Sweeping Industry Supplier Profiles
New Indoor Sweeper Brushes Offer Users and Environment Win/Win
by Shelley Ross
Can the economical choice also be the environmentally-conscious choice? In this case the answer is a resounding "Yes!" For indoor scrubbing and cleaning, the new line of brushes offer an increased degree of user economy and environmental benefit, when compared to the cleaning pads that have been used in the past.
Dave Svoboda, principal of Liberty Brush Manufacturing of Shakopee, Minnesota, supplies brushes, as well as pad drivers and pads, to the indoor sweeping industry.
WorldSweeper: Tell us about Liberty Brush and the new environmental brush products it's becoming known for.
Svoboda: We manufacture a complete line of sweeper and scrubber main brooms that are guaranteed to fit and meet or exceed all original equipment manufacturers specifications in the indoor sweeping industry.
We have an entire new line of rotary scrubbing brushes for all the major machines: American Lincoln, Tennant, Factory Cat, Minuteman, Advance, and so on.
WorldSweeper: Tell us a bit about how your company got started.
Svoboda: I began in the industry as a sweeping manager for a large contract sweeping firm in 1994. In 1998, I could see the potential for an alternative manufacturing source for making replacement brushes and brooms. Liberty Brush started in 1999 and we currently have eight full-time employees.
WorldSweeper: What's the latest, and what's the direction you see the brush market and the indoor sweeping market traveling?
Svoboda: The forward-thinking sweeping contractor is going to be using brushes. The fact of the matter is: the person who is still using pads is 2-5 years behind what the industry as a whole is doing. There are logical reasons for this.
The tendency in the past, from the small guy with a handheld unit to the people with the walk-behind to the ride-on auto-scrubbers, was to use replaceable pads and pad drivers for cleaning the floors. A pad driver, which we also make, is a brush-like disk that will attach to the throwaway replaceable pad.
For instance, to go in and strip a floor you'd use stripping pads. You would buy cases of them, because they're like a steel wool pad or a piece of sandpaper in that they soon get clogged with the material that you're stripping. Very quickly the pad needs flipping, and then replacing, so the operator is not working on the floor during those times, and you've got lost productivity on the job. That represents a loss of money.
In addition, one brush will do the job of between 200 and 500 pads, depending on the application. A brush is also self-cleaning, which is another timesaver. The end-user cost of a pad is about $5 each, and the end-user cost of a brush is about $240, however the brush will outlast about $1250 worth of pads. That represents an enormous savings.
In terms of the environment, pads are a petroleum product, and they're being thrown away by the hundreds of thousands. With brushes, contractors can be saving a great deal of money, both in the price of supplies and in productivity, they can be doing a better job, and doing it faster. In addition, they can be using a far more environmentally-friendly product.
We offer a brush equivalent for any pad usage except for the very finest high-speed burnishing job, which is still accomplished with a pad. We have a printed guide, which we send out free upon request, to help people see how to switch over from pads to brushes. We also have plans to put that information onto our website.
WorldSweeper: Are there any advances in pad drivers, for those who are still staying with pads?
Svoboda: For people who are accustomed to the common bristle pad driver, we offer a very high tech product called a 'pad-stick' or 'harpoon-hook' pad driver. It's a molded part that was several years in the development and required over a million dollars of Ramp;D cost. There are little individual harpoons that we glue to the block, and they hook securely onto the pad.
This offers a much smoother, more balanced operation. For those who want to use pads, I think we have a far superior product. Although we can provide the bristle pad driver, everyone prefers the much-improved technology of the harpoon hook.
I'm very proud of the combination of high quality and environmentally-responsible technology and materials that go into the manufacture of our brushes and our pad drivers. We use state of the art staple-set equipment to manufacture our brushes. I've devoted the last 18 months of my life to research and development of this technology.
When we build the blocks used to make our brushes, shower-feed brush blocks, the bristles are stapled into high-density, injection-molded blocks. I searched the world and found a supplier in Europe who provides us with polypropylene/polyethylene that is 100% post-consumer material, the product of their recycling industry.
We take the very highest quality, most highly refined poly product and add recycled high impact plastic car bumpers for extra strength. As a result, my blocks are truer, flatter, and more balanced than those of my competitors, which allows a machine to run the brush (or pad) better and do a better job.
Also, my process protects my customers from the effect of oil price rises for virgin poly materials, which is becoming more of a factor every day. It's simply a win-win situation, all the way around.
WorldSweeper: So, how would you sum up the advantage of using a brush instead of a pad?
Svoboda: To clean a floor, you're either going to do it mechanically, with a brush, or chemically, with a chemical. In years past, the most effective way to clean a floor was with a not-very-durable pad paired with a real strong chemical. Today, you can take a wonderful, long-lasting and effective brush and tackle the same floor cleaning operation with a very mild solution.
The cost for consumables is less and, at the same time, the amount of harsh chemicals being dumped into our drains is less since a mechanical process is being used to do the cleaning.
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