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In Focus March 2017

Evolutions in Autoscrubbers

How choosing the right one can impact productivity

March 10, 2017
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The autoscrubber has undergone the most dramatic evolution of any piece of cleaning equipment used on a daily basis.

It wasn’t more than a few years ago that the choices available to clean hard floors amounted to mops; 17-inch, 20-inch, and 26-inch autoscrubbers; and rider scrubbers of varying widths. Today the 20-inch and 26-inch autoscrubbers are still the workhorses of the industry, but there have been big changes at the ends of the autoscrubber spectrum.

Moving on From the Mop

By far the biggest changes have come in the micro-scrubber category. The development of smaller scrubbers, usually in 12- to 16-inch widths, has allowed cleaning professionals to take autoscrubbers into spaces that previously had to be cleaned by mops. Inherently, mops do not do a great job of cleaning or recovering soils from surfaces, and leave behind detergent residue, which attracts soil and discolors grout lines.

A few years ago, the micro-scrubber category began to expand with 14-inch scrubbers that allowed cleaning professionals to use them in larger areas that had previously been mopped, such as patient rooms in hospitals, commercial kitchens, and break rooms. Not only did these units clean more thoroughly and provide better results, but they were more productive and ergonomic than mopping, creating a better working environment for the cleaning professional.

In Need of Better Batteries

While these scrubbers began to expand the areas where custodians could use an autoscrubber, they still left smaller areas (such as bathrooms) to be mopped. This class of scrubber still primarily relied on a larger battery or batteries to power them and that played a large factor in the design of these units.

With the emergence of lithium-ion technology, autoscrubbers were able to make the next leap in size as they became both shorter and smaller. Many of these units were designed to have 1-gallon solution tanks and work in smaller areas that had always been mopped. The short, squat design of these units allowed them to clean under bathroom partitions and toilets, allowing them to reach hard-to-maintain and high-profile areas and scrub them effectively.

As battery technology continues to develop, look for smaller scrubbers and a reduction in costs. Eventually smaller scrubbers should be able to replace mopping in many more applications.

Walk-Behind vs. Micro-Rider

On the other side of the scrubber spectrum, large walk-behind scrubbers are being replaced with micro-rider scrubbers. The benefit of a rider scrubber is the speed at which the unit can operate; it is not determined by how fast the worker can walk. While most walk-behind scrubbers quote extremely high production rates, the reality is that workers simply do not walk at that pace while operating an autoscrubber.

The Breakdown

Take for instance, a 20-inch autoscrubber that has a quoted production rate of 26,400 square feet per hour. In order to accomplish this, the user would have to walk 15,840 linear feet, since for every linear foot they travel they scrub 1.66 square feet. The distance of 15,840 linear feet is equivalent to exactly 3 miles, so that means the unit must operate at 3 miles per hour.

While 3 miles per hour may not sound too fast, let’s break that number down even further. In order to walk 15,840 linear feet in an hour, a worker would have to walk 264 feet every minute for 60 minutes. Now, stride length will vary per operator, but if we just use a 2.5-foot stride, that would mean a worker with a 20-inch autoscrubber would need to take 105 steps per minute, every minute, for an hour straight to scrub 26,400 square feet. All of a sudden, the 26,400-square-foot production rate does not seem so realistic.

The Result

Because of the focus on productivity today, many are looking to use rider scrubbers in areas that traditional larger scrubbers cannot easily maneuver, but it would take too long to clean with a walk-behind scrubber. Stand-on autoscrubbers are popular options in areas like this, as they are incredibly easy to maneuver and offer great sightlines for maneuvering in tight spaces.

Micro-rider scrubbers are newer entries into this category, and like the stand-on scrubbers, offer increased production rates, large capacity tanks, and the ability to ride in areas that previously had been the exclusive domain of the walk-behind.

The Daily Grind

While it may not sound like much, reducing the time to scrub an area by just 30 minutes per day, five days per week, 52 weeks per year, creates 130 hours that can be allocated to other cleaning tasks. Taking it one step further, if you multiply those labor hours by the labor dollars that they save, you will find that over the life of the autoscrubber, it will either pay for itself or at the very least, a significant part of the scrubber.

In many facilities, scrubbing is a daily task. Sometimes it is even performed multiple times per day in areas like kitchens and bathrooms. Saving just a few minutes per day can free up crucial hours that you need to get other cleaning tasks done. 

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