We’ve all enjoyed the thrill of getting on the elevator for a quick ride from the hotel lobby to our room on the 40th floor… only to realize that people are getting off on the 5th, 8th, 12th,… well you get the picture. By the time you finally reach your floor angry looks are being exchanged with the other passengers, almost daring them to push a button to stop the elevator. In the morning the reverse happens… the elevator makes 40 stops on the way back down to the lobby, filling up by about floor 20, and people on lower floors end up catching the up elevator in order to go down.
The Marriott Marquis on Times Square in New York City apparently had a similar, albeit even more severe, problem. I’m not sure if this also sparked the recent addition of artistic metal grates above the interior balconies; perhaps someone with a Starbucks addiction gave up waiting for an elevator and tried a quicker route down to the lobby. However the elevators at the Marquis are rather unique.
Instead of simply getting on the nearest open elevator with everyone else, you type your desired floor into a keypad. The system then assigns you to one of fourteen elevators. You go and wait a few seconds, the elevator arrives, and you get on along with anyone else with the same assignment. The first thing you notice is that there are no floor buttons inside the elevator, with the second observation being that a small LED readout shows your floor along with at most one other. Up you go with no more than one stop.
Presumably the system assigns you to an elevator along with other people with a similar or at most one other destination, taking into account number of requests and the time until the next elevator arrives. Perhaps there’s even some portion of the algorithm that aims to equalize wear and tear on the various elevators. But the result is a quick ride to your destination.
Dare I say that software helps expedite this process, and perhaps this is a non-manufacturing application of “part family” algorithms? There’s probably a visual controls method that could achieve some of this efficiency, but not all. After the tizzy I created on the JSLEAN discussion group earlier this week with my itsy bitsy sideways comment on them, I wonder how they’ll react to this admission.