Ford Motor Co., Building One, Dearborn, Michigan


Category 4: Escalators, Modernization

submitted by Begoña Flores Canseco and Juan Fernandez Fidalgo, ThyssenKrupp Elevator Southern Europe, Africa & Middle East

By replacing a 1953 Westinghouse escalator in Ford Motor Co.’s R&D plant with a safe, energy-efficient, code-compliant unit, ThyssenKrupp Elevator became a part of the automotive giant’s efforts to bring its operations into the future. Located in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan, the three-floor Ford plant was built in the early 1950s. According to ThyssenKrupp, “Although not the most fashionable office building, the company still wanted to maintain it to show [its] commitment to their employees and their facilities. That is why Ford decided to modernize one of the escalators in Building One.”

Taking a year and three months from sales to approval by Michigan in January 2013, the project presented numerous challenges, including:

  • Maintaining the original truss of the Westinghouse escalator, while implementing a modular modernization package
  • Increasing the top landing from one and a half to two flat steps
  • Confining work to an inner room inside the escalator truss
  • Upgrading the escalator to comply with ASME 17.1 2010, while adding safety features such as green, double-tube, under-step, demarcation lighting, skirt safety brushes and combplate lighting to reduce entrapment and trip-and-fall risk
  • Incorporating an energy-saving system that works while the escalator is running at constant speed
  • Preserving the building’s historical character

ThyssenKrupp Norte (TKN) had performed a similar escalator modernization in the Sky Harbor Terminal 2 in Phoenix, which consisted of the replacement of two 1974 Montgomery Elevator Co. elevators in 2011. For the Ford project, TKN reports it took the utmost care to ensure its success. Upon securing the contract, the company immediately sent two technicians to Dearborn to perform surveys and gather data about the truss to make sure it could accommodate the modernization modules. TKN states:

“As the modules needed to fit into an existing escalator, all the necessary information had to be collected in the field, and, with the help of our 3D CAD system, modules were designed to fit into the truss. All escalators are different from one another, so width, length and depth had to be taken into consideration on each survey. The upper module was able to fit two flat steps in the original one-and-a-half flat-step escalator.”

The engineering/design process took approximately five weeks, after which parts were generated based on the necessary drawings. “The key point was to ensure that the new escalator [would] adapt to the existing escalator width, which meant to do special engineering for decking and floor plates,” said TKN. All parts were custom made at the TKN escalator factory in Spain. The manufacturing process took 10 weeks, after which the parts were submitted for inspection by the factory’s Quality Department. They then commenced final module assembly, a process overseen by the engineering department and project manager. The modernization package consisted of an upper module, a lower module and several intermediate supports. 

The modules and materials were shipped to the jobsite in late February 2012. TKN factory staff oversaw installation for more than a week with the help of the expert mechanical-electrical team of ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas (TKEA) to ensure correct positioning of the modules, as well as verify proper installation of all electrical connections. Once TKN staff finished their work at Dearborn, the escalator was functionally complete with only pending assembly of decking and skirts, performed by TKEA. Ford hosted a ribbon cutting for the escalator following its installation.


  • Owner: Ford Motor Co.
  • Equipment supplier: ThyssenKrupp Norte, S.A.
  • Equipment installer: ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas


  • Manufacturer: ThyssenKrupp Norte, S.A.
  • Model: Tugela 845 (heavy-duty design with reinforced tension carriage)
  • Step width: 600 mm
  • Rise: 4,210 mm
  • Balustrade: Stainless steel, high deck
  • Speed: 100 fpm (per code requirements)
  • Conformity: According to latest ASME A17.1 code
  • Lighting: Under-step demarcation lighting and combplate lighting
  • Energy savings: Wye-delta starter and energy-efficient controller8; no chains require lubrication

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