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Scrubber dryers - where size is everything7th of March 2014
A growing number of today’s scrubber dryers boast a compact design and a smaller footprint….. but is this a market trend? And if so, why? Ann Laffeaty finds out.
Many of today’s scrubber dryer manufacturers are bringing out new models claimed to be smaller and more compact than those of their rivals. There are significant advantages to reducing the size of a scrubbing machine, we are told. A compact scrubber dryer is likely to be lighter in weight which means it is easier to push and less likely to damage delicate floors than a larger model.
A smaller machine is also better at cleaning into nooks, crannies and narrow corridors and the initial cost will generally be lower - an attractive benefit for many customers.
When we asked manufacturers whether the move towards smaller scrubber dryers was a general trend, several confirmed this to be the case. “A compact design and a low machine weight are the most important criteria for customers when buying a scrubber dryer today,” said Wetrok’s machine product manager Mark Meng. “They also look for manoeuvrability and simple operation where little or no operator training is required.”
He says an intelligent, compact design provides a scrubber dryer with simplicity and agility. “These qualities improve the working tempo of the machine as well as its ergonomics,” he said. “Meanwhile the reduced weight increases the machine’s manoeuvrability and reduces the power consumption of self-drive models. In addition this lower weight is a bonus for the operator, particularly in walk-behind machines.”
He says lithium-ion technology has played a major role in the development of more compact scrubber dryers. “These batteries are around half the size of conventional batteries and significantly lighter while lasting around four times as long – all crucial advantages,” he said.
Meng cites Wetrok’s Discomatic range as an example of the company’s most compact and lightweight models. “The Discomatic Tango was the first scrubber dryer to use lithium-ion technology, and the Discomatic Mambo has a 30 litre tank and a working width of 43 cm,” he said. “Both machines are extremely powerful, compact and light.”
Scrubber dryer product manager at Kärcher Wolfram Callenius confirms the trend towards more agile machines. “The bigger the scrubber dryer, the more bulky it is likely to be when cleaning in small areas,” he said.
“Customers need lightweight machines with a high cleaning performance plus maximum agility and good mobility. Compact machines are required for use in small or congested areas and lightweight models are easier to lift over steps and thresholds. And when it comes to
stowing, compact machines do not require much space.”
However he adds that easy handling, ease of use and low servicing requirements are other key customer considerations. “It is also becoming increasingly important that water is reliably suctioned in curve formations since this avoids accidents and any resulting claims for damages,” he said.
He adds that the Kärcher BR 35/12 C walk-behind scrubber is particularly light and easy to handle. “This also incorporates a new steering concept - Kärcher Advanced Response Technology – for improved manoeuvrability since the steering wheel directly controls the machine’s brush head,” he says. “This makes the BR 35/12 C ideal for use in narrow rooms and crowded spaces.”
Fimap product manager Antonio Incrocci says scrubber dryers with a 50-60 cm working width are particularly in demand by today’s customers. “Besides ensuring manoeuvrability and productivity in small and cluttered areas, a compact machine will also reduce water and energy consumption which in turn brings cost reductions,” he explained.
He claims Fimap’s Mxr machine to be particularly light, compact and manoeuvrable. “It is a ride-on model which, thanks to its compact dimensions, can be used in areas where walk-behind models are normally chosen,” he said. According to Incrocci the Mxr has a new steering wheel design for increased manoeuvrability and user-friendliness.
However, he disagrees that size is everything for today’s customers. “Price is their first priority: then come those features that ensure low cost of ownership and maintenance,” he said. “This is followed by user-friendliness, manoeuvrability and comfort.”
Numatic International’s head of media Andrew Ernill shares this view. “The pros and cons of mains electric or battery need to be weighed up as well,” he adds. “The scrubber dryer also has to be suited to the environment and be easy to fill, empty and transport while being able to complete the job without constant re-filling stops.”
He agrees that size will always be a consideration, however. “Local supermarkets situated near housing developments are becoming more commonplace and the practicalities of a compact scrubber dryer in these situations is increasingly accepted,” he said. “A wide range of machines to cover any situation is important, which is why we offer scrubber dryers from 18 to 120 litres.”
He adds that smaller models can be more cost-effective than mopping and spray cleaning. “They enable smaller retail stores to carry out 24-hour cleaning with a minimum of intrusion in-store,” says Ernill. “They also allow mobile cleaners to visit multiple sites in one day with a single machine rather than have larger machines situated in each store, which often used to be the case.”
Marketing director at Hako Klaus Serfezi says the trend towards smaller machines is in evidence everywhere. “If you take a look around the trade fairs you will see more and more smaller walk-behind and ride-on machines exhibited,” he said.
However, he adds that customers who choose a scrubber dryer on size alone may be misguided. “What matters most is the size and type of the floor space you wish to clean,” he said. “Machines required to clean smaller areas naturally need to be small and lightweight.”
Economic efficiency is the main reason for using compact machines when cleaning small, confined areas says Serfezi. “To employ large equipment in such areas would mean the operator is constantly struggling to manoeuvre the scrubber dryer through narrow passages,” he said. “In cases such as this, a mop would probably be quicker.”
He says some customers choose smaller cleaning machines for the wrong reasons. “Very often it is women who operate scrubber dryers - and they tend to want their machines to be as small as possible,” he said. “There is also a certain amount of fear involved when it comes to handling larger equipment, and it would be a great help if service providers were to invest in machine-handling training courses for operators.”
Life cycle costs
He adds that the lower acquisition costs of a smaller machines is often a major attraction for customers. “While economic efficiency should be the most important aspect when purchasing a machine, what about the life cycle costs – such as the amount of unproductive time spent on refilling and emptying a smaller model?” said Serfezi.
“There can be no doubt that purchasing the right size of machine for the job at hand is still the most profitable solution.” Hako’s smallest scrubber dryers include a 10-litre cylinder-brush machine that can clean under furniture, and the Hakomatic B 12 which is a lightweight disk-brush model.
Nilfisk-Advance’s global marketing manager Pernille Pedersen feels that a lightweight machine offers other advantages besides ease of use. “The weight and wheel pressure of a heavy scrubber dryer can create some issues on certain floor types such as wooden surfaces or soft sports hall floors,” she said. “Ceramic floors can also be very sensitive to pressure.”
Pedersen quotes Nilfisk’s SC351 model as an example of a particularly small and compact scrubber dryer. “The frame is made of lightweight aluminium and almost all the rest of the machine is made from plastic – including the brush deck and squeegee that would normally be made of steel or aluminium,” she said.
Despite the importance of size, however, she agrees with Serfezi that each machine should be chosen according to the size of the area to be cleaned rather than its own compact qualities.
“It could be an expensive mistake to invest in a scrubber that is too small or too large for the area in question,” she said. “You need to optimise the size of the machine for the area to clean, and this is why our product portfolio is so large. Every machine has its own features and advantages depending on the cleaning task for which it is meant.”
The move towards increased sustainability is another factor driving the market for smaller scrubber-dryers says Tennant’s global product management director Karin Overstreet. “Customers who have primarily continued to clean smaller areas with a mop and bucket are beginning to look for ways to reduce their use of chemicals and water,” she said.
Cleaning path key
Overstreet claims the company’s T1B micro scrubber to be a good example of a highly compact machine. “It can fit beneath wall-mounted sinks, tables and adjustable-height beds and this flexibility allows operators to clean under and around fixtures that traditional scrubbers cannot reach,” she said.
While companies are always striving to reduce the size and weight of auto-scrubbers, she adds that a balance needs to be found. “Thorough cleaning requires a certain amount of agitation which can be improved by weight,” she said. “In addition, if units are too light they may turn too easily or tip forward, or simply not allow the operator to feel in control.”
She says the cleaning path of a machine rather than its size is a key consideration with the customer. “If an end-user purchases a machine that is too small it will require substantially more time to clean,” she said. “And if the cleaning path is too large this will result in increased use of water, chemicals and electricity.
Customers also look at factors such as safety and ease of use when choosing a scrubber dryer – but above all, most of them are seeking to reduce the total cost of cleaning,” says Overstreet.