Growing in the Resilient Maintenance Business

Resilient floor coverings constitute a significant amount of total floor coverings sold, and are installed in many different environments. As a matter of fact, they may be found almost anywhere.

Classifications in the category are linoleum, cork, rubber, vinyl products (sheet vinyl, VCT, VAT, VET and solid vinyl luxury tile), asphalt tile and non-vinyl (chlorine-free) luxury tile. The individual classifications are different in composition and may differ in maintenance specifications. Some are chemical-sensitive, while abrasive pads or brushes may damage others. Regardless of the chemicals or pads that may be used (which are very important for performing successful service procedures), all of these floor coverings will basically require the same equipment to accomplish the task of cleaning and maintaining them.

The floor maintenance industry is extremely competitive, and driven, especially in the resilient arena, by labor hours. The ability to provide a service or program of services in fewer hours than the competition generally equates into the opportunity for more profits. Equipment selection when performing hard floor maintenance services can be essential in reducing those hours. Without the aid of equipment, the hard floor maintenance specialist would not be able to perform at all.

Remember, equipment purchase is an overhead cost that when used wisely produces profits for years. You do not want idle equipment that does not perform. Evaluate the piece thoroughly before purchase to ensure it is suitable for the task and cost-effective for the budget.

Selecting Equipment
The standard equipment package is important for the performance of hard floor maintenance regardless of the size of your business. Primarily, there are two basic types of equipment that are required for most periodic and salvage/restorative service procedures; they perform the functions of machine agitation and solution removal.

There are many other tools and materials used in conjunction with the equipment package, such as dust mops, mops, buckets and wringers. But these support the service procedures and will be used with all types of equipment.

Additionally, there is specialty equipment to consider. It can be quite difficult to determine the equipment you want and, more importantly, what you really need. Electric, battery and propane are the basic power sources; the difficulty for some individuals is deciding what to purchase and when. This is especially true with individuals just getting into this business.

Typically, the floor maintenance novice begins with floor maintenance that is less than 1,000 square feet. The standard electrical package is the ideal equipment base for use on these areas.

Basic Machine Agitation
The most common machine first purchased by floor maintenance specialists is the rotary floor machine. It provides the mechanical agitation required in many service procedures.

The rotary floor machine transcends many service procedures and applications and is the machine of choice for all hard-floor maintenance professionals, regardless of the size of business. These service procedures consist of general buffing, polishing and spray buffing as well as various degrees of machine scrubbing and stripping.

Primary Solution Removal
The other primary function that basic equipment performs is solution removal. The equipment of choice is the wet vacuum. Like rotary floor machines, there are many types to choose from and selection often is a reflection of knowledge and finance.

Most individuals who are new in this business are unaware of the value of the wet vacuum, and instead try to evacuate solution with the wet mop. Although it works, it is not the most efficient or effective method. Some may purchase a combination wet/dry vacuum with wand attachments. This is a significant improvement from mopping up the solution, but still a bit time consuming in the larger environments. A wet vacuum with a floor squeegee attachment is the most effective method of removing solution in small to medium area conditions, but can also be used in larger environments when required.

Specialty Equipment
As the business grows, the hard-floor specialist may find the rotary floor machine becomes too time consuming. They may discover that they are performing services in areas greater than 1,000 square feet more frequently, or they may choose to enter the retail, grocery or other large-environment arena. This may be the time to reevaluate the equipment needs and purchase something that is more specialized.

When performing in large open areas, an automatic scrubbing machine has many advantages over the rotary floor machine and wet vacuum. Primarily: freeing the technician from the area constraints of electrical power due to the length of electrical cord.

The automatic scrubbing machine is a combination of solution application, machine agitation and solution removal. It is invaluable in the open area environments where high productivity is essential to be competitive. The automatic scrubbing machine may also be used for performing the stripping procedure; however, never put stripper solution in the solution tank, because it can cause damage to the internal working parts. Only use fresh water in the solution tank when performing the stripping procedure.

Another type of specialty equipment used specifically for the stripping procedure is the propane-powered stripping machine. Specifically designed to perform the mechanical agitation function of the stripping procedure in large areas, it is very fast and efficient. Again, because it is propane powered, there are no electrical-cord concerns.

Coating Maintenance Machines
So far we have discussed equipment used for initial, periodic and salvage/restorative maintenance. An area of equal concern is the service procedures used to maintain the coating or finish on the floor. These services may be daily or routine services, or they may fall into the periodic maintenance realm, depending on the traffic and soiling conditions.

Coating maintenance consists of all the service procedures that involve restoring gloss to the coating or finish surface. There are several service procedures designed to accomplish these tasks. Buffing, polishing and spray buffing may be accomplished with a 175-rpm rotary floor machine, but high-speed and ultra high-speed chemical systems require specialty equipment designed to address them specifically.

High-speed buffers or burnishers are machines that produce higher rpms than the standard rotary floor machine. They range anywhere from 600 to 2,500 rpms and generally have an electric power source. They can be used with or without restorer or conditioning chemicals. Their primary function is to restore gloss to the floor finish by generating heat and friction. These machines are great for many different sized areas as long as electrical outlets are available.

When entering retail, grocery or other large, open-area environments, electrical constraints become inevitable. This is when the ultra-high speed equipment comes into play. Ultra-high speed equipment is considered anything that produces in excess of 1500 rpms; this applies to electrical, battery and propane powered equipment. Battery and propane equipment are the tools of choice for performing these services.

Battery-powered buffers are generally used in environments where the machine can be stored when not in use or where there are internal environmental issues. Although they are excellent machines and produce good results, they have a tendency to loose performance as the batteries drain. Propane-powered buffers are the most effective machines for producing excellent gloss. Down pressure on the machine, in conjunction with the internal combustion engine, creates heat and friction that produce the optimum ¿wet look¿ results.

Resilient floor care is an extremely competitive industry in which equipment plays an integral part. Productivity can be increased in certain environments by using equipment that produces faster, more efficient results. Specialty equipment may allow you to pursue some business opportunities. If you are looking to increase revenue, consider the role that equipment plays and determine if expanding your equipment options puts you in a better position. Once you have established a direction, call your local distributor to see how they can help, or, you can always attend a trade show in which a large selection of equipment is available. The right equipment is often the difference between revenue and profitability.

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