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Incremental gains in the cleaning cycle

22 June 2017

Technological leaps are making floor cleaning machines better, but smaller steps in product design are important too. Gordon McVean, international sales and marketing director of Truvox International, charts some of the advances in efficiency and ease of use, and what drives them

The arrival of more efficient and cheaper batteries is transforming the equipment we use in the cleaning industry. Cleaning operatives are freed from the hassle of hauling a cable around, the stop-start pattern of working, and the constant worry of tripping colleagues or passers-by.

Battery technology has unleashed engineers and designers too to explore the practical benefits of different battery technologies, battery swop options, how machines are configured, their weight and footprint.

Cordless options are now available for most floor cleaning machines, from scrubber dryers to rotary burnishers. That trusty standard of the carpet care market, the upright vacuum, is the latest to go cordless – with our own Truvox Valet Battery Upright, which was an innovation award-winner at this year’s Cleaning Show.

But significant though the battery-driven improvements may be, we shouldn’t overlook the other gains in efficiency and performance to be won – from smaller steps and subtle refinements in design that lead to incremental progress. 

Light ideas

This is true even for a mature type cleaning machine like an upright vacuum. Making the machine lighter reduces the strain on the user as the repetitive to and fro movement multiplies every kilo saved over a cleaning shift. Awkward tasks can also be made easier. For example, when cleaning in offices and hotel rooms, an upright vacuum designed to maintain full contact with the floor when it’s laid flat ensures suction power is not compromised under desks and beds. Self-adjusting cleaning heads that float evenly over all flooring surfaces avoid the need for manual adjustments. 

What else makes the cleaner’s job more difficult or tiresome than it should be? Even the most careful and adept operator cannot usually avoid releasing a cloud of dust particles into the air when changing a vacuum bag. Adding an automatic closing mechanism to contain the dust as the user releases the bag solves this problem and is a relatively simple modification to make.

Design drivers

Such design improvements can be inspired by listening to cleaning teams and contractors, as well as watching developments in technology and the cleaning equipment market. Statutory regulations also play a part. The 2017 eco regulations, for example, are spurring manufacturers to achieve A energy ratings, as with our new VTVe tub vacuum, also launched this spring. 

When developing a model to meet new standards, manufacturers can also incorporate the best of the practical design features on the market. In the case of tub vacuums these include: handles moulded to hold the vacuum wand so the operator can carry the machine with one hand; slots for storing brush and crevice tool conveniently on the machine; cable wraps to store the cord neatly; and clips to hold plugs securely in place when stowed.

With advances in digital technology and the promised ‘internet of things’, cleaning machines may some day automatically transmit status and fault reports to manufacturers. But there are more mundane ‘easy wins’ we can give machine owners in the meantime. When a cable is damaged, for example, making it simple to swop over a new cable minimises downtime. It can even be tool-less with retaining screws designed to be turned with a coin, where previously a service engineer would have to be summoned. 

Simple but effective features

Rather than making machines more complex by adding advanced features, it can help contractors to streamline models and focus on ensuring they are as robust, reliable and cost-effective as possible for intensive use. We can also make machines easier to set up – for example, by delivering rotaries that are preassembled with the base and handle. This means they can be wheeled out of the box, ready for use, with drive board included.

These may seem small steps when compared with the technological leap to cell power, but the cumulative effect in advancing efficiency and ergonomics is important to cleaning teams and the industry.

Innovation in the automotive sector and digital disruption will doubtless lead to further applications in cleaning equipment we can’t yet envisage. But in the meantime, it helps to work - as well as think - out of the box.