Reading the Tea Leaves

One piece of what AuditMate does for our clients is take all the data from the elevator vendor along with information passed on by the client and turn it into useful information so that our customers can make informed decisions regarding their Vertical Transportation portfolio. But here is the catch: you must be able to read all the data and understand it, decipher what is missing, intentionally omitted, or painted gray, and fill in the blanks. 

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.  The client places an elevator service call on Tuesday, 5/12/21 at 1:00 p.m. reporting that elevator #4 is stopped on the 10th floor with the doors open. The technician arrives at 3:40 p.m. and his work description reads: doors stalled out, reset, and returned to service. The call was closed at 4:05 p.m.  There was 25 minutes total on the job.

The way the technician’s time works is he clocks into the job when he pulls into the parking lot and clocks out when he returns to his van. Let’s put a stopwatch on the events and let’s just say for the sake of argument that there is no check-in and out policy at this building. (AuditMate always recommends the owner have a check-in and out policy) . So, he leaves his van, walks into the building, finds an elevator, takes it to the 10th floor, and checks the status of the down unit. (10 minutes) Now he is off to the machine room to check the controller status or error logs, if applicable and resets the controller. (12min) He heads back to ride the car and make sure it is running properly. (10 min) That leaves 3 minutes to get back to the van and clock out. This is real data from a real callback with a guess as to how long each event took. 

Not much time allotted for troubleshooting is there? Now when I view all the historical data on this job, here is what I find. There have been 14 calls since 1/1/21 at this building, 5 on this car. The building only has four elevators less than 10 years old and is at 65% occupancy.  The average time spent per callback is 44 minutes, the shortest time is16 minutes, the longest time is 68 minutes. The number of repeat calls 6. And 8 of the calls were door equipment-related. FYI, the car I referenced above had a return the following morning on the same floor. 

 

So, my experience tells me it is likely one of three things:

  • Inexperienced technician lacking troubleshooting skills (possibly) 
  • Overloaded technician, running calls all day, no time to identify the root cause(probably)
  • Elevator vendor operations person not looking at the same data we do, if he were this job is loaded with warning signs. (Sure bet)

So, this info leads me to dig a little deeper into our data, I start to look at maintenance hours on the job. This job has periodic frequency (ding-ding-ding alarm bell) which means that it is entirely up to the vendor how often they will visit the job and for how long. Since 1/1/21 to 6/1/21 they have received 280 minutes of maintenance in two separate visits, that is 70 minutes per unit over 5 months or 14 minutes per unit per month.  

Now I cannot help it, I have to dig in all the way.

The elevator company that installed the equipment still maintains it, and the maintenance price has escalated to 36% above market value. The owner accepted a proposal for cartop handrails that were installed. We audited the proposal and it was 49% above market value for the work. We audited 7 separate invoices for work, outside the contract or calls on overtime, and 3 of the 7 were billed with either incorrect labor rates or incorrect hours billed. 

Here are a few more numbers that will get you thinking: 

Elevator maintenance price $2,366 per month. Market price $1,740 

Total Maintenance labor expended on this job in 5 months: $575 

Total uncompensated callback labor for 5 months: $649

Number of times building engineer has met vendor operations manager:

Number of the times property manager has met account representative: 0

 

I love what we do at AuditMate, and I really enjoy helping clients get what they pay for, but what you see here is not the exception, rather it is far too common. The data may not always tell the entire story, but the data will not lie and more times than not it sounds an alarm. 

I would never want my blogs to portray that the industry is filled with poor technicians, in fact, the lion’s share of the tech’s I meet want to do a good job and do it right, but simply are not given the adequate time and resources to do so. Many of them have genius-like troubleshooting skills and mechanical ingenuity that make them true craftsmen at their trade. I also do not want to paint a picture that all elevator companies are like the described scenario above, absolutely not. We work with many offices around the country that step up when things are wrong and do it right and continue doing so. The hope here at AuditMate is that we continue to see improving trends across the country and our customers are the benefactors of the change we are trying to create. 

 

 “Doing the right thing never goes out of style”

Joe Stumph

COO AuditMate

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