Selecting Floor Care Equipment to Fit Your Facility’s Need

March 15, 2001
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As the floor care maintenance profession has become increasingly skilled over the past few decades, higher demands have been placed on managers including doing more with less, while maintaining an acceptable level of quality. The main expense in this industry is the cost of labor, which may amount to over 90% of an operational budget. Thus anything that can maximize the returns on labor investment will have a significant impact upon the bottom line. Yet it’s amazing to see how many organizations mismatch type of equipment and the wrong type of jobs.

Repeatedly, I have seen a maintenance technician mopping a wide and long unobstructed hallway with a damp mop—a hard and arduous task that can cause injury to the cleaning person due to the potential for repetitive motion injury. Such a task could be completed more efficiently, effectively and safely by utilizing an auto-scrubber that is designed to scrub large unobstructed areas in a much shorter period of time, with minimal human effort.

Why should a facility manager expend a significant amount of time researching, selecting and purchasing the right type of maintenance equipment for their cleaning arsenal? There are five reasons why the purchase of the appropriate pieces of maintenance equipment can pay rich dividends:

  • Decreased Labor Costs. In the example cited above, it could take 12 minutes to damp mop 1,000 square feet of hallway space using a regular mop, while scrubbing the same area with a large area auto-scrubber may take as little as 4.20 minutes—a savings of nearly two-thirds! The saving of time in cleaning tasks relates directly to labor costs. (This example is actually extrapolated from established industry time measures for the cleaning industry)

  • Increased Productivity. Based upon the example already mentioned, it’s obvious that using a piece of automatic scrubbing equipment maximizes productivity as the person can auto-scrub nearly two-thirds more space by using an appropriate auto-scrubber.

  • Enhanced Employee Morale. Knowing they have the best equipment available to increase their accomplishments with less expended effort can boost the morale of cleaners.

  • Safety. One of the occupational hazards of working in the floor care industry is the constant utilization of a large human workforce to perform repetitive motion tasks, such as mopping floors and vacuuming carpets. Repetitive motions of this type can contribute to repetitive motion injuries (carpal tunnel syndrome). Such injuries can be expensive, and in most cases, can be minimized by using the right equipment to get the job accomplished.

  • Professional Image. Cleaners that use the right equipment to clean an area in the proper manner, while being productive and effective, can send a loud and clear message to the executives of an organization. Such an image represents cleaners as being professional, businesslike and efficient.

Selecting the right equipment for the right task is not complicated, however, a systematic and thorough process should be utilized to assist in the identification and purchase of the right piece of equipment for the right job:

  • Analyze and take inventory of the tasks performed by cleaning personnel, including dust mopping, damp mopping, wet mopping, scrubbing floors with a brush, buffing floors, dusting, etc.

  • Analyze the equipment being used to perform each task. This analysis must include relevant sizes and types of equipment. For example, floor mops come in different weights (expressed in ounces, 12, 16, 24, 32, etc.) or different sizes (small, medium, large, etc.). Floor buffing machines could be low or high speed (measured in revolutions per minute), and it is significant to note the pad size on buffers and burnishers (such as 14, 17, 20 inches, etc.) as well.

  • Analyze the area being cleaned: Is it an open unobstructed space (such as a hallway) or is it a highly obstructed and congested space such as an office area with many cubicles? The more congested an area, the more difficult it is to use large size or automated equipment.

  • Match the right type of cleaning equipment to the right task: This is probably the most complex and time-consuming step, but it’s one that can reap rich dividends in increased productivity, increased savings, increased employee morale and decreased occupational injuries:

  • Involve the persons that perform the work in the selection of the best type of equipment to accomplish each task.

  • Research the types of products available by reading trade publications. Read the articles and check out the advertising.

  • Contact reputable sales representatives to explain the different types of equipment available for each task, and seek recommendations from several competing companies.

  • Evaluate the claims of equipment manufacturers and representatives against available industry literature. Also request sample demonstrations and arrange for a trial period of on-site use and testing of demonstration models.

  • Work with the professionals in your purchasing department to develop accurate specifications for each piece of equipment you wish to purchase. Such specifications should clearly spell out warranty requirements, service expectations and training expectations. Follow your company’s purchasing guidelines for bidding out equipment. Well written specifications are your key to purchasing satisfactory equipment.

  • Analyze the bids, using established specifications, to determine which product best meets your needs, and that can guarantee readily available service and training on a regular basis. Solicit input from the end users—the technicians—about the products that may be purchased. Bells and whistles on equipment may be nice, but too often the bells and whistles turn into real lemons and down time may be unacceptable.

The purchase of the appropriate pieces of equipment is only the beginning in a long-term strategy to maintain a quality arsenal of cleaning equipment:

  • Training must be provided on an on-going basis to end users by sales representatives and cleaning managers. The training should identify the correct procedures to use while the equipment is in operation and what is necessary for the equipment to perform at peak efficiency.

  • A pro-active preventative maintenance program should be developed in conjunction with the manufacturer’s specifications. Keeping good preventative maintenance records is essential. The pro-active maintenance of equipment starts with the daily cleaning of equipment after each use. All filter bags, water tanks and cleaning solution tanks should be emptied and cleaned in accordance with the manufacturers’ directions.

  • Availability of spare parts on a just-in-time (J.I.T.) basis from the supplier is imperative. Equipment down time translates into lost productivity and lost dollars. If your organization contracts for equipment repairs, such repairs should be completed in a timely manner, and it may be appropriate to require the company that repairs your equipment to provide you a “loaner” while the inoperable item is being repaired.

  • All equipment has a life expectancy. In order to pro-actively plan for future equipment replacement, start now to develop an equipment replacement budget that projects the costs for replacement of equipment as it wears out during the years ahead.

The selection of the right piece of equipment, used by properly trained persons, in the appropriate application, can greatly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the cleaning personnel. At the end of the day, they will leave with a good feeling about themselves and their organization because they have done their best, with the best equipment.

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