The Future of the Independent Contractor in a World of Proprietary Equipment

October 16, 2017
3 min read

One of the better-attended breakout sessions at the NAEC Fall Convention was the discussion around being an independent elevator service contractor in a world that is increasingly filled with proprietary equipment.

Independent contractors face the growing problem of OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturer) that are continually engineering proprietary circuit boards and other vital components. These components are protected by secrecy, patents, or copyright and in an era of IP protection, the impetus to maintain IP production correlates to protecting shareholder value. Accordingly, OEMs do everything they can to refuse outside support for proprietary equipment, restrict the availability of replacement parts, and stop the reverse engineering of microprocessor technology.

These challenges are not new. In the 80’s independent contractors also could not get product from OEM’s. Both contractors and building owners called loudly for non-proprietary parts and products. OEMs agreed to some extent by allowing independents to service certain equipment but planned obsolescence was built into new elevators which were embedded with protected software.

Today the situation is much more difficult because the pace of technology change is evidently faster. It very difficult for everyone, including the OEM’s, to keep up. Controls now have life cycles as short as 10-years. To compound the problem, the new equipment installed today does not hold up as well as the older equipment that has been properly maintained. OEMs continue to build products with planned obsolescence, and they are scaring building owners that new equipment will not be supported by independent contractors. OEM’s seem to prematurely move in with modernization plans. Litigation is a tactic commonly used by the OEMs to protect their investments in developing advanced controllers.

Some industries, such as aerospace and automotive, do not face such challenges because OEM’s allow other people to supply and distribute products.

Ultimately, change in the industry will have to be lead by those higher up in the value chain – the building owners. Building owners have the ultimate power around the problem associated with proprietary equipment, because they drive product demand, and really need to dictate who should service the equipment and how it should be done.

FIELDBOSS® is a proud member of NAEC, CECA & ECNY. We study elevator industry trends, participate in association meetings & roundtables, and work with our elevator customers to continually develop and enhance our software to meet your unique business needs. To learn more about FIELDBOSS, contact us here.

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