At Riccar, we believe slow and steady wins the race. We’d rather make vacuums the right way, supported by value-added services and be responsive to our customers, than be first on the market with trendy vacuums. Top-notch quality takes time, discipline and adherence to process. “Our intention is always to surpass our customer’s expectation when it comes to quality. Our reputation depends on it,” says Donnie Humphrey, Product Support and Quality Assurance Manager.
Everything you touch on a Riccar vacuum must enable and preferably enhance a task. From handle to bumper, fit and finish are critical, so we pay close attention to flashing and seals. Buttons, wheels, hooks, switches and indicators are scrutinized for usability. Our engineers locate the carrying handle where weight is balanced, and they attached the hoses low on the machine so the vacuum won’t fall over when using the wand with tools. These are just a few things Riccar designers dictate and are followed through with superior craftsmanship and thorough inspection. Producing in small batches enables us to be responsive and make enhancements or running changes relatively quickly.
“We administer various tests on individual components and complete vacuums to ensure they will perform at the highest level, but we don’t stop there. The truth is there is nothing quite like real world testing,” Humphrey says. “We put hour meters in our test vacuums and put them into use in the most demanding environments we can find – hotels, commercial cleaning companies and restaurants – to name a few,” Humphrey adds. “Then we check them periodically to see how the individual components are holding up to extreme use. For me, this is the most important type of test. Missouri is the ‘Show Me State’ and, as a Missourian, when it comes to durability, I say, ‘show me.’”
Riccar’s reputation depends on producing the highest quality products. We test Riccar vacuums at every stage -- development, prototype and initial production. We test and operate every vacuum on the assembly line prior to boxing to ensure the highest quality possible.
For example, belts with Riccar’s proprietary belt protection system are tested on the assembly line by turning them on and jamming them with a microfiber cloth to make sure the feature is working as expected. All vacuums are plugged in and turned on before they’re packaged and boxed.
Riccar’s testing facilities look like a playground of levers, pulleys, switches and weights. And yes, a treadmill, but it’s not for exercise. Doug Blocker, Value Engineering Manager, is responsible for product testing. He says, “Vacuums are put on treadmills to test product life and individual components.” Components include motors, brushroll, headlights, wheels, vacuum pivot points, handle strength, belt wear, and life and electrical terminal wear. Internal electronics and circuit boards are tested for static discharge. In addition, Riccar tests filters and bags for performance and filtration efficiency. “The treadmill allows us to see a number of systems wear and function over an accelerated continuous run test condition.”
Riccar tests motors, the most expensive part on a vacuum, continuously. Blocker says, “We design and test our vacuums to operate for a 10-year lifespan. That’s roughly one hour of operation a week times 52 weeks per year. This is why you hear of us testing our motors to 500+ hours of operation.”
Many Riccar direct air motors – the motors that are in all SupraLite and Tandem Air vacuums – commonly test and run up to 750 hours before the carbon brush is exhausted. The carbon brush conducts the electrical current inside the motor. “The warranty might be five years,” Blocker says, “but the design life is intentionally twice that.”
Another essential vacuum feature tested are the agitator brushes, which provide agitation for the vacuum to pull dirt from carpet. “The brushes will wear down eventually, depending on the type of carpet or floor it is used on, but they should last five years of normal use, about 250 hours of test time.” All Riccar metal brushrolls have replaceable brushes that can be customized by floor type. With a wood or plastic brushroll , which are most common with mass-produced vacuums, the entire brushroll must be replaced when the bristles wear down, and there’s often no way to customize strips to your floor type.
“And finally,” Blocker says, “we test carpet wear because no matter how well a vacuum is made, it’s useless if it damages your carpet.”
All our products also go through Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Edison Testing Laboratories (ETL) product safety testing and certification.
If all this testing weren’t enough, Riccar sends most of the HEPA media bagged vacuums to the Carpet Rug Institute (CRI) for independent Seal of Approval testing. The CRI tests for soil removal, dust containment and surface appearance change. Vacuums that pass all three tests receive a Bronze, Silver or Gold Seal of Approval and are listed as a Seal of Approval Certified Vacuum on the CRI website.
Many of our modifications over the past two decades have been in response to surveys and requests from our retailers and vacuum users. We’ve modified handles and power cord plugs, for example, to stand up to the non-prescribed ways people lift their vacuum or pull the plug from the wall. When we become aware of a problem, we assess and address it as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. Technical support works with engineering to resolve the issue, and then it’s communicated to retailers through service bulletins. We work hard to take care of not just vacuum users but also our retailers who support our products through the Red Carpet Service Plan, warranty part replacement and technical service.
Every day, Donnie Humphrey fields calls and emails from independent retailers who sell and service Riccar vacuums. “For Riccar, what it boils down to is our desire to exceed expectations. We know our customers expect a a lot from us, so we do everything we can – and then some – to make sure we deliver and make a lasting impression.”