Trend No. 5: Everything for the Operator?
Ergonomics and product design over the course of time: When the first floor polisher was introduced over 100 years ago, the main focus was on floor cleaning: how could work be made easier? Since the 1990s, all functions relating to user-friendliness are regulated under the keyword ergonomics, in some cases also by law. The facets, with this topic also, are diverse: whereas easy manoeuvring and a clear view are important for machines weighing 500kg, the handle position and an individual, precisely controllable traction drive or asymmetric contour, via which the working result is easier to control, for example, are important for tireless working with walk-behind machines. Control elements in prominent colours and easy brush replacement at the push of a button are also ergonomic aspects. Not to be forgotten are the dirty water tanks, where nothing adheres to the surface or are self-cleaning, ideally with an automatic rinsing system – for the operator, this means greater hygiene and more convenient handling than manual cleaning.
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The beginnings of mechanised floor cleaning date back more than 100 years. The first-floor polisher was developed at the beginning of the 20th century in order to simplify the arduous work. In the 1930s, a version for wet floor cleaning is introduced, and in the 1950s, the first scrubber-dryer with vacuum function is launched on to the market. A further milestone in 1986 is the first walk-behind machine with roller brushes, which scrubs, vacuums and sweeps in a single pass and greatly improves cleaning performance on structured floors.[/box]
The product design also makes work easier – even if it is often said that it is not important in the cleaning industry, square metal crates are hard to find on the market. To make work a more enjoyable experience, Kärcher launches in 1998 a machine based on the motorised three wheelers from the motorcycle world. The press release at the time read “due to its attractive appearance and ride comfort, the model promises more enjoyment and greater motivation during the often unpopular task of cleaning”.
Back to the future
Leading the way into automation: The extensive use of partly or even fully automated solutions seems to be still a long way off despite the fact that in 1996 Kärcher developed a cleaning robot and tested it at different airports. Though there are already machines available on the market, they are designed for large surfaces and can only be used efficiently for this purpose. Digitisation and automation will also offer new possibilities for floor cleaning, however always oriented on clear added value for the operator. If safety and efficiency can be combined to 100% in the area of cleaning robots and also realised on small, heavily-furnished areas, this may be a trend for the next 100 years of scrubber-dryers.