ESCO Elevators, Inc.

Parametrics Lift Elevator Design to New Heights

In the mid-1930's, the Fort Worth, Texas company that was to become ESCO Elevators, Inc. designed and build the first push-button-operated, plunger-type hydraulic elevator. Today, ESCO Elevators is pioneering a new elevator design combining cables and hydraulics which requires no shaft holes to be drilled.

Their products range from small passenger elevators for use in private homes to a freight elevator capable of handling 30 tons and a full semi truck.

For ESCO, design flexibility and engineering precision are both essential. There was also a need to reduce some of the more repetitive nature of the design process. This made SYNTHESIS a natural choice.

"I realized there must be something other than just what we were doing on AutoCAD," said Phillip Armentrout, CAD designer and the driving force behind the automation project. Mr. Armentrout and just one other employee had the task of producing three to ten customer approval drawing for each ESCO job.

Shortly after he began his search for a better way to generate these drawings, he visited a California elevator company that had purchased SYNTHESIS software. He had the opportunity to watch the program in use, "and finally realized that's what I had been looking for. I knew there must be something out there like this."

After examining other AutoCAD-compatible parametric programs, he chose to purchase SYNTHESIS, and more than two years ago the automation process began.

"The first step was to decide all the things we wanted to do with it -- deciding what it could do for us," Mr. Armentrout said.

He began with the easiest portion of the approval drawings, a drawing which shows the entrances of the elevator.

I started with that drawing just as a learning process," he said. He became familiar with the features and operation of SYNTHESIS by first deciding what he needed to do, and then discovering how to use the program to accomplish it.

Next, the general layout drawing was automated using SYNTHESIS. All of the calculations and table lookups previously done manually were now done automatically. Now, he estimates that 90% of the general layout drawings and entrance details that were done by hand are now being produced using SYNTHESIS. Layout drawings or entrance drawings are produced after a ten to fifteen minute question and answer session which gathers information on the customer and specifics regarding the elevator. Once the drawings are created, an AutoCAD script file is used to produce the C-size (22 x 17 inch) drawings from a plotter.

"I've used a lot of features so that you can't put in the wrong answer -- I keep adding more of that all the time as I find out that the drafters always find new and ingenious ways to answer a question that I never thought of." The built-in error checking makes it possible for even those with minimal elevator knowledge to use the program to produce customer approval drawings. This was demonstrated recently when a new person was hired to fill the role of the second CAD designer: a highly skilled AutoCAD user who knew nothing about elevators. "Basically, the first day he walked in to do something productive, he was using SYNTHESIS and putting out drawings for approval."

The automated program also provides on-the-job training, without requiring time out of someone else's busy schedule. "He gets to see the drawings each time he does one, and he gets to learn a little something about each one every time he does it... little new things that he hasn't seen before -- questions he hasn't had -- he'll learn even just by answering the questions. And that's, of course, a time savings."

Other time savings so far include a 75% reduction in the amount of time needed to generate the entrance and layout customer approval drawings. Over the course of a month, this translates to nearly doubled productivity.

Production drawing for the hydraulic jacks used to lift the elevators have also been automated. By answering questions about the jack, production details and two lists of related parts to be shipped are generated by SYNTHESIS, all within a matter of a few minutes.

This level of productivity should rise even further when more aspects of design are automated. Future plans include automated production of the drawings for the cab of the elevator, more detailed parts drawings which are sent to the shop, and the bill of materials. The company is also investigating the integration of numeric code software with SYNTHESIS for parts production.

Mr. Armentrout is continuing to make modifications that make the program easier to use. As it encompasses more aspects of design, more people will use the program to speed up their tasks.

Note: ESCO/Esco Elevators was a SYNTHESIS Customer. Apparently they were purchased by another firm.  Their last known telephone number was in Fort Worth Texas. SYNTHESIS Company has no other relationship to this company.

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