Although estimates vary, there are approximately 13 million lifts around the world, while the number of buildings over 200m high has tripled in the past 20 years. As a result, the demand for comprehensive elevator maintenance services is growing, supported by the rapid supply of spares and conformity to all regulations and safety standards. The traditional maintenance route for lift owners and operators is via the OEM or elevator service companies that specialise in a particular brand, but the rise of third-party diagnostics systems is opening new doors.
One such system is Modu-tool, from Modusystem, which according to the company combines and improves on currently available elevator maintenance tools for Otis, Orona, Kone, Schindler and ThyssenKrupp controllers. Modu-tool uses a specially designed cable to connect with all supported controllers (certain controllers require the use of adaptors because of proprietary interfaces).
“Modu-tool enables users to read fault codes [with descriptions], change and download parameters, check I/O status and more,” states company CEO Erik Scholts. “It isn’t just a service device, but contains manuals and fault code descriptions of all the elevator controllers we support. We have over 2,000 Modu-tool systems in service.
“Monitoring points include: door zone, door open, door close, lift status, fault codes, position and inputs,” he adds. “Armed with this data, technicians will know what parts they need to take before attending the breakdown. The goal is to save time, and we do this by providing information about the problem in advance.”
With another product, Modu-view, elevator technicians – as well as building/lift owners and operators – gain even more insight into the behaviour of elevators. As this web-based monitoring platform connects directly to the lift controller, it is able to provide a high level of detail, allowing users to see current elevator status, analyse history, download fault codes, read inputs and receive error notifications.
With both products subject to ongoing development in line with the launch of new proprietary controllers, a recent introduction is the potential to communicate with water sensors. This year, Modusystem has been supplying solutions to train stations in the Netherlands, where there is sometimes a danger that rainwater can fill the elevator pit. In such instances, the system will ensure the lift does not visit the ground floor, thus avoiding a potential breakdown.
“Whatever the building application, all of our customers want data transparency – to see the lift status and be informed,” says Scholts. “This not only applies to technicians, but building owners and management teams. Maybe they have an important visitor and do not want to greet them with the embarrassment of a dysfunctional lift. Returning to the train station example, if a busy platform has an important elevator that is out of order, the company can inform passengers on an approaching train to alight at a different stop during peak periods, for example.”
UPTIME, NOT DOWNTIME
Augustin Celier, co-founder of Uptime, another brand-agnostic intelligence system for lifts, says: “The elevator market is predicted to grow to 26 million units by 2030, and all of these installations could benefit from a digital upgrade for their maintenance.”
A digital maintenance solution like Uptime’s map(r) integrates completely into maintenance workflows, both on the technician and customer side, enabling independent elevator service providers to offer customers a number of benefits.
“The first advantage is increased performance: our predictive maintenance model reduces downtime per elevator by up to 78%, and cuts the number of breakdowns by up to 60% compared with market averages,” says Celier. “The technology detects anomalies and enables the service technician to perform the necessary corrections during a recurring preventive maintenance visit, or when undertaking a curative intervention. The technician knows where to focus, and how to perform the adjustments and repairs thanks to our digital applications, accumulated knowledge and data. The second benefit is complete transparency: end customers enjoy a real-time view of their equipment and know exactly what technicians are doing on their elevators. No more surprise bills.”
Uptime’s platform is said to be compatible with the most widely deployed brands, and the company is adding new makes and models every quarter.
“We’re able to read the elevator functioning data in order to have the right analysis and maintenance recommendations for technicians on their smartphones, in real-time,” says Celier. “Most systems on the market are additional sensor solutions. However, these do not read the available data, but generate new data by adding sensors to the existing installation. This generates poor information, both in terms of depth and usage, and hardly allows any useful maintenance recommendations.”
He adds: “The more a solution is integrated into the value chain – and into the everyday job of technicians and the real problems of customers – the more impact it will have on performance, transparency and hence on customer satisfaction.”
According to Uptime, its hardware is easy to install and connect, typically only taking around one hour.
“Map(r) is an automated learning system: the more data and use cases we encounter, the richer the system gets and the more powerful our features become,” concludes Celier. “Connected elevators will soon become the norm, as they both increase the quality of service, and the efficiency of that service. Customers will enjoy the higher quality, while independent service providers that become digital will reap benefits such as faster gains in market share and better customer retention.”
BOX: CROSS-BRAND SERVICE PROVISION FROM OEM
Although a major OEM, ThyssenKrupp Elevator (TKE) provides service and maintenance for all lifts, regardless of manufacturer. “There are many reasons why a client would want to swap service providers or pool their assets into one bundle and these do not always depend on price alone,” says Andrew Watt, head of service – British Isles, TKE UK & Ireland.
“The management of [mixed lift] portfolios becomes simpler if organisations can deal with a single, competent and reliable service provider.” TKE gains its knowledge through (legally-compliant) reverse engineering techniques. The company’s software developers create applications to communicate with both its own and competitor control systems. Technicians gain access to these control systems via TKE’s in-house, multi-brand electronic service tools.
Watt adds that advances in technology over the past 18 months have enabled it to support technicians through their smartphone. Some applications have augmented reality functionality to offer visual prompts to guide the on-site technician.
TKE has dedicated stores within UK and Ireland for spare parts. Key priorities for its service, says Watt, include responsive service delivery, the extension of asset lifecycles [reducing asset spend via the refurbishment of obsolete components] and providing advice for equipment upgrades within lifecycle management programmes.