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Small scrubber dryers are beautiful8th of March 2012
What are the most dominant trends in the market for scrubber dryers? Are customers demanding more productive, cost-effective machines, for example? How important are sustainability and ‘green’ issues to scrubber dryer purchasers in these difficult economic times? ECJ heads up this special report with an overview of the market.
What are the dominant trends in today's scrubber dryer market? ECJ spoke to Dr Ralf-Hendrik Steinkühler at Hako in Germany and IP Cleaning's Walter Tomasi, based in Italy. Both companies offer extensive scrubber dryer ranges and have market penetration throughout the countries of Europe.
Steinkühler begins: "The focus of customer interest remains increased economy through the product life cycle, and sustainable solutions. The challenge is to develop economic solutions to problems without suffering any loss of quality.
"Which machines have short set-up times and long service lives? How can we save not only in respect of costs but also in the interest of the environment with regard to water, energy, cleaning agents and wearing parts?"
He continued: "Lowering service life costs and ensuring high levels of availability are of major interest to the customer, and the manufacturer’s aim must be to fulfil customer demands. However this requires considerable investment in the area of product development. Thanks to modern technology, however, it is now possible to develop alternative design concepts, considerations for deployment and environmental solutions in detail and compare their compatibility with each other at an early stage."
According to Tomasi the market for scrubber dryers has changed dramatically over the last three to four years. "Over this period, machines have become progressively smaller and ranges have been extended to include a larger number of compact machines. These can sell at extremely competitive prices and still deliver professional performance levels, though with reduced autonomy."
Larger market share
Tomasi adds: "More recently, again as a result of the economic crisis that began in 2008, smaller machines have started to become the norm, and are now winning an increasingly large share of the market. Even ride-on machines are following the same trend - here too the market in general has started to prefer lower capacity, more compact machines that are easier to use and maintain. Large 200 litre scrubbers now serve only niche markets where extended autonomy is necessary for special applications."
This move towards smaller machines is not the only consequence of the economic difficulties experienced in Europe. As Tomasi explains, there is increasing demand from machine users for a significant reduction in cost without any loss in service quality. "While on the one hand the use of smaller scrubber dryers has led to lower investment in floor cleaning machines, on the other hand it has not generated any particular benefits in terms of work organisation or resource usage," he says. "No real advantage has been gained in terms of reduced running costs, water, electrical energy and detergent consumption or spare parts usage."
And as Steinkühler explains, the key considerations for scrubber manufacturers when developing new models are to create a robust, practice-oriented design combined with simple, intuitive operation. "Increased simplicity in servicing and a close-knit service network also guarantee the highest levels of machine availability."
Both companies agree that in these difficult times sustainability is still a priority for scrubber dryer users when making purchasing decisions. "In many cases, sustainability and improved efficiency can be achieved at the same time," Steinkühler points out. "For example the use of less water and cleaning agents saves money and increases productivity, while also protecting the environment. The same is true for reduced energy consumption or more robust machines with increased longevity."
Tomasi agrees that environmental considerations are here to stay in the professional cleaning market, forcing manufacturers to develop better and more ethical solutions. "Traditional requirements such as productivity and efficiency have long been considered prerequisites," he says. "Today however, new demands are emerging, focused on how products and services relate to users and to the environment. Ergonomic design, sustainability and low energy consumption have become key issues."
In the future then, what can users expect from manufacturers in terms of new product development? "Even more environmentally friendly products with better productivity and increased reliability," replies Steinkühler. "The most important developments will also lie in the area of improving efficiency: the implementation of new technologies and further development of existing technologies will aim at reducing the costs of cleaning and, thus, further reducing service life costs."
He continues: "Improvements in ergonomics and reducing environmental impact are important factors, as is the search for more productive and economical solutions. Developments in ergonomics and operator-friendliness normally help to increase productivity and reduce consumption of water, energy and chemicals. This not only saves money but also has the added benefit of reducing negative effects on the environment."
Not just about the product
IP Cleaning also believes maximum performance must go hand-in-hand with minimum waste of energy and resources, resulting in reduced operating costs. "Environmental and energy sustainability must be prioritised in all aspects of cost and consumption management, from raw material costs to energy consumption and product operating procedures," Tomasi emphasises.
And it's no longer just about product development, Steinkühler concludes. "The simple sale of cleaning machines has evolved into system sales. Today it is not only about the finished product on offer - practical solutions to problems must also be available to supplement it. That is why some manufacturers are reinforcing the technical side of their cleaning machines business with additional service packages."