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Why measure?15th of June 2010
What is the biggest advantage of chemical dispensing systems – is it cost? Safety? Or do the sustainability benefits outweigh other considerations? Manufacturers give their views to Ann Laffeaty.
Automated dispensing systems are catching on fast these days. Chemicals for cleaning need to be diluted to specific concentrations to be fully effective. But when they are supplied in bulk containers and dosed manually by employees, the margin for error is high. Operatives often ignore the correct proportions when diluting chemicals, typically adding more than is actually required to ensure the solution is strong enough to work.
But cleaning solutions that are too concentrated will potentially lead to excess chemical discharge into the water system. They may also be less effective than solutions diluted to the correct degree – and they represent a potential health and safety risk since staff could spill the undiluted chemical on their skin.
But what is the biggest single advantage of chemical dispensing systems as far as manufacturers are concerned? The simple answer is cost according to Premiere Products’ local export division director Mark Hughes. “Chemical dosing systems enable end-users to budget very accurately and forecast their spend over a month, or even a year,” he said. “Dosing systems regulate chemical use and ensure that the operative uses only the correct amount they need as set by the manufacturer, and that they do not overdose.
“With the traditional ‘glug glug’ method there is always the tendency to add a little more than is required: it seems to be in the psyche of the industry. There is also the anti-pilferage factor to consider. There is a tendency for general cleaning and air freshener products to ‘walk’ from a site, while chemical dosing systems prevent this from occurring.”
Premiere Products makes Easy C trigger bottle and sink dispensers offering 10 ml and 20 ml chemical dosing options plus a range of multipurpose cleaning and degreasing products. According to Hughes, chemical dispensing systems offer several other end-user advantages. “Sustainability is a factor, though not a major one. I can’t think of any customers who have bought a dosing system on the grounds of its sustainability,” he said.
“Safety is also a factor since some of our systems are plumbed into the water supply, which means that the solution that goes into a trigger bottle has already been diluted. But frankly, none of our customers has ever used safety as a reason for wanting our dosing equipment.”
He said dispensing systems offered transport and storage advantages for the distributor since the chemicals involved were concentrated rather than diluted. However, he feels the major advantage for distributors is the fact that dosing systems allow them to defend their business.
“Our dosing equipment has a bespoke key system which means the end-user can’t use a competitor’s product,” he said. “Installing a chemical dispensing system can therefore help to keep the competition at bay.”
According to Hughes, the company is experiencing increased demand for dosing systems from nursing homes and the care sector. “I think nursing homes are being so badly squeezed by spending cuts that they have had to make savings any way they can,” he said. “This seems to be the major factor at the current time - it all comes down to financial control.”
Marketing executive of Brightwell Dispensers Matt Dwelly feels the benefits for the user differ from those of the distributor. “The biggest advantages are for the end user in terms of costs savings and health and safety benefits,” he said. “If you use a bucket and mix chemical solutions manually you don’t have any idea whether you are getting your ratios right. Also if you trip over the bucket and spill the chemicals over your hand it can be very dangerous, since some of the chemicals are hazardous.”
A chemical dispensing system need not be expensive for the end-user to install, says Dwelly, since many companies offer the systems free on loan. “The user may have to sign a contract and buy their chemicals from the company, but the reduction in consumption achieved means the system is likely to pay for itself.”
Brightwell’s Super C system features a delay that prohibits the user from dispensing another dose within a 30-second period to prevent overdosing.
According to Dwelly, one of the chief benefits for distributors is the saving on shipping costs since concentrated products require less packaging than ready-mixed chemicals. “For example, one of our 1.5 litre pouches filled with a super concentrate and set to 20 ml shots will fill a 750 ml trigger spray bottle 75 times,” he said. “This reduces packaging and transport costs since you are taking out the water element. There are also the sustainability benefits to consider since you are reducing your carbon footprint.”
He says some companies are still resistant to the idea of chemical dispensing systems, but the market is growing nonetheless.
“We have been selling our concentrated chemical systems for eight years and have achieved growth every year,” he said. “We are also experiencing greater demand from smaller companies.”
According to Don Gillespie, vice-president of marketing for Dema Engineering, the single biggest advantage of chemical dosing systems is the fact that they use super concentrated products. “This creates less packaging and reduces shipping, storage and disposal costs,” he said.
“Dosing systems are also safer than traditional mixing because they minimise exposure to concentrated chemicals. Free pouring, or glug glug mixing, creates more potential exposure by requiring the user to pour concentrates into a secondary container or use a measuring cup.
“Sophisticated dosing systems automatically mix concentrates with water which eliminates concentrate exposure and ensures that the user is exposed only to the diluted product.”
He said dosing systems were also more sustainable than traditional mixing systems. “They allow chemicals to be concentrated an average of four times more than traditional chemical concentrates,” he explained. “This translates into four times less packaging and significant savings in storage, transportation and disposal costs.
“They are also easier to use because of automatic mixing methods, and offer better environmental sustainability since only the waste from correctly diluted products enter the waste stream.”
He claimed that chemical dosing systems tend to pay for themselves within six months of installation. “This of course is dependent on chemical usage. A good rule of thumb is that a single chemical dosing system should use or support at least 20 litres of chemical concentrate per year. In this case you should see a reduction in total cost of 30 per cent or more.”
However dosing systems are not without their disadvantages, according to Gillespie. “One of the biggest drawbacks is their lack of portability, “ he said. “Dosing systems that automatically mix chemicals and water do not have the ease of portability of traditional mixing. They can also be cost prohibitive in smaller facilities or when you require more systems than your product usage can support. And all dosing systems need to be maintained, and these maintenance requirements increase significantly when the water quality is poor or when you have more workers using the system.”
Dema’s latest developments include the Squirt drain dosing dispenser, TopShot laundry dosing dispenser and Nitro warewash/dishwash dosing systems. All three systems are designed to lower the total cost of ownership for medium to smaller facilities.
The major advantage of dosing systems over manual methods is that of employee safety says Diversey’s EMA sector director for BSC international accounts Francois Salvador. “Built-in control systems dramatically reduce the risk of contact with neat chemicals,” he said. “Contact with strong chemical solutions can cause skin irritations and respiratory problems among staff. When manually mixing chemicals there is also a safety risk since any spillages could result in slips and falls.”
According to Salvador, chemical dosing systems also have a positive impact on company budgets. “Overdosing of concentrates can be as much as 200 per cent, while a built-in dilution unit makes the dosage independent of user initiative. Overdosing is completely eliminated – and this makes economical sense.”
He said over-concentrated products can also lead to poorer performance since they may leave behind a sticky residue or even damage the cleaning surface.
Sustainability benefits are another advantage of dosing systems, says Salvador. “The use of super concentrated chemicals reduces the storage, transport and waste costs necessary both for our distributors and for our customers,” he said.
According to Salvador, dosing also allows the manufacturer to create efficiency and sustainability through ever more concentrated products. “In many applications, having the active levels of the products at a sufficiently high level will shorten the cleaning cycle while of course, requiring less packaging,” he said. “Shorter cleaning cycles will mean quicker results and lower costs while reduced packaging is a great way to contribute to sustainability. Dosing systems enable the use of such concentrates while minimising contact with the operators.”
He added that certain dosing systems enabled data tracking to be built in, or even allowed monitoring to be carried out remotely. “Such systems may help operations in creating KPIs into their deliverables and start measuring the results they achieve by using specific quantities of product,” he said. “Diversey has been working on innovating and improving such equipment in the market for a long time.”