We forget often that elevators are one of the most popular transportation modes and statistically the safest. The global elevator market is a profitable niche that generates huge cash flows and has a value of more than $90 Billion. Despite frequent service visits, customers still suffer an average of five failures per year. Let’s look at how and why technology can be used to prevent elevator breakdowns.
The elevator maintenance industry is huge — it’s made of feet of clay.
The industry is dominated by a wealthy group of manufacturers, including Otis, Schindler and Thyssen. They earn 75% of their profits through maintenance services. The rest of the market is dominated by small and medium-sized maintenance businesses (also called independent service providers or ISPs). These companies can be found on a national or local scale.
Based on regulations, a model.
What is the operation of all OEMs and ISPs? In the first half of the 20th century, elevator maintenance contracts were a common model to maintain elevators on a regular basis. Most countries have similar elevator maintenance regulations. These regulations are based upon the following:
- Maintenance contracts with a company entitled are obligatory.
- They should plan for at least 1-12 maintenance visits per annum.
- Third-party inspections on a multi-year or yearly basis are mandatory.
These regulations have shaped the business models and business plans of the top OEMs.
They rely on a fixed term maintenance contract that provides mandatory visits and emergency intervention in the event of breakdowns. Additional services are also offered, such as repairs, spare parts changing and specific breakdown repair.
End customers, which are property owners and managers, purchase services (visits and breakdown response), and not results (guarantee that an elevator works).
While many services and industries have gone digital, the elevator industry is yet to embrace technology.
Manufacturers still depend on breakdowns for profit. They can charge high repair costs. Recent years have witnessed a significant shift in this OEM-dominated elevator industry. Independent service providers are gradually eroding maintenance portfolios of majors in the sector. How? Local support that is more personal.
Several models clash
The IoT elevator sector is currently in full development. It is expected to generate revenue of $56 billion by 2026. This is with an estimated CAGR of 15% for 2020-2026. It may seem difficult at first: There are many stakeholders and technologies in a market that can be confusing.
Since long, all major manufacturers have used connected solutions to their machines. However, no one has fully embraced predictive maintenance. What are the new technologies doing in elevator maintenance?
The OEM’s propositions
There are many solutions on the market that use different IoT technologies. Industry leaders have already implemented their own industrial IoT to enable predictive maintenance.
Let’s begin with OTIS. They are the world’s largest manufacturer of elevators. OTIS embraced the IoT by using the Otis ONE ™ solution.
Smart sensors placed on elevators collect data automatically. Through extensive data analysis, the data is processed in the cloud to create predictive algorithms. A dashboard application organizes equipment health, service calls and account updates. It also makes recommendations for maintenance.
This system can be connected via an API to other intelligent buildings systems, providing real value for fleet managers as well as users.
Schindler’s IoT solution also relies on sensors.
Schindler equipped all its elevators in 2018 with an Ahead Cube connected box. This allows Schindler to predict malfunctions and relay all information pertaining to the elevator. The customer now has an online area that allows them to monitor their equipment 24/7. They are notified of any technical events (interventions, maintenance visits). They can also access the fleet performance summary and submit an application to request intervention.
Kone, the Finnish leader in elevators, has partnered up with IBM. They attached a box to top of the unit and linked it to the sensors. It transmits data to IBM Watson analysis, and sends alerts or recommendations to prevent failures.
All the major players in the sector have implemented predictive and preventive maintenance solutions. These solutions are the result of their research. They have created specialized solutions that fit each brand.
News Solutions for Elevator Monitoring
Combining AI and the IoT could transform the way that the elevator industry operates. It allows for efficient predictive maintenance operations that can avoid costly breakdowns. The Elevator IoT offers many options to track and analyze data. This allows technicians to determine the best actions and when to take them. AI-enabled machines provide real-time insight, which is valuable for maintenance companies.
There are many options available to monitor elevators and perform predictive maintenance. There are two ways to track elevators: add sensors to the cabin or communicate with the controller. The controller acts as the elevator’s brain.
Control panels are used for controlling elevators. Control panels are used to control elevators. They contain all power supply units and orchestrate all operations. The control panels also manage other functions such as making or cancelling car calls, door control and measuring the weight and carload.
IoT versus Sensors
Let’s look at these two technologies.
- Additional sensors
Sensors are included in all elevators. There are sensors such as position sensors in the shaft and door locks, temperature sensors on engines, number of trips counters, and temperature sensors on doors. These sensors provide security and cabin control, and verify that the device can function properly.
These sensors detect excess travel speeds and calculate electrical consumption to ensure that the elevator is at the right height to avoid tripping hazards.
There are many types of sensors.
- Safety sensors: To ensure that elevators pose the lowest possible danger, safety sensors are installed. If the elevator moves too fast or the cables aren’t tight enough, it will lock up. These sensors are the most important. If one of them fails to behave properly, the elevator will lock up. It will stop moving and not respond to orders. These sensors are the most important in case of breakdown.
- For example, to operate the sensors, the user must press the button on the 2nd and 1st floors. The elevator will stop at these levels.
Sensors can be programmed to make mistakes and are therefore susceptible to error. External sensors can be damaged or affected by dust and cold, for example. To collect additional data, third-party detectors can also be expensive. To maintain the elevator properly, technicians will need additional knowledge.
- IoT technology linked to the controller
The main electronic board or controller of an elevator collects pre-existing valid data. It is possible to view the logs of the machine with the right tools. We can therefore measure traffic (such as floor usage, door openings and trips), and access the logs of the machine’s components. This includes sensor data and status information.
Which one of these technologies is more reliable?
Controller data is more valuable and insightful than any information you can get from third-party vendors that are not part of the hardware. The best way to use the sensors in elevators was to find a way of using them correctly, since most have many.
Often, additional sensors are added later. They do not communicate with elevators and retrieve the same information. The elevator can know how often it opens and closes its doors, for example. However, if the IoT is not used to communicate with the elevator, this information will be lost.
To count openings and closings, a new sensor is required.
What’s the biggest advantage of the IoT version Once we can communicate with the card we have access to all the information from the original sensors.
The sensors are not perfect and the data may not be 100% accurate. We won’t see the doors open if the sensor moves, and we cannot count the number of door openings.
However, this does not necessarily mean that it is true in practice. The majority of external sensors can be connected to the controller with redundancy. The IoT provides access to the same data without needing additional sensors. The sensors correspond to one information, while the IoT allows access to all information through a single connection.
How can new technology reduce the number breakdowns?
What do these new technologies bring to the table?
Effective maintenance has one main objective: to minimize downtime for machines and equipment. IoT predictive maintenance can be a tremendous asset to companies, both in terms of cost savings and efficiency.
The machine generates data that the IoT device can collect. It will allow an AI to predict possible breakdowns and perform remote checks. This allows the elevator to continue working without the need for a technician.
Let’s look at what we might call “rebellious elevators”. They often fail to function, but then they work again. It could be a component overheating. When the technician arrives, the elevator stops working and then cools off.
Although the breakdown will resolve itself, it will eventually return after a few weeks or days. The technician did not see any weakness when he arrived. These recurring breakdowns can be solved by the IoT, which shows what part of an elevator caused the problem. This allows the technician to see the exact location of the elevator and the role he should repair.
Broken computers are still an issue…
Even though EUR35 billion is spent on elevator maintenance, people are stuck for 1400 years in the 17 million worldwide elevators. Even if the elevator has been well maintained, it is still possible for it to break down.
Most of these problems are easy to identify and can be solved quickly by a technician. Power failure, door blocking, cabin overload, and electronic board problems are the most common causes of elevator malfunctions. IoT technology makes it easy to identify them.
Sometimes, it makes the problem even more difficult to solve. Data analysis allows for the detection of even the smallest anomaly in its early stages. Intermittent breakdowns that are not obvious under normal circumstances can now be identified. They can then be treated directly at the source without any worries. This is also a long-term way to extend the life of an elevator.
But will that still be true in the future?
IoT innovations in elevator maintenance can provide real-time, accurate, and transparent data to technicians and customers. This could transform maintenance delivery to be more transparent and virtuous.
This technology could reduce breakdowns and other failures, increase technical quality, and decrease costs. We believe that we will one day be able eliminate breakdowns thanks to this technology, and a shift in the maintenance sector’s model. The future elevator may not change, but it won’t break down.