By Rebecca S. Kaufold, M.B.A.
Chemist, Spartan Chemical Company, Inc.
The mantra of today''s workplace is "do more with less". Over the last few years, society, as a whole, has cut back on excess. It is now not uncommon to have one individual doing the work of two, three or sometimes four. But, while the labor has been diminished, the standards continue to rise. This situation makes product performance even more pivotal. In short, products have become the gap filler and the source of competitive advantage.
Most labor intense floor maintenance — restoring, recoating and stripping — is done during off hours. This ensures the safety of the floor crew, as well as the comfort of the building occupants and employees. As working hours in facilities have expanded, these off hours have dwindled, sometimes to nothing. As a result floor maintenance is no longer a segregated activity and concerns about floor down time and odor are of paramount importance.
The manufacturer is stuck in the middle of these conflicting requirements, faced with a challenge to create products that balance the demands of every side. It is certainly a large task that requires dedication to extensive product research, development and testing.
When it comes to floor stripping, floor down time and odor, along with their related health concerns, are of primary concern. Rapid floor turnover is essential, yet classic floor finish strippers that enable such turnover are characteristically high in odor. Conversely, low odor strippers generally require increased dwell time and/or more than one strip. These both result in increased floor down time and additional labor costs.
Thanks to wider availability and lower costs of low odor and zero VOC solvents, this challenge can be addressed with strippers like Step Down. Through careful solvent selection, stripping efficiency remains high, while odor remains low. In stress tests, a 1:5 dilution of Step Down removes the same amount of floor finish as the same dilution of classic high powered, high odor strippers. Step Down accomplishes this with the same dwell time, which means floor crews don''t have to sacrifice strength for odor. Floors, even with heavy build up, can be stripped quickly and efficiently without offending people in the surrounding area.
A similar issue exists within floor finish selection. Several years ago, it was not uncommon to have floor care programs that included burnishing and/or restoring multiple times each week. Since the labor required for that program is no longer available, end users have switched to finishes that require minimal burnishing and restoration. But even the most durable low maintenance finish will scratch and wear eventually, at which point, it must be repaired.
For most of these finishes, burnishing will not restore the original appearance completely. This means recoating is the only option. Thus, end users realize they care most about the repairability of the finish. When they spend labor time and dollars on burnishing, they expect the floor to bounce back to its original appearance, so they can avoid more intense restoration, like recoating. This desire has opened the door to a new generation of finishes that readily respond to burnishing. While these finishes are softer in nature and tend to show wear more quickly than their harder counterparts, they respond readily – marks are easily blended and the original appearance is quickly restored.
New floor finishes, like The Fixx, have improved black heel mark, scuff and mar resistance, as well as higher initial gloss without burnishing and better gloss retention over time than the old burnishable-type finishes. This allows The Fixx to fill a unique void. It can be burnished daily, if the program demands it, or it can be used in applications where repair response is of primary importance, thus extending recoat time.
The JanSan business is constantly evolving and with this evolution, demands continue to increase and apply stress to already conflicting concerns. All of these factors make product selection a critical decision factor. Fortunately, product chemistry is evolving to adapt and balance these needs as well.