Floor pads - padding towards the future

27th of October 2016
Floor pads - padding towards the future

Every floorcare task has a colour-coded floor pad to match. But will this dazzling spectrum of products grow to feature even more pads in future, or will the market be rationalised to provide a more streamlined selection of multipurpose pads?

Floor pads quite literally cover a whole spectrum of products. There are black pads for stripping, green pads for scrubbing, red pads for buffing and many more colours and grades designed for specific tasks in between.

The colour coding of floor pads makes it easy for operatives to tell at a glance which pad needs to be used where. In some cases it could damage a floor if the wrong floor pad were used: an aggressive black pad might well scratch a delicate floor surface, for example. Sometimes the wrong product would simply prove ineffective, such as if a fine polishing pad were used in an attempt to remove sealants or black marks.

However it could be argued that the growing number of floor pads on the market is beginning to represent a potential source of confusion for the end user. Does this mean we have reached a ‘ceiling’ in terms of floor pad colours, grades and sizes? On the contrary says Americo Manufacturing’s director of marketing Cameron Harrison. She believes there is still plenty of room for more pads in an ever-growing sector.

“The cleaning industry as a whole is a fairly mature market, but when floor types change there is a need for new and specialised products,” she said. “The trend is moving towards pads with very specific applications rather than fewer products for general use.”

As an example she cites the recent introduction of melamine pads. “These have been designed to address the issue of shallow grout lines - something that has been a challenge for years,” she said.

“Polished concrete is another example of a floor surface that requires specific solutions,” said Harrison. “We are encountering this floor type more frequently in today’s retail units, but polished concrete requires the use of speciality-specific diamond pads for cleaning, polishing, scrubbing, stripping, burnishing and restoration.” Diamond pads use billions of microscopic diamonds to produce a highly polished appearance.

Other recent innovations to the market include pads made from a heavy-duty turf material for use on grouting, says Harrison. “Turf pads are designed to provide a scrubbing action on uneven floors without the need for changing the brush driver blocks,” she said.

Industry drivers

According to Harrison cost and sustainability are two important drivers for today’s floor pad industry. “With tight budget constraints, many cleaning professionals are turning to solutions that optimise performance and longevity while reducing the overall labour cost,” she said. “They are also increasingly being asked to offer systems that are environmentally sustainable. With new technology and the use of recycled materials, Americo is now offering solutions that are more compatible with market demands.”

She says Americo has been manufacturing pads made from 100 per cent recycled PET plastic for well over a decade. In 2014 the company announced the launch of its Full Cycle technology which is said to allow floor pads to biodegrade much more rapidly in landfill than conventional pads.

Continuing market innovation will be necessary in future in line with the introduction of new types of flooring, according to Harrison. “Floor pads will continue to follow the shifts and demands of the market and there is likely to be a need for additional pads,” she said.

KGS marketing coordinator Sophie Artar agrees the number of specialist floor pads entering the market is likely to increase rather than be reduced. “This is particularly the case with regard to applications such as the light renovation of natural stone and terrazzo,” she said.

She says one recent change in the market has been the introduction of new materials with which to make floor pads. “For example, we at KGS no longer use diamonds for super abrasives – we now use Ferrzon+ instead,” she said. “This provides a better performance than diamonds and is also more durable and results in a higher gloss.”

Meanwhile pad manufacturer Bonastre is maintaining the status quo as far as products are concerned. The company’s philosophy is to make floor maintenance as simple as possible for the end user according to proprietor Victor Bonastre. “For this reason we have developed a universal range of pads that can be used on any stone floor and using any type of cleaning machinery,” he said.

Unlike other companies, Bonastre offers just three types of pad: a red pad for floors that are heavily soiled or scratched; a yellow pad for maintaining large shop floors in supermarkets and malls, and a green pad for customers who like their floors to have a high shine.

The floor pad market is driven by several competing pressures according to Wecovi’s marketing and sales director Derik Landman. “The floor pad industry follows developments in machines: for example, rectangular pads are required for oscillating machines,” he said. “Over the past two years there has also been a growth in demand for cleaning without the use of chemicals. This has resulted in chemical-free stripping pads and Twister pads becoming more popular.”

The demand for chemical-free cleaning is part of a wider focus on sustainability, says Landman. “Many facility management organisations have certain social conduct and sustainability standards which are often a requirement of governments and institutions,” he said. “Consequently all materials and methods need to contribute to these standards.”

The Americo material used to make the company’s Wecoline pads is produced using recycled fibres such as PET bottles combined with water-based resins, he says. “Since 2015 we have introduced an additive into the formulation that enables a used floor pad to biograde much more quickly in an active landfill,” says Landman.

The cost of cleaning is another constant pressure for the industry, he says. “We are improving formulations to increase the lifespan of pads,” he said. He adds new materials such as melamine and turf scrub are being used to manufacture floor pads for specific tasks.

According to Landman the cleaning market in general is fairly static. “This is unfortunate because with the use of new specialist pads, the industry could gain efficiencies,” he said. However, he feels that the number of types and colours of floor pad on the market is more likely to grow than be streamlined in the future.

“The latest floor pads to enter the market offer the huge benefit of an improved cleaning performance which is often combined with time or chemical savings,” he said. “Not only will there be more new colours in future, there will also be more pads manufactured using materials such as diamonds, melamine and turf which have all recently gained market share.”

However he predicts the focus on cost will shape the future of the pad industry. “There will be increasing pressure to reduce the cost of cleaning, and consequently the cost of labour,” he said. “This implies there will be increasing opportunities for machines and robots - and this in turn will provide more opportunities for floor pads.”

KGS marketing coordinator Sophie Artar agrees the floor pad sector will grow as the market continues to seek new possibilities. “There is an increasing acceptance of new, specialist pads on the market - such as our new Flexis Ultra Fine product, for example,” she said.” Flexis Ultra Fine is a cream-coloured pad designed for wet and dry buffing.

And Americo’s Cameron Harrison predicts an increasing shift away from traditional, multipurpose products towards speciality-specific floor pads.  “Since there are constant innovations in floor types, cleaning equipment and chemicals, it follows that floor pads will also continue to evolve in order to meet the needs of the industry,” she said.


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