Using Lifts in European Self-Storage

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The self-storage industry in the United Kingdom and Europe has become more retail in its approach. In line with this change, self-storage lifts have undergone an aesthetic overhaul. Though the mechanical aspects behind the scenes remain very similar, computer technology has been adopted in many current lift designs.

Twenty years ago, the first self-storage lift was installed in a building in London. This lift was a basic, 2-meter-cube lift car of galvanized steel, with manual shutter gates built into a steel structure. These days, with the focus on customer appeal, owners need to consider aesthetics as well as mechanics.

One of the major considerations for a self-storage owner purchasing lifts is the type of service he wants to offer his customer base. Does he need a durable, heavy-duty workhorse lift, or one with the features of a workhorse but presented in an attractive package for marketing purposes? The latter appears to be the current choice in the self-storage community, especially for larger operators.

Will the lift be hydraulic or electric? This is usually decided by the number of floors served by the lift and the overall travel between floors. The majority of lifts in the self-storage industry are twin-ram hydraulic for moving goods and passengers, and electric (traction) for moving goods only.

One area of misconception regarding lifts is travel speed. Unless a lift serves a number of floors, the travel speed is, to some degree, irrelevant—it will nearly always take longer to load the lift than to travel between floors. The most commonly specified lift speed is around 0.4 meters per second above two floors, and around 0.3 meters per second for two-floor lifts. There are some exceptions to this but not many. It is a common rule that speed means money when purchasing lifts.

The lift-floor area is a possible source of confusion when discussed with the manufacturer. The floor area dictates the capacity of all goods and goods-passenger lifts. The manufacturer must work within the tables in the European Lift Directive 95/16/EC (passenger lifts) and the European Machinery Directive 89/392/EC (goods-only lifts) for the lift to be Conformite Europeene (CE) marked and placed in service. For example, a lift car with a 2-by-2-meter floor area will have 2,000-kilogram capacity, depending on the lift-car door design.

Once these basic design features have been decided, the type of door becomes the next concern. The trend has gone from shutter gates to automatic panel doors, which look better. But in the self-storage industry, the type of goods moved in the lift can cause problems. Shutter gates are robust and will take the odd knock with some resilience. Automatic doors are less durable and can incur more damage from a small knock. The use of trolleys can cause all sorts of problems, since a lift door never opens or closes fast enough for some customers.

Maintenance and Inspections

Lift damage normally results in a call to the service provider, and the costs can be considerably more than most operators envision. This should be considered when budgeting for annual lift maintenance.

Following the process of researching competitive manufacturers and deciding on the right product for your facility, the lift is installed. You look forward to many years of continuous service. You set up an annual maintenance contract. Then your insurance inspector does his biannual inspection and requires lift-guidelines (LG) inspections be carried out. But two questions need to be answered.

First, what are LG inspections? These annual five- and 10-year inspections are conducted under Safety Assessment Federation regulations, lifting operation and lifting equipment regulations, and provision and use-of-work equipment regulations, as recommended by your “competent person.” Second, who is a competent person? Normally, this would exclude your service provider. Under most circumstances, it will be your insurance inspector, who should dictate your lift-testing regime and indicate what form of LG test is to be carried out.

Lifts are a very simple concept. But specifying the right lift can be a major area of concern for any self-storage operator. Get it wrong and the lift is always there in the background, a constant reminder of the error. Obtain advice from a trusted consultant and pick a manufacturer that can meet your needs under the relevant CE marking regulations.

Mike Carp is the sales manager for LTR (Lifts) Ltd. He has more than 30 years of sales experience in the engineering and materials-handling industries and joined LTR in 1993. The company, formed in 1981, supplies all industries with heavy duty goods-passenger lifts and is the largest supplier of lifts to the self-storage sector in the United Kingdom. For more information, visit www.ltr-lifts.com.

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