Zack McCain on Elevators 101 and Life in the Industry

ELEVATORS-101-COVERElevator World recently interviewed Zack McCain about the publication of the third edition of Elevators 101. Ever since it was first published in 2004, it has remained on Elevator World’s best-seller list. McCain was kind enough, not only to speak about his book, but also to share his heart for the industry he has been serving for decades.

EW: ​What was your inspiration for writing Elevators 101?
ZM: Back in the 1960s, when I had facility-management responsibilities, I started trying to learn the basics of elevators and escalators. There was little to no information available, and those working in the field either did not know much or were not willing to share what they knew. My goal for Elevators 101 was to provide a resource for managers, persons new to the industry and those in the industry who could use a ready reference to identify equipment and the requirements in various codes and standards.

EW: How did you go about writing it? Did you have a process you followed throughout the project?
ZM: I imagined myself in the position of needing to know the basics of elevators and what I thought would be most helpful. I then developed a rough outline, keeping the goal stated above in mind. Then, I started putting things together on my computer. I discussed this project with many people in the industry to get their help and suggestions. I am indebted to Richard Baxter, Jim Coaker, Edward Donoghue, Robert B. Peelle, Jr., Albert Saxer, Robert Seymour and many others in the industry that provided both encouragement and advice. I could never have completed this task without their support and encouragement.

EW: How does it benefit readers?
ZM: I have strived to provide the reader with an unbiased presentation of equipment functions, terminology and sources for requirements for various categories of equipment. Actually, I find myself reaching for it to refresh my memory about specific equipment or the location of a requirement. For example, the table on page 25 lists the location of requirements related to elevators in the IBC and NFPA-5000 building codes.

EW: What is new in the third edition?
ZM: This third edition includes information on fire service access elevators, occupant evacuation elevators, updates on references as well as other changes such as a discussion on varying the speed of escalators and moving walks.

EW: How have you seen the elevator industry change over your lifetime?
ZM: The industry as a whole has grown to have a global interest. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the major manufacturers were U.S. or Canadian based. But now, even the U.S.-based companies have large interests throughout the world. The U.S. and Canadian codes were harmonized in the early part of this century leading to improvement for both standards.

The introduction of electronics in controls and drives has improved equipment and changed maintenance requirements. Computer-aided design has improved design and reduced component size. Both of these have opened the door for new innovations such as machine-room-less elevators, and improved evaluation and performance standards. On the whole, the industry is more open to change than it was in the 1960s and 1970s.

EW: What has been one of the highlights of your career?
ZM: Participating in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Code activities and teaching classes on elevators for ASME professional development — both of these have been satisfying and rewarding. I have made many friends and met many interesting people in the process. These projects and relationships have led to many other areas such as working with Elevator World, the National Association of Elevator Contractors and the International Association of Elevator Consultants, just to mention a few.

EW: What challenges have you faced over the years? How did you overcome them?
ZM: Over the years, I have experienced many failures and disappointments. I have learned not to dwell on them but to move on. I recently read a quote from Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” This is a reminder that you should never let failures and disappointments stop you from trying.

EW: What is your advice for young elevator technicians in the industry?
ZM: The elevator industry performs a vital service to businesses and industries throughout the world. It is rewarding work, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction. Technicians have a responsibility to perform the best they can to ensure the equipment is safe and reliable, and should be prepared to continue learning and improving throughout their career.

Purchase your copy of Elevators 101 in our online bookstore here.