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September 2012 Consultant's Corner
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The Perversion Of Politics

Do the politics of cleaning slow true product innovation?

October 5, 2012

About six years ago, I came across diamond impregnated floor pads at the ISSA/INTERCLEAN show in Amsterdam.

Since then, several companies entered the market with similar products.

To my dismay, diamond pads haven't gained wide acceptance in the JanSan industry.

Considering the advantages of the diamond pad process, I've often wondered why.

In my mind, it's a no-brainer: If you can get the same or a better shine, eliminate most of the steps, reduce at least half of the time it takes and up to 65 percent of the cost while going green in the process, why isn't everybody using diamond pads on topically coated surfaces such as terrazzo, polished concrete, stone and others?

Over the years, the use of diamond pads has received mild acceptance in the self-employed carpet cleaner market, as these entrepreneurs deal with the reality that carpet sales are off by at least 40 percent as homes and businesses install stone, wood and ceramic tile by the millions of square feet each year.

To stay in business, carpet cleaners, their suppliers and equipment manufacturers have had to come up with ways to clean and maintain these emerging surfaces.

Marketplace Reality

Last month, I conducted a Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) assessment for a large school district.

Many of their buildings have terrazzo floors, at least several hundred thousand square feet in the hallways alone.

They strip, burnish and apply floor finish/sealer — up to six coats — every year.

I was wondering and eventually asked why they haven't done away with "the old way" and moved to diamond impregnated floor pads.

After asking the question several times, I got the answer: Their distributor estimated it would cost over $25,000 for the equipment and pads.

At first, I didn't get it.

That number is highly inflated; at most, it might cost $5,000 for the pads, and they already have the equipment needed.

Even at $25,000, the savings far exceed current annual labor costs.

In one year alone, the savings could be more than $200,000 in reduced labor costs.

That's quite a chunk of change for a district under pressure to cut cleaning costs.

Plus, this number doesn't take into account the cost savings of no longer having to purchase floor finish/sealer, stripper and pads.

Moreover, the use of the diamond pads, which is green floor care at its best, means no more harsh chemicals, reduced water use and no heavy metal-contaminated slurry going down the drain.

Then, it hit me: It's all about the money.

Partisan Proceedings

How could a distributor come up with a cost of $25,000 to switch over to the diamond pads?

Quite simply, it's the politics of cleaning.

The distributor is purposely overinflating the cost in an attempt to discourage the school district from switching to the diamond pads.

It's a matter of economics for the distributor and the sales person.

The distributor doesn't want to lose the income stream from the sale of floor finish, stripper, pads and burnishing equipment that would no longer be needed if the district switched to the diamond pads.

I remember when chemical dilution systems first came to market about 15 years ago.

Distributors didn't want to offer them because they cut into their chemical sales in a big way by eliminating waste and overuse.

The distributors ultimately lost that war; now, everyone uses dilution systems because customers demand them.

Today, if a chemical company or distributor doesn't offer a dilution system, their competition will get the order.

It took a long time to get to this point, and I believe it's because distributors and their sales people slowed down the process to pad their pockets versus saving their customers money.

And, so it is with diamond floor pads.