Cleaning more space in less time used to mean building service contractors needed to hire additional workers. However, in today’s marketplace with ever shrinking budgets, getting more done with less means buying better automated equipment.

This situation is especially true when it comes to floor care. Instead of hiring extra staff members and using mops and buckets, BSCs can save on labor costs by having one employee use an automatic scrubber and clean the same amount of space in half the time.

When purchasing floor-care equipment, BSCs need to make sure they pick the right size machine for the job. Too large of a machine may be cumbersome to use in crowded spaces, but too small a machine still may be an inefficient use of time.

Square footage and density of a facility play a vital role in choosing the right machine. Density depends on how cluttered with obstacles the space is, for example, how many desks are in an office area. The denser a space is, the greater the need for smaller equipment.

When cleaning dense, tight areas such as restrooms, office buildings and classrooms, BSCs require small machines. Manufacturers offer walk-behind models with deck widths as low as 17 inches. Walk-behind models allow users to easily reach corners, back up and maneuver around fixtures. However, manufacturers are also developing micro ride-on machines small enough to fit through doorways. These machines can also turn 360 degrees for on-the-spot maneuverability. Using a ride-on machine for these small spaces can decrease fatigue and increase productivity.

For larger spaces such as warehouses and airports, a bigger machine will increase productivity and save on labor costs. Cleaning more space faster will allow employees to concentrate on other tasks. Some large machines can clean up to 40,000-plus square feet an hour.

If areas are wide open with few fixtures, BSCs may want to consider purchasing ride-on equipment. With ride-on machines, productivity increases even further. These machines also tend to feature larger tank capacities than walk-behind units, which allow for longer run times. In addition, workers don’t get fatigued from pushing a heavy machine for long periods of time. One drawback, however, is ride-on equipment can also be larger than its walk-behind counterparts, so adequate storage space must be available. Depending on the size of the machine, it may not fit through standard doors, making a roll-up door necessary.

Larger machines are, of course, more expensive. BSCs with limited budgets may want to consider purchasing two smaller machines that can be used in variety of areas vs. one large machine that is limited in its versatility. However, that one large machine will still justify its cost. A machine that costs twice as much as its traditional counterpart, but cleans twice as fast will pay for itself quickly in reduced labor costs.

Excerpted from the May 2006 issue of Sanitary Maintenance and the November 2005 issue of Housekeeping Solutions.