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A sweeper evolution

27 September 2016

The industrial cleaning equipment market is not known for rapid product innovation and this is particularly true when it comes to sweepers. Walk behind and ride on sweepers can be seen as the poor cousin of the scrubber dryer which enjoys much higher volumes in the UK. Sweeper volumes however have grown over recent decades and look set to improve further as the drive for safer and cleaner environments continues. Leigh Mason, sales director at Nilfisk UK, explains more

The road sweeper market particularly has seen huge changes as grounds care equipment has been integrated into road sweeping machines. The multi-functional use of sweepers for washing, scrubbing, grounds and winter maintenance tasks was once the biggest street cleaning challenge in the European market and is now a standard offering from some manufacturers.

What factors are driving the market?

Productivity –Time and labour simply equals money: the shorter time that a sweeper can complete the task in hand the better. Multi-functional equipment means that time is not lost changing machines and if attachments are required or consumables changed, the speed at which they can be changed is paramount. This is where initiatives like the Nilfisk ‘tool-free’ system is advantageous which can change a machine from a sweeper to a winter maintenance machine in under a minute.

Cost of ownership – Long gone are the days when cleaning professionals simply bought a machine and put it into work until it died. Professional contractors often look in depth at the running costs of the sweeping equipment more than the price of the machine when it is purchased. Fuel, consumables and maintenance charges for example are huge lifetime costs.

Noise Levels – More organisations are now conscious of equipment noise levels, concerned about operators and the public alike. Irrespective of fuel type it is essential that sweeper noise levels are kept to a minimum.

Ergonomics – There is of course a natural correlation between how easy and comfortable the sweeper is to operate and the improved cleaning result. 

Days gone by

Can you imagine the immense task of cleaning up a ball room or warehouse 200 years ago? Anyone ever faced with a broom, a lot of dirt and a large area will know exactly what I mean! Not only were hours of labour required but the result was nowhere near what we would now call clean.

The first development step up from the broom was the manual sweeper – simple push along brushes that swept the dirt into a crude hopper. Many years later the first electric powered sweepers were a huge improvement reducing labour levels and improving performance significantly. Even today’s small manual sweepers, such as the 84cm Nilfisk SM800, have a productivity rate five times greater than a tired man with a broom. 


Nothing stands still of course and over the last 100 years manufacturers have developed sweepers covering a range of sizes, fuels and applications. There is still a place for smaller walk behind sweepers but professional manufacturers with an eye on the future now offer everything from a manual sweeper up to a 3500kg road sweeper like the Nilfisk CR3500 with scrubbing and green maintenance capability.

Increasingly professional clients realise the benefit of a one stop shop: in a busy world having one port of call for everything from a replacement broom to an engineer and a road sweeping demonstration is hugely advantageous.

The future

The development of large multi-functional sweepers and combination sweepers and scrubbers is still very much ongoing. The Nilfisk Group recently launched a scrub deck facility for their outdoor range providing users with the option of an attachment that scrubs the surface area post sweep. It offers an advantage to contractors working in difficult and demanding environments often with critical health and safety ramifications.

The financial advantage of machines that can be used across the sectors cannot be underestimated. Green maintenance equipment often sits unused for many months in the winter, one multi-functional machine can be used all year round and quickly adapted with a range of attachments. The development of additional attachments remains at the forefront including weed ripping and street washing capabilities. There is definitely room for innovation in the sweeper sector and it is coming sooner than you think.