When it comes to jobs and the U.S. economy, a survey released a few months ago may deserve more attention than it initially received.
Conducted by Accenture, a global management and consulting firm, the study found that two-thirds of the U.S. manufacturing firms surveyed have moved their factories in the past two years, with the most popular destination being — and here’s the clincher — the United States.
China was the second most popular destination noted for factory relocation.
A variety of reasons were offered as to why this trend, referred to as “re-shoring,” is occurring.
Some executives say the cost of transportation has increased to the point that it is no longer cost effective to build factories in foreign countries.
Others mentioned quality control issues, as well as the possibilities of tax savings and potential tax penalties for manufacturing overseas.
Whatever the reasons, if more manufacturing moves back to the U.S., it can translate into more cleaning — and, most specifically, more floor care maintenance — opportunities for cleaning professionals because proper floor maintenance is paramount in a manufacturing location.
However, before taking advantage of these opportunities, building service contractors (BSCs) are advised to brush up on the special needs and challenges of maintaining industrial locations, especially as it pertains to floor care equipment and chemicals.
A Machine For Every task
One of the first things BSCs will noticed about the floors in industrial facilities is the type of covering installed.
Gone are wood, carpet, terrazzo and natural stone; these are replaced with very hardy vinyl composition tile (VCT), concrete or epoxy and epoxy-coated floors.
These types of floors hold up more effectively to heavy-duty wear and tear and can better support the heavy machinery often installed in factory locations.
Other than the type of floor installed, what BSCs will likely notice next is how much larger these locations are, especially as it pertains to the amount of floor space that must be cared for.
Because of this, the type of floor care equipment selected to maintain these floors is critical to performing floor care tasks effectively and cost efficiently.
According to Mike Englund of Powr-Flite, a cleaning trainer with more than 30 years’ experience in the professional cleaning industry, automatic scrubbers, which can multitask — scrubbing, cleaning, polishing and drying the floor in one process — are typically the best floor care equipment option.
While the factory floor may be vast, selecting a ride-on scrubber is not always recommended.
“This is because a walk-behind machine — a 20-inch, self-propelled machine, for instance — may offer greater versatility and flexibility, allowing the cleaning technician to maneuver it around factory equipment and work stations,” says Englund.
BSCs should look for battery-operated units — essential for this kind of floor maintenance setting — that provide adequate run times of up to four hours.
Using our example, a 20-inch machine should be able to clean 20,000 square feet per hour.
“An effective vacuum system is also a must since these locations will typically have more dust on floor surfaces than, for instance, an office or school,” notes Englund. “The vacuum will not only help remove the dust, but it will protect indoor air quality as well. The machine should also have a large, adjustable squeegee to help dry the floor quickly, even when there is excessive turning around equipment, to promote safety.”
For those factories that moved offshore a decade ago and are now in the process of re-shoring, one of the big changes that will likely be made when it comes to floor care is the type of chemicals selected to clean the floors.
Many of the operations returning stateside will want to use green floor care products.
“Ten years ago, the selection of environmentally preferable floor care chemicals was limited, and many had both performance and cost issues,” asserts Jennifer Meeks, manager of customer service and marketing for Enviro-Solutions Ltd., a leading manufacturer of green cleaning products. “However, advances in chemical formulation have resulted in a greater number and variety of proven-green chemicals being available, and the performance and cost differences, compared to conventional floor care products, has been reduced considerably.”
BSCs taking advantage of re-shoring opportunities are advised to thoroughly understand the types of floors they will be cleaning.
“Often, the manufacturer or installer of the floor will provide care and maintenance instructions,” offers Meek. “Otherwise, consultation with an astute distributor familiar with industrial flooring is highly recommended.”
Something else that can impact the chemical selection, according to Meek, is the type of work performed in the industrial location.
Most soiling found on floors and carpets in a commercial setting is acidic, meaning that it has a pH of 7.0 or less and, to be cleaned, needs an alkaline cleaner with a pH of 7.0 or more.
However, due to the type of work performed in some factories, this may not always be true.
“pH meters are available to help determine what type of soil is most commonly found on a specific floor,” explains Meek. “But, BSCs are advised to also discuss this with factory managers to make sure the right chemicals are used to care for their specific floors.”
Having A Plan
Floor maintenance always works best when all of the duties, frequency of tasks and other floor care responsibilities are outlined and written down in a floor care plan.
In an industrial setting, establishing a plan and executing the points therein it is critical.
Once set forth, the plan should be shared not only with the cleaning workers who will be performing the tasks, but also with factory administrators and, where needed, factory employees.
This helps ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to keeping industrial floors clean and safe, and with factories returning home, cleaning workers have a prime opportunity to offer the best possible floor care service from the start.
The right equipment, the right chemicals and the right plan ensure that quality cleaning outcomes can be achieved consistently.