The decision to upgrade or replace carpet-care equipment is never an easy one for cleaning managers to muster. Many factors must be examined before making this big purchase. Consider the size of the machine and storage space available within the facility, available budget dollars and cleaning needs, as well as the skill set of employees and training requirements that might be necessary following an equipment purchase.

“We plan — several years ahead — for replacement equipment so that we know what we have on hand, what needs to be repaired or bought each year and what new equipment is needed for new buildings,” says Alan Bigger, director of facilities at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. and president of APPA.

Prior to a purchase, “we also read all available literature and visit trade shows to talk with manufacturers,” he adds. “We also talk to our peers and local distributors” to determine which machine will best fit our needs.

In most cases, the decision to purchase new machines will be determined by the cleaning budget. This includes more than just the initial price of the machine.

The cost of new equipment can often be justified if it proves to reduce cleaning time and employee fatigue, but additional factors must also be considered. For instance, the quality of the machine is important because managers can lose money on equipment that requires frequent downtime for maintenance, or one that has expensive replacement parts.

Ease of use and additional features should also be considered. A machine that allows for multi-tasking and requires little training will save time and money for the cleaning department.

Facility Blueprint

Before purchasing a piece of carpet-care equipment, managers should first assess the needs within the facility.

Calculate the square footage of carpeting and determine what type of machine will best complete the task.

“We look at the type of carpeting or matting we have and how much there is across campus,” says Dave Williams, superintendent of environmental services at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. “Different materials require specific cleaning procedures and equipment in order to yield the best results.”

It is also important to consider the frequency of cleaning necessary to complete a cleaning task. Wear and tear on the machine is an important factor to consider prior to purchase.

“I take into consideration the carpet square footage and how often the machine will be used,” says Isis Naguib, director of housekeeping at Millennium Hotels & Resorts in Minneapolis.

Size also matters when it comes to carpet machines. Equipment is available in a variety of sizes, from compact machines to walk-behinds to large ride-ons. When choosing a machine, cleaning managers need to consider turn radius, technician fatigue, storage and a host of other concerns. Matching the right machine — or the right combination of machines — to the job is crucial. One size rarely fits all.

Ride-on equipment, for instance, is great for cleaning large open spaces. It completes tasks quickly and reduces strain on cleaners. But, ride-ons are typically larger than their traditional counterparts. Depending on the size of the machine, it may not fit through standard doors.

With larger machines, though, it is important to consider the limitations of the cleaning staff. Carpet cleaning is a physical job and smaller machines might cause physical strain on the worker. Ride-ons allow workers to clean for longer periods of time without getting tired. However, large equipment might be more difficult to control than it’s smaller counterparts.

Cleaning managers with space restrictions might consider the purchase of two smaller machines. They have the ability to clean both small and large spaces and are ideal for new workers because they are easier to maneuver throughout the facility.

Justifying the purchase of any new carpet-care equipment starts with the initial capital outlay. If a limited budget allows for only one machine and the decision is between one large machine that can accommodate that large area of the facility, or two smaller multi-purpose machines that can be used throughout the whole facility, the best bet is to go with the two.

But, sometimes it makes sense to go with the larger machine because even if the initial cost is twice that of the two, but completes tasks in twice the time, it is worth it because of the reduced labor costs. Over time, it will pay for itself.

Equipment Variations

To justify the purchase of carpet-cleaning equipment, managers often look for machines that can be used for more than one job and in multiple areas.

“We have both large and small carpeted areas across campus, so we have purchased both large and small pieces of equipment,” says Williams. “We also have a multi-purpose machine on hand to give us versatility.”

Managers also have the choice between cordless battery-operated models, or their corded counterparts. While batteries are more expensive, cordless equipment allows for cleaning freedom, reduces trip-and-fall hazards and creates quicker cleaning because the machine doesn’t have to be stopped to change outlets.

Regardless of the type, these machines will require upkeep. Before purchasing, look for equipment that is easy and inexpensive to repair and purchase from a reputable source that offers both service and training.

“Durability is important for us as we often have to transport equipment between buildings,” says William Suter, director of facilities management at American University in Washington, D.C. “We expect to have to perform preventative maintenance, but if access and the process of getting the work done is too time consuming, it would be a problem.”

Although carpet equipment is easy to use and maintain, cleaning managers won’t get much bang for their buck unless the employees are properly trained on the capabilities and limitations of the machine, as well as maintenance and storage requirements.

Managers should look for machines that require little to no maintenance and are easy to keep in working condition. Machines that meet these requirements will reduce downtime and meet standards of clean.