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Know Before You Go: Considerations For Investing In The Right Elevator Service Provider

Champion Elevator maintenance and repair team

For building owners and developers, one of the most important tasks on a long list of responsibilities is to make sure that people have working elevators that get them to their destinations quickly and safely. This means staying up to date with maintenance and addressing repairs in a timely manner. 

How the job gets done and how much it will cost, however, may depend on whether the building has proprietary or nonproprietary elevator equipment installed. Because the manufacturer typically owns and services proprietary equipment, it may set the cost of maintenance and repair through a contract. On the other hand, if a building has nonproprietary, or generic equipment it can call any independent company to get the job done.

Donald Gelestino, a 36-year veteran of the elevator industry and a member of the National Association of Elevator Contractors, said building owners should know what financial obligations they may have under their maintenance provider. Gelestino, who is also the president and CEO of Champion Elevator, a New York- and New Jersey-based elevator service provider, said that while the installation cost for proprietary equipment may be low, building owners are often tied down by years-long contracts, during which the costs of maintenance could vary widely. 

“The original equipment manufacturers usually give a one-year free period of service, and when the owner is using the free service, it’s like a honeymoon period,” Gelestino said. “However, after that period is up, if the owner is not happy or if there are price increases, they could already be locked into the contract.”

Gelestino said that owners should instead look into switching to an independently run company that uses nonproprietary equipment.

Elevator equipment inside building

Champion Elevator, a nonproprietary company, provides monthly maintenance for its 5,000 elevator units throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as well as Philadelphia. In addition to maintenance and repairs, the company handles all aspects of elevator testing and inspection, violation removals and code compliance.

One benefit of going with a nonproprietary company, he said, is that many do not force owners to be locked into contractual obligations. Therefore, if one nonproprietary company does repairs and something goes wrong, another company can be called to fix the mistake.

“If one of my competitors did a job in the past and they’re no longer on the job, I could just go in and get a part from that manufacturer without any problem,” Gelestino said. 

Gelestino said that unlike with a proprietary maintenance service provider, which typically does in-person maintenance checks once per quarter and monitors the elevator remotely, a reputable nonproprietary service provider will perform scheduled maintenance once a month. 

“Proprietary service providers monitor elevators remotely, so as to minimize the need to send techs to the actual location, which in turn saves the company money," Gelestino said. "The system is sold as a means of being able to check elevators so the company can determine when they need to go in. However, there is a need to check the elevators in person instead of just monitoring them from afar."

As an example, he said, a remote system may indicate when an elevator reaches 1,000 runs, it’s time to check the oil, but in reality, there could be field conditions and contaminants that would require checking the oil in person much sooner. Waiting too long means potentially dealing with a very expensive repair.

President and CEO Don Gelestino (far right) with Champion Elevator team

Gelestino added that for Champion Elevator, being in contact with the building employees on a monthly basis helps his team stay up to date on any issues. If these small daily issues go unnoticed for a long period of time, the elevator can fail, or its shaft can snap, which can lead to costly repairs.

“The reality is that the more in sync the building engineers and technicians are with things that are going on, the better the equipment can be maintained,” Gelestino said. 

To choose the right nonproprietary service provider, he said, building owners should do their research to ensure they are making the most of their investment. One thing to find out from the start is how many elevators the company can service and ensure it has enough manpower and capability to take on the job.

“If a company says, ‘Yeah, I have 10 guys,’ it sounds like they could cover your building, but also consider what regions they are located in and how many other elevators the company is servicing,” Gelestino said. “You have to find out information such as how many elevators each mechanic services on their route, how many similar brands and types of elevators and equipment the company services and the response time for shutdowns and entrapments.”

During construction or major renovations, he said an owner should advocate for their building and communicate with architects, engineers and consultants to ensure that the building installs nonproprietary equipment.

“The reality is that building owners and developers are becoming smarter and more educated about the issues of using proprietary equipment,” Gelestino said. “By going with a nonproprietary company, an owner can ensure they’re getting good installation and subsequently good service." 

This article was produced in collaboration between Champion Elevator and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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