Choosing Sweeping Equipment
Know Your Optionsby Jack Moran
The increasing level of competition, along with the lack of any true industry standards, have combined to make purchasing replacement brooms very much a 'buyer beware' process. If you talk strictly price with a supplier you may easily find yourself on the short end of owning a product that is cost-effective.
On the other hand, if you choose a higher-priced product simply because you figure that it must be better, you may well be paying too much for the product you need. The following are the facts you should know to make sure that you get your money's worth in a broom instead of getting a bargain that you can't afford.
First, two types of gutter broom blocks are widely used by virtually all sweeper manufacturers. These are commonly known as the Mobil block and the Elgin block, so named after the sweeper manufacturing companies that came out with the respective configurations initially. They are made of essentially the same heavy co-polymer material, which has a high resistance to impact stress. There are 35 holes in each quarter segment of the Mobil, and 31 in the Elgin. Four segments of each make up the entire gutter broom.
It is important to know how many wires are in the holes in the broom block your sweeper uses.
To save money, some gutter broom suppliers sell - as their standard product - brooms with only 16 wires per hole, rather than the more accepted 18. The cost is typically about a third less for a product with 16 wires per hole, and the sweeping life of the broom is also reduced by about the same amount. This does not mean that one is as cost-effective as the other, though.
For one, the sweeping width (path) is reduced slightly. So a 16 wire broom won't have quite the reach. Maintenance and down-time is another factor. A company using the broom with fewer wires will absorb four broom replacement maintenance costs during the time that an 18 wire user will need only three. To be sure what your manufacturer recommends, give them a call or look to see if the information is contained in your Owners' Manual.
Also make sure that all four (or five) segments of your brooms are replaced at the same time, so that you won't run into an out-of-balance situation. That can happen when segments with dissimilar weights from different manufacturers are put onto the same gutter broom. Even a pound of difference between one segment and the rest can cause vibration when the broom is rotating.
This is information that every purchasing agent should know, but more often these days I see buyers who don't recognize the difference that 'just a couple wires per hole' can make. Instead, they see themselves looking good by buying replacement brooms at a lower initial cost. The upshot is that they may look good in the short-run, yet cost the company or city money in the long-run.
If, for some reason, you do decide that you will accept fewer than 18 wires per hole (because of a tight budget, for example), notify all the bidders so that they will all be bidding on supplying the same quality of product.
Another important factor is the type of wire that is used. There are two basic types available, cold-rolled and oil-tempered. In terms of characteristics, the cheaper cold-rolled wire is softer and won't spring back very well when bent. Unless you will be sweeping only in places without a curb, behind a milling machine for example, I generally recommend going with a steel wire that has been oil-tempered.
This type of wire is almost always recommendable for applications involving heavy curb sweeping. It is more durable, and retains its shape better because it is actually a type of spring steel. The best way I have found to describe the difference is that when the broom hits a gutter, the wire in a cold-rolled broom is going to bend, just like a coat hanger. In some situations when it is impacted very hard, its bristles can break off entirely. Left in the road, these can easily cause tire damage. If you are using a wire that's oil-tempered, on the other hand, it will have a spring to it. It will rebound from impact and straighten right back out.
Sweepers that are following an asphalt truck, on the other hand, probably would be better off using a cold-rolled product. In that application it's not a factor that the wire is going to be bent by a curb, because the sweeper drives right down the middle of the street. In rare instances it may actually be a liability to use oil-tempered wire, however, just because of the extra 'spring effect.' There is typically lots of loose gravel in paving, and the spring of this wire can propel gravel a distance from the sweeper. That can crack windshields, etc., of passing cars. No one wants that kind of liability. By and large, however, oil-tempered wire is the best performer.
Also be aware of the difference between oil-tempered and oil-quenched wire. The oil-quenched is nothing more than a cold-rolled wire that has been dipped in an oil bath so that it inhibits rust better. Both have the same characteristic black color, caused by being dipped into the oil when hot. I have seen instances where people who purchased oil-quenched wire thought that they were getting oil-tempered because the color is the same.
Once you have made sure that you have the product you want, be sure your drivers are maximizing its life by using the correct down-pressure while they sweep. The proper down-pressure under normal conditions is typically two inches; to be certain, however, check with the manufacturer of your sweeper.
This information may seem somewhat confusing, but the good news is that there is someone who should be making sure you are getting what you need in a replacement broom - that's your supplier. If you own a sweeper you have plenty of things to concern you already. The last thing you have time to worry about is the brooms.
Your supplier should be helping you, instructing you on what's best for your personal sweeping situations. After all, if you are happy with your supplier you aren't going to give someone else the opportunity to come in there and requote you on an unknown new product. If your supplier has made sure that you are aware of all of this type of information and you are happy with the results, then I suggest that you stay with them, no matter who it is. Otherwise, now you will be able to be more knowledgeable as you speak with different suppliers.
Information like this is also a reason why I think that naPSa is such a good organization. Their meetings and networking system provide a good opportunity for those in sweeping to meet and discuss wear life of different brooms, support of suppliers, etc., without the bother of salesmen trying to sell something. Their members educate each other. It's only through this type of interaction that you will get the maximum life out of brooms or any other part of your sweeper.
Jack Moran is Product Manager for Keystone Sweeper Brushes, which is a subsidiary of Keystone Plastics, a national manufacturer of a complete line of power sweeping brooms. Call 1-800-635-5238 to reach him.
This article is reprinted from American Sweeper magazine, v3n2 1994.
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