Truckmounts: The ICS Interview
August 17, 2011
When it comes to carpet cleaning, truck-mounted equipment does occupy a dominant space in the industry, and in the last 10 years, the segment has seen some definitive changes; to that end, ICS recently turned to some of the industry’s top experts – Prochem’s Glen Wilson, MasterBlend’s Brent Wiegand, Sapphire Scientific’s Mike Roden, Cleanco’s Lou Querin and HydraMaster’s Mickey McKee – to find out just what’s been going on in the realm of truck-mounted cleaning equipment.
ICS Cleaning Specialist: In your opinion, what would you say is the No. 1 attribute of truck-mounted cleaning equipment?
Glen Wilson: Quality. At the end of the day, the quality and reliability of a truckmount is what separates a great truckmount from a good one. At Prochem, we realize how important this is, since professional cleaners rely on their equipment to make a living.
Brent Wiegand: Truck-mounted cleaning equipment gives the cleaner several advantages. The obvious is the combination of vacuum, pressure and heat that the truckmount provides. This performance also gives the operator the ability to complete the job quicker and leave the customer with a cleaner and drier carpet. This will result in increased customer satisfaction and increased productivity.
Mike Roden: Heat-exchange efficiency and precise heat control together are the most important. High heat doesn’t do any good if you can’t deliver it consistently all day long. At Sapphire, we’ve developed control systems that deliver heat consistently and provide accurate temperature control. This allows operators to dial in exactly the temperatures they want for the cleaning situation at hand. That’s critical for consistent cleaning results.
Lou Querin: The number one attribute of truckmount cleaning equipment is making the cleaning technician’s job easier and more profitable. Carpet cleaning is hard work. That’s why our units are designed with user-friendly operation features, extraordinary engineering and quality craftsmanship. The easier the job is for the operator, the more work they’ll get done quicker and the more profitable they’ll be.
Mickey McKee: The ability to maintain heat throughout the entire cleaning cycle. The truckmount, through design, retains its heated product better than utilizing a portable.
ICS: A lot’s changed in the past 10 years; can you run down a few key advances in truckmount technology?
BW: The engines have come along way in the last decade. They have gone away from breaker point ignition systems to the new electronic ignition systems that have not only simplified maintenance but also have lengthened the intervals between the services. In our case, the El Diablo uses a diesel-fired heating system that uses less than half the fuel of older systems, and in most cases it is even close to using only one-quarter the fuel, and still maintaining temperatures of 250-degrees-plus if desired.
MR: The most important advancements include extended belt life through the use of EPDM belt material and belt cooling, improved heat-exchange efficiency, better high-temp seals in the solution pumps, and cleaner, more efficient engines. But the most important advance is size reduction. In the last two years we’ve reduced the size of truckmounts by 40% or more while maintaining the same high levels of performance.
LQ: Many advances have been made over the last 10 years, including hotter water temperatures, simplified engineering and better fuel economy. This technology improves both the end result of each job performed and the bottom line for the owner.
MM: Focus on CFM has taken main stage over vacuum lift. Movement of air trumps the principle that vacuum lift is the most important feature of extracting byproduct. The second item of importance is that the design of the truckmount units has incorporated easier serviceability compared to older models.
GW: Truckmounts have maintained or even increased their performance in a much-simplified product. Once again, resulting in reliability that a professional cleaner to rely upon. I hear stories all the time of truckmounts that are 10-plus years old and still performing like new.
ICS: What are the top three questions you hear from cleaners when they’re shopping for truckmounts?
MR: The three main questions that stick out in my mind that truckmount buyers ask are “How much CFM?” “How much heat?” and “How reliable?” And of course they ask about price. A truckmount is a major investment, and these are important questions to get the decision process started.
LQ: One, What water temperature can the Cleanco Compact reach and maintain? Two, What size is the vacuum blower, how much CFM and lift will the unit produce? And three, Are the units easy to maintain?
MM: How hot does the unit heat water? How big is the blower? What benefits would I receive for the price of purchasing a truckmount unit?
GW: What is the performance like of the truckmount, the heat, vacuum, hose run length? What is the warranty? What type of engine does the truckmount have?
BW: Price, performance, and reliability. I get these questions almost every time and it appears that they are usually asked in this order. With today’s economy, the customer wants to find the best performance he can get with out breaking the bank. He also wants to have confidence that his equipment will keep going well into the future.
ICS: What’s the one question cleaners don’t ask, but should, when they’re shopping for a new truckmount?
LQ: What model best fits my requirements? Most of us think bigger is better which is not always the case. We would rather see our customers with a unit they will utilize to its fullest potential than in one that has bells and whistles they don’t need to get the job done right.
MM: How easy is the unit to service? They rarely ask how to access certain components on the unit until it becomes absolutely necessary, and find out how difficult it is to access certain components given the decision they made.
GW: Is there a qualified servicing dealer in my local area?
BW: This is a great question. They should ask about the support the manufacturer provides. This can include support on cleaning and spotting issues, as well as the equipment. The customer may also want to find out what type of national distribution network is available in the event they decide to either open a new location or relocate.
MR: Customers often overlook fuel consumption and put too much emphasis on CFM. This leads many buyers to purchase more machine than they need. The question should be “Does this unit provide the performance I need at the level of fuel consumption that makes economic sense for my business?” That’s a much better way to approach the buying decision.
Buyers should also consider the ease and efficiency of servicing the machine. Downtime can quickly turn a profitable job into a money-losing job, so the ability to get the machine up and running quickly is very important. Look for quick-remove access panels and easy-to-reach components. Truckmounts should be designed so that all routine service can be done in just a few minutes with basic tools.
ICS: When you’re developing new truckmount features, innovations or even new models, how much input do cleaners have in the process?
MM: The end user of the product has a tremendous amount of influence over the development process at HydraMaster, through feedback during the design, mock up of new models, and the test phase of any product. Customer focus groups and continuous customer engagement is also part of recognizing trends that affect your product roadmap.
GW: At Prochem, we utilize a QFD (Quality Function Deployment) process that involves cleaner from across the country. During the process we ask cleaners from different geographic areas of the world because each area can have specific requirements or needs. We frequently complete focus groups to make sure we are keeping up with any changes in the needs to cleaners.
BW: The cleaners are the people that are going to be operating and maintaining the equipment, so I listen to what the cleaner has to say. The machines need to be easy to maintain, and also need to be user friendly. If the cleaner has a multiple truck operation he needs to be able to teach his tech to operate the machine and do the scheduled maintenance.
MR: I have been deep in the truckmount engineering trenches for decades. But when we launched Sapphire Scientific in 2009, I spent almost all of the first two months doing just one thing: meeting with, restoration and carpet cleaning industry leaders, and a whole range of customers. My purpose was to find out just what customers really want in a truckmount. That experience was eye-opening, and has led directly to the key innovations we have introduced.
LQ: Cleanco has always had an open door policy with our distributors to the end use cleaners and owners for new ideas and improvements. Our units today have many features and innovations that were suggested to us over the years by both sides.
ICS: Let’s break out the crystal ball: what does the future hold in truckmount R&D? What should cleaners expect to see 5 or even 10 years from now?
GW: Truckmounts today offer plenty of heat, vacuum and solution pressure required for most jobs. The biggest changes in the future will be driven by other factors such as changes in emission requirements of the engines, noise restrictions and fuel costs.
BW: The engines will be fuel injected due to EPA emission regulations. Even today, there are standards for the small engine emissions. 2 or 3 years away, the regulations are going to get tougher, just like in the automotive industry. As the automotive industry is being pressure to increase the fuel economy of their vehicles, they are going to be forced to make the vehicles, including cargo vans smaller. This will make truckmount manufactures design our machines to fit in these vans. We will have to come up with new ways of accomplishing this without sacrificing performance.
MR: The desire for greater efficiency is driving change at an incredible pace. I think we’re going to see some radical changes in powerplant technology. We’re going to see gas/electric hybrids and we’re going to see alternative fuels like compressed natural gas. And I think change is going to move fast. In ten years, maybe even in five, every engine that is available now is going to be obsolete.
LQ: With technology changing daily anything is possible for the future of truckmounts! Looking back at the evolution of direct drive truckmounts over the last 30 years, power, hotter water temperatures and space saving design have been the front-runners of innovative concepts that satisfy the operator needs. In the future, truckmounts may use less water in the cleaning process, be quieter, easier to maintain and even more fuel-efficient than today’s models. Stay tuned to find out!
MM: We believe that that the “green movement” has and will impact the design and function of units moving forward. Exhaust regulations, alternative fuel designs, utilizing less water etc… will be driving force in our market’s future. The ecological side of our collective businesses will and must drive the expansion of our markets. Beyond that, creating a smaller “footprint” with space and weight will be a major focus on all designs moving forward.
For more information:
HydraMaster – www.hydramaster.com
Prochem – www.prochem.com
Sapphire Scientific – www.sapphirescientific.com
MasterBlend – www.masterblend.net
Cleanco Truckmounts – www.cleanco.com