Floor pads - the next big thing

26th of September 2018
Floor pads - the next big thing

Cost, sustainability, safety, productivity – what are the key factors driving innovation in the floor pad sector? Leading manufacturer of floorcare maintenance products 3M looks at the trends affecting the market and examines how today’s floor pads are developing to meet modern needs.

There are some things in the cleaning industry that never seem to change. For example, the need to provide the customer with solutions that provide high quality results – and at a competitive price - is an ongoing one.

And despite some recent moves towards higher levels of automation, people still represent a large part of the equation. The fact that labour accounts for a huge percentage of the costs involved with cleaning means that any operation needs to be carried out as swiftly and as efficiently as possible in order to reduce the cost burden for the customer.

But while the need for high productivity and low cost remains constant, the focus is gradually shifting in other areas of the process. For example, over recent years the issues of safety and sustainability have risen further up the cleaning agenda. And as a result of this change in focus, customers are increasingly seeking solutions that are sustainable, from an environmental point of view, while also enhancing safety for the operator in use.

But the fact remains that in today’s increasingly competitive market, cleaning contractors are under a huge amount of pressure to reduce their floorcare costs without having to compromise on the quality of their service. So how do manufacturers deliver on that?

This is a constant challenge according to 3M’s cleaning and workplace safety marketing manager Sue Poole. “We are having to operate in a market where the cost of raw materials is continually increasing while the instability of the world economy is taking its toll on businesses everywhere,” she said.

“As a result of this it is becoming even more imperative for facility management companies to provide a high quality of service while also managing to maintain their operating margins. And this in turn is putting increased pressure on the supplier to deliver savings wherever possible.”

Delivering the requirements of today’s customer is therefore becoming increasingly difficult, she explained. “A growing number of customers are seeking solutions that are easy to use while also providing productivity savings,” said Poole.  “And they also want to be seen to be sustainable - but they are not yet willing to pay for this additional feature. So this means that sustainability needs to be delivered as part of the standard product.“

Changing market

Meanwhile, the market itself is changing as bigger players aim to grow by acquisition and buy up smaller companies in order to increase their share of the market. “One recent example can be seen in Diversey’s purchase of HTC Twister floor pads,” she said.

The way in which floorcare products are chosen by the customer is also evolving, according to Poole. “Decisions today are no longer made exclusively by the traditional buyers in a business but also by ‘operation excellence teams’ that are tasked with looking for new solutions and trialling innovations with a view to driving efficiencies,” she continued.

Among all these changes there has been a growing shift towards the diamond style of floor pad. “This trend began between six to eight years ago when the diamond pad sector was able to offer a premium product to those customers who required a high shine on their floors during daily maintenance,” she said.

Diamond floor pads are able to offer the advantage of chemical-free cleaning. Besides the obvious cost and sustainability benefits, there are several added bonuses to consider when chemicals are removed from the equation.

For example, the manual dilution of chemicals for use in floorcare applications provides plenty of opportunity for error. And getting it wrong could have negative implications for staff, visitors and for the business itself.

An over-diluted cleaning solution will be too weak to be able to thoroughly clean the surface - and this could leave a poor impression on visitors. It may also require the cleaning process to be repeated which will be costly and demotivating for staff.

In sensitive environments such as hospitals and schools, a dirty floor could have more serious implications since it could increase the risk of illnesses along with the spread of bacteria.
On the other hand, a chemical solution that is too concentrated will add unnecessary costs to the operation and may also leave a sticky residue on the floor, making the environment less safe for everyone.

And in areas where people are likely to suffer from respiratory issues – such as in hospitals, care homes and schools, for example - the use of cleaning agents could be an aggravating factor for more susceptible lungs.

Floor pads specifically designed to clean without the use of chemicals help to resolve many of these problems and therefore represent a safer option.

3M is building on the recent trend for chemical-free cleaning and recently launched Scotch-Brite Clean & Shine Floor Pad. Besides offering chemical-free cleaning, this product aims to boost productivity and cut costs by combining two processes - cleaning and burnishing.

“Combining the cleaning and burnishing processes allows the end user to reduce the number of machines they need to operate while also removing a time-consuming step from the daily or weekly maintenance regime,” said Poole.

“And the pad actually builds up the level of shine with prolonged use.” The product was recently trialled at Western Michigan University, a public research facility in Kalamazoo with an international student body of more than 23,000.

“We used the new pad for a three-month period in the facility’s academic buildings and medical clinical settings, both of which experience heavy foot traffic,” said Bob Makin, regional manager at Janitronics Facilities Services responsible for managing the university’s contract. “We were able to completely eliminate weekly burnishing in larger open spaces, and there was no drop in appearance with the use of the pad with the auto scrubber.”

3M’s key account manager Soren Aabye supports Poole’s view that the need to increase productivity is the top priority in today’s cleaning industry. “Labour accounts for the majority of the total cost of cleaning – an estimated 90 to 98 per cent of the whole,” he said. “For this reason it is imperative that we create new solutions that will reduce labour costs. By combining procedures and eliminating the use of extra cleaning equipment we can help to meet these requirements.”

Aabye agrees with Poole that the topics of sustainability and safety are moving further up the agenda. “Most companies interpret this as a need for reducing the amount of chemical usage and minimising the burden of waste to landfill,” he said. “They also attempt to address the sustainability issue by using recycled materials wherever possible.

“However, some manufacturers have misunderstood this requirement and are putting all their emphasis into the greater use of recycled products. In some situations this might lead to inefficient solutions that will rack up extra labour costs. And going down this route could actually increase the amount of waste to landfill if the floor pads are not functioning well from a performance perspective.“

Floor maintenance is labour intensive, time-consuming and costly. A typical hard floor will require cleaning, buffing and burnishing in order to maintain a high shine finish while a floor that is not properly maintained will quickly lose its sheen and take on a dull appearance.

However the right floor pad can have a dramatic effect on cleaning costs, productivity and the overall life of the floor.

“Providing floors with a high shine in a competitive market is a perpetual juggling act for cleaning companies, particularly where productivity is all-important and where labour costs need to be kept down,” concludes Poole.


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