When purchasing floor care equipment, many managers question the benefits between battery, corded and propane options. According to distributors, the answer depends on what the departments are using the equipment for.

Chris Portera, president of Ocean Janitorial Supply in Islip Terrace, N.Y., gives an example: Imagine a custodian in a 50,000 square foot school using an electric burnisher and having to stop and plug in that equipment periodically. Then look outside at the person mowing 50,000 square feet of grass with a riding mower.

“Electric is best for the least amount of square footage, batteries are the next step, and propane power is for the largest areas,” he says.

The same goes for the size of the tanks or the width of the cleaning swathe. A 17-inch scrubber might have a 5-gallon tank where a 27-inch scrubber might have a 22-gallon tank.

“It all depends on the square footage you need to clean, which option is the most effective,” says Dan Ott, co-owner of Chicago-based Facility Supply Systems Inc.. “We’ve got people purchasing 3-4-gallon autoscrubbers with a 20-inch cleaning path for smaller lobby areas because they wanted to make that job more efficient and safer. An autoscrubber puts down solution, scrubs the floor, and then vacuums up the water in one pass so that the floor left behind is essentially dry.”

An autoscrubber might have a rotary feature with a pad and a brush, or it may be cylindrical with just a vacuum cleaner-like brush. If the floor is tile and there are grout lines, distributors recommend a cylindrical brush that might get into grout lines faster and easier. Cylindrical designs often come with a dirt hopper, too, so users don’t have to pre-clean; they pick up the dirt and debris in the hopper as they work.

The surface being cleaned also dictates which option is preferable, says Ott.

Likewise when cleaning carpet in a busy facility, adds Keith Schneringer, marketing manager of San Diego-based Waxie Sanitary Supply, users won’t have 24 hours for the carpet to dry. “They will need the equipment in place to get a good result that dries the carpet as quickly as possible,” he says.

It’s also important to identify the difference between a “need” and a “want,” says Ott.

“Some bells and whistles are nifty but are just one more thing to potentially go wrong,” he explains. “Managers need to ask themselves if it’s better to go with a more stripped-down version that won’t cause confusion or maintenance issues.”

And, Portera stresses, “Equipment is not all built the same. One machine could be $4,000 less than the other machine, but which machine is going to last longer and do more square footage per hour? Quality should always be king.”

Paying For Technology

With all the benefits technology brings, there are some challenges. One of the biggest is the higher price tag larger, more mechanical equipment brings. But sometimes managers need to look beyond the upfront costs to the return on investment (ROI).

“The biggest expense in any custodial operation is labor,” says Ott. “If they have someone spending six to eight hours a day slinging a mop, then they need to consider automating that process.”

If managers purchase equipment to save time and clean quicker, Schneringer says, they will save on labor and that savings will help pay for the equipment.

Managers need to look at their options, and calculate both the cost of the equipment and labor savings to determine ROI.

“We will outline the savings you can expect and how long it will take to pay for this equipment,” says Schneringer. “Then we’ll outline the expected savings over the life of the equipment you purchased.”

Ott adds that, “ROI comes in terms of time saved, cleaning efficiency and quality of clean. Managers need to look at all three.”

There are two ways to pay for this equipment too, says Portera. “One, you can pay for the piece outright. Or two,  you can lease equipment, pay a monthly amount and, in two years, own the equipment. You can upgrade as new technology comes out, and pay a fixed cost.”

Ott says a good distributor will offer customers several payment options. They may offer a 60-day purchase plan, split the invoices into two lump sums, or offer leasing options.

A distributor should also offer a preventative maintenance plan for every piece of equipment in the form of a checklist for daily maintenance and a plan for follow-up preventative maintenance at their service center, adds Schneringer.

“Managers must know what the staff should be doing daily, once a month and so on to keep the equipment running at an optimal level,” he says. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and these little things can keep equipment running well and lasting a long time.” 

RONNIE GARRETT is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis.

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First Step In Choosing Floor Equipment