Building service contractors are accustomed to using floor machines that rotate circular pads between 175 and 300 revolutions per minute. Is there an advantage to switching to oscillating (sometimes referred to as orbital) floor cleaning machines that oscillate the pad driver in 1/4-inch circles between 2,250 and 3,500 revolutions per minute? Many building service contractors say yes, primarily due to the boost in productivity oscillating machines provide.

By being more productive than rotary scrubbers, oscillating equipment lowers cleaning costs. It is critical that building service contractors be as productive as possible with every cleaning function performed. Given the fact that floor care comprises more than 50 percent of time spent on cleaning functions, it would be nearly impossible to do this without the use of quality cleaning equipment. Oscillating floor cleaning equipment takes conventional floor cleaning productivity to the next level.

“We have bought more than 50 of these machines in the last few years,” says Larry McAlpin, vice president strategic projects for Rite Way Service Inc., Birmingham, Ala.  “The reason we have so many is simple. They increase our productivity.”

Why are oscillating machines so productive? There are several reasons.

The solution tank does not have to be filled nearly as often when performing routine cleaning. These machines use 50 to 70 percent less water, requiring the tank to be refilled less often.

These machines don’t require extensive water and chemical use to deep scrub floors, so workers won’t have to spend time moving the machine from the worksite to an area where supplies can be accessed. This refill process also is very time consuming because workers do other things when they stop to refill.

“They may go to the restroom, get a soft drink, take a smoke, make a phone call or any number of things,” says McAlpin. “They rarely just refill the machine and then go back to work. It’s just human nature.”

Two or three hours per shift could be wasted refilling solution tanks.

Battery run time also affects productivity. Manufacturers claim battery run time is increased by 25 percent compared to traditional machines. Reduced water usage coupled with the reduced pad pressure enables the machines to utilize the motors and battery pack more efficiently and increase run time compared to similar disc scrubbers. One can reduce the cost of battery replacement and reduce the environmental impact of battery recycling as well.

With these machines floor pad life is drastically extended, too. Oscillating scrubbers clean at speeds 10 times that of a conventional scrubber and attack dirt from multiple directions, therefore less pad pressure is required to achieve the desired cleaning result. The combination of high-revolution-per-minute scrub action with reduced pad pressure can extend the life of floor pads by up to 40 percent.  

A BSC that spends $20,000 a year in floor pads could realize a savings of $8,000 per year in pad costs just by implementing orbital scrubbing technology.

One final reason to use oscillating machines is because they can be considered “green.” Many contractors either currently have or are pursuing governmental contracts that demand a green cleaning process. This equipment can go a long way in helping to reach that standard with its reduced water, energy, chemical and floor pad usage.

All things considered, this new oscillating technology can greatly benefit any building service contractor. Productivity is increased, green benefits are accrued and total floor care costs are reduced. Floors are actually cleaned more thoroughly. New customers can be acquired because of the benefits provided by oscillating machines.

“We have placed one or two of these machines in almost every account we have,” says Rudy Hauenstein, project manager for Crothall Services Group, Wayne, Pa. “They increase our productivity on floor care so much we feel we need them.”

Louie E. Davis Jr. is a jan/san industry veteran and freelance writer based in Birmingham, Ala.