The world of cleaning has changed so drastically in the past few years that the purchasing process has similarly had to evolve to keep up, says Denise Campbell, Sales Manager Direct Team, Nilfisk Direct.

With planning and consideration, purchasing can reap short- and long-term benefits for contractors and clients alike. However, during 2018 we will continue to see the rise of renting, as it offers far better value.

In days gone by renting meant that the equipment supplier worked with a financial institution, often receiving a high interest rate and as a result paying back two to three times what the machine was worth over a fixed period. This was passed on to the customer, and in the end the machine was handed back.

Now we finance everything in-house and actually own the machines ourselves, granting us immense flexibility with price and term of the agreement. As a result it is much more cost-effective and efficient to rent; clients receive extensive service and support and are able to return the old machinery after the rental term in exchange for a new one.

We have encountered many contractors with containers overflowing with old machines wasting away, because they never factored in the long-term impacts of owning those assets and failed to correctly write them off over the years. Renting is a great way of locking in your costs and avoiding that conundrum.

The purchasing process itself has not changed drastically, but the volume of information available to buyers is now greater than ever. The first step is to take the purchaser away from their preconceived ideas and temporarily forget the budget, instead trying to really understand what they are trying to achieve. Then the Nilfisk Direct Team looks at the parameters including floor type and size, cleaning staff, hours and operators’ experience. From this knowledge we recommend a complete cleaning solution package with appropriate machinery that can last the life of the contract and beyond.

However, everyone loves Google, and the problem is that many purchasers simply Google a machine, decide it is right for them and request it, when in reality it is completely unsuitable for their needs. Therefore the vast majority of what the Nilfisk Direct Team does is essentially education. When people have been using machines for a long time, they have a preconceived notion of what they want. However, product technology and research and development have come so far in the past decade, that we really need to educate clients about the new options and how they can serve them better.

There are a few sizeable dangers of an ill-conceived purchasing process. The primary concern is poor cleaning as a result of an inadequate machine or a supplier that doesn’t provide the necessary support. As a result, machines break down more often, clients are unhappy, the level of cleanliness is reduced and contracts are not renewed.

What’s more, the cost of ownership can also be greatly increased. Those on a tight budget can be lured into buying machines that are initially cheaper, but the total cost of ownership can be far greater than that of a more considered purchase.

Sometimes, unrealistic budgets are set by management: the resultant purchases never fulfil their requirements and only create more problems than they solve. Many companies do indeed choose machines that are less than required, incorrectly believing that extra labour and periodical cleans can fill the deficit.

On the other hand, purchases that are better considered equate to a lower total cost of ownership, increased productivity, reduced costs of parts, happier clients and staff and greater contract retention. And money need not be the defining factor; often the contractors who maintain longer contracts and have them renewed are not the cheapest. Clients value their investment in training, machines and support and are confident that they are dedicated to delivering the very best outcomes.

In 2017 we worked with many large companies that purchased smaller machines that can get into tiny areas, thereby totally eliminating manual cleaning. While these organisations already have many other machines, technology in machinery has improved so significantly that these smaller units are now far more effective at cleaning, while also being more manageable and convenient. What’s more, they are now extremely cost effective and can also negate many health and safety problems that can present as a result of using more traditional tools, such as mops.

Another big trend is autonomous cleaning, which frees up the operator to carry out other tasks while the machine is programmed and does all the work for them.

Transportation and logistics companies are no strangers to robotics, so while it seems like a very natural progression for them they may require more time to embrace it from a cleaning perspective. It is definitely an exciting area to watch in 2018.

In 2017, half of all Nilfisk’s clients were contract cleaners. Other noteworthy industries were retail, transport and warehousing, materials handling, entertainment, government departments, and catering companies. While the requirements and breadth of work varies dramatically, the same purchasing principles apply across the board.

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