Sweeping Industry Supplier Profiles
An Interview With XBroom's Will Conklin
At Nescon, maker of the XBroom, the company operates in a fashion where its motto might well be "Whatever it Takes."
by Ranger Kidwell-Ross
Actual production of the mechanical broom sweeper that has become known as XBroom began in 2009. For some time before then, says ownership group member, Will Conklin, "we did a good amount of banging metal together to develop the concept" and since then have been "working continuously to get everything right." Conklin himself was part of that process, having been the sole fabricator for about the first couple dozen sweepers off the line.
The company actually started as an asphalt service company called Nesbitt Contracting, based out of Tempe, Arizona. After using a number of different makes and models of sweepers as part of his business the founder of that company, John Nesbitt, found some or other aspect lacking, like complexity of operation, or parts and service availability.
John felt he could improve on what was currently in the market and that's what spurred him to start entertaining the thought of manufacturing his own broom sweepers. Conklin then got involved and the concept has evolved from there.
"After you use a variety of the products currently in the marketplace, if your mind works in that direction then you can't stop yourself from thinking how they could be made better," said Conklin. "From there it's a matter of thinking about what you would like to add to, or subtract from, the different current sweepers in order to make them your own.
"Since we had the ability to produce and manufacture a machine that was the result of our ideas, we just rolled with it. Like Schwarze or Elgin or, probably, most all of the other manufacturers, the people involved had their own spin on things and that's what they make. In my opinion all [of the sweeper manufacturers] produce a wonderful product. Everyone does something really well in their own regard."
"We really wanted simplicity," continued Conklin, "but at that time we found that most all of the sweepers we used were not really all that simple, either to operate or to work on. With others it sometimes wasn't easy to obtain parts. So, we decided to see what we could produce for our own use. At the beginning we didn't think about producing for sale to others; rather, we intended to build a sweeper for our own use only."
When asked to provide some examples of what makes the XBroom simpler to operate and easier to work on, Conklin said it starts with their cab-based operating system. The XBroom sweeper utilizes an industrial grade Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), which involves a touchscreen and a joystick.
To get started, the operator holds a single button on for three seconds in order to get the sweeper started. Once fired up, there are only two buttons to control the operation: the PTO button is pushed on and, from there, the joystick is pushed down.
The down sequence on the joystick starts all of the functions: The elevator bottom lowers down; the elevator starts turning; the main broom starts turning; and, one or both curb brooms, which feature hydraulic tilt, are selected using the joystick. Says Conklin, the system makes the XBroom extremely easy to operate.
Another innovation is located on the top of the door panel on the passenger side. Typically the operator runs the sweeper from the right side, and a small joystick and two tilt switches are located next to where their arm naturally falls on the door panel. The point is that the operator never has to look down to the interior of the sweeper where the PLC pad is located. Rather, the needed controls are in a natural location for the operator's hand as well as within their natural line of sight during operation.
"We really wanted to focus on keeping an operator's eyes on the road," said Conklin. "In most organizations you end up having several different people operating the sweeper over time and you want to do everything you can to keep their eyes on the road. The more their eyes are on the task ahead, the less likely they are to drive incorrectly, hit other vehicles or make any other mistakes.
"Many of the aspects for the different XBroom features have come from customers, whether an operator or the sweeper owners. My cell phone number is posted in the cab, as well as on all of our social media and other contact points. That way, an operator can get hold of me virtually any time they have a question [about operation] or anything else to comment about on the sweeper. It's a phone I answer 24/7.
"That has helped us build the brand and take it to the next level, both the quick access to professional help and constructive input from our customers about how we can do better."
The XBroom sweeper features a 14-flight, 60-inch wide, rubber squeegee style elevator system. By incorporating a couple of extra flights into the elevator Conklin says the XBroom disperses the load better than other broom sweeper models. The intent from the beginning was to create a high production street sweeper, one that would be dependable and capable for operating behind an asphalt mill – widely thought of as the most challenging application for a street-class sweeper.
Nesbitt Contracting was central to building the asphalt milling industry in Arizona. "We had upwards of 10 or 15 mills at that time and we needed a sweeper that would be able to follow our fast-paced milling operations," said Conklin. "When we designed the sweeper we designed it for the heaviest application that most people even know about, which is following a milling machine.
"That led us to design the XBroom with some truly heavy duty design elements, like an elevator system that could keep up with transporting all that material efficiently and effectively. The XBroom offers a very high torque motor that can handle all of those flights as well as a heavy load. Milling operation sweeping is something that not every sweeper model is even capable of doing.
"When you're on a milling job it's a high yield/high stress situation for the sweeper as well as for the operator. That's especially true if you have a paving operation following along behind. If the sweeper can't keep up or breaks down, there's potentially a lot of money on the table. You don't want to be in a situation like that where you have a crew of people waiting around for you to get your sweeper back up and running. We built a sweeper that could not only keep up, but stay up with, the kinds of heavy production we were doing in our own milling operations."
When asked about how the XBroom's configuration helps with producing a level load, here's what Conklin had to say: "We have a high load point in the hopper, which is capable of carrying 5 cubic yards of usable loading. We rate that at a water level, so with the XBroom we're able to load more material into the hopper. Other features include the angle the hopper sits at, as well as how fast the elevator is moving. The system is designed to flick material toward the front of the hopper, which results in a better loading system."
The XBroom hopper dumps off the right side via a vertical-lift mast system which, Conklin noted, he believes to be proprietary to their machine. That is to say, the lift system operates much like a forklift. All of the lift components, he says, are overbuilt for whatever their need may be. Everything is built past what the stated capability for that component is; in other words, more heavy duty than needed for the actual function.
The mast-lift design also allows the hopper to be built with some added capacity. Since it is not sitting on a scissor-lift the hopper can ride closer – pretty much flush – to the chassis frame. For offloading, the hopper raises up to 12.5 feet in the air and then dumps off to the side via a 42-inch dump door. The extra length of the door also allows the machine to dump more toward the center of dump trucks.
When asked about other features that contribute to the XBroom's competitive advantages Conklin again stressed the availability to receive expert advice at any time, day or night. The inability to get help 'after hours' was something that bothered the Nesbitt management team when they were using other brands of sweepers.
"Like any other business you have to set your company up so it provides strong service to your customers," Conklin said. "Your customers are what's keeping the doors open, what's paying the bills and what gives your product its reputation, good or bad. It doesn't happen often that I get calls in the middle of the night but when I do I can typically come up with an answer that keeps everybody working. We also believe in strongly supporting our employees. As far as we are concerned, employees and customers are right next to each other on our list of important company aspects."
Another advantage Conklin touted with his organization is they have the in-house equipment and technical know-how to make their own parts. So, if a customer's sweeper goes down the needed part can be built and shipped right away. This also allows the organization to control the stock kept on hand without worrying about suppliers who may or may not be able to keep up. Their design team is also able to implement any needed changes on the fly, without having to wait for a supplier to retool the part.
"If a customer has an idea about an innovation they think will be an improvement, we have the ability to put the raw material on our plasma cutter, then transfer it to the brake press and, finally, try it out on a unit we have here at the factory. Typically, the customer can get the new part in a day or two, not weeks or months."
Other features Conklin cited as providing competitive advantages on the XBroom includes how the design has been engineered to work in the hottest weather conditions. The company is located in Arizona, where the summer heat can be deadly to hydraulic systems. On the XBroom, the hydraulic tank is mounted externally and has a 45-to-50-gallon capacity so it will not overheat in any kind of extreme temperature operation.
Hydraulic fluid is pumped via variable displacement, triple pump stacks; i.e., three pumps are utilized back-to-back. The machine is also PTO-driven and has a load-sensing elevator system that efficiently demands the amount of hydraulic pressure needed, from a 1000psi with no-load up to the system's maximum of 3200psi. Conklin says the XBroom's hydraulic system is super efficient in terms of being able to handle extreme heat as well as in how it creates volume or pressure.
In the 40-minute audio podcast I held with Will Conklin, he discusses even more aspects of the XBroom's design and operation. To listen to the audio interview click on the graphic shown. Note the audio will open into a new browser window.
We also invite you to check out the demo of the XBroom shown below, which was filmed in New York. If you can't view the embedded video for some reason, here is the direct link.
A number of other videos are available on the XBroom YouTube Channel. In addition to demonstrations of the machine's capabilities, you will find several how-to videos like advice on winterizing the water system and changing the main broom.
For more information on Nescon's XBroom, check out the company's Facebook page. If you want to see the specs for the machine, ust this link. You may reach Will via email sent to: email@example.com. You can reach the company, which is located in Mesa, Arizona, by calling (480) 505-0001.
© 2005 - 2020 World Sweeper