Jeepers creepers, where'd ya get those sweepers?

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:

Geraldine Faulkner goes to Basingstoke to witness the Borough Council’s Aebi Schmidt Swingo 200+ sweepers in action

Just as Tony Blair told the Labour Party conference in Blackpool in 1996, “Ask me my three main priorities for government and I tell you: education, education and education”, so does Simon Stringer, area sales manager at Aebi Schmidt UK, believe in “service, service and service”, particularly with a public sector client like Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council.

“The old salesman doesn’t exist any more; instead you enter into a dialogue with the authority. I sell service. I visit the client and I am a very good listener and I understand what is wanted. I am passionate about keeping these guys on the roads,” states Stringer emphatically.

This is music to Jeff Strudwick’s ears. As assistant street cleansing manager for Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council, it is his job to keep his 22 staff and their sweepers operational.

The council currently runs four Aebi Schmidt Swingo 200+ sweepers.

“I would love another two machines at least, but we do what we can with what we’ve got,” says the assistant street cleansing manager. “We have 245 square miles of borough to cover and we have Hart District Council as well, so we are quite a big borough.”

What distinguishes the Swingo 200+ from the rest of the herd?

Offering flexibility and a compact body, the lowerable undercarriage enables sweeping in confined spaces like multi-storey and underground car parks. Maximum manoeuvrability is said to be part of the package thanks to sweeping brooms attached to the front with an automatically regulated broom ground pressure control. The machine also comes with a 2m3 large hopper designed for an even greater coverage and a longer sweeping operation.

A characteristic of the Swingo 200+ that is particularly appreciated by Strudwick is that it drives like a car with a speed of up to 50km/h. “This means the sweeper can get to its location as quickly as possible and that’s important for us, especially when there is a lot of leaf-fall.”

The relationship with Aebi Schmidt began when Basingstoke & Deane’s previous machines came to the end of their life and the council undertook a procurement process in which Aebi Schmidt threw its hat into the ring.

“We had to go with a 60-40 split,” recalls Strudwick. “The ratio is 60% cost and 40% on what the vehicle can do. Aebi Schmidt’s machines had everything we needed for the specs we put in and more. When we put out a procurement process, the tender is treated fairly and we pay great attention to the criteria. People tend to stick with what they know, but you have to go with the best option at the time. We have not looked back since we opted for Aebi Schmidt’s sweepers,” says the assistant street cleansing manager, who is not only a manager at Basingstoke & Deane – he is the trainer as well. This ensures he knows exactly how to deal with any hiccups encountered by his team when they are on a job.

“I am also the trainer on the sweepers so I understand the problems that may arise. For instance, if they cleaned the screens better, it doesn’t clog up. This helps me understand the guys when they encounter an issue when using the machines. I lead from the front and get my hands dirty,” explains Strudwick, who had a background in grounds maintenance before coming through the ranks and ending up in management four years ago. “I have a variety of roles; trainer, manager, operator (if I need to be) and morale-booster.”

The former grounds maintenance specialist is clearly a great fan of the Swingo 200+.

“They are fantastic machines,” he enthuses before adding: “We tend to keep our machines between five to seven years and obviously the older they get, the more problems we come across, but we have a service package with Aebi Schmidt in place to take care of any issues.”

Strudwick points out that he is looking at alternative sweepers all the time.

“If Aebi Schmidt come up with a variation of a different machine, they will give us a demo. That’s the good thing with Simon – if I’ve got a problem, I go to the A Team (which sounds corny, but is true). I get in touch with him once or twice a month and he’s always at the end of the phone, so if I have any difficulty, he sorts things out.”

This is corroborated by Aebi Schmidt’s area sales manager.

“We have review meetings with clients to openly discuss issues such as, ‘Is further training needed?’ We want the operators to use the machines correctly and to get the best service out of them, so we look at things like: How are they performing in terms of driving habits? Are there any issues we can resolve? It’s a 360 thing. We also measure things like first-time fix rates and engineer’s attendance; in fact, we are really hot on that. The attention to detail is crucial,” confirms Stringer.

On the day RWW visited the council’s depot in Basingstoke, the Peterborough-based area sales manager had brought along his field services manager, Chris Robinson, to have a catch-up with Strudwick.

“Chris looks after his team so we can structure and plan. All in all, we have 28 engineers across the UK, so when we populate areas and win contracts, we look to recruit engineers to facilitate contracts and to prevent down-time. For example, you don’t want 20 machines down in Hampshire and an engineer based in Norwich,” explains Stringer.

Strudwick recalls how to start off with, the mirrors on the Swingo 200+ were an issue for his team. “We like them to collapse, but with the mirrors out it added an extra six inches to either side and this restricted access for my team. Aebi Schmidt engineers responded by making me brackets so that my team can now pull the mirrors into the vehicle.”

Another issue was the revolving beacon on top of the sweeper.

“If you’re driving under a subway, we find it’s better to have flashes on the sides as opposed to having them stick up on the roofs of the vehicles,” continues Strudwick. “Operatives have to contend with a lot, what with checking the brushes and keeping an eye on pedestrians and animals. They need to have their head on a swivel. The great thing about the Aebi Schmidt team is that if you have a better way of doing things, they’ll go back to the engineering team and look at the way the systems work.”

This provokes a smile from Stringer.

“Reliability is key and if you have a poor machine, it is no good to man or beast. I focus on the service side. The machine has to be robust as it is judged on reliability. I wouldn’t be able to sell you something if I couldn’t look you in the eye and know I can deliver. For us, organisations like Basingstoke & Deane are our customers, and if something is not righ
it is our responsibility to sort it out. Indeed, our strapline is ‘Designed by you, engineered by Schmidt’.”

Fact file: Swingo 200+

Offering a speed of up to 50km/h, the Swingo 200+ is a flexible compact sweeper designed for public areas and the city centre. Its lowerable undercarriage enables sweeping in narrow spaces such as multi-storey and underground car parks. The sweeping brooms attached to the front have an automatically regulated broom ground pressure control.

Boasting a 2m³ large hopper, the Swingo 200+ also operates at a low noise level.

The debris collected by the sweeper is conveyed by two or three disc brushes to the suction nozzle and then ends up in the hopper. The sweeping process happens in connection with the efficient use of circulating water, which combines with the debris. In this case, a pressurised water recirculation system with water separation and water recovery can be used – this additionally makes sure that only clean and low-dust air is released into the environment. The low-emission EuroMot 3B or the Euro 6 diesel engine with particle filter and urea injection also contribute to the environmental balance.

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