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Must save time?15th of September 2010
How important is it that washroom dispensers should be quick to install, refill and use? And how do manufacturers ensure that their dispensers function seamlessly and allow easy access to the soap, toilet tissue and hand towels inside?
No-one wants to linger in a public washroom any longer than necessary. So we all expect to be able to use the facilities, wash our hands and then leave without spending any longer than we need to on hunting around for supplies or trying to work out how to use complicated dispensing systems.
Dispenser manufacturers understand this and do their best to ensure their products are easy to use. But it is not only the end-user that matters when it comes to dispenser design. If the units are quick and easy to refill, too, the facilities manager will potentially save time on maintenance while reducing their costs.
In fact the story should begin even earlier according to Brian Parkinson, European marketing director of SCA Tissue Europe. “When developing Tork dispensers we look at the whole life of the dispenser at the design stage,” he said. “We even consider installation - something that happens only once in the dispenser’s life.
“Most of our dispensers have templates for drill holes plus a spirit level inside to make sure they are fitted horizontally to the wall. They also have a business card holder to allow the distributor to leave their details behind and remind the customer where to go for supplies.”
According to Parkinson, staff represent the biggest cost for a facilities services operator which means a dispenser system that is quick and easy to refill will potentially save them money.
Changed in seconds
“For example our soap cartridge can be changed in seconds and our centrefeed dispenser has a shaped aperture inside which allows the roll to be fed in more easily,” he said. “Many of our Tork Elevation dispensers also have side-opening panels to make it easier for shorter people to load them, while our refill indicators use alpha numerics which means a cleaner can tell at a glance which refill goes with which dispenser, whatever their native language.”
He says another way in which the company aids refilling is by printing the loading instructions for Tork hand towel rolls inside the open lid of the unit. “This may sound obvious but some of our competitors put their instructions where the roll actually sits, which means that once the roll has been loaded the cleaner can no longer see Step Two,” he said.
Other features of the company’s dispensers include an option to open them either with a key or a push-button, and internal devices to prevent them from being overfilled. “Overfilling a hand towel or toilet tissue dispenser can prevent it from functioning,” said Parkinson.
He added washroom dispensers should also be quick and easy for the end user to operate. “This will prevent queues from forming and reduce the risk of hygiene being compromised.” Easy-to-use features of Tork Elevation dispensers include self-presenting towels and a soft-close function for the bin.
“We also make the tear-off ‘teeth” on our roll dispensers from a different material to the rest of the dispenser so that they will be gentle on the hands,” he said.
Field sales director for Cannon Hygiene Pat Gillingham agreed that dispensers should be easy to use in order to encourage good hand hygiene practices. She claims the company’s washroom dispensers are easy to load, refill and use.
“For example, the Cannon soap dispenser features bag-in-a-box soap that slots into the unit and has a straightforward tear-off panel to give quick access to the central dispensing pump,” she said. “This enables the cleaner to refill the dispensers easily, quickly and cleanly.
“All dispensers have a hinged, drop-down front panel for easy access when removing and replacing the refill. And for users with impaired vision there are Braille instructions embossed on the push lever of the manual foam soap dispenser and on the sanitary and medical waste disposal units.”
She claims washroom products that are simple to refill can lead to significant time and labour savings. “These can also result in cost savings - and cost is usually an ultimate deciding factor for the client when choosing a washroom range,” she said.
Major selling point
Marketing executive of Brightwell Dispensers Matt Dwelly said the ease of use of his company’s dispensers is one of their major selling points. “Our Modular paper dispensers are probably among the easiest on the market to install,“ he said. “Four screws on the wall and they are up - we don’t even need to include any instructions.”
The dispensers have refill windows to allow the janitor to check the product levels, and all Brightwell units can be opened using one universal key. “Our paper dispensers have to be simple because we don’t just manufacturer for one type of paper, but for a multitude of different ones,” said Dwelly.
“Another simple function is the housing of our soap dispenser that doubles as a button. This makes it really easy to operate with your hand, arm or elbow.” The company’s soap dispensers can also be used to house lotions and alcohol gels.
According to Dwelly, functionality and ease of use are more important than style. “If you went into a washroom and found the dispensers looked nice but you couldn’t use them, you wouldn’t be very happy about it.”
Hagleitner’s washroom hygiene product manager Christian Aigner also claimed his company’s dispensers are easy to use. “For example, with our Xibu Sensetowel dispenser the cleaner can see the fill level and battery status at a glance without opening the unit,” he said. “’Green’ means fully functioning while ‘green/red’ means either the battery or the refill is running low.
“This allows the cleaner sufficient time to refill the dispenser, while a clever reserve capacity system allows the dispenser to carry on working in between refills. The washroom dispensers are practically never empty.”
He says the company’s Xibu Sensetowel, Sensedisinfect and Sensefoam dispensers have a built-in sensor that recognises the presence of the user’s hands and presents a hand towel cut to length and ready to use.
“We also have a simple cover opening which means the cleaner only needs one hand and a key to open the dispenser,” he said. “Changing the battery, too, takes just seconds thanks to the easy-access, removable battery compartment.”
He said hand hygiene among washroom users can be improved by installing dispensers that are easy and efficient to use. “These will leave a good impression and provide the washroom user with a feeling of comfort,” he said. “Efficient dispensers will also save them time and help to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.”
Kimberly-Clark’s washroom category manager Jonathan Green explained the company concentrates on ease of loading and use in the early design stages of its dispensers. “For example we ensure that the covers open fully to allow greater internal access, and we also make sure the loading area is large enough to fit the refill easily,” he said. “We have even redesigned our skin care refills from a bag in box to a rigid cassette to make the refilling process intuitive and easy.”
The company’s dispensers can be opened either via a push-button or a key. “The use of viewing windows also helps to improve the refill process by enabling operators to see whether the dispenser needs refilling without having to open the unit,” said Green.
He claims customers appreciate the fact maintenance hours can be saved by having washrooms dispensers that are easy to refill. “It's not only the physical act of refilling that takes time – it is also learning how to do it,” he said. “In areas of high staff turnover it is preferable to have systems that are easy and intuitive as it is difficult to keep retraining people.”
Higher hygiene level
According to Green, easy-to-use dispensers deliver a higher level of hygiene. “There is a stronger probability that the dispenser will actually contain product, and that it will have been loaded correctly and is dispensing how it should,” he explained.
Despite the importance of functionality, he said style was often rated more highly as far as customers were concerned. “The decision on which dispenser to install is often made by architects or interior designers using a picture, then a physical sample,” he said. “They tend not to investigate what the dispenser is like to use in practice.
“Our objective is to always deliver excellent functionality coupled with the best aesthetics. We never separate the two.”
SCA Tissue Europe’s Brian Parkinson agreed a dispenser’s appearance also needs to be taken into account. “We use top designers to create our dispensers because they reflect a company’s image and visitors should be comfortable using them,” he said. “Ease of use is important, but so is image.”
And Cannon Hygiene Pat Gillingham confirmed the look of the dispenser plays an important part. “The overall appearance and image of a washroom will help the end-user decide whether to use soap and hand sanitiser before leaving,” she said. “Entering a washroom that contains empty or broken dispensers will discourage customers from using them and, as a result, from maintaining good hand hygiene.”