Green Machines

Eco-friendly surface cleaners help an Ohio contractor boost productivity and profitability while increasing employee safety
Green Machines
The Advance brand Cyclone surface cleaner can carry 240 gallons of water and deliver the cleaning power of 4,000 psi at a flow of 6 gpm. The unit also sucks up water and debris, eliminating dirty water runoff.

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It may seem like a tall order to find a new machine that can make a company’s operations “greener,” reduce on-the-job man-hours, perform more effectively and improve employee safety. But Contract Sweepers & Equipment Inc. achieved all that when it invested in two Advance brand Cyclone surface cleaners from Nilfisk-Advance Inc.

The Columbus, Ohio-based company bought the Cyclones about three years ago to enhance its parking deck cleaning operations. Before, the company used either surface scrubbers or pressure washers, or a combination of both, says Gerry Kesselring, president of the company.

“Parking garages usually have rough-troweled surfaces, which make it difficult for our old scrubbers to achieve the cleanliness our customers demanded without using pressure washers, too,” Kesselring says.

“But the Cyclones give us a better result than the scrubbing and pressure washing combined,” he continues. “They provide more scrubbing consistency. In one case, one of our customers thought they’d have to pay someone to restripe their parking lot. But the Cyclone did such a good job of cleaning that the parking lines were a bright yellow again.”


Eco-friendly equipment

Just as importantly, the Cyclones made Contract Sweepers more eco-friendly because they use dramatically less water than conventional surface-cleaning equipment. They also eliminate the time-consuming and sometimes expensive task of collecting dirty water before it can enter storm sewer drains, he notes.

The Cyclone, which can carry 240 gallons of water, delivers the cleaning power of 4,000 psi at a flow of 6 gpm, and can heat water to 160 degrees for tougher cleaning jobs. Moreover, the unit sucks up water and debris as its 34-inch, patented cyclonic head works, eliminating dirty-water runoff. The unit separates larger debris from the recovered water, then filters the dirty water for reuse. This allows more cleaning cycles per day because it eliminates stops for dumping water and refilling water tanks.

Contract Sweepers crews used to connect to either fire hydrants or sprinkler systems to use scrubbers and pressure washers, but the city began to restrict hydrant use to only fire fighting. The Cyclones made that a moot point.

“In about 99 percent of the cases, we now use significantly less water than before,” Kesselring says. “Moreover, with scrubbers and pressure washers, we’d have to set up a scrubber by a (stormwater) drain to suck up the dirty water, or set up a vac hose and pump the water into a holding tank or, in some cases, a frac tank. But the Cyclones suck the water right back up and leave dry pavement behind.”

In some cases, environmentally conscious customers are starting to require contractors to use water-recapture technology when bidding on job contracts.

“That’s becoming more and more prevalent,” he says. “The ‘green’ angle certainly has value.”


Less labor required

Kesselring says that on average, the machines reduce project man-hours by about 30 to 40 percent because they require just one operator instead of a crew of five. This allows Contract Sweepers to more flexibly and efficiently allocate manpower and reduce the cost of labor per job.

“Plus, a lot of our parking lot jobs occur on weekends, and the Cyclones allow us to do those jobs with less overtime pay,” he adds.

In addition, using new technology allows Contract Sweepers to charge a premium for its services. At the same time, the units cost enough to provide a barrier to market entry for potential competitors.

“I like to say that where there’s mystery, there’s margin,” Kesselring explains. “If the technology is complicated or appears new and special … customers are willing to pay more for it.”


Safer operation, better morale

Kesselring also points out that the Cyclones improve on-the-job safety by minimizing the use of high-pressure washers and reducing the potential for back strains and other injuries associated with lugging and pulling heavy hoses.

For an employee-owned company like Contract Sweepers, the Cyclones offer another less-tangible but equally important benefit: better employee morale and pride.

“Investing in newer, high-tech equipment helps us attract and retain customers,” Kesselring says. “But it also tells our employees that we’re not stale – that we’re investing in new technology and looking for new ways to serve the marketplace. When our employees see us being innovative, they become innovative … they look for new solutions instead of solving problems the same old way.

“Machines like these also help us attract and retain good employees,” he adds. “When we invest in new equipment, they see we’re investing in the organization. Every employee likes to get in a new truck or operate a new piece of equipment … and they figure we must be OK if we’re still investing in new equipment, particularly in a tough economy.”

While noting it’s difficult to quantify the Cyclones’ financial affect on the company’s bottom line, Kesselring says there’s no doubt they’ve had a positive impact.

“We’re almost at the point where they’ve paid for themselves,” he says. “They’ve provided a good return on our investment.”


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