It’s All Uphill for Marine Innovations
Minnesota-based maker of inclined elevators has a nationwide and international clientele.
Some of the most successful endeavors are based on the familiar adage, “Do one thing and do it really well.” For Marine Innovations, that one thing is the inclined elevator, and its large, geographically diverse customer base stands as testament to how well it does it.
Marine Innovations Inc. grew out of an idea from Mike and Lori Botzet, who launched their company Botzet Precision Tooling in 1984 in Carlos, Minnesota, to develop the Bank Hoist, the original model of their inclined elevator. In 1991, they founded Marine Innovations to market the Bank Hoist, and, in 1997, moved their operation to Frazee, Minnesota, a small town in the heart of Minnesota Lake Country about an hour’s drive from Fargo, North Dakota.
Today, the company operates from a 10,000-sq.-ft. production facility, designing systems and manufacturing components for installation. Using state-of-the-art equipment, such as a computer numerical control (CNC) milling machine and waterjet cutter, Marine Innovations precision fabricates pieces in-house: track rails, crossmembers, carriages, trollies, power frames, brake assemblies and governors.
Each installation is custom-designed for the specific location, because each hillside has its own particular characteristics (height, angle, terrain, etc.). This is where the advantage of in-house fabrication becomes apparent, because each piece is custom-fitted for the job. The basic framework is then matched with high-quality components: the motor drive, controller, cables, safeties, etc. For travel lengths under 130 ft., drum-drive machines are a good choice, while longer projects require using traction drives. Some of the components and materials are provided by supplier partners, including SJE-Rhombus, Bemidji Steel, General Engineering Co., Douglas Finishing, Minnesota Metal Works, Action Fabricating, Continental Engineering and Broadway Welding.
The company began sales through dealers in 1999, when it expanded into Texas through a partnership with Austin Dock. Today, Marine Innovations works with a network of 14 independent dealers across the U.S. and Canada, and Austin Dock and Tram remains a strong and stable member of the group. In fact, a recent job by Marine Innovations and Austin Dock and Tram was a finalist for ELEVATOR WORLD’s Project of the Year competition. (See sidebar.)
Marine Innovations works hard with its dealers to ensure customer satisfaction. Professionals with each partner company undergo a training program that allows them to perform accurate site evaluations, estimating, installation and service. That doesn’t mean Marine Innovations takes a hands-off approach to projects — far from it. As the company website states:
“With our complete in-house engineering capabilities, we make it easy to partner with other design professionals in a variety of flelds, including landscape architects, marine contractors, elevator contractors, structural engineers, and residential and commercial architects. We assist in everything from engineering prints to permitting to flnal blueprints, allowing us to be involved from concept to completion.”
A top concern for purchasers of inclined elevators is safety, and to that end, Marine Innovations equipment is designed to meet or exceed all ASME A17.1 inclined-elevator industry codes. Mike Botzet even holds a U.S. patent for a braking apparatus. Specific safety features include:
- Centrifugal overspeed governor safety brake that monitors speed: if the carriage travels beyond the set speed, the brake will lock onto a secondary cable or pressure is applied to the rail (depending on application) and bring the lift to a smooth stop.
- Electronic safety brake
- Slack cable brake that monitors the tension in the drive cable and puts the tram into safe mode if slack is detected
- Electronic safety switch on the carriage door that will not allow the lift to operate if the carriage door is open
- Safety interlocks for the top and bottom landing gates to create a safe environment when the carriage is in use
- Top and bottom landing controls with emergency-stop buttons
- Safety switches included on braking systems
- Battery-powered wireless technology and an exclusive supervised signal that will not allow the system to operate when the carriage doors are open
- Aircraft-grade cables with up to 9,800-lb. test strength, offering reliability and durability
For track footings, Marine Innovations’ proprietary pin pile system uses 2-in., high-strength galvanized WT40 steel pipe driven to a suitable resistance using a hydraulic driver and tested. In rocky conditions, holes are drilled, and the supports are set in anchoring cement. For cross-bracing, grade-5 U-bolts are used to attach the braces, rather than drilling directly into the supports, which may weaken the support system and allow for corrosion.