Scrubber dryers - the human touch

8th of April 2019
Scrubber dryers - the human touch

Cleaners are unlikely to get excited about the more basic cleaning tools such as dusters, mops and buckets. But a smart new scrubber dryer may engender a sense of pride and ownership on the part of the operator - and it might even lead to improved cleaning results, reports Ann Laffeaty.

Most of us can connect with that “new car” feeling when we first take ownership of a sophisticated new vehicle and make it our own. Learning how it works, discovering its capabilities and understanding its little foibles can be a highly rewarding process. Some of us may even experience similar feelings when taking possession of a company car: while it may not actually belong to us, we might still forge a connection with this new machine in our care.

So, how far does the same sentiment apply to cleaners when allocated a new machine? When a member of staff is asked to operate a scrubber dryer, for example, does he or she experience a similar sense of pride or even ownership? And do manufacturers take this into consideration when designing their machines?

The operator’s emotional attachment to a machine is hugely important according to IPC communications manager Gabriella Bianco. “Operating a scrubber dryer can generate a great sense of pride - particularly when the machine is fast, highly manoeuvrable, appealing and has been designed with care,” she said. “Attractive colours and an innovative design will also help to make the operator feel satisfied and proud.”

She believes the operator will appreciate any equipment that aims to make their work easier and more comfortable to carry out. “This includes adjustable handles for walk-behinds plus comfortable seats for ride-ons,” said Bianco. “An uncomfortable driving seat or an awkward working position will take its toll on the operator’s back, and this could lead to musculoskeletal disorders or shoulder and neck pains - a common consequence when at work.”

Intuitive control panels that are easy to read and manage will help to make the operator feel more comfortable when manoeuvring the machine, she adds. And technological tools can further help to engage the operator while improving productivity, according to Bianco.

She cites as an example the IPC Telematics GPS - a digital tool that can be applied to the company’s IPC CT 51 and CT 71 machines. “This enables the cleaner to check the machine’s position, user ID and battery level via a smartphone, tablet or PC,” she said. “The productivity of cleaning may be improved when operators are empowered to monitor and manage their tasks more effectively using technological management systems.”

Tennant’s ethos is to do whatever it can to make life easier for the operator, says product manager Stefan Sehmke. “The ease of use of our machines in terms of manoeuvrability, operation and maintenance is critical in bringing a smile to the operator’s face,” he said. “Cleaners quickly understand how their job can be carried out better and more quickly when the machine is easy to use.

“Not only do we focus on issues such as ergonomics and safety, we also build in features that simplify the use of the equipment and its maintenance. And before designing new solutions we talk to operators all over the globe to understand their key pain points and frustrations, knowing as we do that a happy operator will clean more efficiently.”

Tennant’s T300, T500, T600 and T350 scrubber dryers are all designed with the user’s comfort in mind, said Sehmke. Yellow touch-points are used to indicate how squeegee blades and brushes may be changed while all handles, steering-wheels and seats are designed to enhance the operator’s comfort and wellbeing.

“We also provide on-board training videos with a multi-language interface via an optional Pro-Panel LCD touch screen,” he said. “And larger machines can even be equipped with rear-view cameras to help when manoeuvring.”

Nilfisk group product manager Jean-Pierre Lebrun believes it is fairly common for scrubber dryer operators to develop a sense of pride in their equipment. “Many of them like to keep their machines looking clean and orderly, and some of them even give their scrubber dryers names.”

Operator comfort is a particular priority for Nilfisk, says Lebrun. “Often the operator will need to use a scrubber dryer for long periods of time and for several hours a day, so it is critical it is ergonomic and easy to use,” he said. “It is also important that a scrubber dryer looks professional – and not only for the benefit of the operator. Cleaning is increasingly being carried out during the day when members of the public are present.”

Ease of use and operator comfort are also key, he says. “The position and adjustability of the steering wheel are both important, as is the comfort of the seat,” he said. “It is also crucial to keep vibration and sound levels low while the high turnover of operators in the cleaning industry means that operating a scrubber dryer needs to be as intuitive as possible.”

The company’s latest model – the Nilfisk SC401 – is said to be particularly quiet in operation. It has a OneTouch feature which allows the operator to switch on all functions using only one button.

Diversey portfolio manager Marcel Müller agrees that an attractive, modern design is important in a scrubber dryer. However he believes factors such as functionality, simplicity of use and robustness should all take precedence.

“Cleaning contractors are often pressed for time,” he said. “For this reason, any features that make a scrubber dryer more efficient to run while also saving time for the operator should be given a high priority. This includes providing machines that are easy to maintain and use.”

According to Müller, operators appreciate a high level of manoeuvrability in their machine along with an ergonomic design and simple, effective steering.

“Intuitive controls are also crucial,” he says. “Cleaning machines are used in tough environments and in an industry where there is a rapid turnover of staff. This means that an intuitive design using simple icons is key.” All Taski scrubber dryers use a uniform set of icons in their controls. “This means that an operator who has used a specific type of machine will be able to understand any other machine in our portfolio,” said Müller.

He believes an easy-to-use machine will have a positive effect on overall performance. “Productivity and quality can also be massively improved when the right training is provided,” said Müller. “But equally important is the right support on a daily basis. This can be achieved with the aid of wallcharts featuring pictures and icons that explain machine operation.”

Other features that can aid productivity include method cards pointing out the best operational routes, plus connected solutions such as TASKI IntelliTrail, he says. This displays live data providing an overview of the entire machine fleet.

Kärcher’s scrubber dryer product manager Christian Mrowka echoes the general view that ease of use is crucial. “The high turnover of cleaning staff along with tight budgets and time pressures often leaves an insufficient amount of available time for instructing staff on the use of a machine,” he said.

“An ergonomic design will ensure fatigue-free working without restricting the user’s productivity. And this is particularly important in those areas of the world where cleaning workers tend to be of an advanced age.”

Ergonomically designed machines with an easy-to-understand operating concept will facilitate the user’s everyday work, he said. “The fact employees all tend to speak different languages - and almost nobody reads the operating instructions – means intuitive machines are crucial,” said Mrowka. “In this respect, our colour code - the marking of operating elements in yellow to draw the user’s attention directly to the relevant ones - plays a decisive part.”

The company’s Kärcher Advanced Response Technology system is said to significantly improve manoeuvrability since the steering wheel directly controls the machine’s brush head. The company also claims that its machines help to reduce noise, vibration and unpleasant frequencies during operation.

Like other manufacturers, Mrowka believes the comfort and wellbeing of the operator are crucial. “We always involve end-users in the purchasing process and consult them about the handling of the machine,” he says. “If a model is too difficult to handle and the user is not convinced, the result may be that the machine is not used and the investment is wasted.”

So, what are the benefits of producing machines with which the cleaner can feel “connected”? “A scrubber dryer that produces a sense of pride in the operator will encourage them to take better care of the machine – and this will result in less downtime and increased productivity,” said Mrowka. “On the other hand, a machine that is uncomfortable to use will have a negative impact on motivation and may also affect the cleaning result.”

Tennant’s Stefan Sehmke agrees. “When a model is well designed and easy to use, the operator will start to see it as their own property,” he said. “This means they will look after the machine more carefully and this will ensure an optimal and consistent cleaning result.”

And IPC’s Gabriella Bianco sums up: “The pleasure gained in using a scrubber dryer should be one of its fundamental features.”


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