Good golly, nice trolley!

2nd of February 2021
Good golly, nice trolley!
Good golly, nice trolley!

How has the advent of Covid-19 changed the face of the trolley industry? Ann Laffeaty asks manufacturers how their products are evolving in a world in which cleaners and their equipment have become a reassuring sight rather than an intrusive presence.

Cleaners used to be expected to go about their work as unobtrusively as possible before the global pandemic. Many were contracted to clean either late at night or in the early hours of the morning to avoid clashing with other building occupants. And where daytime cleaning was unavoidable they would glide furtively through corridors, doing their best to remain inconspicuous.

This was made all the more difficult by the fact that most would be wielding a cumbersome trolley on which their equipment needed to be stored. Trolley manufacturers responded by coming up with products that were designed to take up little space while also blending effortlessly into the background.

But the global pandemic has changed this situation, according to Greenspeed’s marketing manager Floor Loos. “Cleaning had to be achieved unobtrusively before the Covid-19 crisis, but today’s companies want to broadcast the fact their buildings are clean,” she said. “As a result, people have become more aware of the presence of cleaners who are receiving more attention and respect as a result.”

The sight of a trolley signals to the public that their surroundings are being hygienically cleaned, she says. “Today’s trolleys no longer need to look inconspicuous – they can take centre stage,” said Loos. “And this means customers are more likely to choose an attractive-looking trolley than they might have done before the pandemic.”

She says aesthetics have always played a key role in Greenspeed products, however. “Our customers tend to prefer the look of a customised trolley that fits in with the environment,” she says. The company’s C-Shuttle trolleys are said to feature elegant black panels that can be overprinted with any design or logo.

IPC’s manual equipment solutions manager Adriano Mariano agrees the presence of a cleaner has become a reassuring sight since the advent of Covid-19. “Cleaning is extremely important in any public business, but it is has become even more crucial in the current pandemic,” he said. “The sight of a cleaner now conveys a feeling of safety and care, both for workers and building users.”

The enhanced profile of cleaning is opening up new perspectives for the industry, he says. “There’s no need for today’s trolleys to go unnoticed – they can be used to attract favourable attention instead,” he said. IPC’s Brix Cover Bag model is said to turn a trolley into a communication tool for promoting brands, business partners, products and services. “The Brix Cover Bag not only fulfils an advertisement function, it can also be used for conveying reassuring messages to building users and to report any inefficiencies,” he said.

However, whether a trolley is noticeable or unobtrusive is not the main issue during a pandemic, he adds. “What is really essential is the functionality of the trolley and its ability to ensure high standards of hygiene and operator safety,” said Mariano.

A well-organised trolley carrying professional tools conveys a reassuring message whether its design is aesthetically-pleasing or not, according to TTS Cleaning’s export sales manager Alessandro Costantini. “A trolley with a neat and professional appearance allows people to see that cleaning and disinfection are being executed at the highest level,” he said.

“The Covid-19 emergency is changing people’s mindsets and as a result they are becoming accustomed to looking for signs that their environment is clean.”

TTS trolleys have fully-enclosed doors and walls that can be used to display pictures, logos or motifs. They can also be used to communicate with customers in other ways, says Costantini. “Our trolleys are a highly visible vehicle for displaying eye-catching customisations and positive messages – something for which customers frequently ask,” he said. TTS trolleys also offer a range of accessories designed to accommodate hand sanitisers and disposable gloves.

Communicate messages

Filmop’s trolleys can also be used as a communication tool according to export area manager Paolo Scapinello. “Cleaning has become of paramount importance in terms of safeguarding everyone’s health,” he said. “Trolleys can therefore be used to impart specific messages to the public to involve them in cleaning operations.”

Today more than ever, the market is demanding trolleys that are equal to the task of enhanced cleaning, says Scapinello. “But customers are also seeking customisable designs because a noticeable trolley can become an excellent tool to communicate the reassuring presence of the cleaning service as well as publicising the business,” he adds

The walls and door of Filmop’s Alpha trolleys can be fully customised, he says. “They can be treated like a white wall on which any reassuring message or request to report cleaning issues may be written.”

An aesthetically-pleasing design has long been a key focus for Kärcher, says the company’s manual tools product manager Beyza Gügercin. “Besides being important in terms of company branding, an attractive design is also good for both customers and end-users,” she said. “Cleaners need to interact with their own trolley several times a day and we like to provide them with an aesthetically-pleasing tool that improves their working conditions.”

According to Gügercin, the visual evidence of cleaning has become synonymous with safety. “People want to see that someone is cleaning the school where their kids are studying or the hotel where they’re intending to sleep,” she said. “At Kärcher we are adapting our offer to meet the new demands of the market.”

The company is currently considering using trolleys as a vehicle for conveying messages to the public. “We are also looking at developing systems that efficiently guide the operator about their tasks,” she said.

Crisp Clean general manager Paul Frost has noticed two distinct trolley trends over recent years. “On the one hand there has been a trend toward less obtrusive trolleys that blend into their environment, while on the other there has been a move towards products that stand out and provide branding or other forms of information,” he said. “Both trends have resulted in products that look less like a traditional clearing trolley.”

Many existing trolleys are already well suited to providing public information, he says. “For example, maps can be printed on the sides of trolleys in airports while cheerful images can be used to brighten up the hospital environment,” he said. “We at Crisp Clean have been providing this capability for years and I can only see this practice being extended further - particularly if the public becomes more aware of cleaning practices and demand higher levels of cleanliness over the long term.”

According to Frost, the chief way in which a trolley’s appearance can be improved is by keeping it tidy. “This could be achieved by providing space for all items to be carried, for example, or by enclosing the main storage areas or even the whole trolley,” he said. “However, enclosing a trolley can have its drawbacks because it could compromise the efficiency of the unit’s primary function. Hiding cleaning products out of view may create a more aesthetically pleasing result, but it is also less convenient for the cleaner.”

Keep it clean

It is particularly important for a trolley to be kept clean at all times, says Frost. “Surfaces that are easy to wipe clean are a good feature because a dirty trolley will project a poor image,” he said.
Crisp Clean has seen a marked change in purchasing patterns over recent months, he adds. “There has been a new emphasis on high levels of hygiene and an increase in demand for trolleys that can be easily cleaned and sterilised, or wheeled into an autoclave or steam cleaned,” he said. “Standard trolleys do not stand up well to this type of treatment.”

According to Frost, such trolleys need to be made from stainless steel and incorporate no holes in the tubing where steam or fluids could enter. “They also need to have castors that are rust free and that will withstand the raised temperatures of an autoclave,” he said.

So it is clear that an aesthetically-pleasing trolley will reassure the public, provide an impression of efficiency and draw the eye towards important hygiene messages. But how important is the look of a trolley in the great scheme of things?

Aesthetics should always be weighed against the chief function of a trolley and the environment in which it will be used, says Frost. “There’s no point in having a wonderfully attractive trolley if there is no room to store it,” he points out. “Those trolleys that are more aesthetically-pleasing will tend to be larger and will not easily fold down or collapse. As a result, purchasers should make their trolley-buying decision based on the availability of storage space.”

He adds that when cleaning larger buildings, the trolley is likely to be stored a long way away from where it will be used. “In this type of situation, ergonomics and manoeuvrability will play a much more important role than aesthetics,” he said.

IPC’s Adriano Mariano believes that a pleasing appearance is particularly important in environments such as shopping centres, airports, stations and hotels where the trolley will be on constant show to the public. “However we are also convinced that today more than ever, users are looking for functionality, ease of use, safety and ergonomics to allow cleaners to maintain the correct posture while avoiding the need to take unnecessary risks during their daily cleaning activities,” he said.

Filmop’s Paolo Scapinello also believes a balance should be struck between the aesthetics of a trolley and other factors such as ergonomics, compactness, modularity and hygiene. “Our trolleys have been designed to facilitate cleaning and reduce effort while improving the operator’s well-being and productivity,” he said. “As of now we have not been asked by customers to use our trolleys to convey public messages or report cleaning issues - but we are ready to do that at any time.”

Kärcher’s Beyza Gügercin agrees that trolley design is all a question of balance. “Factors such as ergonomics and a hygienic construction are both key considerations when choosing a trolley,” she said. “However, if you can incorporate these features while also making the product look attractive, it will elevate the trolley to a whole new level.”


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