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2016 EU Conference

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The small town of Quincy, Illinois, welcomes a big crowd for Elevator U (EU).

This summer, 172 industry professionals from across the country joined together in Quincy, Illinois, for the 19th annual Elevator U (EU) Conference. The small town is home to Hollister-Whitney Elevator Corp.’s factory, which, along with Illinois State University (ISU) in Normal, was the generous host of this year’s conference that took place on June 20-23. The Holiday Inn & Conference Center served as the venue for the 47 vendors, speakers and attendees.

As always, the first day began with a golf outing. This year’s took place on the beautiful course at Spring Lake Country Club. That evening, the EU Board of Directors held its meeting, while the early arrivers gathered for dinner, drinks and conversation.

Following registration and breakfast the next morning, Martin Culp, EU chairman, and Terri Flint, EU president, gave opening remarks. With nearly 50 college/university professionals representing 25 schools across the county, this was the best-attended conference in four years.

The first speaker was Charles Scott, executive director, facilities management, parking and transportation for ISU. Scott expressed his gratitude to the sponsors and vendors, without whom there would not be the networking opportunities that make EU’s annual conference so valuable. In addition to his role at the university, Scott also serves as international president for the Association of Physical Plant Administrators (APPA). He emphasized that one of APPA’s goals is to create a “sense of urgency” when it comes to training and professional development, because, “if you don’t train people, you’re not going to have good facilities” on your campus.

The educational sessions kicked off with “Lifeblood of Hydraulics” presented by Gorman Co., Inc.’s Michael Johnson, who made it clear that when it comes to hydraulic elevators, “failures are not inevitable” and that by testing and filtering your oil, which Gorman specializes in, you can prevent many typical maintenance problems.

Doug Witham of GAL Manufacturing Corp. was next, giving an overview of the National Association of Elevator Contractors’ (NAEC) specifications database. The database is open for all to view at naec.org, and there is no password required. Witham mentioned that using the database could be a valuable tool when sending out bids for a certain job.

Bob Shepherd, executive director of NAESA International, gave an update on the organization’s goals for the future and the current changes taking place. One of these goals already in motion is the Safety Summit, which will be held in May 2017 in Phoenix, where those involved plan to “change the culture of safety.” Shepherd also encouraged everyone to take advantage of NAESA’s new “open format” by writing and sending in comments or questions to its Progress newsletter.

The morning of day two opened with Dick Gregory of Vertex Elevator Consultants; John Koshak of eMCP, LLC; Sheila Swett (Swett & Associates) representing Code Data Plate; and Carl Burch of GAL. They all spoke on the importance of a maintenance control plan (MCP) and the various types available. Gregory gave an overview of where in the ASME A17 code the MCP is mentioned and how some people mistake “records” as an MCP.

Koshak introduced his new product, eMCP (available at elevatorbooks.com), which is an electronic MCP that “gives the code the precedence.” Swett gave an overview of the Written MCP (also available at elevatorbooks.com) from Code Data Plate, and Burch ended by showcasing GAL’s Galileo interface that comes with the GALaxy system and provides online access to onsite documentation via a built-in WiFi hotspot. This topic, and the importance of it, generated some nice discussion and comments.

After the midmorning break sponsored by Innovation Industries, Inc., Kevin Heling of Wurtec provided a “Survey and Summary of A17.1 Intended to Make Elevator Installations Safer.” This presentation provided a look at the different tools available for various testing procedures, how they’re developing and how they get accepted.

Elevator World, Inc.’s presentation by your author followed and provided an overview of the growing construction and elevator industries, which are doing better now than before the recession a few years ago. The presentation concluded with a look at some of the new products available at elevatorbooks.com.

During lunch, the expo hall opened for the first time, allowing attendees to visit companies to see all they have to offer. Following lunch was the always-entertaining yet somehow informative “vendor-mercials,” which gave vendors the opportunity to promote their companies’ products or services through 5-min. live presentations. First up was Joe Fay of SnapCab, who engaged the audience through a game of over/under, which provided some historical information and facts about the host school, as well as an overview of SnapCab’s available products and services.

Next was a skit from Code Data Plate that starred Don Ross (D.H. Ross Elevator Inspections, Inc.), Daniel Swett (Swett & Associates) and Ed “Jaz” Jaskowak (retired, Penn State University), who showed the importance of having a code data plate and the ease of getting one from codedataplate.com. Next was Mark Ortman of Ortman Drilling, Inc. who revised the lyrics to a popular song to express his passion for drilling. Brad Hunt of The Peelle Co. used his sense of humor to inform the audience of his company’s expertise when it comes to freight elevator doors, an often overlooked niche market in the industry.

Humor and passion were evident when Ed Mathis of Mathis Electronics revealed his company’s latest innovative solution: “The Perfect LED Lamp” for elevator fixtures. Steven Correa of SmartRise Engineering concluded the vendor-mercials with a fun audience participation singalong of “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang.

Elevator U thanks the following for purchasing a spot for the vendor-mercials:

  • SnapCab
  • Code Data Plate
  • Ortman Drilling
  • Peelle
  • Mathis Electronics
  • SmartRise Engineering

Correa then switched gears to a more serious note to present “Open Market and Limiting Costs,” which provided an overview of the future of elevators, open-market controllers, single-board designs, advanced benefits of standardizing and SmartRise’s commitment to field training for personnel.

After the midafternoon break sponsored by Serapid, Mike Brown and Doug Rummelhart, both of Schumacher Elevator Co., informed attendees that “Hydraulic Elevators Are Not Dead,” as they can be a good option in the low-rise market.

For the next four hours, the vendor expo hall was once again open and quickly filled with attendees visiting company booths and taking part in the annual silent auction, which benefits the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF). Popular items included drones, an Apple watch and several variants of portable Bluetooth speakers. In total, EESF raised US$3,700.

As the evening was coming to a close, Flint took to the mic and asked for everyone’s attention for some special presentations. The first was an honorary membership presented to John Harper of the University of Nebraska. This award is for those who have gone above and beyond with their contributions to helping EU grow and succeed. It is not a yearly award and is given by the board of directors as they recognize individuals who have made a difference.

The second was the John W. Blatt Memorial — President’s Choice Award. This year’s honoree was Steve Pydynowski, assistant superintendent of building maintenance at ISU. Not only did he play a crucial role in having ISU serve as the host school, but he also serves as treasurer for the EU Board of Directors, a vital role that helps ensure the continued success of EU, and its annual conferences and educational outreach.

The final morning of the conference started with the Membership Meeting, in which reports from each board member were given and next year’s board members were sworn in. There were no member changes for next year’s board, which consists of:

  • Martin Culp, chairman (University of Maryland)
  • Terri Flint, president (University of Michigan)
  • Neil “Eddie” Morris, vice president (University of Virginia)
  • Brad O’Guynn, secretary (Elevator World, Inc.)
  • Steve Pydynowski, treasurer (ISU)
  • Tom Sybert, director (C.J. Anderson & Co.)
  • Don Ross, director (D.H. Ross Elevator Inspections, Inc.)
  • Brad Haldeman, director (Penn State)
  • Glenn Duncan, founding director (Parts Specialists, Inc.)

The educational sessions continued with “Basement Machine Safety” presented by Gregory, who highlighted the need for safety when it comes to elevators with basement machines, as there are many potential dangers that are often ignored. Shepherd was next with “Hoistway Elevator Safety.” Shepherd’s passion for safety is well known in the industry. He emphasized the crucial task of taking control of the car when performing any maintenance or inspection. Shepherd said to always keep safety in mind by remembering your loved ones who are counting on you to return home at the end of the day. He also stressed how elevator people should always take an opportunity when discussing their jobs to tell those loved ones about the proper and safe way to ride elevators and escalators.

Following Shepherd was Dr. Clemense Ehoff, assistant professor in the Department of Accounting at Central Washington University, who presented on “Maintenance from a Business Perspective.” Dr. Ehoff wrote his PhD dissertation on the elevator industry, and, in his own words, might be the only person who is not an engineer to have done so. “I tried to apply some business models to some of the problems the elevator [industry] was facing,” said Ehoff. It was not long before much discussion and debate erupted in the audience, proving the importance of this issue and the networking value of the EU conference.

The final session was a 2-hr. cracker-barrel panel discussion covering topics such as contractor selection, enforcing deadlines, standard number of units to install in a particular type of building and much more. “The reason that [EU] was started,” said Terri Flint, “was because we figured out that we all have a lot of the same challenges. And part of this conference is to work together to try to solve problems and provide input and experience.”

This year’s conference once again proved to be highly educational for all types of professionals with varying years of experience. Next year, EU will be in Charlottesville, Virginia, hosted by The University of Virginia (UVA). Neil “Eddie” Morris, Elevator Maintenance senior supervisor at the university, is looking forward to it already. He stated:

“[EU] provides an avenue for colleges/universities to share elevator-industry information, such as new technology, safety guidelines, best practices and networking. I’ve been a proud member since 2010, and it’s exciting to have the opportunity to host the [EU] Conference in June 2017 at [UVA]. Charlottesville is rich in history and education, with the homes of past presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe being only about 15 min. from campus. The locals enjoy the cultured aspect of the region, including museums, golf courses, and wineries/breweries, to name a few. I believe it would be safe to say that there is something here for everyone!” For more information about EU, how to get involved and the upcoming conference, visit elevatoru.org.

Hollister-Whitney Tour and Reception

The most anticipated event of this year’s conference was the opportunity to tour the Hollister-Whitney Elevator Corp. factory. With two separate shops comprising nearly 300,000 sq. ft., the tour lasted nearly 3 hr. and was an incredible experience. Your author’s tour guide was Doug Dietrich, who led the group through the multitude of workstations, where many of the 275 employees were welding, assembling and inspecting what seemed like an endless supply of products. From the workshop, the group eventually entered the Engineering Department, where much quieter (but still highly detailed and important) work was taking place. Pinned to the cubicle walls were several blueprints of current jobs the company’s engineers had drafted.

If the immense space, high-tech machinery, precision craftsmanship and top-level engineering were not enough to impress, Hollister-Whitney had one more trick up its sleeve: a ride in two different elevators in its test tower. The first was rated at a mere 700 fpm, but the second was amped up to 1,000 fpm, making for one fast ride to the top. It was there at the top, with a stunning view of the facilities, that visitors were introduced to the GALaxy controller’s Galileo system and able to see it in action.

Hollister-Whitney’s hospitality continued with an invite to all attendees to the house of its owner, Frank Musholt. Musholt’s beautiful home does, of course, have an elevator (hydraulic), which takes people up to the captain’s tower for an incredible view of the Mississippi River. Down below, prime rib, shrimp, pasta and vegetables were among the choices for dinner. For activities, one could attempt to hit a few golf balls into the water or partake in skeet shooting. During the festivities, a 50/50 raffle took place to raise funds for the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation. This year’s winner was John Kuhns of MEI from Mankato, Minnesota, who generously donated his portion of the winnings back to the Foundation. The evening concluded with a spectacular fireworks display. Elevator U thanks the Musholt family for opening their home for a memorable evening.

ISU Campus is Elevator Central

Illinois State University (ISU) was founded in Normal, Illinois, in 1857 as a teaching school. It was the first public university in the state. Your author had the welcomed opportunity to tour the campus with Steve Pydynowski, assistant superintendent of building maintenance at the university, who, among other duties, oversees the 98 elevators on campus. Pydynowski has been with ISU since 1994.

ISU is home to the 28-story Watterson Towers, the second-tallest dormitory in the world. “We are kind of landlocked,” says Pydynowski in describing ISU as a college town, “so we can’t really expand.” The only way to accommodate more students, therefore, is by going up. When it was constructed in the 1960s, it housed 2,200 people and had only four elevators. In the late 1980s, however, four additional elevators were added. Twenty-five of the 28 stories are the residence floors and are divided into separate, five-group landings.

The elevators are unusual in that they stop at the third floor of each group, meaning that the students must then walk up or down a flight or two of stairs to get to their dorm. East campus contains two twin-residence towers that are 18 stories each. The elevators in these dormitories, however, function normally (stopping on every floor), so, as Pydynowski says, the students just have to get used to it. The top floor of Watterson Towers doubles as study/social space, as well as an impressive observation deck providing an expansive 360° view of the campus.

According to Pydynowksi, the elevators in all of ISU’s residence halls combined make between 900,000 and 950,000 trips per year, thanks mostly to the nearly 6,000 students living on campus. Unlike office buildings, the elevators of which are used consistently throughout the year, universities are different in that during the summer months, the elevators see very little use. Once school starts in the fall, however, Pydynowski says the maintenance issues start to arise, particularly in some of ISU’s older buildings, such as the campus library, which only has two elevators but sees a lot of traffic “right before finals.” ISU currently has its maintenance contract with Schindler and requires the company to have two mechanics on site during the weekdays dedicated to any issues that arise. “We want people who are here and can respond within 30 min.,” Pydynowski said.

The machine rooms your author visited were incredibly tight and difficult to access, particularly the ones housing the newer machines in Watterson Towers. “Now,” said Pydynowski with a smile, “you see why we value our mechanics so much.”

Your author would like to thank Pydynowski for taking the time to show him around the beautiful ISU campus.

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