September is upon us which means leases are up and millions of people will be moving. Since the financial and housing crisis, many people have downsized or moved to renting for their housing needs resulting in exploding demand for self storage units. Several companies including publicly traded CubeSmart (CUBE), Extra Space Storage (EXR), Public Storage (PSA), Sovran Self Storage (SSS), and U-Haul under Amerco (UHAL) have benefited from this trend. The demand for more square footage of storage space has led to increased construction of these highly automated storage centers. Below is a small sampling of the stock performance of the companies within this space, courtesy of Yahoo Finance.
Self storage centers often utilize a myriad of automation components and techniques in order to lower the amount of staff needed to oversee the property. Cameras and motion sensors are some of the more common applications, however there is one application for limit switches that I was quite surprised to see during my last trip with a friend to a local storage center.
The storage centers with multiple floors almost always have elevators to lift the renter’s belongings to the appropriate floor. These elevators are not for human use and the renter will operate the elevator from outside using a button. Once the button is pushed the elevator will rise until it makes contact with a limit switch to signal reaching the next floor up. I have attached a picture I snapped of the limit switch inside the elevator enclosure.
The application is quite rudimentary which is perfect for limit switches because they do not require much maintenance or calibration and have long operating lifetimes. Limit switches are offered by many suppliers including Balluff, Eaton (ETN), and Rockwell Automation (ROK). These suppliers may have success in identifying these storage facility operators and targeting them with limit switch marketing campaigns. The application is a bit off the radar for many manufacturers of limit switches who traditionally target OEMs who produce equipment used in a factory or plant. By focusing on self storage facility elevators, a rapidly growing market, limit switch vendors may be able to significantly boost their revenue within this slow-growing product category.