EDC Repairs “Unfixable” Elevator VFD, Saving Customer 90%


Novartis elevator VFD repair

For facility managers, an elevator being down is always an annoying issue to deal with. But when that elevator is one of just two in a major pharmaceutical headquarters’ 6-story parking garage serving multiple office buildings, the inconvenience for facility occupants’ commute exasperates the annoyance exponentially. This is exactly the situation Ken Prokop, facility manager at Novartis Headquarters, had on his hands when the critical parking garage elevator was down due to a 12-year-old VFD that was not performing properly.

Ken needed the elevator back in service quickly. He started his search for a solution with the seemingly obvious choice of the elevator vendor handling maintenance on the elevators. Unfortunately, the elevator vendor was not able to repair the drive. They suggested two alternatives: replace the drive with a new one or borrow a drive from one of the four elevators in the office buildings.  The quote for replacing the obsolete drive with the new proprietary drive had a price tag of nearly $50,000!  Swapping out the drive for one from a less-frequently-used elevator didn’t solve the problem – it just moved the problem.  There had to be a better choice available.

Looking for another option, Ken decided to call Sal Zannino, EDC’s service coordinator, to see if EDC could help. Novartis has been an EDC customer for over 25 years servicing all of the HVAC and pump systems.  “I like dealing with a local company.  Unlike at a national company, at EDC you deal with the same people every time.  I know who I’m speaking with, and who is coming out.  You get better service and it feels like a close-knit professional relationship,” said Ken. “We had never used EDC for an elevator drive, so I was not sure if they would be able to help.”

When Ken made his phone call to Sal, an EDC technician happened to be in one of Novartis’ buildings performing routine preventive maintenance (PM) service on the HVAC drives. Sal asked the EDC engineer to take a look.  Based on the engineer’s evaluation, Sal felt confident that EDC could address the elevator drive problem.

EDC is unique compared to most other service organizations in that it has two sides, a Service Division and a Systems Division.

The Systems team designs and builds full-scale automation control systems.  The 11-man Field Service Engineering Team performs site-wide VFD Preventive Maintenance programs, 24/7 on-site emergency VFD repairs, and new drive installations.  A special niche that EDC is becoming increasingly known for is the capability for providing turn-key control solutions for existing projects where new VFDs and PLC logic must seamlessly be interfaced with existing and sometimes antiquated control and mechanical systems. Both Service and Systems bring their own areas of expertise, and experience that spans decades.  Using cross-departmental collaboration where needed, EDC is a company uniquely qualified to take on virtually any control project with successful results, regardless of the difficult challenges.

Over a two-day period, EDC diagnosed the VFD, acquired the needed parts, and completed the repair. Repairs included component level Printed Circuit Board (PCB) repair, and replacement of various drive components, including capacitors.  EDC worked with the elevator manufacturer to ensure the special-order parts were obtained and delivered quickly to get the customer back in operation ASAP.   Once the repair was completed, the drive was dynamically load tested at EDC’s facility to ensure the drive ran reliably under full load conditions especially given the critical elevator application.  The drive was successfully installed, returning the elevator to normal service.

Novartis was very pleased with the repair’s cost and EDC’s effort to expedite the timeline.  The total cost of the repair was 90% less than if Novartis had replaced the drive, and downtime had been kept to a minimum through the process.

“We have been working together for 20-plus years and have established a strong professional relationship. EDC has always come through for us for all of our drive work – for maintenance, malfunctions and VFD upgrades / VFD replacements – and restored our systems accordingly. EDC has consistently given us good, cost-effective options to get our operations back online again,” said Ken.

The cost to repair the drive was a small fraction of what it would cost to replace, and the building occupants are happy to have the critical elevator back in service.  If it happens again, Novartis now knows who to call.  Until then, EDC technicians will go back to work ensuring that the hundreds of drives at Novartis’ headquarters in East Hanover continue providing maximum energy savings and reliable operation for many more years to come.