Over the past 20 years, the professional cleaning industry has developed several cleaning methods – such as Zone Cleaning, Specialist or Team Cleaning, Day Cleaning, Collaborative Cleaning, and others – to help improve productivity, efficiency, and quality.Some of these systems have been developed specifically for certain sectors such as educational facilities or general office areas.
However, when it comes to the cleaning and maintenance of large industrial facilities, such as factories, metal shops, or warehouses, there are no set standards, procedures, or cleaning systems.Instead, and often by trial and error, most industrial facilities develop their own cleaning methods for restroom, floor care, and other cleaning tasks.
Furthermore, many industrial cleaning managers do not use – or are unaware of – the new, more efficient cleaning equipment that is now available to help facilitate maintenance operations in large industrial settings.Consider, for example, the following:
The Spray-and-Vac System
Many factory restrooms are cleaned in the same method that restrooms are cleaned in office buildings:A custodial worker sprays sinks, toilets, and urinals with a cleaner or disinfectant; the fixtures are then wiped with cleaning cloths and the floors are swept and mopped.
“The only problem with this system is that, unlike an office restroom, where there may be three or four toilets, urinals, and sinks, industrial restrooms are often huge, having as many as 20, 30, or more of each,” says Ron Goerne, a cleaning consultant, and past president of the Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI).“In addition, office restrooms tend to stay relatively clean throughout the day, rarely taking the use and abuse so common in an industrial restroom.”
According to 447 Cleaning Times, published by ISSA, a trade association for the cleaning industry, it takes an average of three minutes to clean each fixture in a restroom.Based on this, in a restroom office setting with four fixtures, it would take about 12 minutes to clean all the fixtures and possibly another 10 minutes to perform other duties, such as cleaning mirrors and floors.
In a factory restroom with 30 fixtures, the cleaning time can jump to 90 minutes, and floor and other cleaning tasks may add another 30 minutes.This means each factory restroom takes about two hours to clean.And, because industrial restrooms are usually cleaned after each shift, four to six hours per day is spent just cleaning one factory restroom.
According to Goerne, a much faster cleaning system, now being employed by General Motors Corp. in many of its North American factories, is a spray-and-vac system, also known as a no-touch cleaning system.Using this method, a machine is used to apply chemicals to all restroom surfaces – floors, fixtures, walls, doors, and counters.After a few minutes of dwell time, the same areas are then rinsed with clean water at a pressure up to 500 psi, essentially “blasting” away soils and contaminants.The machine’s built in wet/vac system is then used to remove contaminants and dry all surfaces.
Jumbo Wet/Dry Vacs
Often wet/dry shop vacs, which can be purchased from a local building supply company or most “big-box” retailers, are used to clean industrial floors and other areas in a factory.However, these shop vacuums were designed more for household use, or at best, light industrial cleaning functions and were never made to tackle the heavy-duty cleaning needs of an assembly line.
Today’s industrial vacuum systems, also referred to as “jumbo vacs,” are a much more reliable, efficient, and powerful option for large industrial facilities.Powered by compressed air, these vacuums are made for rapid, high-power pick up, and have a waterlift that is substantially beyond that found in traditional wet/dry vacuums.
Based on these features, jumbo vacuum systems are emerging as an integral part of industrial facility cleaning, often used for vacuuming industrial floors and workstations, as well as removing hazardous waste.In some settings, they are even used to clean tools and factory machinery because they are able to remove bulk fly ash, refractory slag, heavy oils, cooling fluids, metal chips, dust, dirt, grease, oil, and other soils, which can harm factory workers and equipment, resulting in costly factory downtime.
However, concern for the health and safety of industrial workers is one of the most important reasons for considering an industrial vacuum system.“Workers, labor unions, and OSHA are all taking a closer look at the plant environment,” says Emo Moschini, a manufacturer’s representative for Tornado Industries, makers of hard floor and carpet cleaning equipment, as well as industrial vacuum systems.
For example, in factories that produce tires, auto and industrial belts, and gaskets, a fine powder is used as a pigment. “If not adequately removed from factory floors and workstations by a powerful vacuum system, this powder can become airborne and a potential health problem,” Moschini says.
Industrial vacuums deposit most of the dry and liquid waste they collect into large attached drums.Moschini advises selecting machines with 55-gal. “ribbed” steel drums that have a drain valve for convenient removal of liquids. These steel drums tend to be more durable and usually have greater capacity than traditional plastic or stainless steel tanks. “The ribbed design serves a very important purpose,” says Moschini.“A lot of pressure builds up in the drum.The ribs provide greater strength and durability.”
The powerhead on jumbo vacs sits on the drum’s top.The powerhead is an air compressor system with poly bags attached for recovery and containment of such materials as metal shavings, dust, sand, sawdust, and chips. Some compressors produce 5 hp, 25 hp, or 50 hp.They can operate as low as 30 psi to a maximum of 100 psi, creating a minimum 82 CFM to a maximum 258 CFM.The waterlift can range from 242-in. to 200-in.
“A unit’s CFM tells the true story of the machine’s power and capability for bulk recovery,” he says. “The higher the CFM, the faster the recovered material will travel through the hose.Increasing the diameter of the vacuum hose will increase CFM [especially for dry material] with a corresponding decrease in waterlift.
A Capital Investment
Many factory managers now view both no-touch cleaning systems and industrial vacuum equipment as a capital investment, rather than an expense because they help keep their facilities functioning at maximum capacity.
“It cannot be underestimated, the importance of a clean, well-maintained industrial environment,” says Moschini. “Not only is it safer and healthier for workers, but it also helps boost employee morale, an important component in any work environment.”