A Clean Sweep for El Paso

Being the largest power sweeping company in the city of El Paso, Texas, which has a population of about 680,000 and is the sixth largest city in the biggest state in the United States, Sweep It Clean Inc has established itself as the sweeping service local businesses turn to when they want the job done right, because they know the company has some of the highest operational and professional standards found anywhere in the business.

The Company
The company’s beginnings go back to 1991 when Laura Pople, who has a bachelor’s degree in Business and Accounting, owned and operated a local successful parking lot company. Like many in the property management and paving industries, Laura was reliant on sweeping companies to service the property she own and managed. However, not being able to find a reliable sweeping company that met her high standards, Laura eventually bought her first sweeper. From humble beginnings Laura began to grow her business so big that her husband Dave, having gone to work as an engineer after receiving his bachelor’s degree of science in electrical engineering, began working full time with his wife, taking over the day-to-day operations in 1995. Presently, with Dave having since acquired an MBA is Business Management, the company has witnessed steady growth to the extent that the Pople’s are grossing over $1 million in annual revenues and are the leaders of a company with 40 people working for them, most of which are field employees.

The Business
When asked how much of their sweeping business is industrial, municipal, commercial, or residential Dave responded “as far as clients are concerned, we pride ourselves in being able to customize our services to meet our clients’ needs, whatever they may be and, although we don’t do any residential work, we will bid on federal, state, and local municipal projects.” What they mostly prefer are the kinds of clients with which they can build long-term relationships with rather than being forced to re-bid every few years. Dave adds “since we prefer to build long-term relationships with customers who recognize the value of paying a little more for better quality, we tend to shy away from most municipal work because we found that it is solely ‘low-bid’ contracting and therefore does not build any loyalty between the parties.” Consequently most of Sweep It Clean’s clients are commercial enterprises, along with occasional industrial work like construction sites, etc. As Dave explains it “The bulk of our work is for parking lots, either large shopping centers or commercial parking lots.” Some of the company’s regular customers include many national retail stores, including Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Kohl’s, and Burlington Coat Factory, as well as others. “Many of our clients we have been serving for many, many years,” Dave wants us to know. You can see Sweep It Clean trucks on average at 15-20 different works sites a week; however, Dave adds “if looked at from a monthly or quarterly basis, we easily service dozens of long-term and loyal clients on a regular, contractual basis.”

Employee Relations
As Dave Pople explains it “Sweep It Clean has a rather ‘flat’ organizational structure where me and my Operations/Administrations Manager handle most aspects of management, from operations to sales. We also have a layer of Field Supervisors who direct our employees in the field.” However, for such a relatively flat organizational structure, the field employees—mostly drivers and technicians of some sort—receive pretty thorough introduction and training to the Sweep It Clean ways of doing things, proceeding through a series of stages before being ready to drive and operate the trucks or heavy equipment. Dave elucidates “I provide an initial orientation to new employees that includes welcomes and introductions, as well as a discussion of our expectations. Then, they spend a day with our Ops/Admin Manager who reviews with them all aspects of our administrative procedures, which includes pay scale, hours, and all benefits if applicable, etc. They next spend a day with our full-time mechanic who explains the operations and functions of our sweeper trucks and other equipment as well as all safety measures they need to take into account when operating any of our machinery.”
Dave tells us that “all of our field workers do their job as part of a two-person team—a driver who operates the sweeper truck, and a worker who covers the perimeter of the mostly large commercial parking lots that we service with a high-power backpack blower unit. We use the blowers to ensure that we get out any trash, dirt, and debris from around lampposts, along the curbs or stuck in tight spaces and other hard-to-reach places in the pavement that the sweeper trucks then return to whisk up.” For the last training stage employees spend about two weeks just doing the blowing and observing and learning everything else around them. As Pople puts it “our two-person crew works simultaneously. While the person using the backpack blowers is blowing in debris from the perimeter, the driver is using the sweeper to vacuum up debris that is in the interior of the lot. Then he moves on to the perimeter areas already blown out.” “We are the only sweeping company that I know of that makes use of two-person teams, which is a clear indication of our dependability and thoroughness as a sweeping company,” Pople adds.

The 21st Century Office
Many smart sweeping companies are taking advantage of some of the newest and most efficient business and fleet management systems to come along in a long time—management software systems. They give you the opportunity to update and automate almost everything in the office, the whole lot, from bookkeeping and payroll, to billing and invoicing, employee scheduling, sending out dispatches and work orders, truck routing, vehicle tracking, and lots of other crucial information, all through one software program that integrates what used to be all of these numerous different functions, and processes them into a single format where all the information can be brought up on any computer screen, even hand-held devices like tablets and Smartphones, depending on your desires and needs.
As Dave explains “we use a program called NexTraq Fleet Tracking Solutions. We pay for and install sensors and GPS devices on our sweepers and then pay a monthly fee of about $30 per vehicle. Our account is a Windows Access-based system that provides a ton of information in the form of dozens of different reports we can either display on the computer screen or print out.” He continues “it allows us to track all truck movements, stops and starts, when and where, when the sweeper motor is actually in use or not, as well as fuel consumption. We also use it to help determine the most efficient route each night.” Being able to effectively manage all vehicle tracking, routing, driver behavior, etc can certainly put fleet managers at ease because with such information they can easily determine if they are meeting and staying compliant with all Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations. Dave also tells us that his program can also “produce reports that give us thorough details on each individual job over any time period, allowing us to monitor job times, and what employees are doing; we can even analyze revenue per hour and generate variance reports that show us jobs that are exceeding job time estimates.” This could equal big savings because a big part of one’s bid price has to do with the time it takes to complete the job. If you determine that your workers are taking more time on the job than you planned for when your came up with your bid, you can make the needed changes and save time, resources, and money.

The Benefits of an Automated Office
Once you educate yourself about how they work, their power, and the massive amount of information and knowledge they put right at your fingertips, most business and truck fleet software management systems are worth the investment. For one thing, fuel costs is one of the more pricy expenses incurred by power sweeping companies. If you can use your fleet management system to work out the most efficient route and be able to track all truck movements, etc. you could substantially reduce the time your vehicles are on the road, possibly saving thousands of dollars a year in the process. In fact, everything these programs produce can boost efficiencies, increase productivity, save precious time, and substantially lower operating and other kinds of costs all around. Sweep It Clean is presently the only sweeping company in El Paso that uses an automated business and fleet management software program.

Trucks and Equipment
Sweep It Clean has a fleet of 4 TYMCO 210 regenerative air sweepers, and 2 Tennant midsize mechanical broom sweepers. They take advantage of having two different kinds of sweepers, using the TYMCO 210s for the bulk of their work and bringing in the 2 Tennant sweepers for detail work. Explaining how they make the decision to use which sweeper, Dave tells us that “how many and what type we use on each job is determined by the size of the job, the type/quantity of debris and the customers’ objectives.” He informs us that “the 210s have Isuzu cabs that have automatic transmissions and use unleaded fuel, both in the Isuzu motor as well as the rear Kubota auxiliary engine that drives the sweeper aspects. We do not use the heavier gutter brooms, but rather the lighter side brooms that help to increase the effectiveness of the pickup head.” A slight modification to the sweeper trucks is the addition of extra lights. “We basically just added more spotlights to the side and rear of the trucks to give the drivers better views and we added flashing lights on top of the cabs so they can be seen better.”
The Poples chose their sweepers for strategic reasons. As Dave explains “when starting our business we consulted a sweeping contractor in a comparable city nearby, Albuquerque, NM and we discovered that they used TYMCO 210s. In doing our research, we came to the conclusion that these were the industry standard for the area. Plus, the fact that they were manufactured in Waco, Texas made it easy for us to decide on Tymco because we like the fact that we can travel to their Waco plant and attend, or send our employees to, an operations school anytime we like.” According to the TYMCO website“ The TYMCO Model 210 has a height clearance as low as 6’6” and a large 2.4 cubic yard hopper, so it is ideal for tackling a downtown parking garage or the largest of parking lots. The 210 is just right. Other sweeper trucks are too large, and small outdoor ride-on or walk-behind sweepers have proven inefficient, time-consuming and maintenance intensive.”
As far as what backpack blower to choose Dave tells us that “after experimenting with several types of blowers, we settled on the Stihl 350 with a two-stroke motor.” Here is what Stihl says on their website about the 350: “When your landscape calls for professional-grade tools, turn to the STIHL BR 350 backpack blower. Its powerful and fuel-efficient gasoline-powered engine provides enough rugged power to tackle heavy debris, while delivering exceptional fuel economy and lower emissions than previous models. The anti-vibration technology enhances operator comfort during long runs, which are made possible by a large 57.5 oz. fuel tank. All told, the BR 350 is one of our best backpack blower values for larger properties, ranches, and farms.”
Lastly, Dave Pople tells us that “in addition to our core sweeping business, we have added power scrubbing, using a Tennant power scrubber, high pressure power washing, for which we use a Hotsy pressure-washing unit, and parking lot striping, for which we use a Graco airless striping machine.” Visit www.sweepitclean.net for more information.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion