Are cheap washroom dispensers the most economical?

8th of March 2012
Are cheap washroom dispensers the most economical?
Are cheap washroom dispensers the most economical?

In these harsh economic times, why should a washroom manager not simply equip his or her washroom with the cheapest products they can find? Washroom manufacturers give the case for low cost-in-use as opposed to low cost.

No-one likes to feel that they are throwing their profits down the toilet. So in these harsh economic times, many companies can be forgiven for deciding to shell out no more than is absolutely necessary on products such as toilet paper. The same goes for soap and hand towels. When times are tough it can be argued that the cheapest options should be the obvious choice so long as they do the job for which they are intended.

But washroom hygiene manufacturers will argue against this, claiming that the lowest-cost washroom products are not necessarily the most economical.

Among them is UK and Ireland sales director of Metsä Tissue Mark Dewick who maintains that buying the lowest-cost toilet rolls, hand towels and soaps can be a false economy. “The cheapest possible toilet rolls will probably offer fewer sheets per roll than price comparison products,” he points out. “They will also be of inferior quality, which means that users will be dissatisfied and more of the product will be required. Meanwhile, the roll itself will probably be made from inferior fibres with a high proportion of glue, which will result in a greater chance of plumbing blockages.”

He claims that a good toilet roll or dispensing system will prevent the toilet roll from “running free” which can lead to over-consumption. Cost-effective hand towel systems should also help to manage consumption by preventing users from taking out more towels than they need, he says. “Dispensing systems will also protect against theft since they are often locked and vandal-proof, which means that further savings can be achieved.”

According to Dewick, a company can reduce its transport, storage, labour and administration costs by cutting consumption. “In addition an organisation’s reputation is enhanced by the quality of its washroom products, so the end result will be a higher footfall and more business for
the organisation.”

When comparing the cost benefits of paper towels compared with electric air dryers, he warns against the hidden costs of electronic drying systems. “Warm air and jet air dryers are dependent on energy prices which in the current economy are very volatile,” said Dewick.

SCA product and segment manager Charlotte Branwhite agrees with this viewpoint, adding: “While warm air dryers and high speed dryers can sometimes appear to be more cost-effective, such calculations often tend to miss out the hidden costs such as the time it takes to clean a high speed dryer.” She agrees that in today’s climate it is often tempting for customers to opt for products that offer the lowest price per box. “However if you can find products that offer a better cost per item it can often work out to be more economical,” she said.

According to Branwhite the customer should weigh up cost-in-use when buying a washroom product – and not just the price per box. “Cost-in-use takes into account the entire cost of the product throughout its life - in other words the cost of the product itself plus any indirect costs,” she said. “For example, you will tend to use less of a higher quality product which means you will reduce your indirect costs such as storage, handling, cleaning time etc. This affects the bottom line since you are not only reducing the product costs, but also the variable costs. “

Cheapest available

Tork products designed to offer low cost-in-use include the Tork hand towel roll system, which is a high capacity roll that gives out one sheet of paper at a time to prevent over-consumption; and the Tork Compact Auto Shift toilet paper system which incorporates two compact rolls in one to reduce refilling time and labour costs.

According to Branwhite while many customers are still buying the cheapest products around, there is a growing understanding of the importance of cost-in-use. “FM companies often see the benefits of looking at cost-in-use since 70 per cent of the cost of a cleaning contract is labour,” she said. “Systems that reduce labour time are therefore very appealing to them.”

Category manager for Kimberly-Clark Professional Lori Shaffer agrees that a customer purchasing a 'cheap' hand towel will often need to sacrifice quality. “The product is likely to be less absorbent so you will end up using more to carry out the same task,” she said. “This generates more waste and can ultimately cost more.”

She claims that by choosing products with a superior performance, customers can reduce consumption and drive down the cost per unit. “By using a more absorbent hand towel or high efficacy soap, you will consume less,” she said.  “So even if the cost per unit is lower, the higher usage rate on a low quality product can result in higher or equal cost overall. Given the current economic conditions this is critical to ensuring a sustainable business.”

Shaffer claims that a good dispensing system can make a major difference to the bottom line. “By choosing smart systems that dispense the products one at a time while protecting the towels from water you will reduce usage and loss of product due to saturation,” she said. “In addition, by using high capacity dispensing systems you will minimise the number of times the towel clip has to be changed which will free up resources to focus on tasks that add more value.”

Less paper required

Kimberly-Clark’s compressed roll towels made with UCTAD technology are among the company’s most cost effective washroom products, claims Shaffer.  “These are highly absorbent which reduces the amount required for a given task, while the fact that there is more paper on the roll means that shipping and handling costs are minimised,” she said.

Vice president of Bobrick International Andrew Sweibel feels the end-user’s perception of the chosen washroom products should be a vital factor when choosing a system.

“The patron’s experience in the washroom can be very influential on his or her perception of a business,” he explained. “A clean, well-stocked washroom with quality paper goods and soap makes a favourable impression on the visitor – and such an impression may make the patron more likely to frequent the business again.”

Bobrick manufactures stainless steel dispensers which Sweibel claims to be low maintenance. “Although plastic dispensers may be less expensive to install, they tend to be less attractive and less durable than stainless steel systems,” he said.

Sweibel agrees that cost-in-use is a critical factor for organisations attempting to keep to budget, but adds that there are several economical options available on the market. “For instance, roll paper towels are often less expensive to use than folded towels,” he said.

“Further cost savings can be realised by using warm air hand dryers instead of paper towels, since with warm air dryers not only does the building operator eliminate the perpetual cost of purchasing paper towels but there is no paper waste to be removed by maintenance staff.”

Intelligent operation

Bobrick’s Automatic Roll Paper Towel dispensers offer the ability to adjust towel lengths, while the company’s TowelMate accessories are designed to reduce consumption and waste by providing a single towel with each pull.

Sweibel adds that Bobrick’s non-proprietary paper towel, toilet tissue and soap dispensers help control costs by allowing buyers to source the most cost effective consumables to meet their needs.

Washroom hygiene.product manager of Hagleitner Nicole Wolfbeisz says consumption can be controlled through a good dispensing system – and adds that this will help to bring down costs.
“People are forced to use less when you have the right features in your dispenser system,” she said. “Elements such as delayed dispensing and the ability to adjust the amount of product dispensed can help to prevent people from taking out more product than they need.”

She adds that intelligent reserve functions and sensor operation also help to reduce consumption. According to Wolfbeisz all Hagleitner products are designed to be cost-effective in use.

She agrees that budgets are tight in every area of life today. “However, we are gaining the impression that with increasing awareness of the importance of sanitation, more and more people are willing to pay for quality,” she said.

“Together with our customers we try to calculate the advantages of two-layered paper, which is often more economical than one-layered alternatives because people use less.”


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