How to choose a sweeper

24th of December 2015
How to choose a sweeper

Sweep area, environment, dirt level, power source – what are the chief factors that a customer needs to consider when choosing a new sweeping machine?

Sweepers come in all shapes, sizes and models. And it can be confusing for customers when trying to decide on the type of machine that best suits their needs – particularly when there are so many factors that might influence their decision.

One important consideration will be the size of the area to be cleaned, for example. Purchasers will also need to decide between a ride-on and a walk-behind model. But the first question that needs to be answered is whether the sweeper will be destined for indoor or outdoor use according to Truvox national sales manager Stephen Pinhorne.

“Access to electrical sockets is likely to be an issue outside where long trailing cables will also pose a serious risk,” he said. “The size of the area to be cleaned and the labour costs involved will also need to be factored into the equation.”

Noise levels are another important consideration since these may have an impact on daytime cleaning where building occupants are likely to be disturbed, he says. “The location will also have a major bearing on the type of debris that needs to be removed whether this will be leaves, twigs, stones, cigarette ends or wrappers, for example,” he added.

According to Pinhorne the chief mistake that customers make when choosing a sweeper is to select a model with the wrong spec for the application and scale of the task in hand. “Sometimes a sweeper may be over-specified for the job or too small to complete the task efficiently,” he said.

“The size of the area to be swept is fundamental when choosing a sweeper but other factors need to be considered as well. These include the well-being of personnel, the longevity of the machine and the availability of storage space.”

Application technology trainer and consultant at Hako Klaus Serfezi agrees that the size of the area to be cleaned and on-site conditions are both crucial considerations. “Buyers should also consider factors such as drive-through widths; whether the sweeper is for an indoor or outdoor application and how crammed the floor space is likely to be with shelves and racks,” he said. “The kind of dirt to be tackled and the degree of soiling involved will also need to be considered.”

He says the type of drive – whether the machine should be battery, LPG, diesel or petrol-powered – will largely depend on where the machine will be used and whether it will be employed in a single or multiple-shift operation. “If there is a chance the machine will at some stage be used in an environment such as a multi-storey car park this will be another factor to be considered,” he said. “If the machine is usually parked in a poorly-heated room when not in use, a battery-driven model will not be recommended since low temperatures could damage the battery.”

Indoor use

He says a battery-driven machine will often be a good choice for indoor use due to the low noise emissions. “Economic efficiency is another consideration since if the machine is too small, many trips will be required to empty the dirt hopper which will lead to too much unproductive working time,” he said. “In addition the risk of overstraining the sweeper due to long hours of operation will need to be factored in since this would inevitably lead to high repair costs.

“When purchasing an oversized machine on the other hand, the investment costs will be too high in proportion to the cleaning performance required.”

Easy handling is a high priority for most customers according to Serfezi. “This keeps training time as short as possible,” he explained. “The machine should also enable fast and cost-efficient operation while also offering high area performance.”

He says customers should consider all the aforementioned factors before purchasing a machine. “Some only consider the buying price but it is highly unlikely that the cheapest machine on the market will turn out to be the most economically-efficient solution in the long term,” he said. “The crucial point is to calculate the actual life cycle costs of the machine.”

He adds that some customers may be swayed by the look of a machine or by the manufacturer’s hype. “Some purchasing decisions are made because a clever marketing campaign highlights certain features that – on closer inspection - have no impact on the machine’s cleaning performance or productivity,” he said.

Hako provides profitability calculations that take into account all recurrent operating and maintenance expenditure plus facts about the property to be cleaned. “It is important to do this instead of merely looking at the initial purchasing costs,” said Serfezi.

He says the decision between a walk-behind or ride-on sweeper will depend largely on the area of use. “Depending on the working width, walk-behind sweepers offer performances of between 2,000 and 3,400 square metres per hour and are often used at petrol stations, cash and carries and at smaller supermarkets where there is limited parking space,” he said. “Otherwise they are used indoors by small industrial companies to clean traffic, production and storage areas.

“Ride-on sweepers on the other hand offer practical area performances of between 4,500 and 25,000 square metres per hour. They are used in areas where cleaning with a walk-behind machine would be too time-consuming and where the technical capabilities of a walk-behind is simply not sufficient.

“If in doubt and with plenty of room for manoeuvre I would personally always go for a ride-on machine. Besides the productivity advantages these offer they also tend to increase the operator’s motivation since they are regarded as an upgrade.”

Marketing and communications manager at Kärcher Linda Schrödter says ustomers also need to consider floor covering, types of dirt and filter technology before choosing a sweeper.

“They should also look at whether the machine is service-friendly and what accessories it will require along with the right choice of lateral brush,” she said.

“Before deciding on a machine the customer should then tour the premises with a manufacturer’s consultant who will be better able to identify potentially difficult places and suggest solutions to suit individual requirements.”

She says cost will inevitably play a major role for many customers. “However, factors such as sustainability are also becoming increasingly important because some invitations to tender specify that cleaning contractors must adopt resource-saving work methods,” she said.

Robust and easy to use

“Some service providers are even required to share energy costs so it is in their interest to go with sustainable machines.”

She says a sweeper must be robust and easy to use and that tasks such as cleaning and maintaining the dust filter should require as little time as possible. “Effective operation plays a major role,” she said.

Director of Van der Reest Machines Johan van der Reest says the main factors to be considered when choosing a sweeper include the type of power source, the environment to be cleaned and the level of soiling. “Customers should also look at whether the sweeping system involves a broom or a vacuum,” he said. “And in the case of battery-powered models they need to look at the type of battery required: whether it is a traditional wet battery or a maintenance-free option.”

However he says the major consideration for most customers tends to be Investment cost. “Though of course productivity is also important since the larger the machine, the lower the labour costs will be,” he said. “And we see increasing numbers of customers looking at the monthly costs of operational leasing.”

He adds that professional advice from an impartial expert is invaluable. “I don’t compromise when I give advice,” he said. “If a customer feels that the pricing of the most suitable machine is too high I will still refuse to deliver a cheaper model. “If I did, I would have to pay the bill for an unsatisfied customer at a later stage.”

 

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