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The show must go on

12 September 2016

The NEC Group is one of the world's largest venue management companies. Every year millions of people come together at hundreds of its events in Birmingham, from The Conservative Party Conference to the X Factor auditions. Paul Thrupp, account director at FM provider OCS, takes us through the challenges of keeping its venues clean

The NEC is the UK’s number one venue for trade and consumer shows, set in over 610 acres with more than 182,000 square metres of covered exhibition space plus 160 acres of hard standing and 75 acres of woodland. Included in this are 16,500 car park spaces, a lake, large public circulation areas and all of the exhibition halls all of which require cleaning. From washrooms to bus stops, all glazing, exhibition hall external cladding, internal gantries and restaurants, you name it we clean it.

OCS employs nearly 320 cleaning staff on the NEC Group contract, with almost 90 at the ICC (International Convention Centre) and Arenas and 230 at the NEC site, who provide cleaning services for over 550 events a year, attracting over 2.1 million visitors and 35,000 exhibitors from businesses large and small.

Dog shows to mystery shoppers

The main challenge for our cleaning department is the diversity of the exhibitions and the unusual cleaning tasks these throw up. As well as the daily cleaning of all areas both public and back of house, exhibitions such as Crufts require some specialist cleaning by our hall janitors, including the clearance of rubbish dropped by some of the 160,000 visitors or waste left by some of the 27,000 dogs. Our cleaning staff are on hand to keep the site looking at its best at all times. Once the exhibition closes the night team move in removing rubbish, cleaning all stands and carpeted areas so that the hall is ready for the exhibition to open again the following day. 

There are two main public circulation areas, the Piazza and the Atrium both of which can provide huge challenges, especially for the janitors looking after the washrooms in these areas. The NEC carry out ‘mystery shopper’ surveys which score the areas for litter removal and the washrooms for cleanliness and checking they are fully stocked. All waste receptacles are monitored and emptied regularly depending on footfall, which could be as many as 30,000 on exhibitions such as Spring Fair which utilises all of the NEC’s halls and both public circulation areas.

Conferences & confetti cannon

As part of the NEC Group contract OCS provides cleaning and porter solutions to 350 events with over 300,000 delegates at the ICC conference venue in Birmingham to ensure the very best in cleaning standards and customer service is assured. Again the challenge is the diversity of events from The Conservative Party Conference to The X Factor auditions, each bringing their own unique cleaning requirements.

The OCS Arena Cleaning Team supports the Genting and Barclaycard Arenas for the NEC Group, who host 200 events and two million visitors per year. The team deliver cleaning and waste services to ensure the arenas are immaculate before, during and after every show. Some of our challenges include the use of confetti cannons as the confetti gets everywhere, even on the gantries in the roof area, and matinee shows where we have 45 minutes to exit up to 15,000 visitors and clean the whole of the arena ready for the next audience.

Riach Ryder, the NEC Group operations director, said: “The need to establish strong, mutually beneficial relationships with strategic partners like OCS is essential for the NEC Group. The longer our relationship lasts, the better for all parties including our customers, who are at the heart of everything we do. The advantages we have experienced across our NEC Group venues include improved performance, greater cost efficiency and help in growing our own business.” 

Since September 2015 OCS has been responsible for the cleaning services at the new VOX Conferencing Centre within Resorts World at the NEC. The venue hosts conferences, banquettes and parties, which all bring their own challenges but the main being spillages and high washroom footfall. We supply a housekeeper and porter on a daily basis and janitorial services to all events. Daily site visits from potential clients requires the venue to be in pristine condition at all times. A robust daily cleaning regime and carpet care process ensure that we attain and maintain the high standards required by our client.