The Sustainable Answer to Small Batch Mixing
Over the course of a construction project, cement mixing is done primarily in bulk, but due to the many small alterations and repairs that must be done along the way, much material mixing ends up being done in small batches. In North America, the most common practice for mixing small batches is to use a drill in a bucket. According to Al Karraker, President of Collomix North America, this is not an efficient approach.
“The problem is a drill is made to drill. When you put the square peg of a drill into the round hole of mixing, the drill tends to overheat and burn out, because it’s not made for that purpose,” he explains. “With a drill, you want high speed, low torque, and with mixing, you want high torque, low speed.” Collomix manufactures mixing machines that are designed to incorporate many different materials in small batches properly.
Collomix was founded in 1974 in Germany and is now in the second generation of family ownership. Small batch mixers are distributed widely throughout Germany and the rest of Western Europe where the market is much more developed for this type of product. “If someone in Germany wants to mix something, it would never occur to them to use a drill. They just don’t do it.”
German companies are known for being meticulous with details and creating the highest quality products. Collomix has found that when it discloses that its products are made in Germany, customers tend to purchase them with an understanding that they are built to a higher standard and well worth the expense.
Contractors in North America continue to use drills because it is all they have known for many years. They are also often unaware that there is an alternative since small-batch mixers are a relatively new concept here. Collomix established itself in the United States and Canada in 2012, and since that time, it has made a concerted effort to raise awareness about the benefits of switching from drills to small-batch mixers.
Unlike companies that focus on standing out from the competition and choosing the right retail avenues, Collomix must focus its efforts on education and on promoting the idea that small-batch mixers are the right tool for the job. By educating North American contractors on the benefits of small-batch mixers over the more traditional drill in a bucket method, it is aiming to capture what is essentially a new market here.
There are now two Collomix warehouses located in North America: one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and one just outside of Toronto, Ontario. The products are manufactured near Ingolstadt, Germany and distributed throughout the world.
Considering the construction industry’s movement towards sustainable and efficient project building, small-batch mixers should not be a hard sell. Using a drill for mixing is not practical because it requires the construction worker to be doubled over at the waist, drilling by hand in a five-gallon bucket. Aside from the unnecessary strain that it puts on the worker’s body, the problem with manual mixing with a drill is that the material is most likely not being mixed thoroughly, which can result in costly damage and repairs.
A worker may spend less time with one batch because their back is sore after multiple small batches. If the instructions state that the material must be mixed for a certain amount of time, it is likely that there is a chemical process taking place, and cutting it short could jeopardize the quality of the material. Unfortunately, the supplier of the material is frequently held accountable for this mistake, when upon inspection of the product, it is clear that improper mixing was at fault.
Using a drill to mix material creates waste in terms of material, time, and cost. It is a practice that has outlived its necessity, and Collomix products are helping to replace that method with one that fits the approach that the rest of the construction industry is embracing.
The second key principle to mixing that the average tradesperson in North America does not know is that there are three ways to mix, and it is essential to use the right type of paddle for specific materials. “Unfortunately, most people pick a paddle style like they pick a shirt. They feel like wearing this paddle today, or they’ve always used that style of paddle. But really, the style of paddle needs to match the material,” says Karraker. Contractors that do this are ignoring a key aspect of the mixing process.
The three ways to mix are bottom-up, top-down, or side-to-side. Mixing from the bottom up is for heavy products such as concrete, grout, and stucco. Powdery material that tends to clump, like thinset, tile adhesive, and joint compound requires side-to-side mixing, and with material that requires no air exposure, top-down mixing is best. Top-down mixing is used for easy flowing liquids like floor leveling material, epoxy, and even paint.
To help people determine the best paddle to use and the superior method of mixing, Collomix has created an app for iPhones and Androids that features an extensive list of materials, the first choice of paddle and method, and the best alternative for the material at hand.
For retail stores, the company also provides various signs and charts to help customers find the right equipment for the project and to make the most informed decisions possible. This vastly simplifies the process and has helped Collomix earn confidence and loyalty from its customers.
With approximately 120 employees, Collomix is not one of the larger suppliers in North America, and this makes its goal of raising awareness particularly challenging. Even after a tradesperson hears about the advantages of small-batch mixers, it can be a large commitment to put pen to paper and make changes in a process that has been used for decades. Despite this hurdle, the company is consistently growing as more people move toward small-batch mixing.
The quality products manufactured by Collomix are built to last a long time and ensure that the contractor always mixes the material properly. Its series of high-performance handheld mixers are capable of mixing a range of volumes. In the first quarter of next year, the company is also planning to release an updated version of the Xo mixer series called Xo R at the World of Concrete event. The R stands for ‘revised,’ and the product is designed to be more user-friendly while retaining the performance of the original.
The company will also be introducing a new concrete mixer to its product line. The TMX 1000 is ideal for concrete, aggregate, terrazzo, and other thick, heavy material.
The one health and safety concern of small batch mixing is the dust kicked up by mixing bags of material. To ensure there is no cloud of dust, Collomix has created a product called DustEX.
“DustEX is basically a vacuum extraction end that slips over the side of a bucket or whatever else you’re mixing in, and when you turn on the HEPA vac, it sucks the dust out of the air and not into your lungs,” says Karraker.
The plan for the future of Collomix is two-fold. First, it aims to increase the awareness about small-batch mixing and help contractors adapt to a more sustainable method of mixing instead of using a drill. It will continue to do this through its sales efforts, thorough advertising, and by becoming much more active on social media.
Collomix would also like to eventually be known as the leading provider of small-batch mixers worldwide. The company is gaining a reputation in North America, and one day, it hopes to become a recognizable name in the market. “We are the answer to improper, small-batch mixing,” says Karraker.