Working Under Pressure

Productivity gains from powerful hot-water pressure washers help Virginia contractor compete more effectively.
Working Under Pressure
Steam 360° owner John Kistner uses the Mi-T-M HDS Series 3505 hot-water pressure washer to clean a parking lot.

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Doubling productivity may sound like a pipe dream to most contractors. But for John Kistner, the owner of Steam 360º in Leesburg, Va., it’s a distinct reality, thanks to a small fleet of hot-water pressure washers made by Mi-T-M Corp.

Kistner says he tried other pressure washers before he bought his first Mi-T-M HDS Series 3505 unit for his power-washing business. The firm performs a variety of services, ranging from cleaning sidewalks at malls and shopping centers to washing parking lots and parking garages. Now Steam 360º owns four Mi-T-Ms, all purchased from McHenry Pressure Cleaning Systems in Frederick, Md., and Kistner says they’re the workhorses that drive productivity and profitability gains for his company.

Moreover, the Mi-T-M units enable Steam 360º, which Kistner founded in 2008, to bid more competitively on projects because crews can complete jobs faster. Steam 360º serves the metropolitan Washington, D.C., market between Baltimore to the north and Fredericksburg, Va., to the south.

“Mi-T-M is the best pressure washer I’ve used,” Kistner says. “I’ve put thousands of hours on both hot- and cold-water pressure washers, but none of them were as effective as the Mi-T-M units. We clean Burger King restaurants, and before we bought the Mi-T-Ms, it probably took about four hours to clean one restaurant. Now my guys can do a Burger King in about two hours. We increased productivity significantly when we switched to those machines. We definitely started getting more work done.”

Two of the units are skid-mounted on Ford F-150 pickup trucks and the other two are enclosed inside 12-foot box trucks with Ford dually F-350 chassis. Each unit features a belt-drive, triplex piston water pump made by General Pump, which produces 3,500 psi at 4.7 gpm; either a 200- or 400-gallon water tank; and a diesel-fired burner that produces 471,800 Btu per hour.

Hot-water pressure washers are more expensive than cold-water units, but Kistner says it’s money well invested because they make short work of tough cleaning jobs. The HDS 3505 heats water up to 190 degrees, and when combined with a high-pressure water stream, easily removes grease stains, chewing gum and dirt.

“We don’t have to spend much time on gum,” he explains. “We just hold it on the spot for about a second and it comes right off, versus pointing the wand right on the gum and waiting for it to slowly peel up.”

Kistner says he also improves productivity by using two hose reels, each of which hold 200 or 300 feet of hose. One reel holds the water hose, which connects to a bib to supply water. The other reel holds high-pressure cleaning hose.

“How you organize and mount hose reels can make a big difference in efficiencies,” he says. “With our hose reel setup, you don’t have to keep stopping the machine because we have 400 or 500 feet of hose. We just keep moving the truck up without shutting down for anything. During a typical shopping center job, we have to stop just twice in most situations, and that’s because we need to switch to a different water bib.”

Like most contractors, Kistner abhors productivity-killing equipment breakdowns, and praises the Mi-T-Ms for their reliability. He says his crews have run the units up to 10 hours in a row without any issues. And when minor breakdowns do occur, they’re usually the kind that can be repaired in a day by McHenry Pressure Cleaning Systems. Crews can also resolve many issues by carrying spare parts like spraying wands on their trucks.

“They’re quality, efficient machines, plus we have good employees to run them and the product support from McHenry, which helps us minimize downtime,” Kistner says.

Kistner also likes the machines because they don’t require any harsh chemicals to work effectively. As such, he doesn’t need to worry about environmentally damaging cleaning products getting washed into storm sewers.

So far, the units have not helped Steam 360º break into new markets, but they do enable the company to handle a lot more work per year. Subsequently, Kistner says the machines have significantly increased revenue.

“These units have been very instrumental in growing my business,” he says, noting he purchased new units incrementally, when the volume of work reached a level where his existing machine couldn’t keep up with the workload.

“I’ll probably need to buy another one next year,” Kistner says. “This year, our guys are working six days a week, compared to only five days a week last year. So our business volume is reaching a point where it warrants thinking about expanding our equipment again.”


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