Facility Cleaning Decisions recently polled our readers for questions they had pertaining to floor equipment purchasing. We turned around and asked those questions to two experienced jan/san distributors from Professional Supply in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Below, Shawn Sizonen, sales manager, and Tim Winscher, service manager, discuss what factors drive floor care equipment purchasing.

What advice do you have for managers before they purchase floor equipment?

Sizonen — There are many floor equipment options to choose from. Know what your needs are and do some research on the distributor and manufacturer before purchasing.

Winscher — Determine what equipment will meet your needs in terms of size, disc, cylindrical or orbital.

What are some of the newest features to floor equipment?

Sizonen — Manufacturers are always making improvements, big and small. A few that come to mind are chemical-free stripping, machines with less water consumption, tool-free parts replacement, enhanced comforts, improved ease of use and better warranties.

Winscher — I’d also add orbital machines, and machines with better ergonomics, improved filtration and chemical injection. There are some great options available for end-users.

How important is the look — color, design, etc. — of floor equipment?

Sizonen — Color doesn't seem to be an issue, from our 36-year experience. But design is a factor in that the design will, to an extent, affect the users ability to see in front of the floor equipment. The location of the head of the machine will impact whether the user can see how close they come when cleaning up against the wall or baseboard. The design will also affect the ease of filling and emptying tanks, access to motors for repairs, etc.

Winscher — It all depends on what the need is within the facility, but design should definitely be a factor before purchasing.

Is noise something managers should consider before purchasing floor equipment?

Sizonen — Yes, custodial executives should look at the decibels of the equipment they are considering for purchase. If departments are cleaning during normal business hours, it’s important to choose low-decibel floor equipment that wont disturb anyone. The good news is that most manufactures have collectively improved on this over the years and there are many options available.

What should custodial executives look for in terms of size and weight of equipment before purchasing?

Sizonen — Determine what equipment will work best for the facility. For example, what type of equipment are they using now, are they transporting the equipment to other locations, what type of floors are they cleaning, what size are the doorways, hallways, stairs, ramps and elevator? Use a checklist to help decide which machine best fits the need. Managers that need help should consult their distributor.

Winscher — The machine size is often determined by the size of the area it will be used to clean, but managers should also definitely remember to consider elevators, if machines are going to be moved throughout the facility. What is the elevator size and weight capacity? If machines are going to be hauled up and down elevators, machine weight will be very important.  

What are some of the most overlooked attributes of floor equipment that should be considered before purchasing?

Sizonen — Service after the sale, I’m seeing more people that are purchasing equipment online and have no support after it. I’d also suggest taking a close look at the warranty, performance, reliability, versatility, references, and make sure to request an onsite demo.

Winscher — Make sure to look at the battery size, horsepower of the motor, cord length, ease of use and speed of the machine.

Before purchasing equipment, how much emphasis should customers put on price, maintenance, parts availability, versatility, etc.?

Sizonen —
All of these are important factors when making a capital purchase and should be done at a fair and competitive price, but managers should also consider purchasing from a distributor who can service the machine after the sale in a timely manner. I recommend taking a tour of their service department and ask for references. Also, ask distributors what their fill rates are on parts. Not all distributors offer a full service department or loaner equipment while the customer’s machine is in for preventative maintenance or repair — leaving departments in a lurch.  

Winscher — Pricing always seems to be the deciding factor when purchasing, but it doesn't have to be the only factor. Custodial managers need to understand that. Parts availability, price of replacement parts and equipment versatility are very important.

If you had one piece of advice to offer custodial managers before purchasing large floor equipment, what would it be?

Sizonen — Do some research before you make that purchase. It will pay dividends in the long run. Also, whatever brand you purchase, make sure the manufacturer and distributor, jointly, are capable of taking care of you after the sale.

Winscher — Make sure the machines are well maintained. Machines that are properly cared for will result in better performance, more reliable service and they will last longer. Those efficiencies will lead to streamlined costs for the department. The machine will cost them less per year to operate and better performance will mean higher cleaning effectiveness. An every six-month preventative maintenance service will help this happen.