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Case studies & white papers for the cleaning professional

BSC's Backpack Vacuums Stand the Test of Time

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With 17,000 employees in 29 states, FBG Service Corporation is one of the largest employee-owned companies in the country. The company is divided into two branches. The managed services division manages over 60,000,000 sq. ft. of facility space, taking on everything from operational planning to pest control. The janitorial division offers sustainable cleaning practices using green chemicals and efficient tools like ProTeam's workhorse backpack vacuum, the Super CoachVac.

District Manager, Guy Robarge has been in the janitorial business since 1973. His district at FBG extends west from his office in Lincoln, Neb. to the Colorado/Wyoming border, south to the Kansas border, and east to Nebraska City.  His staff cleans all types of commercial facilities: financial, educational, manufacturing, healthcare, and retail.  In the '80s, when ProTeam introduced the QuarterVac, the original lightweight backpack vacuum, Robarge bought one of the first models. Having used ProTeam vacuums for most of his career, he has ample experience with their durability on the job.

"I can tell you that if I buy one ProTeam backpack vacuum, I'll have it in 15 years. But I'll replace my upright vacuums three or four times in the next 15 years," said Robarge. "I still clean my house with an old blue QuarterVac from the '80s."

Robarge attributes the longevity of the vacuums to their design. With basically only two moving parts, the on-off switch and the motor, there is less potential for breakdowns, therefore fewer repairs. He says the upright vacuums he still uses in some situations are "repair intensive".  "I have replaced switches, motors, harnesses and clips, but I have never scrapped out a ProTeam backpack vacuum," said Robarge. "I've had some stolen, but never scrapped."

Once Robarge saw a demonstration of an upright vacuum. With the lights turned off and a flashlight turned on the running vacuum in the dark, he could see copious amounts of dust coming off the motor housing, the cloth bag, and out the exhaust.  

"I thought, now someone has to get paid to dust the fixtures after that dust settles," said Robarge. "The backpack vacuum has multi-stage filtration that captures and contains dirt, soil and dust in the filter bag. The dusting routine is reduced, because there isn't as much dust in the environment."

According to Robarge, not only is the dusting routine reduced, but also some tools and tasks are eliminated entirely by using backpack vacuums. His employees used to knock dust off the vents with a broom, then wait for the dust to settle before it could be swept up. Now using the lightweight aluminum wand with a brush attachment, his employees can quickly vacuum the vents and capture the dust. The task is done once instead of twice. The dirt is captured.

"I can transition from carpeting to hard flooring without making an extra trip to the janitor's closet. I can vacuum an entire restroom floor in mere minutes instead of sweeping the dirt from one end of the floor to another," said Robarge. "Most of our facilities don't even have a broom and dust pan."  He finds the vacuums to be particularly effective in stairwells, capturing dust bunnies and dirt quickly while being easy on the body.  

Before buying equipment or chemicals, Robarge looks for an industry or green cleaning certification. The ProTeam vacuums he buys all have the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Seal of Approval, signifying that they clean effectively while protecting the facility's carpet investment.

"We want to partner with companies that have the same goals and objectives we do: to be good stewards of our customers' money and facilities, and good stewards of our environment as a whole," said Robarge. FBG's philosophy is that caring about people, profit and the planet don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

There are 50-75 ProTeam backpack vacuums in Robarge's district, including the 10-quart Super CoachVac, the smaller capacity Super QuarterVac, and the eight-pound hipstyle TailVac. He also uses HEPA-filtered models. When it comes to choosing the model of backpack vacuum for the job at hand, Robarge primarily considers the employee, not the facility.

"I've changed my views on this. I used to buy the biggest vacuum for power and capacity," said Robarge, "Now I'm more concerned with the person who's going to use it and their size and comfort. It's more employee-focused."

That focus on the employee also extends to FBG's training and education. Robarge teaches his employees the concept of the backpack vacuum, it's features and benefits, so they can be successful in the task he wants them to do.

"Everyone is looking to save money. The backpack vacuum is one of the tools we have to accomplish that goal," said Robarge. "Cleaning a large area in a small time frame translates to cost savings for the customer. That's the greatest value."