Growing concerns about the need to save water plus a heightened focus on operator safety are just two of the challenges confronting today’s high-pressure cleaning market. What are the key pressures facing the industry? What companies are doing to overcome them?
Like everything else, the cleaning industry is shifting focus in line with changing priorities. Factors such as productivity and cost in use are always going to be key considerations for any business. However, growing concerns about topics such as safety and sustainability have led to manufacturers striving to limit their use of water while also reducing noise levels and safety risks where they can. Ann Laffeaty of European Cleaning Journal has spoken to industry leaders to get their view points.
So, how is this affecting the high-pressure cleaning industry? Are manufacturers being placed under increasing pressure to make their systems quieter, safer and greener while also reducing the amount of water they use?
In fact, water at high flow rates is an essential feature of many cleaning applications – and customers understand this, says DiBO’s managing director Arno Van den Borne. “This is particularly the case with tasks such as sewer cleaning, pig house cleaning and so on,” he said.
However, he adds that sustainability is becoming increasingly important to DiBO’s customers. “The industry is under constant pressure to reduce energy consumption and noise, while vibration levels also need to be addressed for health and safety reasons,” he said.
DiBO’s IBH-S hot water high pressure cleaner is said to offer fewer vibrations and less noise than other machines due to its radial high-pressure pump with three ceramic plungers plus stainless steel valves. It is also equipped with the company’s in-house Dual Power Heating System which is said to bring sustainability benefits.
According to Van den Borne the company is also under growing pressure from its competitors. “We need to keep innovating and searching for new techniques – particularly in the context of energy consumption,” he said.
Like den Borne, Nilfisk’s portfolio management director Andrew Caddick says few of his company’s customers have a problem with the large quantities of water that are typically used in high pressure cleaning systems. “In fact, the trend for some applications in agriculture is to move towards pressure washers that have a higher theoretical water consumption,” he said. “This is because end users realise that a higher flow significantly reduces cleaning time which means the real consumption of water, electricity and labour costs are drastically reduced.”
Manual alternatives to high pressure cleaning systems often involve even higher water consumption, he adds. “They often require a greater reliance on detergents, too, and even then, they may not produce the desired results,” says Caddick.
As far as safety is concerned, he believes health and safety bodies globally are becoming increasingly alert to the downsides of using high pressure cleaners and are aware of the need to warn users of the risks – and even to push for legislation. “High pressure cleaners produce vibrations that are transmitted from the pump to the user via the hose and spray gun,” said Caddick. “Health and safety bodies have realised that over time this can cause damage to the hand and wrist, and legislation has been introduced recommending maximum levels of vibration in use.”
All Nilfisk products used with standard equipment fall below these limits, says Caddick. “We work constantly to investigate new ways of reducing these effects in the same way that we reduce noise levels and emissions,” he said.
R+M Suttner’s head of sales Dirk Niesen believes the highpressure industry to be rising to meet today’s sustainability challenges. “Good cleaning results can be achieved at the same high pressures but using lower quantities of water – and this is one of the current trends in the sector,” he said. “However, one must bear in mind that in many fields such as agriculture, pipe cleaning and the food industry, the pulse energy of water is essential in order to loosen the dirt.”
The quantity of water used can be predetermined by means of control valves, he says. “One needs to strike a constant balance between using as little water as possible and as much as is necessary,” said Niesen.
Like Caddick he feels that there is a growing focus on the need to reduce vibration levels for health and safety reasons. “Such challenges can be met in a cost-effective way with the aid of suitable accessories and spray guns that have an ergonomic design,” he said.
And he adds that another pressure on the industry is the need to minimise downtime. “This is particularly the case in industrial applications and in the service sector, where efficient operations and the effective use of tools are vitally important,” he said. “This is why a quick and smooth change of accessories is vital.”
R+M Suttner’s ST-247 high pressure hose and lance coupling system is said to provide for a quick and easy change without the risk of jamming.
High pressure cleaning saves a great deal of water compared with the use of a garden hose argues Kärcher’s head of product management for high pressure cleaners Volker Steigauf. “In any case, a minimum quantity of water is often required in order to be able to carry out the cleaning task as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” he said. “And to improve operator safety we have launched the EASY!Force trigger gun.”
This gun is said to dramatically reduce operator strain. “The operator has no need to tighten the hand and finger muscles, and this prevents any muscle tension or cramps,” he said.
However, he adds that the industry is coming under increasing pressure to reduce the quantity of exhaust gases produced by petrol and dieseloperated machines. “This issue will certainly have greater significance in the future,” he said. “From 2020, all Kärcher machines will comply with the new EU Stage V exhaust emissions standard.
Reliance on water
“We are also constantly improving the effectiveness of hot water machines with burners while in the cold-water highpressure sector we are working on alternative energy sources, with the first machines being launched in 2019.”
Kärcher claims the pumps in its new mid-class cold-water highpressure cleaners offer improved flow ratios and a reduced loss of pressure. “As a result, we can achieve up to 15 per cent better cleaning performance with the same energy consumption,” said Steigauf.
The heavy reliance on water involved with high pressure cleaning is causing some of today’s customers to question the sustainability of the method, according to IPC’s communications manager Gabriella Bianco.
“They are becoming more sustainability-focused in general and are looking at the impact of their daily activities on the environment,” she said. “But at the same time, customers recognise that some cleaning tasks can only be performed by using high pressure washers. And contrary to what one might imagine, high pressure cleaning is an eco-friendly system.”
She argues high pressure cleaning reduces or eliminates the need for chemicals while the industry is also working towards modifying equipment to ensure a more efficient use of water. “This is a challenge for manufacturers, but high-pressure cleaners that maximise water use will become a potential solution in Middle Eastern countries and other areas in the future where water is considered a precious natural asset,” she said.
IPC offers a range of systems that are designed to improve operator safety and enhance sustainability. “For example, our Delayed Total Stop system immediately stops the machine 30 seconds after the trigger gun has been closed,” said Bianco. “And our PW-H50 and PW-H100 models are equipped with an accurate Electronic Temperature Stabiliser Control which ensures a constant water temperature to prevent high thermal variations.”
Idrobase customers also question the sustainability of using large quantities of water in high pressure cleaning systems. “There is a growing awareness of the need to save precious commodities such as water,” said group commercial manager Pamela Callegaro. “We therefore focus on designing efficient operating systems that ensure maximum results and allow us to save as much water as possible.”
Safety problems such as vibrations may be reduced by using the appropriate accessories, she says. “We pay particular attention to the well-being of the user by developing lightweight systems that allow the lance, gun and nozzle to be connected and released with ease,” she said. The company’s patented PIUMA lightweight foam lance is aimed at the car wash market and offers three levels of foam regulation to meet different washing demands.
Facilities management company AM Services also considers the need to conserve water to be an important issue for customers. “Some clients actively seek alternatives or put control measures in place before choosing high pressure washing,” said general manager Paul Nelson. “A small number of companies have even installed water recycling facilities to counteract high water use.”
AM Services delivers a “tool box talk” on water conservation to technicians to help them take a more sustainable approach to high pressure jetting.
“Many companies look to reduce the amount of time that a jet wash is in use and may also consider alternative cleaning methods such as foam or dry ice,” said Nelson. “However, these carry a higher price tag and budgets don’t always allow it.”
Nelson agrees with other companies that operator safety can be a challenge in the highpressure industry. “Vibration levels must be monitored and staff rotation should be put in place for longer-term operation,” he said. “Meanwhile, keeping abreast of innovation and investing in fit-for-purpose tools such as whirl-aways and lances that have anti-vibration arms is essential.”
The industry is also under pressure from competition – both from rival high-pressure water companies and from alternative cleaning methods, says Nelson.
“There are plenty of rival systems out there such as shot blasting, soda blasting, sand blasting and ice blasting,” he said. “However, it is difficult to control substances such as shot, sand or soda which is a major consideration for customers in the food sector and other sensitive industries.
Ice blast competition
“This makes ice blasting the main rival to high pressure washing systems. But this method is considerably more expensive and doesn’t work that well when there is a particularly stubborn build-up of mess. So high pressure water cleaning is often by far the best option.”
So, how will manufacturers respond to the pressures on the industry going forward? “The challenge for the future is for manufacturers to act responsibly and identify best practice with the lowest footprint for each application – and then educate the users,” says Nilfisk’s Andrew Caddick.
IPC’s Gabriella Bianco claims R&D teams are investing heavily in pioneering electronic and hightech systems. “These can improve the performance of the machines at competitive prices and with low maintenance costs,” she said. “The way is now clear for the automation of high-pressure cleaning machines along with more intuitive control panels and easier-to-use settings.”