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Keeping in step with progress

18 August 2015

From the challenge of cleaning ‘flying carpets’ to taking a wider view of efficiency and ergonomics – Stephen Pinhorne, UK national sales manager of Truvox International, walks us through some trends in sweeping and vacuuming

Technological innovation seems to be racing ahead, if not sweeping us along with it, perhaps leaving us with an uneasy feeling we’re not fully in control. Take the onward march of travelators or ‘through walkways’ and the ubiquitous escalator. In airports, rail stations, department stores, sporting venues and cinemas it seems that walking has been taken over by the machine.

The challenge for the facilities manager is how best to clean these modern manifestations of the flying carpet, and how to plan and budget for the task. It’s an issue we’ve become increasingly aware of over the last 12 months. Because live electrical circuits power travelators and escalators, liquid cleaning solutions pose an unacceptable risk. So cleaning teams may put this specialist job off, until an extensive maintenance clean becomes necessary. As we know from carpets and other flooring, this is short-sighted. But in the case of a travelator or escalator, there’s the additional risk of corrosion due, say, to fizzy drink spills in a cinema.


Escalator cleaning made easy

Dedicated sweepers are available for these applications but they can be costly. Yet there are economical and efficient alternatives. One option is to integrate vacuuming and dry scrubbing in a simple, easy-to-use unit. The concept behind this approach – such as the low-cost X46 developed by Truvox International – is to simplify cleaning travelators and escalator treads. The unit sits on the comb at the foot of the stairs, or start of the walkway, and can be left in position as the cleaning operative undertakes other tasks. Depending on the width to be cleaned, the unit needs only to be re-positioned several times. Where cleaning is undertaken daily, one or two rotations will be sufficient.

Department stores, for example, typically schedule this as part of the morning clean before store opening. Ultimately, the objective is to make best use of technology (i.e. both cleaning equipment and people-moving technology) and the cleaning team. Enlightened cleaning managers see that a modest investment in the fleet and a ‘little and often’ approach through daily, light cleaning is highly cost-effective.


Which vacuum?

This reflects a wider trend. We’ve seen great strides in the way cleaning regimes are planned and budgets managed. Yet many facilities managers or contractors still fail to take a holistic view of cleaning schedules, labour, equipment capital and running costs, and maintenance life of their floors. A typical scenario is the overuse of under-specified machines, such as tub vacuums. These are economical in many situations, but a wide-path vacuum or backpack model will be better suited where there are large expanses of carpet or lots of stairs or seating.

A cleaning manager or buyer may prefer to ‘go with what I know’ so that tub vacs are constantly running for long periods, shortening their service life, and increasing maintenance costs. Equipped with a Valet Wide Area Vac, one person can do the work of three or four, saving labour costs and/or releasing staff to add value in other ways – perhaps through periodic deep cleaning. In the case of a landmark office block in London, this progressive deep cleaning obviated the need for an £8,000 weekend deep clean that had been put off for years.

The human dimension is also important. The forward-and-back stretching motion when operating a tub vac for long period means more effort, fatigue and repetitive strain injuries. A wide-area vacuum is upright and ergonomic. So employees will be healthier and happier, with lower sick pay and less lost time for the employer.

Staying with vacuuming, backpack units tend to be seen as a ‘problem-solver’ for difficult-to-clean areas such as stairs and theatre seating. Backpack vacuums quickly pay back in manpower efficiencies and are more comfortable to use for the cleaner. They lighten the workload on the arms and shoulders associated with some tub vacs, avoiding the need for squatting and bending, and make it easy to reach high and low areas.

So, as with travelators, the right technology can give cleaning staff an easier ride too.