I wrote the following for the December issue of PT. As you can see, it focuses on the automated parking industry and its issues. However I received a response from an old acquaintance in Hoboken, Don Pellicano. His response is printed below my article. >
My article in December PT:
With apologies to my friends in the automated parking industry, I bring this sad story to your attention. Well, I’m not alone; there have been a dozen articles written in local and national papers about the problems in Hoboken, NJ, in the past few weeks. Things aren’t going well at this automated facility.
Gerhard Haag and Robotic Parking got a contract to build an automated garage in Hoboken. It was the perfect application for the technology. Everyone was excited. Thus began an almost seven-year litany of issues, problems, lawsuits, blame, success and failure.
Don’t think for a moment that Gerhard is the only one at fault in this story. There is plenty of blame to go around. It includes the general contractor, the mayor at the time, the parking authority, the local power company, the designer, the consultant, the architect; the person writing the specifications, the weather, and well, virtually everyone involved in the project deserves some part of the blame.
The project was way behind completion — almost two years. When done, everyone was arguing as to whether or not it worked as it was supposed to, and who is to supply personnel to run it.
This is one of those situations where there is no absolute right or wrong. The issue is that even today, problems exist and from time to time folks have to wait a few hours to get their cars out. There is also the odd vehicle that is dropped from the third floor. Not good.
Naturally, the city is running for the hills, hiding behind contracts and lawyers. Gerhard is frustrated, of course, because he thinks the owner should begin to take some responsibility for what it bought.
And there you have it — the reason a niche industry in our business is stalled and having such difficulty getting going. It is a classic case of what can go wrong in a project.
I remember years ago at a meeting of the Automated and Mechanical Parking Association, when rumblings of the problems at Hoboken were starting, Arturo Ressi of Trevipark spoke out strongly. "We manufacturers should do whatever it takes to make Hoboken work. Gerhard needs our support and should get it.
Ah, the great Italian solution. All for one and one for all (or was that the Three Musketeers?). Of course, Gerhard didn’t get it. Most of the other manufacturers really were looking for him to fail. Arturo was right, of course. The less-than-stellar performance of the Hoboken garage has put many other projects on hold. Gerhard’s competitors send me articles about the problems in Hoboken. They roll their eyes and chuckle about the issues.
What is most sad is that Gerhard Haag was the only manufacturer that put his money where his mouth is. He built a test system in Ohio. He showed people how it would work. And he got the deal. Of course, he didn’t know how to work in an environment like Hoboken. Power, influence, politics, money and perhaps a bit of rubbing right up against the law were involved. Not a good place to cut your teeth on a new technology and in a country where the customs are foreign.
The result is a stalled technology. Virtually no other automated systems have been installed in the U.S. They work all over the world, but no one wants to be the first one here. (OK, there is one running in DC, and 50,000 that are going to break ground "next month.")
One can only hope that this gets sorted out. But knowing all the players on all sides personally, I’m not holding my breath. Competitors are laughing at Robotic’s problems. Little do they realize that they are joined at the hip.
Yes, your story about Hoboken is sad. But sad for the industry, Hoboken and your readers. What needs clarification are some of the statements that you make.
1. Things have not been going too well at the facility, for a long time. It took all of 1999,2000,(to September). Then most if not all of 2001. It wasn’t until sometime in October of 2001 when vehicles started in.
2. But the facility could only take 25 or maybe it was 60, vehicles a week. Then it was operation stop at around 200.
3. Gerhard Haag and Robotic, never ever had any signed agreement with Hoboken to build anything.
4. Robotics however, stated that they designed their garage.
5. The agreement (bid documents) were with the parking authority (autonomous body) and the general contractor. Robotics was a sub contractor to the general.
7. The bid stipulated, and all parties were bound by it, to conclude the job within 365 days. As you will note above. It tool, almost over 3 years to even move a car
8. Yes there is a lot of blame but lets be objective, if we can. Hoboken, decided to move ahead with an automated facility. We were informed, and it is in writing, that the facility would not require an attendant. Today there are at least two plus attendants on duty.
9. You state, every person deserves some part of the blame. But the major portion of the persons are from the perspective of the parking authority.
10. Haag is only mentioned once and he should be mentioned as Haag and the authority, Haag and the contractor etc.
11.That does not mean that the opposite of Haag bears all the blame.
12. Haag was responsible from day one, for the specs and for everything relating to the so called technology, that he supposedly had.
13. If that were the case then why almost three years. They fiddled while Hoboken burned for months and for months at triple time (24/7)
14.The only personnel that the authority was ready to supply were clerks to act as customer relations and keep the facility clean.
15. And this is what we anticipated from day one, not from day 900. \
16. Odd vehicle dropped. Robotics blamed the owner of the vehicle, who has yet to be paid for the total damage to his Cadillac.
17.What about the jeep that was dropped. Robotics said that the emergency brake was not on. Yes it was, and they have pictures of it. What about the recent vehicle that came out with the rear, forward and then dropped into the pit, breaking the axle.
These are rare, but then the Robotics blames personnel. Then who is to blame for a jacket left on a pallet that then tied up the facility for over two hours, recently.
Yes Haag put his money where his mouth is. Anyone who visited his so called prototype would see that it was no more than an elevator that moved exactly one car, in once bay into one slot inside the building. On the occasions that I visited. Twice. The vehicle got as far as the interior and then stopped. I never saw the car go any further.
His money. No John, Haag put other peoples money where his mouth is.
Yes he had an idea and a patent. Read his patent, I did. It is fine but it contains no technology. If it did then why did Siemens pull out of their potential deal, why did he buy the license agreement with GE for their simplicity program, and then why did he go to at least two other companies,
Well, why did his technician say to me? We do not use GE.
Yes John it is a disaster. Too bad because there are companies out there that have the technology to install automated parking
You should contact the parking utility, before you write your next store. Get the facts from them.
I’m sure they can supply you with documents regarding their so called maintenance that costs $17,500 a month, plus $5.000 a month for parts. If you saw the facility a few months ago, you would get sick.
Former Commissioner of the parking authority
I sold Don Pellicano and the City of Hoboken a revenue control system about 20 years ago when I worked for Secom. Although the relationship wasn’t quite as rocky as that with Robotic there were many similarities, most having to do with brand new technology and the salesperson (read that me) overselling the product and the customer having expectations that were not possible for anyone to meet.
My Response to Don:
Thanks for your note — I think its time for you to put this to rest. Your former organization made some poor decisions, as did everyone else involved in the project. That’s it. If you want to place blame, why not look at the buyer. They had plenty of opportunity to get good information. What they did was the best they could at the time. Why is that so terrible? They were then and are on the cutting edge of technology. Remember, that was almost what, 7 years ago.
I doubt seriously if there are any 400 vehicle facilities in Europe or Asia that have no attendants. Maybe the facts are that this stuff can’t work with no attendants. If that’s the case, so be it. If Gerhard was wrong about that fact, then he was wrong. Get over it, Don.
Hell, holding people’s feet to contracts do little more than give people cold feet. There has to be some give and take when new technology is being installed. If there isn’t, all will fail.
The truth is, and you know this Don, that it was Gerhard Haag that you bought, not some now bankrupt defunct general contractor. The city would have been much better off to have worked directly with him. However that, too, is water over the damn.
Relax, take a deep breath, and see if there is anything you can do to make the lemons you bought into lemonade…Become part of the solution..
1. Cut a better deal with Gerhard to cover the maintenance and/or hire someone else to maintain the system.
2. Accept the fact that the place needs to be staffed at least 16 hours a day and then staff it.
3. Hire someone who wants the garage to work and thinks its their job to do so, my guess is that it would.
4. Have a heart to heart talk with all the Don Pellicanos of the world and get them on the side of solving the problem, not fixing blame and spewing invectives.
Then they would most likely have a successful garage and and successful reputation. As it stands now, its only downhill.