The Importance of Elevator Service

Whether it be a residential or commercial application, every day many people depend on the safe and reliable operations of vertical transportation systems. It is of critical importance to the owners and ultimately to the tenants, guests or visitors who travel throughout residences and buildings each day. Deciding on a competent maintenance company is a complicated decision. Elevator maintenance can be provided by manufacturers, installation companies or Independents.

Today, many new elevators run on proprietary computer-based software that requires specialized tools for proper maintenance that only the manufacturer or company that installed the lift can provide. If your home or building has proprietary equipment you will have limited maintenance service options and generally will have to pay a premium for elevator maintenance. One advantage of using OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) maintenance is the ability to provide spare parts quickly and reduce overall downtime for repairs. In addition, with OEM manufacturer maintenance you deal with the organization that designed the equipment and know it operating systems the best. Usually, manufacturer's maintenance contracts are the most risk-free choice but you may pay a premium.

Elevator manufacturing companies actively pursue maintenance contracts for elevator equipment they did not manufacture. The service contracts they offer are comparable to service contracts you would consider with the actual OEM manufacturer of equipment in your home or building. An advantage of using another manufacturer may be to save money or obtain better service in a specific geographic area. Most companies and manufacturers also offer a variety of discounts for contracts covering multiple buildings with the same owner or property manager.

Independent elevator maintenance companies are located in most areas of the country. Independents often charge less for their maintenance programs than manufacturers. When considering an independent you will want to investigate the company's level of technical expertise of your specific equipment and ability to provide spare parts to avoid extended downtimes.

Large facilities such as universities and medical facilities provide in-house maintenance for elevator equipment to reduce overall maintenance costs. The decision to self maintain elevator equipment should be based on local code requirements, economics and the availability of skilled labor. Other factors to consider include the ability to obtain spare parts and manage major components repairs. Due to the increased liability exposure and technical expertise needed to maintain the elevator equipment properly, using other maintenance options is recommended for most customers. Many elevator companies will not service elevator equipment that is being maintained by non-certified elevator mechanics without conducting a complete inspection and bringing it up to a maintainable level. Sometimes, it may be impossible to take on a service contract due to increased exposure to lawsuits.

Knowing the different types of elevator contract options can greatly increase the chances of saving money and finding a maintenance agreement that meets your home or building's requirements. The more risk you are willing to assume, the lower the cost of services will be. Most elevator companies offer different types of elevator maintenance contracts. These contracts offer you a range of coverage options and discount opportunities.

Survey and Report Contract

Coverage under a survey and report contract consists of quarterly, semi-annual or annual inspection of all major equipment components. The inspection does not include maintenance, repair work or dismantling equipment that necessitate elevator mechanics. Maintenance or replacement recommendations may be completed by the owner or by selected contractors under the property manager's coordination. Most jurisdictions require regular basic servicing so this type of contract is not an option. This type of contract also makes it extremely difficult for a building owner to avoid liability if an accident should occur.

Oil and Grease (O & G) or Examination & Lubrication Contract

O & G contracts include lubrication of moving parts and minor adjustment on a regularly scheduled basis. When additional services are needed, the service company reports potential problems to the customer with an estimated cost to then schedule all repairs, once approved, to be paid by the home or building owner. The cost for the O & G contract is relatively low but when you include repairs, the entire yearly cost is usually much higher and more complicated to budget. O & G agreements also generate additional paper work, as the customer must coordinate with the service company on all repairs. Liability exposure to claims in the event of shut downs, accidents or injuries are even greater because the owner is responsible for the approval of having parts repaired and replaced. Customer satisfaction with this type of agreement is usually very low.

A variation of an O & G contract lists specific items of equipment that are covered and not covered in the contract, such as controllers, elevator machines, motor-generator sets, and cables, etc. This type of contract will only have value if the contract clearly stipulates the work to be covered and the parts to be supplied including frequency of examinations and trouble calls to be answered. These service agreements also generate additional paperwork and the customer must coordinate with the service company on what is covered in the contract and what will be done under repair orders at a later date. It is important to know what is and what is not covered in this variation of service contract.

Full Maintenance Contract or Agreement (FMC or FMA)

A full maintenance contract or agreement is written to allow the elevator service company to take total care of the elevator equipment identified in the maintenance agreement. This contract acts like an insurance policy and allows the home or building owner to budget total yearly costs and eliminate concerns relating to elevator repairs as they become necessary. Shut downs are limited because the maintenance contractor assumes all responsibility and determines the amount of service visits required to keep the elevator system operating safely. If an accident should occur, the elevator maintenance company may be responsible for defending itself against accident claims and will exhaust every effort to ensure safe operating condition.

Once a maintenance contract has been chosen that will work best for your elevator you will need to find an elevator company. The company you select will then perform maintenance services under the type of contract you have specified. But here's where your troubles can begin. You must understand what is not covered and how those services will be billed and what steps can be taken to control overall maintenance costs.

The owner should understand the circumstances under which they will be invoiced for costs in addition to the contract price. Before you accept any maintenance agreement your service company should answer the following questions:

  • When does overtime apply under the contract?
  • What are the differences between overtime trouble calls and overtime repairs as they relate to the contract?
  • Is travel time a consideration because of location or union agreement?
  • If maintenance is missed or incomplete are you entitled to a refund for that month?
  • Do trouble calls count as a regular monthly service call?
  • What is the response time for a trapped passenger?
  • What is the availability of spare parts?

Whichever elevator company you choose for maintenance, they should be able to answer all your questions about the cost and services available. Inclinator Co. of CA. and TL Shield & Assoc., Inc. offers both O &G and Full Maintenance service agreements. We are happy to answer any and all of your questions. Call us today at (800) 954-3887 or email us at