Trend No. 1: Roller or Disc?
A question of floor texture: Since the 1950s, scrubber-dryers have been used for interior cleaning of hard and resilient floor areas. The tried-and-tested single-disc technology provides good results and roller brush technology is only seldom employed. This changed in 1986 when Kärcher, a cleaning specialist previously known in particular for high pressure and dust control technology, launched a walk-behind machine with roller brushes on to the market. This is in response to a demand that occurs only regionally: whilst floors in Asia, Southern Europe and USA are often smooth and easy to clean with disc technology, floors in Northern and Central Europe tend to be more structured, i.e. grouted tiles or natural stone with rougher surfaces. Roller brushes, irrespective of the floor texture, deliver improved scrubbing and polishing performance and therefore a more uniform result, even on heavily soiled floors.
Roller brushes work with a high contact pressure, as the contact area on the floor is smaller, and faster rotational speeds can be achieved than with disc brushes. The built-in sweeping function also facilitates cleaning to a large extent, since prior to the use of scrubber-dryers, heavily soiled floors had to always be swept in order to avoid damaging the floor and blocking the suction channel.
Trend No. 2: from the gym to the restaurant?
Scrubber-dryers find new applications: Large, unobstructed areas have always been easy to clean with scrubber-dryers. Models for small, heavily-furnished areas, which are becoming increasingly popular, place higher demands on development. The main focus is not necessarily on speed, as a good cleaner can clean up to 500sqm an hour with a wiping mop. More important are the level of thoroughness and suction of the dirty water, which is not possible in the same quality manually as when using a machine.
In the mid-1990s, Kärcher launches the world’s smallest floor cleaning machine in the market at the time. The machine works with a cleaning fleece instead of roller brushes or disc, while the cleaning and suction unit is operated with an electric motor. The machine designed for niche applications is therefore very compact and manoeuvrable. The demand for ever smaller machines is subsequently met by the design of self-supporting chassis, fresh and dirty water tanks and a compartment for turbine and batteries made from a single plastic part. In the meantime, solutions with roller brushes or disc are available, even for hard surfaces from about 20sqm, making convenient and thorough maintenance cleaning of washrooms, salesrooms and seating areas possible. Innovative steering concepts finally ensure that the brush head can be controlled directly via a steering wheel on some models, which provides high manoeuvrability even for heavily-furnished areas. The use of lithium-ion batteries, which are much lighter than standard batteries and provide a significant weight reduction, has today greatly contributed to convenient operation for the operator.
Trend No. 3: More Function, Less Investment?
Triumph of the platform strategies: Increasing cost pressures and higher customer demands – all sectors have been faced with this challenge to an increasing extent over the years. Floor cleaning is no exception, which is why the demand for a wider variety of versions goes hand in hand with the wish for low investment costs. In the development of new models, the platform strategy, the idea of which was to use as few parts as possible in order to considerably reduce development and production costs, has been successfully employed since the beginning of 2000.
In addition, a certain degree of individualisation is also possible, although the introduction of different individual models is not an efficient and cost-effective answer. The latest machines are freely configurable by the operator in many respects, depending on floor texture, surface and degree of soiling. Roller or disc, battery or cord, with or without protective roof, wide or narrow wheels – the list can be as multifarious as when buying a car, depending on the manufacturer. This includes innovative accessories such as automatic cleaning agent dosing units or systems for setting up different user profiles for operators, service technicians and facility managers.
Trend No. 4: Focusing on the Environment?
Eco concepts on the increase: Depending on the country and its customs, ecology has increasingly become an important topic for building service contractors in recent years. Whereas energy consumption was of less interest for a long time, there are now regions where buildings have their own power outlets for cleaning and the energy consumption is invoiced. This increases the demand for ecologically sustainable solutions.
Today, different manufacturers offer ECO modes, which, depending on the degree of soiling, can reduce the turbine power and in turn adapt the energy consumption to suit the cleaning requirement. Noise emission is another important topic, which is why turbine attenuation has been improved more and more over the years. Kärcher recently positioned itself with a concept for completely climate-neutral cleaning: from the avoidance of CO2 in production and ECO mode control of machines to climate compensation of CO2 emissions in cleaning applications and support of climate projects, sustainability aspects were taken into account.
A further topic that focuses on protecting the environment and conserving resources is water consumption. The better the water demand is adapted to the required cleaning performance, the longer cleaning can take place with one tank and a specific water volume. In this respect, the layout of the rollers or discs as well as the ratio of contact pressure and rotational speed play an important role.