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The big push25th of November 2010
How do trolley manufacturers incorporate all the necessary elements of a rigorous cleaning regime into one compact unit that can be pushed with ease by the operator? Ann Laffeaty finds out.
Trolleys need to incorporate a wide range of cleaning tools – not to mention heavy buckets and detergents – in order to make them viable as a portable cleaning system. This means that manufacturers have their work cut out to make trolleys manoeuvrable. On the one hand a trolley should incorporate as many essential components as possible for the required cleaning regime, while on the other it must be sufficiently light to push while also being capable of negotiating narrow corridors and tight corners.
This is easier said than done according to IPC Ready Systems president Michele Redi. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to make trolleys that incorporate everything the customer wants while also being manoeuvrable because different cleaning systems - such as pre-treated mops, Kentucky mops and simple flat mops - are used from country to country,” he said.
“For a manufacturer, coming up with a trolley or range of trolleys that satisfies every country’s system requires a tremendous effort. Customers ask for a compact size but are actually unwilling to sacrifice the capability of using a wide variety of tools and systems.”
IPC Ready Systems trolleys range from compact base models for use in tight corridors to trolleys designed for larger areas where several cleaning tasks need to be carried out at once. Latest models include the Wow compact multi-purpose trolley that can incorporate either a waste bag or a tray plus 25 litre waste bin. It is designed to be sufficiently compact for use in narrow corridors and can also be easily stored.
“In environments such as schools, offices, supermarkets and in some department stores a trolley needs to be particularly compact and manoeuvrable,” said Redi. “But components such as buckets and a standard bag support for waste or laundry bags are the hardest to incorporate because of their size and weight.”
Modern products such as pre-moistened mop heads go some way towards keeping the size and weight of the trolley down, says Redi. “This is because pre-moistened mops eliminate the need for a wringer, but at the same time people want to carry more than one set of mop heads – and these are usually contained in a bucket.”
According to Redi, ease of use for the operator is more important than incorporating every possible combination of tool. “Ergonomics are a key factor, but the cleaner must above all feel comfortable when using the trolley,” he said.
Vermop product manager Petra Schmitt says the quality and size of the wheels play an important part in a trolley’s overall manoeuvrability. “A lightweight chassis is important, as is the ability to remove the buckets and other parts that are not necessary for the cleaning task.”
She says the need to incorporate heavy buckets and cleaning fluids is a particular challenge when trying to make a trolley manoeuvrable, as is the requirement to provide sufficient storage space for materials such as toilet tissue and paper towels.
“It has always been difficult to incorporate everything the customer wants on to a manoeuvrable trolley,” she said. “We think we have done a good job with our new Shopster trolley since a large quantity of materials can be transported and tools for every floor cleaning method can be integrated.”
According to Schmitt the Shopster trolley combines all the functions of a professional cleaning trolley with the small footprint of a wet mop trolley. “For ergonomics we offer driving handles for all our trolleys, most of which can be adjusted to the height of the cleaner. This makes it easier to push the trolley.”
Making life easier
She says locations where a particularly compact and manoeuvrable trolley is required include petrol stations, small shops, doctors’ practices, restaurants, fast-food restaurants and banks.
“Modular trolley systems can make life easier as they allow the operator to put a trolley together in exactly the way they need it,” she said.
According to product manager for Kärcher Frank Stadelmann there are a number of factors that can help to make a trolley lightweight, manoeuvrable and stable. “The material used should be robust and impact-resistant but also as lightweight as possible, and compact dimensions can be achieved with the aid of fold-down attachments such as a waste bag holder,” he said. “The trolley should also have large, sturdy wheels that turn through 360 degrees.”
He said manoeuvrable, compact trolleys are particularly needed in cramped, heavily-furnished spaces. “This applies in hospitals for instance where the trolley has to pass between beds, bedside cabinets and chairs and needs to be manoeuvred through sanitary areas and operating theatres,” he said. “Space is usually tight in office buildings, too, due to the large amount of furniture and because the trolley often has to fit into narrow lifts.”
An additional challenge is a growing demand for electric brooms and vacuum cleaners to be accommodated on to a trolley. However, Kärcher is on top of this according to Stadelmann. “There is certainly an increasing demand for electrical appliances to facilitate cleaning, and these must be fitted to the trolley without hindering the user’s ability to manoeuvre,” he said. “With the Kärcher Eco!Cleaning System, for example, smaller electrical appliances such as a battery-powered broom are stowed securely on to the trolley.”
As compact as possible
He said the key challenge for manufacturers was to make the trolley as compact as possible but still easy to use. “Clarity of design is imperative,” he said. “When pushing the trolley, the operator must have an unimpeded view ahead in order to reliably identify obstacles.
“It is also important for the user to be able to access his or her equipment and materials quickly and straightforwardly. This is where drawers for accessories such as toilet tissue and towels come in handy. The mop wringer should also take up as little space as possible but still be sturdy and easy to use.”
Crisp Clean’s international sales manager Judy Grundy says today’s rigid cleaning regimes can potentially make the trolley manufacturer’s life easier. “Operators are performing an increasingly predetermined routine and from this it can be established what equipment and consumables are required,” she said. “But we do have problems when trying to fit all the equipment a customer requires on to a small trolley.“
She says the advent of damp mopping has not really eased the problem. “Solutions comprising pre-moistened mops and controlled dosing do negate the need to carry buckets of cleaning solution and wringers, and this substantially reduces the weight of the system,” she admits. “But there is still a requirement to carry many mop heads and cloths, and this in turn poses the need to have adequate storage space on the trolley.”
Where a large area needs to be cleaned, the trolley will have to provide adequate space for sufficient numbers of clean mops and used mops. “Depending on the area to be cleaned, the space required can together equate to the same as that needed for a traditional wet mopping process,” she said.
Impact on size
Waste collection has a major impact on the size of the trolley, says Grundy. “A 110 litre sack requires a large space on any trolley, and here again the size of the trolley should reflect the tasks required of it,” she said. “A small trolley may be appropriate if the operator has only a small area to clean or has the opportunity to dispose of the waste or replenish the mops during the working day.”
She says the manoeuvrability of a trolley is largely dependent on the weight of its contents and the trolley frame itself. “Stainless steel trolleys are very often lighter and easier to manoeuvre than their plastic counterparts because you need far less material to achieve the same strength,” she said. “They are also more rigid, producing greater accuracy of the alignment of the castors. Plastic trolley frames will bend with the increased added weight and this affects the castor alignment.
“The quality and size of the castors also plays an important role. Paying extra for a castor with a better specification can greatly ease the burden of pushing a trolley.”
Features such as height adjustment for waste storage and easy-to-push handles can help to make the trolley more comfortable for the operator, says Grundy. “Even weight distribution over the trolley makes it easier to manoeuvre and where wet mopping systems are used, wringers with built-in mechanisms or foot operation help to minimise the force required by the operator,” she said.
But in some cases a compact, manoeuvrable trolley is simply not suitable for the task at hand.
“Small compact trolleys are a solution where space is at a premium but they cannot be a substitute for traditional trolleys because they simply cannot carry out the same tasks or to the same degree,” she said. “Compromises are often made as all the equipment normally attributed to a larger janitorial trolley simply will not fit onto a smaller trolley.”