Imagine that your car breaks down on a road in the middle of nowhere. Then imagine that it could be serviced only by the manufacturer because it used parts and systems that no other company has. That is pretty much the situation some building owners find themselves in when their elevators or lifts need servicing. Instead of hiring the company with the best service and price to provide maintenance or repair for an elevator, some systems can be serviced only by their manufacturer.
But Mowrey Elevator Co. provides a declaration of independence with each of its elevators and lifts. “One of the things we take great pride in is that our equipment is non-proprietary,” CEO Tim Mowrey Sr. asserts. The company’s products can be maintained and repaired by whatever company the owner chooses.
“We have a lot of repeat business,” Mowrey insists. “A lot of people are not happy with what they are getting elsewhere, and they come to us and find a home here. We really find ourselves in a unique position size-wise. We’re big enough that we have the resources to do any job and are able to handle any situation, but we’re small enough that we are very customer-friendly. We’re a lot easier to deal with than the big companies. We find that a lot of people are looking for that, and in our region of the country, we’re the only elevator company that is this size.”
Governmental entities such as cities, counties and school boards are realizing the advantages of installing non-proprietary elevator systems. “They want to have one contract where all the elevators are maintained by one company,” Mowrey relates. “They competitive-bid that out, and we’re awarded a lot of them. A lot of them are coming to realize the problem with proprietary equipment and writing their specs to try to keep that out. They’ll say in their specs, ‘Absolutely no proprietary equipment will be allowed,’ so the word is getting out slowly.”
Mowrey maintains the difference between having an original equipment manufacturer service a proprietary elevator and having another company maintain it can be $300 monthly. With a proprietary system, the owner may be required to use only the OEM’s service. One reason proprietary systems are specified is that some architects choose systems with which they are familiar and that prepare installation drawings for them.
Mowrey Elevator Co. primarily serves the southeastern United States. “We manufacture all the major subassemblies that go into our elevators,” Executive Vice President Dan Redmond emphasizes. “We buy motors and valves, but the subassemblies that go into the elevator, we manufacture every one of them. So we’re a complete manufacturer.” Mowrey purchases circuit boards and then assembles them into control panels itself.
Approximately 20 steps are required to manufacture parts and components for Mowrey elevators at the company’s 350,000-square-foot plant in Marianna, Fla. First, the engineering department sends its plans to manufacturing.
“They take the raw metal, and if it’s sheet metal, they run it through the shear to make it the proper size,” Redmond explains. “Then they run it through the punch to punch any holes in it. All that is automated. Then they run through a brake to bend it, and then it goes over to a welding station, where any welding is done. Then it goes out to the paint shed. We also do some machining on some of the products. We have a machine shop, and we do use some structural steel. We just buy the steel and cut it and weld it.”
Many of the individual manufacturing processes are automated. “We have a CNC lathe that does the milling,” Redmond says. “You write the program, put it in, set it and walk away. It’s a combination of a lot of hand work, too.”
Standard and Custom
Mowrey Elevator Co. has a standard model of elevator. “On the cookie-cutter jobs, we’re not nearly as competitive, because the big companies have an economy of scale that we don’t have,” Redmond points out. “But on custom work, we can do that and be very competitive. One of the reasons that we do have a competitive advantage is we are very flexible, and we can custom-build anything customers want that meets standards.”
These include hoistways that have an odd shape or size or elevators that have an unusual architectural design feature, such as a glass car. The company has designed, built and installed more than 13,000 elevators since its founding in 1976 for all types of buildings, such as universities, stadiums, hospitals, hotels and even aviation control towers.
Mowrey Elevator Co. wants to increase its market penetration within the Southeast. “We want to continue to fill in and establish our position as the leading independent elevator company in our region,” Redmond says. “My main goal for the foreseeable future is to continue to establish that position. It’s changed a lot how we’ve been perceived in the last 10 to 15 years. The mom-and-pop is what people always used to call us, and we’ve gained in just the last 10 years a great deal of respect from our competitors and our clients, as well. If anybody says, ‘What’s an independent elevator company?’ we want our name to be universally known, and we continue to try to expand that presence.”