The disappearing cleaning trolley

12th of December 2019
The disappearing cleaning trolley
The disappearing cleaning trolley

A large, cumbersome cleaning trolley can be an intrusive eyesore in any public area. So, how do trolley manufacturers ensure that their products are as unobtrusive as they can possibly be? ECJ finds out.

It is a sad fact that cleaners are usually expected to fade conveniently into the background, carrying out their work as quietly and as unobtrusively as they can. In the past this has been relatively easy to achieve. A long tradition of cleaning carried out either the at night or during the twilight hours has meant that as far as the public is concerned, cleaning could well have been accomplished by a team of invisible elves.

However, there has been a growing trend towards daytime cleaning over recent years for a number of reasons. A greater emphasis on staff well-being has led to the introduction of more flexible working conditions for cleaners. Meanwhile there has been an increase in the number of facilities operating 24/7 which means cleaning often needs to be carried out in full view of the public.

And while a soft-footed cleaner might be able to melt unobtrusively into the background, he or she would find it much more difficult to do so when pushing a large, ugly, clanking cleaning trolley laden with mops and buckets.

So, how do manufacturers ensure their products remain as inconspicuous as possible? And in which types of sectors is an unobtrusive trolley particularly invaluable?

Trolleys should be virtually invisible in environments such as courts and administrative buildings where serious business is being carried out, says Kärcher product manager Kamila Dobler. “Bland colours, quiet wheels and a compact, elegant design will all help to achieve this,” she said.

“The trolleys should also have smooth surfaces and plain lines and should preferably be enclosed so no cleaning equipment is visible. And an easy uncoupling system between each module will enable staff to separate the components swiftly, avoiding the need to move the entire trolley from one place to another.”

Kärcher’s trolleys are designed for use in public areas, hotels, restaurants, airports and hospitals and feature enclosed storage spaces, quiet wheels and customisable panels, says Dobler.

Trolleys should be adapted to suit the environment in which they operate and not the other way around, according to TTS export sales manager Alessandro Costantini. “Hotels and healthcare facilities in particular need solutions capable of integrating harmoniously into their environment to provide maximum discretion,” he said. “Trolleys must also deliver a high performance while at the same time promoting a professional image.”

Brand promotion

He says a sober, elegant design coupled with quiet wheels will help a trolley “disappear” into the background. But he adds there are some instances in which a noticeable trolley can be a good thing.
“If a cleaning company or facility wants to promote its brand they might actually prefer a conspicuous trolley,” said Costantini. “Our panels can be personalised with a customer’s image or advertisement so that the trolley may be turned into an effective means of communication.”

TTS’s “invisible” products include the Magic trolley which can be customised with a picture or motif to allow it to blend into the background. And the company’s H-Cube, aimed at hotels and holiday villages, has multiple compartments and containers of different sizes plus movable dividers that allow staff to customise the space to accommodate a range of hotel room equipment and amenities.

General manager of Crisp Clean Paul Frost agrees with Costantini that a trolley should never be the focus of attention.  “While it doesn’t have to completely blend into the environment, neither should it be too obtrusive,” he said. “And in areas where hazardous substances are transported and could be tampered with by the public there is a clear need to hide the trolley contents – and in some cases this should be achieved securely.”

Covering up the cleaning equipment as far as possible will make it less conspicuous, says Frost. “Where space and costs allow, the complete concealment of all equipment from view is ideal because this will make the trolley ‘disappear’ and look more like a piece of furniture,” he said. “And it is also important to keep any noise to a minimum when moving a trolley between locations. This can be achieved with the aid of free-running castors and secure fixings for items within the trolley to prevent bangs and rattles.”

A trolley can sometimes be used to enhance its environment or impart information to the public according to Frost. “This can be done by covering the outer surface in graphics or targeted advertising,” he said. “Colourful characters for children’s hospital wards and location maps for airport trolleys are typical examples.

“In fact some customers actually want to use their trollies as marketing tools. Enclosed trolleys offer more scope for this because the bold logos and graphics printed on the panels help them to stand out and make them more effective.” Crisp Clean offers fully enclosed and partially enclosed trolleys that hide the cleaning equipment from view.

Customisable design

Filmop export area manager Paolo Scapinello agrees a conspicuous trolley can become an excellent tool for promoting a business. “For this reason it is fundamental to offer a customisable design,” he said. “Our trolleys can be customised with images and trademarks which transform them into advertising vehicles.”

He says the need for an unobtrusive trolley depends very much on the environment in which it operates. “A pleasant and functional trolley can increase the sensation of well-being for the user,” he said.

Scapinello agrees with the general consensus that a compact design will help to make a trolley blend into the background. “Our trolleys have been designed to combine a high storage capacity with a compact design that will fit into even the smallest space,” he said.

Speeding up cleaning can also help to make the whole process less obtrusive, he says. And a silent operation will cause less of a disturbance in locations where noise is an issue such as in hotels and hospitals.

Less obtrusive

“Our trolleys are extremely silent during cleaning due to their rubber wheels and the Hush system, which ensures that the bag-holder’s cover is closed softly and quietly,” he said. Filmop’s Alpha motor-driven trolley is said to speed up cleaning and make the task less obtrusive.

Greenspeed marketing manager Floor Loos also believes quiet wheels and a compact design will allow staff to manoeuvre a trolley more easily and noiselessly. “Trolleys should also have a neutral look to allow them to blend into the environment,” she said.

The Greenspeed C-Shuttle 250 is said to have quiet wheels and a compact design. However, Loos adds her company receives many requests from customers for personalised trolleys. “These are different each time: sometimes we are asked to print an image on the panel while at others a logo is requested,” she said. “This gives customers the opportunity to use their own branding.”

Whether or not a trolley needs to blend into the background depends very much on the sector, says Diversey’s global marketing manager for cleaning tools Gemma Haslam. “It is probably more crucial in offices and hotels where daytime cleaning takes place in full view of the public,” she said. “But in every sector a trolley should be tidy so that it portrays a professional image. And it is always important that the task of cleaning does not disrupt.”

Like other manufacturers Haslam says muted colours, a compact design and quiet wheels will all help to render a trolley less conspicuous. The company’s Protect trolley offers these features along with a completely enclosed design to maximise safety in public areas.

However, conspicuous trolleys are sometimes an advantage in high-traffic areas, she adds. “For example, trolleys in airports are often used to advertise while for many big customers it is an opportunity to increase brand awareness by using logos,” she said.

IPC communications manager Gabriella Bianco believes cleaning trolleys should blend so seamlessly into any environment that they virtually disappear. “Compact trolleys painted in muted colours are one solution,” she said. “Trolleys should also operate noiselessly and leave behind no visible track marks.”

She says the lines, colours and shapes of a trolley should be closely aligned to the facility in question. “For example in facilities such as hotels and offices, top quality cleaning equipment is a sign of professionalism,” she said. The company’s new Brix Hotel line of trolleys are designed to be silent and discreet while leaving behind no surface marks.

Welcome reminder?

But is a conspicuous trolley ever a welcome reminder that the environment in question is actually being cleaned? This is rarely the case according to Kärcher’s Kamila Dobler. “However, it is true to say a trolley sometimes needs to be noticeable to avoid the risk of a collision, in environments such as railway stations and warehousing facilities for example,” she says.

Diversey’s Gemma Haslam believes that a conspicuous trolley can be an advantage in the healthcare sector. “While a tidy enclosed trolley will create a professional cleaning image, in healthcare it is still important to show that cleaning is being carried out,” she said.

But according to Crisp Clean’s Paul Frost, most people will automatically assume that public areas are being cleaned – whether they see a trolley or not. “It is the cleanliness of the environment itself that is important: if the floors are dirty and littered, having a trolley in view is not going to improve the public’s perception,” he said. “And if the trolley is dirty or disorganised this will also have a negative effect.

“So the trolley should have a professional appearance to demonstrate that cleaning is an important function of the organisation. And this will have the knock-on effect of raising the profile of the cleaner, who will become more motivated as a result.”


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