The invisible scrubber dryer

21st of March 2016
The invisible scrubber dryer

As daytime cleaning becomes more prevalent there is an increasing need for quieter, more unobtrusive cleaning equipment. Ann Laffeaty looks at the latest scrubber dryers that offer the capacity to fade into the background – while also remaining safe to use around the public.

Scrubber dryers are not necessarily the most compact or elegant of cleaning machines. They tend to be built for efficiency and practicality, with the emphasis largely on how they perform rather than on their more aesthetic qualities.

But in some parts of the world, daytime cleaning is becoming increasingly common which means that manufacturers are having to come up with ‘invisible’ models that blend into the background and avoid disturbing the daytime workforce. So how do they achieve this?

Head of floorcare product management at Kärcher Marco Cardinale says there are a variety of reasons behind the increasing prevalence of daytime cleaning. “Due to the long opening hours of today’s retail businesses it is simply insufficient to clean only in the early morning or in the evening after the store has closed,” he said. “Hotels also need to be cleaned several times during the day in order to meet strict cleanliness and quality requirements.

“Meanwhile, demographic changes and staff shortages mean building service contractors need to look at new ways of attracting employees such as offering full-time employment contracts that can be carried out during the day. And this leads to an increase in daytime cleaning.”

He says low noise levels are important in order to minimise any disturbance to people in offices, shops and public buildings. “In a worst case scenario, high levels of noise may even have a negative impact on customer satisfaction or lead to them staying away from the building altogether,” he said. “For this reason, cleaning machines should be as inconspicuous, small and as compact as possible to allow them to blend in with the surroundings. The dilemma here is that people want cleanliness but nobody wants to be adversely affected by the cleaning operations involved.”

He says large machines are often perceived to be obstacles by the public. “Users also find it more convenient to operate smaller machines in busy areas,” he said. “A large machine is always more conspicuous and generally louder than a small one. But there is a risk of collision with building users regardless of whether the machine is large or small - particularly if the layout is full of awkward angles, corners or areas of restricted visibility.”

He says compact machines with a step-on design can be helpful. “These give the operator an elevated position offering them an excellent view of the surrounding area and the scope of the cleaning task, reducing the risk of collision.”

Cardinale believes that today’s scrubber dryers need to be increasingly ‘invisible’ to the extent that even their colour can have an impact on the public. “At the start of 2013, Kärcher changed its range of machines for professional use from yellow to anthracite,” he said. “One of the reasons for doing so - besides simply giving the machines a makeover – was that grey-coloured machines blended more seamlessly into their surroundings.”

In order to reduce noise levels and increase safety around members of the public, Kärcher fits its larger machines with lights or flashing beacons.

Coming up with scrubber dryers that are both unobtrusive and safe to use can be a tough balancing act according to Diversey’s global marketing machine leader Laurent Ryssen. “A quiet operation is crucial in daytime cleaning situations but the sound of a motor or a beeping noise will alert the public that a machine is coming,” he said.

He says another way of improving public safety is by reducing the machine speed. “However once again it is all a question of balance,” he said. “A machine that operates more slowly will be safer for use around people, but it will also impact on productivity which means staff might have to work longer hours – and is this ultimately safe? There could be more accidents as a result.”

He says one possible way forward for future daytime cleaning models could involve the use of tracking technology. This would allow machine operators to pinpoint the whereabouts of a building’s occupants via a dashboard screen. “This type of technology is already used in the military, but whether or not the cleaning market is ready for it is another question,” says Ryssen. “There would have to be a privacy discussion – and there are laws to protect privacy.”

Safety first

Safety and professionalism are both more important than unobtrusiveness in daytime cleaning situations according to Numatic’s floorcare channel manager Kevin Andrews. “Our customers want smart, bright machines that give them a professional front-of-house image,” he said. “This is particularly true in airports and large concourses where a colourful, easily-seen machine is beneficial for health and safety reasons.”

Hako’s application technology trainer and consultant Klaus Serfezi feels the need for quiet, unobtrusive machines for daytime cleaning very much depends on the environment. “In large warehouses and logistic centres for example, noise only plays a minor role,” he said. “In these areas, machines should be anything but unobtrusive in order to stand out and for people to notice that a scrubber dryer is crossing internal traffic. This is why the machines are equipped with beacons.

“In areas where large ride-on scrubber dryers are employed, it does not really matter what the machines look like: the use of efficient technology is much more important. However in hospitals, nursing homes and similar facilities it is important to employ quiet machines.”

In a world where corporate colours are an important brand differentiator it is difficult to produce machines that blend in with the background according to Serfezi. He adds that safety is a crucial feature for any machine used in daytime cleaning. “However a machine is only as safe as its operator,” he said. “That’s why it is important to make operating the machine as simple as possible.”

In any situation where cleaning may be observed it is important to leave a good and professional impression on customers according to Fimap product manager Antonio Incrocci. “For this reason it is crucial machines should be quiet, easy to manage and of a compact size.”

Fimap offers a range of machines that have been designed to blend into the environment. “We use soft lines that make our models aesthetically pleasing and we’ve developed devices such as our eco mode that reduce noise levels,” says Incrocci. Features designed to make Fimap machines safe to use around the public include blinking lights and reversing alarms.

Group floorcare product manager for Nilfisk Anders Sandstrom agrees with other manufacturers that low noise levels are among the most crucial factors for any machine being operated during the day.

“The look of the machine is also important and for this reason Nilfisk machines are a discreet grey colour,” he said. “It is however still important that cleaning machines should be visible to people when in operation since safety comes first.” He adds that it can be a challenge to come up with machines that blend in with their surroundings while also remaining visible for safety reasons.

In today’s market, flashing warning beacons are available - if not standard - on scrubber dryers in order to increase public safety according to Sandstrom. “A small laser, too, can create a visible spot on the floor in front of the machine,” he said. “This signals that a machine is approaching around the corner and thereby helps to prevent any accidents.”

Diversey’s Laurent Ryssen sums up the issue of balancing unobtrusiveness with safety and uses the electric car as an example. “There are cars out there that run very well on batteries: but are you always able hear them in the street? Manufacturers are waking up to this issue and are bringing out noisier models that are safer around pedestrians. We have a similar situation in the scrubber dryer market.”


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