Putting on a good show

15th of April 2010

As the cleaning industry looks forward to ISSA/INTERCLEAN in Amsterdam later this month, Menaha Thiru for ECJ investigates how three major European exhibition venues approach the challenging cleaning operation that takes place during and at the end of trade shows. All three centres hold numerous national and international exhibitions every year.

The Amsterdam RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre is the largest exhibit venue in the Netherlands and consists of 87,000 square metres of exhibition space and 25 conference rooms. It will be home to the biggest European cleaning exhibition, the ISSA/Interclean show this April. Feria Valencia is the fourth largest centre in the world  and consists of 321,000 square metres of exhibition space. It has held 110 events over the last year with an economic impact of one million euros. The Hannover Exhibition Centre operated by Deutsche Messe is the biggest in the world, with 496,000 square metres  of indoor space including 27 exhibition halls and parking capacity for 39,000 cars. In March 2010 the venue was host to 4157 companies from 68 countries who exhibited at CeBIT 2010 .

All three venues share common goals in cleaning and clearing up after a show. Paul Stover, cleaning products manager at RAI; Ulrich Kusche, director of cleaning services and waste disposal and environmental protection agent at Hannover; and Jose Luis Gimenez, quality manager at Feria Valencia, all emphasised the importance of getting the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible in time for the next exhibition.

Paul Stover additionally pointed out that: “A particular challenge is the meticulous planning and coordination done by the many parties involved in the cleaning and clearing up process. These include for example the parties removing, cleaning and replacing the carpets, those who tend to  the rigging in the exhibition halls and others involved in the cleaning of catering points such as restaurants. So it is all about timing and logistics. Problems arise if individuals do not comply with their prearranged schedules.”

Another shared priority is the strong focus on 'green' cleaning. All the exhibition centres dedicate time and energy during and at the end of a show  to the careful separation of waste material into categories such as paper, wood, plastics and  metals for recycling.

Hannover manages to recycle approximately 85 per cent of its waste and Feria Valencia 99 per cent. Both  Feria Valencia and RAI employed a separate contractor to deal with recycling. Icova recycles at RAI and there is a specialist recycling  company which manages the waste generated in big fairs and events  at  Feria Valencia. Feria Valencia pays this company for collecting tonnes of waste.

Continuing on a green note, at RAI the mechanised cleaning equipment such  as vacuum cleaners, sweeping machinery and trucks for internal transport are powered by green electricity generated by wind power. Meanwhile at Hannover  the use of solutions  and chemicals is minimal. Instead, cleaning relies on a great deal of  manual floor scrubbing. In other words, mechanical action combined with water forms an integral part of the cleaning. In the limited circumstances in which they use chemical solutions cleaning contractors are prescribed to use environmentally friendly and biodegradable products. Feria Valencia also stresses the use of environmentally friendly and biodegradable cleaning products as well as energy-efficient electrical equipment.

Ongoing cleaning

In addition to the final cleaning Stover, Kusche and Gimenez pointed out the important role of regular ongoing cleaning throughout the actual exhibition, both indoors and outdoors, to keep up standards of cleanliness. Toilets are cleaned continuously throughout the day and common areas like aisle ways are cleaned daily once the trade fair has closed for the day. However stand areas rented by exhibitors are only cleaned if the latter request this and the extent and frequency of the cleaning depends on how much the exhibitors pay. Of the participants at Hannover 50-80 per cent make use of this service.

At Hannover there is a great deal of parking space. Every day this area as well as the outdoor walkways have to be cleaned. A more thorough cleaning of the ground floor parking lots and multi-storey car-parks, which surround the exhibition venue, will take place at the end of each trade fair.

Substantial effort has to go into cleaning the outside of the RAI conference centre on a daily basis. One method used is high pressure water. Stover explained: “You have to take into account RAI is situated near to a railway station. So many flyers are distributed by organisations to attendees as they arrive or interviews are conducted en route. This involves a lot of paper which is either littered or blown away by the wind.”

Furthermore at RAI, all smokers are obliged to smoke outside the exhibition venue. This means many delegates and visitors take their coffee breaks outside, leaving behind considerable quantities of paper cups and cigarette stubs that need to be cleared up regularly.

What are the specific tasks at the end of an exhibition or trade fair? All indoor areas such as lobbies, exhibition halls, conference rooms, meeting rooms, offices, press offices, registration points, lifts, cloakrooms, toilets and catering points such as restaurants, snack bars and kitchens have to be thoroughly cleaned. The organisation of this will vary from venue to venue.

For example at RAI, the Dutch cleaning contractor GCA is responsible for cleaning all areas, including the catering points. At Hannover on the other hand, a catering subsidiary, Messe Gastronomie Hannover, is responsible for all food preparation as well as cleaning the catering points. Three other sub-contractors deal with the rest of the cleaning, each being responsible for a different zone. Kusche observed: “There are no repercussions whatsoever with regard to cleaning in the case of simultaneous events because parallel exhibitions take place in entirely separate, self-contained zones.”

At Feria Valencia too cleaning is contracted out. Gimenez said: “We have always contracted out the cleaning services to specialised companies. We have a contract with a company that is responsible for cleaning staff offices, toilets, exhibition glass, façades and structures and another with one that is responsible for cleaning exhibition hall floors after the dismantling of structures used at events. The entrances to Feria Valencia are cleaned by the city council.”

The length of time required to clean up after an exhibition depends on the size, duration and type of exhibition. As Kusche commented: “Cleaning up after a carpet or textile exhibition is much less demanding and time-consuming than cleaning up after a machine tool exhibition involving metal working machinery or even entire production lines . Ultimately the time difference can vary between four and 14 days.”

Exhibitors aware of issues

At Feria Valencia most cleaning processes take an average of five days after the event. In the case of large international exhibitions like Habitat or Cevisama it may take up to two weeks to clean the exhibit area, partly because it is necessary to separate paper, wood, concrete and ceramics into appropriate containers for recycling. It may take a whole week to clean the entire RAI complex.

Kusche noted exhibitors themselves are increasingly aware of issues of environmental sustainability when it comes to clearing up. He observed: “Many exhibitors use the same stand every year. They package it up, put it away in storage and then bring it back the next year. This saves money and is environmentally friendly, and the perennial stand acts as an architectural motif and gives the company a greater recognition factor.”

Kusche has personally witnessed a visible decrease in the amount of waste at the end of trade fairs over the years.

Cleaning up and clearing up after exhibitions can be a costly business. At Hannover the cost of clearing and cleaning the halls and grounds after an exhibition can range from 10,000 to 100,000 euros. And if you add on the cost of waste removal in the dismantling phase, the total can even run as high as 300,000 euros.

You won't see cleaners when you go to an exhibition because the work is done after hours, once the exhibition has closed. Kusche explained: “At Hannover daily indoor cleaning takes place until midnight, while outdoor cleaning starts at 4 am.” Cleaners at RAI also work into the night hours.
Gimenez at Feria Valencia said: “On the eve of a new trade fair as many as 300 cleaners could work through the night, whereas for daily maintenance cleaning during the fair around 40 cleaners would be available.”

Next time you find yourself ambling through a spic and span exhibition space, spare a thought for all the planning, energy and manpower that has gone into achieving and maintaining this effect.


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