Update on 
Floor Maintenance

Russ VanderZwaag, director, retail sales-Americas, Tennant Co., Minneapolis, russ.vanderzwaag@tennantco.com.

Proper and consistent floor maintenance is a critical component in retail facilities management. Effective maintenance maximizes a retailer’s investment by extending the life of the flooring surface and providing optimum performance. It also contributes directly to employee and shopper safety and to a store’s overall image. Chain Store Age talked with Russ VanderZwaag of Minneapolis-based Tennant Co. about trends in floor maintenance and tips for keeping floors looking their best. 

What trends do you see in flooring solutions?

Progressive retailers are asking their vendor communities to come to them with integrated solutions, which guarantee success. They’re challenging their flooring system manufacturers — whether tile, concrete systems or carpet mill — to work cooperatively with their cleaning equipment and supply vendors. They are also including input from labor providers, whether in-house staff or outsourced contractors, to ensure programs are both proven and practical. 

With so many different variables and voices helping to shape a retailer’s floor care initiatives, thousands of shoppers tracking in up to a ton of soil annually, and nothing less than a retailer’s brand at stake, there is a lot to be gained or lost, depending on the level of cohesion and cooperation between flooring and floor care vendors. 

How much is sustainability driving floor care products? 

Reducing the environmental impact of cleaning products and processes remains an important strategic filter for how we conduct all aspects of our business. Our new technology group, Orbio Technologies, is working to develop environmentally preferable cleaning technologies, which reduce the use of traditional chemicals, fresh water and generation of waste water for cleaning floors and other surfaces for the retail market. 

Are there any other trends retailers should know about?

It would be impossible to discuss the current state of retail floor care without mentioning the move toward polished and/or stained concrete. What started as a low-cost flooring alternative for supercenters and warehouse clubs is fast becoming a standard in food retail and is being tested in virtually every other industry segment, including drug and pet stores. 

Still being watched carefully is the consumer’s long-term willingness to accept concrete’s “cool” appearance and concrete’s propensity to stain. Some of the first retailers to jump on the concrete bandwagon are also starting to come to terms with the fact that concrete still requires regular washing. 

In terms of floor care itself, clearly the big deal is the emergence of technologies that allow retailers to autoscrub the sales floor without a need for costly, caustic chemicals. Electrically activated water technologies utilize electrolysis processes to transform water, delivering effective cleaning results in an environmentally friendly way. Retailers can break their dependence on potentially hazardous chemicals, save hundreds of dollars annually per store in chemical costs, simplify their cleaning protocols and reduce training.

What are the biggest “don’ts” to consider?

First would be the failure to capture the dirt at the door. This is really low-hanging fruit for the facilities manager because dirt and soil only get more expensive to chase down and capture the further they get walked into the store. A good matting system, both in the front-of-store and in the stockroom, is clearly the cheapest defense in reducing overall cleaning cost and keeping abrasive soils from dulling floor surfaces. 

Next would be the failure to “maintain the maintainer.” Whether the primary cleaning machine is an upright vacuum cleaner or large Autoscrubber, at least minimal investments need to be made, including providing a secure out-of-the-way spot to store the machine; allotting a few minutes at the end of each shift to empty the machine and wipe it down, as well as change filters and squeegees; and have a ready supply of the necessary wear parts to keep the operator from having to improvise. 

Finally, “patchwork” designs make for attractive and interesting quilts, but impractical and expensive retail floors. Combining faux wood, real stone and a little carpet in a sea of stained concrete, accented with ceramic tile, may win design awards, but the crew that is assigned to care for it won’t likely be given the budget, tools or time to keep it looking that way for long. Consider limiting the choice of materials to no more than two to three so that the cleaning crew can make the necessary investments in equipment, tools and training to keep floors looking crisp and clean for the long haul.

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