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Resort towers are nestled amongst numerous lakes with fountains; photo courtesy of Wyndham Grand Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort.

IAEC Forum 2021 provides opportunity to learn, network and relax in beautiful Orlando.

Only a short hop from Disney World and related attractions, the Wyndham Grand Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort provided an appropriate backdrop for the grand in-person return of the International Association of Elevator Consultants (IAEC) Forum 2021. Looking down from rooms at the massive, multitower resort, one saw elaborate swimming pools complete with palm trees, “lazy rivers,” lakes, fountains and manmade sand beaches. On the elevators (Otis units with lovely backlit glass cabs), it was not unusual to encounter happy families wearing swim attire and flipflops. The resort observed COVID-19 precautions, such as recommending only two passengers per elevator unless all were members of the same family, but, for the most part, this was ignored. Everyone, including forum attendees, were in high spirits and willing to “hold the door” for the next family, group of kids or elevator consultant. This was, of course, prior to the latest, Delta-variant-driven wave of the pandemic. How the situation is affecting the elevator world in general, and consultants in particular, would be a hot topic during the annual general meeting (AGM) that closed out the four-day event. But there was plenty to do before that.

Monday, June 28

An IAEC board meeting, open to board members only, was held during the afternoon as attendees started to arrive.

Tuesday, June 29

The day started bright and early with NAESA International Education Director Jack Day and board member Charlie Slater of ATIS providing a code update good for 0.8 units of continuing education (CE) credit.

Meanwhile, vendors filtered in to set up their booths lining the Ponce de Leon Ballroom. It was fun to see familiar faces in the flesh — not on a computer screen. During setup, most were in shorts and sandals. A few weeks prior to the show, ELEVATOR WORLD suffered a casualty when the “Nano” elevator we were to have on display arrived from Turkey broken beyond repair, but otherwise booths were well-put-together, with fun giveaways such as Smartrise’s stylish insulated beverage cup in high demand and people eager to talk about their latest products and solutions.

Right outside the ballroom, name tags lined up on a long, black table were a welcome sight, with attendees invited to choose an additional ribbon that “suits you” to affix beneath the more straightforward “Bronze Sponsor,” “Press,” etc. These included such proclamations as “Survived Another Meeting that Should Have Been An Email,” “Colors Outside the Lines” and “Seriously?”

A tribute to Chattanooga, Tennessee-based consultant Martha Hulgan, who passed away in April, stood on an easel in the ballroom entryway. IAEC Executive Director Sheila Swett said she moved the display because it was next to a vase that looked suspiciously like an urn. Anyone who knew Hulgan knows she would have found this hilarious. Her wit, wisdom and warmth were sorely missed by all.

The opening night reception gave attendees a chance to peruse the booths, say hello to old friends and dine on a menu that included a roast beef carving station, sushi and an artisan cheese display. Wine, beer and cocktails flowed from an open bar.

The Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF) Silent Auction was a big hit, with earbuds — including a pair of Bose Sport models — popular, and the EESF raising a respectable US$3,385. Formula Systems’ Cornelius Walls was assisted by Emerald Kuhns of NAESA International in tallying the bids and calling up winners. Daniel Swett, IAEC Central Region director, did a fine job as emcee/hype man/organizer.

Wednesday, June 30

Attendees had a chance to visit vendor booths as they dined on breakfast. As was the case throughout the forum, guests had to navigate around a plexiglass barrier to receive their food. Servers were supposed to hand people what they asked for, and attempts to reach around the barrier were met with stern looks. In what, for some, was the first face-to-face meeting in a long time (not to mention the “vacation” atmosphere of the resort), it was easy to forget that we were still living in pandemic times.

After breakfast, everyone repaired to the Bonnet Creek Ballroom for a welcome from Sheila Swett. Swett observed the event is a very important relationship-building experience, but that relationships should be nurtured not only for a few days, but throughout the year. With 139 participants and 33 booths, turnout was better than expected, she said. Originally scheduled for NYC, the 2021 forum was moved to Orlando due to Florida having more-relaxed COVID-19 rules and the venue’s proximity to Disney World, which encouraged guests to bring their families. Many did.

Swett then introduced IAEC President John Koshak to “further welcome” attendees. Koshak told the group that 2021 will be his last year as IAEC president, with Nick Montesano of DTM Drafting & Consulting Services, Inc., taking the reins. He then introduced Elevator World, Inc. President T. Bruce MacKinnon to provide EW’s traditional “State of the Elevator Industry.” Along with a good dose of humor, MacKinnon’s presentation provided unique insight into industry trends, particularly those related to the pandemic, such as materials and shipping-vessel shortages that have led to price increases (p.134).

Koshak then introduced the first of the day’s many presenters, Day. “If there’s a code guy in the world I respect better, I can’t think of him,” Koshak said. Day covered “ASME A17.6-2017 Update & Review — What You Need to Know.”

An animated and interactive Day spoke about topics including criteria for replacing suspension means. Illustrating his talk with large, projected photographs, Day talked about wire rope rouging, degradation, slack, reverse bends and lay. He emphasized the difference between rust and rouge.

Wire rope, he said, must be replaced when there is evidence of rouging. “I’ve said this three times, so it must be important,” he emphasized. Day observed faults must be listed as part of a maintenance control program (MCP), as “one of the issues is lack of documentation.” In terms of code updates, “definitions are your friend,” he said.

John Rearick of Rearick and Co. then gave his “Alteration Testing Requirements” presentation for 0.1 CEU. Starting in 2019, he said, code requires an acceptance-test tag.

Guests repaired back to the Ponce de Leon Ballroom for lunch and to peruse the booths. Back in the Bonnet Creek Ballroom, Dave Hardin and Sanjay Kamani of ATIS spoke on “Parts Obsolescence.” Hardin said that approximately 35% of his engagements have something to do with obsolescence. They spoke about the role of consultants in curbing obsolescence and advised that consultants “embark on a new way of doing contracts and develop strategies with owners.” Equipment lifespan, they said, is definitely shrinking. Hardin described a particular case where a customer felt forced to pay US$16,000 for a particular replacement part.

The topic sparked lively discussion. Koshak shared a story from a U.S. university that was told by its OEM provider that parts could not be built by outside shops. Questioning this response, when asked what should be considered obsolete, Koshak said, “If it requires pixie dust to make it, it’s obsolete.”

Observing that not only equipment, but software, has an obsolescence problem, Kamani said consultants should:

  • Put accountability back in service agreements by developing a strategy for new equipment
  • Consider specifying manufacturers that have histories of longer-lifecycle products
  • Look closely at the serviceability language in affidavits

When it comes to lifecycle, “12 years is unacceptable, 17 is a gray zone and 25 is where you want to be,” Kamani said. Legislation that requires manufacturers to sell genuine replacement parts and make repair documentation available to anyone “would be a way to create some teeth for curbing obsolescence.”

The rest of the afternoon brought “Three Things You Need to Know About Elevator Communication Code Updates” by Don Holloway and James Bowers of Kings III Emergency Communications for 0.1 CEU, then “PWM Drives & DC Machine Interaction: Successful Modernization Preparation” from Andy Hawkinson and Jeff Johnson of Magnetek.

One would think that, at the end of a very long day packed with technical information, a presentation on hydraulic oil would be sleep-inducing. One would be wrong. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Hydraulic Oil” from Michael Johnson of Oilscrubber.com prompted lively conversation and rapt listeners. In part, of course, to promote his filtration solutions, Johnson illustrated the importance of clean oil with stories, including one about crud-filled oil that had limped along for nearly a century, with ultimately detrimental results.

A fun highlight of the forum took place that evening, with “IAEC Takes TopGolf!” Participants met in the lobby to board busses to the nearby sports entertainment venue. “It was a great time at TopGolf,” said Dennis Rhodes, senior sales engineer with Imperial Electric. “From the third level, the sales guys hit them long, the engineers hit them smart, but the consultants knocked all the blocks with Angry Birds (a competition in which participants use the Angry Birds characters [golf balls] to smash targets and earn points).”

Thursday, July 1

After a breakfast that featured a delicious and interesting chorizo eggs benedict, attendees visited the booths before heading to the Bonnet Creek Ballroom to get the learning started with Sterrett Lloyd of Draka Elevator Products, who presented “Safety + Integrated Solutions.” Lloyd talked about how the range of Draka products expanded after parent company Prysmian Group acquired EHC Global (EW, March 2021), with a range of escalator-safety solutions manufactured at factories in North America and China. Urbanization is the key driver of the continued need for safety products, he said. Accidents are often due to user misuse, but preventing them is “a shared responsibility among consultants, architects, manufacturers, AHJs and building owners/managers.”

He said codes are very clear about what’s required in terms of vertical-transportation safety signage, and showed examples of good and bad signage — good being clear, well-visible and legible, and bad being faded, peeling or poorly placed. Escalator deck barricades, “an important part of ASME code,” can be a hazard if they’re installed improperly, such as with missing fasteners. “It’s a matter of liability,” Lloyd said. “Property owners and managers should protect themselves with all the code-required measures.”

Lloyd described Draka’s “integrated suite of products” that include NT SafeRail. He advised messages on escalator handrails be kept short and simple, like the ones at London’s Heathrow Airport that simply say, “Hold Me.”

Koshak then gave his presentation on elevator sanitation, based on his paper (EW, May 2021). In introducing his piece, Koshak said of the pandemic:

“It’s not the walking dead. It’s not the apocalypse. The key part of this virus is ‘novel,’ which has allowed a lot of snake oil salesmanship expounded from the top of apple crates. Claims by VT companies of 100% elimination of virus should be examined closely.”

He explained the molecular structure of the coronavirus and looked at potential solutions, such as the ionization of hydroxyl molecules. There are two manufacturers of ionizer devices and, he said, while they work, “it takes a lot.” Further, he said, testing was done in a controlled environment for 30 min to an hour. “That’s not real life,” he said. Read Koshak’s paper to find out about the antiviral system he advocates.

Remaining presentations were “Why is Cloud Monitoring Revolutionary?” by Bali Harmath of Claddaugh Electronics, and “Legal Terms for the Consultant” by Patrick Carrajat of LIR Group inc.

To cap off the forum, the IAEC General Membership meeting began with a moment of silence for Hulgan.

Treasurer Tim Marshall shared that, due to the loss of the NYC fundraiser, forum and an in-person forum, 2020 wasn’t the best year financially. However, he said, there is still an “acceptable amount of money in the bank.”

Koshak asked the group how the pandemic affected their business, and they were happy to respond. Montesano, whose company serves the NYC metropolitan area, said:

“The challenge I faced was protecting my people. For two weeks, I pulled all my guys. We have a couple of inspectors who are up in age, so I didn’t want to take any chances and wanted to do what was right for the people. In this business you go with your heart, and what’s right could change in an instant. I was reminded in some ways of 9/11. The support from our clients, the mayor and governor was helpful. At the end of the day, though, we’re here because we’re elevator guys and we go on the call, right?” 

Sharing that he has been in the industry 50 years, At-Large Director D. Hanie Lancaster of Denver said the first quarter of 2020 was one of the best ever. Shortly after that, however, business came to a halt as COVID-19 tightened its grip on the nation. “Parking structures and offices became empty,” Lancaster said. “The phone stopped ringing and people reduced or didn’t use their office space, and all this resulted in plans to upgrade VT being put on the back shelf.”

In response to the query, “Where do we go from here/what have we learned?” Lancaster said although consultants need to monitor the trend of reduced asset preservation closely, “my sights are set on technology and the things we can bring to clients in terms of safe operation of elevators. We need to be aware and take advantage of opportunities.”

Officers and Directors
With term limits expiring and a consultant passing away, board makeup saw some shuffling. IAEC has a new president, vice president, treasurer, Southern Region chair and two at-large chairs.

Officers
President: Nicholas Montesano
Vice President: Bob Dieter
Secretary: Paul Rosenberg
Treasurer: Tim Marshall

Directors

Regional
Eastern: Joseph Caracappa
Southern: John Koshak
Central: Daniel Swett
Western: Michael Fagan
International: TAK Mathews

At Large
Richard Blaska
Gregory Sacks
J.R. Freeman
D. Hanie Lancaster
John Rearick

Executive
Sheila Swett

Speakers

Booths

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