than one callback per elevator per year. The company accomplishes this through a rigorous engineering and manufacturing process that incorporates more durable materials and parts. 

Additionally, a majority of the components, including some semiconductors and processors, are manufactured in-house by the Mitsubishi Electric family of companies. This gives the company the ability to subject every component of its machines to detailed quality control methodologies, including Mitsubishi Electric’s variable-voltage variable frequency drives, which precisely control the movements of elevator doors, decreasing the likelihood of door-related failures. 

According to Zommers, it’s not just about creating a reliable ride, but also one that’s smooth, quiet and safe for riders. He explained that the company technicians subject new Mitsubishi Electric elevators to what he calls the “nickel test," in which the team places a nickel upright on its edge in an elevator, and sends it all the way to the top of a building. For an elevator to pass the test, the nickel must still be upright by the time it reaches the top.  

Of course, tenants will hardly be impressed by the quality of an elevator ride if they are constantly wasting working hours waiting for it to arrive. In an IBM study, researchers found that every year, New York office workers spend the equivalent of 16.6 combined years waiting for elevators. Mitsubishi Electric has created a number of technologies to reduce wait times. 

One system is based on the idea of taking riders’ specific destination call entries in the lobby rather than just up or down hail buttons. With the Mitsubishi Electric Sigma AI2200C system, each rider enters their desired floor on a touch screen or keypad in the lobby, and the system assigns an elevator based on the rider’s destination and building traffic. This approach to elevator calls, Zommers said, reduces average wait times by about 30% during high-traffic hours and lowers the likelihood of waits lasting 60 seconds or more during peak hours by about 40% compared with conventional control systems. 

Zommers said that traditionally, elevator and escalator manufacturers consider themselves successful if their products simply go unnoticed, meaning there are few complaints and things are functioning. That’s not the goal for Mitsubishi Electric.  

“We have mastered how to create a fast, reliable and comfortable ride; but we take it a step further — we also want to create a positive, memorable experience,” Zommers said.  

To this end, Mitsubishi Electric has created a spiral (curved) escalator designed to offer a unique ride that engages visitors with their surroundings while adding to a building’s decor. The response has been overwhelming, Zommers said. 

“We just finished installing our spiral escalators at the Encore Boston Harbor resort in Everett, Massachusetts, and there are more pictures of that escalator on social media than almost any other aspect of the resort,” Zommers said. “With Mitsubishi Electric elevators and escalators, people have a new type of building transportation story to tell.” 

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Mitsubishi Electric US Inc. Elevators & Escalators. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.