Schmidt sweeps in at Portsmouth and Luton

Street sweeper manufacturer Schmidt has recently won business in the municipal sector on two fronts - at Portsmouth and in Luton.

In Portsmouth, three new Schmidt Swingo 250 compact sweepers start work for contractor Colas which has been appointed to a 25-year, highways maintenance contract by the city council. The sweepers have been supplied by Kent Sweepers. There is a fine balancing act for suppliers of municipal fleets: capital costs against efficiency and productivity. Kent Sweepers, with nearly 500 compact and truck sweepers operating throughout the UK, believes that durability, serviceability and reliability are the key elements.

"To a great extent our customers already have a good idea of the type of vehicle they want when they approach us to supply," says Kent Sweepers' Operations Director Keith Curtis.

"They have had demonstrations, in some cases full evaluations and competitive tests over often quite long periods, and the specification we are handed clearly describes their sweepers of choice. The three Swingos for Portsmouth have a very high specification, including Wanderhose and front-mounted pressure washer, and, for the driver/operator, there is air conditioning in the cab plus a radio cassette."

Street, pavement and precinct cleaning are important elements of the overall Colas package in Portsmouth. Network Manager Keith Jerams is pleased to continue a relationship with Schmidt Swingos that has developed over nearly three years. With the new 25-year contract looming, replacing existing compact sweepers was a priority - not least to ensure that the profile of street cleansing in Portsmouth maintains its high profile.

On contract work the life of a sweeper is generally considered to be three years, working at full efficiency and productivity. After that Kent Sweepers will call it back to the depot for "ad hoc" use - supporting younger, less pressured machines. While Keith Curtis recognises that refurbishment will significantly extend the life of the sweeper, he is sceptical about the value of the exercise.

Question of balance

His problem, one he believes is shared by all contract supply businesses, is balancing the costs against customer satisfaction. The purchase cost of a sweeper is often spread over the life of that sweeper, but a supplier - such as Kent Sweepers - can only keep the lease costs or rental at a low level if it is confident that the machine is durable and reliable. Durability means it must tackle the most arduous of municipal tasks, often for double or even treble shifts; and reliability recognises that if a sweeper is off the road through breakdown or fault, it is not paying its keep.

So the solution is a complex and involved equation. Does it make economic sense to invest a smaller amount in a machine that will not tackle the job and will require more maintenance; or should the sweeper's initial purchase price be balanced by high durability and low maintenance costs?

"For Kent Sweepers the answer is clear," Keith Curtis adds. "Our whole business is driven by our customers and their needs and demands. Getting the price right is our problem: the customer is much more concerned about making sure the job is done properly. Our customers have their own stakeholders - the residents and businesses of their local authority."

Paul Diver, Managing Director of Schmidt UK, welcomed the growing relationship with Kent Sweepers, saying "The Schmidt Swingos will play an important role in Portsmouth for many years. Several of our municipal customers, carrying out particularly arduous tasks and often double-shifting the sweepers, have contracts with Swingos covering five and up to seven years. Longevity and reliability are major strengths of our machines," he said.

Luton spruces up

Another machine in the Schmidt line-up, the HotJet pavement and precinct washer, is playing its part in a major clean-up in Luton. The new machine is employed on an environmental initiative which includes achieving clean streets, implementing street washing, and increasing recycling and the collection of green waste by Luton Borough Council.

"The centre of Luton has been created as a shoppers' environment over recent years and it is now almost entirely pedestrianised. That naturally means an increase in litter and fast food waste, plus chewing gum. The HotJet, with its jetting lance accessory, will have a big impact on that problem," says Mick Wright, Head of Waste Management.

"Pedestrianisation has led to an increase in pavement cafes and fast food outlets, and we have also seen the university social scene increase in size in the town centre. The effect of all this on attractive, honey-coloured pavements can be pretty awful. We need to keep the precincts and shopping areas clean to keep attracting shoppers," Mr Wright adds.

The Schmidt HotJet has front-mounted, enclosed jets that direct water at a temperature of up to 80°C and under pressure of 250 Bar at a maximum rate of 37 litres per minute. Where surface material can be damaged or marked by such powerful jets it is easy to reduce the temperature and pressure from within the cab. The vehicle carries a maximum of 1,700 litres of water and it has its own oil-fired boiler to heat the water before it is discharged.

The HotJet is 1.5 metres wide, 5.7 metres long and has a maximum height of 2.16 metres. Its compact size and turning circle of 3.2 metres with four-wheel steer eases use in pedestrian areas.

As well as the front-mounted jets and brushing/washing action, Luton's HotJet is fitted with a jetting lance for particularly stubborn stains and waste, plus a handheld wander jetter, which allows the operator to manually target areas around street furniture and under seats and benches.


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