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IAEC Annual Forum Celebrates 25 Years With Big Crowd

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Energy, enthusiasm, engagement are hallmarks of Forum 2018.

The third-largest city in the U.S., Chicago is a center of invention, home to the zipper, vacuum cleaner, electric dishwasher and brownie, among other staples of modern life. Known the world over for its skyscrapers, including the Willis Tower, which is undergoing a US$500-million renovation that includes its elevators, the city served as an appropriate host for some of the world’s foremost elevator experts when the International Association of Elevator Consultants (IAEC) Annual Forum 2018 celebrated its 25th iteration on April 23-26 at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza downtown.

Amid excellent weather and high spirits, Forum 2018 proved one of the association’s biggest events to date, according to IAEC President Jim Lawrence. The event welcomed more than 30 vendor booths and nearly 125 attendees. Lawrence deemed this year’s forum “a far cry from the early days of conference calls with the group’s few original members.” He said:

“Back then, we’d collect money from each of the members to pay for the long-distance phone call. [ELEVATOR WORLD founder] Bill Sturgeon was a big promoter of this organization. He said, ‘You need a place to hang your hat.’ Other groups had formed associations, and Bill said we needed one. I was young and just starting out back then, and Bill paid for me to attend my first IAEC forum, because that’s the kind of guy he was. We’ve come a long way since then.”

This year’s event was dedicated to another industry legend, Columbia Elevator Products Co. Inc.’s Louis Blaiotta, Sr., who Lawrence described as “a happy guy who loved the business and was a champion of the little guy and of safety. He was also a frequent exhibitor [at the annual forum].” 

Forum 2018 began with an IAEC board meeting, followed by a day of continuing education, with NAESA International offering an 8-hr. session worth .8 CEUs. More than 20 attended the free education session that focused on code changes. That evening, the opening-night reception featured a silent auction to benefit the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF) with auction items ranging from drones to Polaroid cameras to Bluetooth jukeboxes. The night also presented the first opportunity to visit the vendor booths. Dinner included Midwestern fare, meaning a lot of meat, with stations of turkey, ham and roast beef. Hors d’oeuvres were plentiful, and the bar was open all evening. The crowd was boisterous, and Lawrence called the night “a great kickoff” to the week.

In IAEC Executive Director Sheila Swett’s opening remarks the next morning, she encouraged the crowd to take advantage of the next two days’ worth of seminars, while taking every opportunity to visit the vendor booths that would be open during breakfast and lunch breaks. “The forum is focused on the vendor/consultant relationship,” she said. Lawrence agreed, adding, “This is a place where you can partner with someone, solve problems and create new solutions. It’s an exciting time to be a member of IAEC; we’re in a growth mode. It’s also an exciting time to be in this industry. There are a lot of projects out there.”

Seminars commenced with EW’s own Caleb Givens presenting the “2018 State of the Elevator Industry,” which highlighted elevator and escalator installation statistics, code updates and the factors most affecting the industry today, including technology, education and “you.” Michael J. Ryan of The Peelle Co. talked about “Freight Elevators and Their Application,” reminding the crowd that 80% of all elevator shutdowns are related to door damage. “When you break the horizontal elevator door, you have broken the elevator,” Ryan said. “So, it’s important to ask the building owner, ‘How important is that elevator to your business?’ If it’s very important, you might want to consider a freight elevator. Freight elevators can last 60 years or longer.” After a short break, Ken Smith of Ken Smith & Associates discussed “Analyzing ESSPI Test Requirements and Results,” worth 0.1 CEUs. The presentation covered code requirements, proper setup and use of the ESSPI tool and interpretations of the ESSPI resultant graph.

After an Italian-themed lunch of minestrone soup, antipasto, tortellini with alfredo or marinara sauce, and desserts of tiramisu and cannoli, most attendees visited the vendor booths located in the same ballroom before proceeding to the first afternoon seminar. Wurtec’s Kevin Heling discussed “Alternative Category 5 Testing,” something he hopes will eventually become known as “electronic” testing, as opposed to “alternative” testing. Kevin Rippentrop of Kings III Emergency Communications covered the topic of emergency two-way communication in “Evaluating Risk and Liability Concerns in Elevator Emergency Phone Response” for 0.1 CEUs. He explained that all 50 states require elevator phones, and Kings III can service 173 languages. Rippentrop highlighted the differences in phones and answering methods, along with line sharing and backup communication. To end the day’s education, Michael Johnson of Gorman Co. discussed “Incorporating Oil Analysis into the MCP,” something that would help reduce common maintenance issues resulting from the contamination and degradation of hydraulic oil.

That evening, IAEC treated attendees to an offsite dinner at what is known as the Untitled Supper Club, located a short walk from the hotel. The unmarked building, housing an expansive restaurant and lounge, would have gone unnoticed by your author if not for the specific directions given by Swett ahead of time. Meant to be inconspicuous, the establishment replicates a 1920s speakeasy, complete with corresponding décor and jazz musicians. The atmosphere, which had the effect of transporting all of us to another place and time, added to the excitement of an unforgettable evening, which was capped off by excellent food.

The final day of the forum began with breakfast and vendor booth visits, followed by “Opportunities and Obstacles” by Midwest Elevator’s Gary Schuette, who shared his story about the risks and rewards of building a business. GAL’s Mark Yako tackled the topic of “Unintended Motion, Uncontrolled Ascent and Door Lock Monitoring,” followed by “Asset Maintenance and Validation” by Michael Fagan of JSG Elevator Consultants to round out the morning. The last seminar of the day took place after lunch and featured Jonathan Halcomb of Matot, who discussed “Vertical Material Handling Systems and Methods.”

New IAEC officers were sworn in at the close of the week. John Koshak took over the reins as president from Lawrence, who thanked everyone for supporting IAEC and his presidency, saying, “It has been the pleasure of my life to serve this organization.” Nicholas J. Montesano assumed the role of vice president. Paul Rosenberg and John Rearick remain in their roles of secretary and treasurer, respectively.

IAEC Annual Forum 2019 is tentatively scheduled for April 28-May 3, 2019, in Reno, Nevada. 

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