Sweepers - an easy ride

6th of February 2023
Sweepers - an easy ride

How important is it that a sweeper should be easy to operate for the cleaner?  Ann Laffeaty finds out whether ergonomics and an easy ride are must-have features on a sweeper – and asks companies how they can make sure that their machines are user-friendly for the operator.

A sweeper is basically an industrial broom. And that means it has just the one, relatively simple function. Sweepers needs to be able to remove the dirt, mess and debris from a floor as quickly and efficiently as possible - whether this is in an indoor or outdoor setting.

Most operators will claim their products are easy to use. But a cleaner who has spent the majority of his or her working life using nothing more complicated than a mop or a manual broom may well disagree and find these large, unwieldy machines somewhat daunting.

Features such as lifting flaps, high dumps, hydraulic hoppers, retractable side brushes – while all are designed to be highly helpful, could also easily appear intimidating and overly-technical to the untrained operator. And if the end-user finds a sweeper too difficult or cumbersome to use, then the cleaning operation will be a non-starter and productivity will suffer.

Similarly it will be counter-productive if a ride-on sweeper were to be uncomfortable for a cleaner to operate. This will make him or her less willing to employ the machine and also potentially more reluctant to return promptly to work after breaks. And a complex machine that requires extensive training will prove costly for employers while also reducing the amount of actual sweeping that can be carried out on site.

Usability crucial

So the cleaner’s reaction to a sweeper – and its ease of use – are all-important to the end result. How do manufacturers facilitate the use of sweepers and make their operation more attractive for the end-user?

Usability is crucial when it comes to sweepers, confirms Dawsongroup’s director of sales Paul Beddows. “Ensuring that the equipment is easy to operate is vital,” he said.

“Customers need to look for a model that is capable of cleaning a variety of surfaces including smooth concrete floors, finished flooring or carpet. They should also opt for a machine that offers a good level of manoeuvrability. And battery power is another key consideration because a good battery will ensure a seamless operation coupled with minimal downtime for the cleaner.”

Dawsongroup is a group of companies specialising in the supply of commercial assets. It offers a range of sweepers that can be operated via one button and that incorporate easy-to-identify yellow maintenance touch points. “These help to make pre-inspections and routine maintenance both quick and easy because a sweeper with a complex control function can be daunting for the untrained user,” he said.

The company offers training for all levels from product familiarisation to full certification. “This ensures that the sweepers are used in the most efficient manner, saving both time and money,” said Beddows.

Latest Dawsongroup products include the Tennant S20 ride-on sweeper which is offers an adjustable seat, spacious operator compartment and good side brush visibility. The Tennant S10 walk-behind sweeper has a compact design, variable forward and reverse functions and easy manoeuvrability in any direction.

Ease of use is a key requirement for a sweeper, agrees Kärcher’s product manager for sweepers Marciliano Schneider. “An easy-to-understand operating concept coupled with controls highlighted by colour will reduce the learning time required for cleaners - and this is particularly important if the sweeper is going to be used by more than one person,” he said.

“A user-friendly machine leads to greater productivity at work and fewer machine breakdowns while also resulting in significant cost and time savings. And it is important the sweeper should be used according to the instructions because incorrect operation can be costly.”

A major advantage of sweepers in general is the fact  they require only a short amount of training, he says. “The number of functions offered on a sweeper will be limited and are not as extensive as, for example, on a scrubber dryer,” he said. “The basic operations such as putting the sweeper into sweeping mode and emptying the container are simple and can be learned in just a few hours.

Technical details

“However, the amount of training involved will partly depend on whether the model has front-wheel or rear-wheel steering.  Front-wheel steering requires less training because most people will already be familiar with it from driving a car.”

The operation of a sweeping machine should be as simple and intuitive as possible, he says. “Colour coding is very helpful to make the controls easier to understand, and a small turning circle and large wheels are also advantageous when sweeping.

Acquainting the operator with the technical spec of the machine beforehand is also helpful, he says. “Users are interested in the technical details, and this will increase their driving and operating comfort, he said, adding that physical comfort is also crucial.

“There should be adequate foot and leg room in the cabin because this will contribute greatly to driving comfort,” he says. “If larger waste containers cannot be dumped hydraulically they must also be easy to remove. And elements such as the main brush, side brushes and filters should be able to be replaced as quickly as possible and with minimum effort.”

He says all units of a sweeper should also be easily accessible via the hood to ensure ease of maintenance and repairs.

Kärcher’s KM 100/120 R sweeper is designed  to offer a high level of driving comfort. The seat position is adjustable and the cabin offers a clear view of the control elements, side brush and vehicle contour. And the sweeper roller, filter and other components can be replaced without the use of tools, says Schneider.

Sweepers come in two basic versions: walk-behind machines and ride-on models. But which of these is easiest to operate? The bigger the sweeper, the more complex its operation is likely to be, according to Schneider. “The number of functions increases with a larger machine because it is likely to offer traction drive or a hydraulic high dump, for example,” he said.

“Training will therefore be required, and some learning will also be necessary when using a larger walk-behind sweeper. But no instruction will be needed when using a small, basic walk-behind sweeper.”

Agile and compact

The chosen machine should be selected according to the size of the area to be cleaned, he said. “Walk-behind sweepers do an excellent job in smaller, congested areas whereas ride-on sweepers enable large floor areas to be cleaned in a short time without incurring any operator fatigue,” he said.

Ease of use will heavily depend on the model in question, says Dawsongroup’s Paul Beddows. “The two types of machines – walk-behind and ride-on - have different purposes but both can be simple to operate,” he said. “A walk-behind machine is more agile and compact, enabling it to be manoeuvred into tighter areas for the optimum cleaning of smaller spaces. But a ride-on sweeper can cover a larger surface area in a short time-frame and can also handle small and large debris types.

“However regardless of the task at hand, both walk-behind and ride-on sweepers can be easy to operate along as they are supplied with the right training.”


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