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Many facility managers and purchasing agents agree that their mind is made up well in advance of purchasing hand dryers. They comment that installing hand dryers is typically part of a restroom remodeling project or an environmental initiative and that typically, several decision-makers have input on what type of device to purchase.
Daminga Lash, housekeeping manager at Mall of America, Bloomington, Minn., was part of the decision-making team who completed a total remodeling of the public restrooms in 2004, which included the purchase of 50 hand dryers. She recalls that the choice of hand dryer was based on the amount of hands that would eventually need to be dried.
“We needed something that dried hands fast — due to the volume of people — and something that was going to be durable for our guests,” Lash adds. “We also looked at finishes because we wanted something that would look nice. Finally, we looked at the price.”
Mall of America welcomes more than 40 million visitors a year, more than Disneyland, Graceland and the Grand Canyon combined. More people visit the mall annually than those that live in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and the entire country of Canada.
“This is a busy place and a big place,” says Dan Jasper, a spokesman for the 4.2 million-square-foot mall that has 20 public restrooms. He adds that the entire organization focuses on the environmental impact of each purchase, including fixtures in restrooms.
Before making a purchase, facility managers evaluate how the hand dryer will fit with the rest of the fixtures in the restrooms. The mall chose a device with a brushed stainless finish that matched the doors, garbage receptacles, fixtures and artwork.
Although function outweighs form in the case of hand dryers, it is critical to understand that if a restroom and its fixtures appear to be of quality, they will be treated that way by users.
“There is no more trash in the restrooms and there are no more paper towels being thrown on the floor,” said Gary Homesley, assistant director of facilities and maintenance at the University Student Union at California State University-Northridge (CSUN), who in his 14 years at the school union has placed 60 hand dryers in 30 restrooms.
Users “seem to do less damage in my buildings now than ever in my history,” he says. “They don’t tear things up like they used to. They seem to respect it more.”
For Homesley, the purchase of hand dryers in the student union was part of an initiative that involved creating a hands-free restroom that includes automatic soap dispensers, faucets, toilets, lights and entryways.
“That was one of my goals when I became the director here and it has a lot to do with being economical, efficient and environmentally conscious,” says Homesley, who touts his restrooms as being some of the first totally hands-free restrooms in the California school system. “I have tested lots of types of hand dryers in my facility and in public restrooms, but I have never really been totally happy with them until I discovered [high-speed] hand dryers.”
High-speed dryers are ideal in some facilities because of their power, speed at which they dry hands and the amount of energy they consume.
In addition to product features, Homesley recommends taking price into consideration, keeping in mind the amount of money that will be saved on a decrease in janitorial services and paper towels. CSUN has saved about $21,000 a year compared to the cost of purchasing paper towels.
“My mission here is to create the most efficient operating facility possible and to save students money at the same time,” Homesley says.
But his main motivation in purchasing hand dryers is the positive impact they have on the environment. According to Homesley, making one ton of recycled paper takes 7,000 gallons of water, 360 gallons of crude oil, 150 million British thermal units (Btu) of energy, all of which results in 86 pounds of pollutants released into the air.
The environmental and cost benefits that hand dryers are responsible for motivate Julie Bryant, who works in the Department of the Environment with the City of San Francisco. One of Bryant’s responsibilities is to purchase environment-friendly supplies and materials for city-owned facilities.
Another of Bryant’s responsibilities is to create specifications for certain city-wide contracts, including the city’s janitorial paper contract; paper towels, toilet paper and paper seat covers.
“We spent $10 million on paper products last year,” she says. “When I found that out I was just blown away.”
Bryant, who set out to decrease the expenditure in an environmentally sound way, found a solution while visiting a restaurant washroom a year ago. The result, an automatic high-speed hand dryer. She took the specifications to a few environment and energy experts that work for the city and found that these hand dryers are 85 percent more efficient than traditional dryers.
“They worked really well and I was impressed,” she explains. “Not only is it an energy savings, but you are reducing disposal costs, the need to cut down trees and overall operational costs.”
Bryant was able to get the specifications of the hand dryer written into an upcoming janitorial paper contract.
“What I always see when I work on contracts is that vendors create products based on our environmental criteria,” she says. “I have seen some movement in that field for certain manufacturers of hand dryers to create more energy efficient dryers.”
Since the contract was awarded six months ago, Bryant has been touting the product around the city to various officials who work at the airport and in the recreation and parks department. Bryant, who keeps a working sample hand dryer in her office, has gotten 11 dryers installed so far.
She recommends distributors and vendors get to know the process of how the purchase is going to be made. In the case of public entities, they must understand that specifications for contracts are developed internally and that to win a contract, they must be willing to bid for it.
“For us, getting [the product] on a city contract has made the decision a lot easier,” says Bryant, who added that she has acted as a point person that deals with department heads interested in hand dryers and city electricians who install the devices.
Making The Sale
Understanding what motivates the facility or purchasing manager is a key component for distributors who want to be able to establish a relationship and sell hand dryers.
“I think that people who are looking at hand dryers are looking for ways to streamline their budget when it comes to washrooms,” says Nick Spallone, general manager of Lake Tahoe Supply, Carson City, Nev.
Spallone’s advice to distributors and sales representatives is to focus on two aspects of cost savings associated with the purchase of hand dryers. First, focus on the reduction in paper consumption in the bathroom. Second, review the potential waste savings.
“Hand dryers contribute to a cleaner environment in regards to waste,” Spallone says. “So there is less labor being spent on picking up paper from the ground and garbage out of the trash cans.”
Not many facilities use the manual hand dryers with the large button that, when pushed, activate the machine. Most buildings now feature automatic dryers with sensors on the face of the device that determine when a user is ready to have their hands dried. The latest hand dryers are also much quicker at completing the task with some touting as quick as a 15-second dry time.
According to Spallone, there is not a significant difference in price when comparing manual and automatic hand dryers. A pitch that is dominated just on price might turn purchasers away. Instead distributors should compare the cost between manual and automatic as it pertains to maintenance and upkeep.
“I think that is where the manufacturers are going with it,” he says. “They’re already dealing with the electronics of the hand dryer so by putting a sensor in there … it might even be a cost reduction [compared] to a button or switch that has parts that break.”
Brendan O’Brien is a freelance writer based in Greenfield, Wis.