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Elevators Are Key To Reopening Offices. How Can Owners Keep Them Safe?


When Americans finally return to work, one of the biggest challenges facing building owners won’t be enforcing social distancing in lobbies or offices. It will be changing how we ride in elevators.

On a typical ride at rush hour or lunchtime, an elevator in a high-rise might carry 10 or 12 people per trip. In order to maintain social distancing, elevators will need to run with only two or so people in the cab at a time, making many more trips a day. Waiting times are going to increase dramatically. 

 “As people start to return to work, social distancing measures will most likely still need to be maintained, and that includes in elevators,” said Erik Zommers, senior vice president and general manager for Mitsubishi Electric’s elevator and escalator division. “This means elevators need to be working much harder than they were before.” 

To help prepare for this future, Zommers said Mitsubishi Electric believes that now is the time for building owners to double down on their preventative maintenance plans. That includes ensuring their service provider is performing thorough preventive maintenance. 

Many elevators may have seen reduced demand over the last few months, and in some cases, no activity at all. Zommers said that this type of machinery is meant to be running regularly. If it has been sitting unused, that could increase the chances of something malfunctioning when they start operating again. 

“Right now, building owners are not experiencing a lot of traffic in their buildings, so they may be looking to cut back on expenses like preventive elevator maintenance,” Zommers said. “However, we believe that it’s crucial now more than ever to ensure the reliability of your equipment. If one of your elevators is out of service, it could take what is already a difficult situation with increased waiting times and make it much worse.” 

He added that while no one has ever enjoyed the experience of being stuck in an elevator, it will become that much more uncomfortable under the current circumstances. 

Mitsubishi Electric has also begun planning for the future by releasing an elevator call system application for smartphones. The application allows users who have passed their entrance security checkpoint to summon an elevator remotely from anywhere in the building with their phones, eliminating the need to directly interact with elevator fixtures.  

This application and a preventive maintenance program are just some of the ways Mitsubishi Electric is working to help keep building tenants safe in this new environment, Zommers said.

“Every company in this industry right now is thinking about what we can do to make elevators the safest and most comfortable environment for passengers,” Zommers said. “It’s going to take some time to implement physical modifications to equipment. But for now, preventative maintenance is one of the best ways to give people peace of mind.” 


Mitsubishi Electric’s full maintenance plan calls for field technicians to visit every single elevator and escalator unit every month to evaluate, maintain, test and clean all operational components. This service is available not only to building owners with Mitsubishi Electric equipment, but also to those with almost any type of elevator and escalator.  

Zommers said that Mitsubishi Electric clients have found that spending a little more upfront on preventive maintenance can save them a great deal in downtime and repairs. Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, one of the largest global real estate companies, uses Mitsubishi Electric’s preventive maintenance services in every one of its shopping centers located in areas where Mitsubishi Electric has an office.

The regular maintenance drastically reduced the number of callbacks and need for unplanned service calls on the centers’ elevators and escalators. Mitsubishi Electric’s plan allowed URW to pay one predictable maintenance fee that kept the company within 1 to 2% of its planned budget, instead of spending thousands on calling in technicians to fix unexpected issues. 

 “You can budget for preventive maintenance, but it’s difficult to budget for unanticipated service problems and off-hours repair calls,” Zommers said. “Along with that, preventative maintenance can extend the life of the equipment, saving building owners from having to shoulder the massive cost of expensive modernizations prematurely.” 

He added that for prospective tenants or investors, a preventive maintenance plan could show them that they would be investing in a property with reliable equipment.  

“Along with helping to keep people safe, preventative maintenance could be a great selling point for building owners,” Zommers said. “If they can say, ‘We’re going above and beyond to make sure that our elevators have maximum uptime and minimal issues,’ it can strengthen their brand and show that they truly care about their tenants.” 

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