He gets a rise out of elevators

Elevator industry has ups and downs

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Elevators: They are one of those things you take for granted. “Most people think elevators just come with the building,” said Gregg Laufersweiler, executive at Stanley Elevator. But in the insular elevator industry, Laufersweiler, 59, knows all about elevators: their machinery; safety records; history and trivia. He can tell you exactly how many elevators in Stanley’s client buildings: 110 elevators at Boston College; 70 elevators at Children’s Hospital; 15 elevators at 100 High Street, and the list goes on and on. Laufersweiler has seen the ups and downs in the business as Stanley, once a small family business, grew into one of the largest elevator companies in New England. Stanley Elevator does not manufacture the elevators they sell; as the elevator manufacturing business has consolidated into just a few conglomerates, they represent the German company ThyssenKrupp Elevator. ThyssenKrupp manufactures the elevators at plants in Tennessee and Mississippi and ships them to Stanley, which has a 24,000-square foot headquarters and warehouse building in Merrimack, N.H., and satellite offices in Portland, Maine, and Mansfield. Installing new elevators takes up most of Stanley’s business, with service contracts making up the rest – Laufersweiler says that many elevator companies make proprietary machinery that only they are able to service, making the servicing of their elevators very intangible and hard to compete with. But any modernization or new installation done by Stanley can be maintained by anyone, said Laufersweiler. The Globe spoke with this longtime elevator salesman about this indispensable piece of machinery:

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“There are about 900,000 elevators in the U.S. It’s the safest form of transportation on the earth. You’re more likely to be injured walking or riding in a car than in an elevator. Mile for mile, more people have been moved on elevators than any other vehicle, except maybe space travel. The first passenger elevator was designed in 1857 and demonstrated at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889. For many years elevators had car switches and operators; it wasn’t until 1950s that automatic elevators became commonplace. The equipment today is still similar to that used decades ago but there are less electro-mechanical components and the control panel is computerized. Elevators are not a commodity or volume-based business like, say, cell phones, which are sold by the millions; only thousands of elevators are sold every year. Elevators are pre-engineered and architects design a building to fit them. Elevators are the reason that downtown office buildings can exist, keeping workforce concentrated instead of having sprawling corporate campuses. We maintain elevators dating back years, such as 10 High Street, where the elevators were installed in 1923. It can be a tall order to get those parts, which are difficult to find. Destination elevators are the latest trend – they use the law of averages and Q theory to know what floor a person in the lobby might go to. The passenger goes to a lobby kiosk and is told what elevator to take; there’s no push button in the elevator itself. In the future, we may be using linear drive elevators that use magnets for rails; almost a ‘beam me up Scotty’ concept where passengers can travel both horizontally and vertically. One of the more unusual elevators that Stanley has installed is at Penobscot Observatory Bridge in Maine; it goes to an observation deck and the height is equivalent to a 45-story building. Many people ask me: “Are elevators safe?” Hollywood has created a phobia of being stuck in an elevator. But when I’m watching a movie where there’s an elevator in free fall or some other sensational accident, I know that it’s not possible the way it’s portrayed. There are many redundant safety circuits to prevent the elevator from doing something that might hurt you. And this is not just an ‘elevator pitch’ on my part. I talk elevators every day of my life.”

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December 12, 2017 | 12:52 PM