The cleaning industry in the Middle East and Gulf region started gaining prominence barely three decades ago. While in the early days simple tools and machines did the cleaning, the increase of buildings and businesses – not to mention awareness - saw the advent of more sophisticated machines and necessitated trained personnel to operate them. It became clear that when professionally trained operators use machines to clean a site, they meet the clients’ expectations remarkably, as the job is done well using the right machine for the correct duration while preserving the assets and causing minimal harm to the environment. Consequently training has gained in importance and magnitude in the region.
Today, training has become a vital and integral part of business for all the stakeholders in the cleaning industry - whether they are professionally qualified training providers, manufacturers of cleaning equipment, traders of such equipment, or facility management (FM) and cleaning services companies. All of them are unanimous in their stand that all operators of cleaning equipment should be fully trained before they start to work with them.
Importance of training
“The importance of training cannot be understated and can provide many benefits from up-skilling of staff, theirs and others protection through the safe use of equipment and to provide skills and knowledge that benefit the company as well as the individual,” opines Tommy Taylor, Operations Director of Middle East Academy of Training and Consultancy (MEATAC) - the only independent facility in the Middle East where one can gain a BICSc (British Institute of Cleaning Science) certificate in recognition of cleaning skills.
MEATAC meets BICSc standards, which are widely acknowledged as extremely effective and accurate in the industry. It provides focused and specialised training to personnel of companies involved in different types of cleaning including using the latest equipment and machinery, which is aligned to the delivery of the training to meet everyone's needs.
Several companies with different training needs have been enquiring and approaching MEATAC, which has been flexible and offering required and specific training as well as training in BICSc standards. “We have opened the market to many people who do not want to conduct in-house training or do not have the facility to do so. Our flexibility allows us to cater to single applicants and companies. But, most importantly, we are here for our clients in the UAE who can benefit from our responsiveness, accessibility and expertise ,” informs Tommy.
MEATAC intends to not only train operators of equipment but also train trainers and supervisors and are launching two new products. “That will of course be in addition to providing training to staff at the place of recruitment and providing operators ways of enhancing their skill sets and knowledge, which will benefit both the company and the individual, thereby driving quality and cost effectiveness,” says Tommy.
Driving quality and cost effectiveness through trained personnel working on world-renowned excellent products is what Kärcher – a leading international supplier of cleaning technology - has been doing for over six decades. With over 4,000 products in its range of cleaning machines from vacuum cleaners and pressure washers to huge pressure cleaning equipment for professional use, operators are given requisite training. Each machine is classified for a particular use, and the user is trained to know how to use the machine optimally and get its full output to clean well and safely with minimum impact to the environment.
It is the same kind of well-rounded training that Viking Gulf - a leading supplier of various types of high quality cleaning equipment provides to operators. Equipment such as high pressure washers, single disc scrubbers, polishers, walk behind single disc, dual discs and ride-on machines, all in different powers and sizes, are never supplied without training. The user’s safety is paramount and of utmost importance to Viking Gulf.
“Awareness of safety and protection and thorough knowledge of the machine is what we try to inculcate in our people while training them. We have a saying: What you hear you forget, what you see you remember, but what you do is what you know. So we give them complete practical training on the machine before they start operating it. We also teach them to take care of the machine and how to do regular maintenance of it, as well as troubleshooting if something goes wrong,” remarks Adrian Ward, Workshop Manager at Viking Gulf.
Sreekumar Panicker, Head of Sales Professional-UAE at Kärcher Middle East, echoes Ward’s comments, “We ensure that operators understand the machine fully before using it and continue to maintain it well. Each operator should take ownership of the machine to be good with it.”
The training process
Machine operators usually undergo basic, advanced and refreshers training at the companies’ training facilities, but most companies like Kärcher, Viking Gulf and even Emrill, have the ability to train operators at client sites also, depending on the machines they have provided or that are being operated there. Whether the machine is a pressure washer, scrubber, sweeper, or vacuum cleaner, or any other and it is ride-on or walkbehind, the duration of training usually ranges from half a day to two days according to the number of trainees.
The number of trainees is usually not more than 10 but ideally it is about 5 people, which allows the trainer and trainee to interact oneon- one and make the training more focused and effective. Basic training is given to new recruits who have less or no idea about using a machine to clean surfaces. Advanced training is for those who know the machines and have operated similar machines of a different brand or capacity earlier.
These operators have to be updated on the new machines and any new or added features in them. Refresher training is provided to operators who have been using similar machines. They undergo training mainly to re-familiarise themselves with the machine and update themselves with any of the latest features that make the machine more efficient.
A typical training session starts with the trainer giving the trainees an overview of the machine describing its functions, where and what it is used for, its main components and how each component contributes to make the machine what it is. Then starts the practical training with each trainee allowed to ride the machine, feel its performance and know its parts and operation including how to input the correct dose of chemicals and additives to be used in it.
The next part of the training is to maintain the machine and take preventive measures to keep it in good condition. Troubleshooting procedures are taught in detail so that they can diagnose a problem if and when something goes wrong with the machine. Panicker from Karcher explains, “We give the trainees a checklist, which includes procedures like how to maintain the battery and when to refill the water in it, how to drain the recovery tank, how to clean the solution tank, how to clean the squeegee brushes and when they should replace consumables and what level of use should they be when consumables are replaced. When trainees become familiar with the machine and its care as well as taking care of themselves while operating it, their training is complete,"explains Panicker.
Safety and environment
Safety to environment and assets are a total commitment at any organization. Emrill, a leading integrated facility management company in Dubai, deals with a wide range of cleaning equipment, both heavy duty and light weight. All their machine operators have to undergo specific training on how to operate and maintain each specific machine before they are given the green light to become machine operators. Emrill’s training facility known as the Centre of Excellence (COE) has several key components in place to support continuous learning and development providing customers with world-class service, which includes leadership training, annual planning, safe operating procedures, driving best practice, benchmarking and productivity, training and various awareness programmes.
“Before someone is appointed to be a machine operator, they must have a minimum of one year experience as a cleaner. This is the minimum requirement that we have set whereby the person would have become familiar with care of equipment, cleaning regimes, safety, which includes chemical safety and safety for oneself and others in the vicinity,” adds Andrea Yoko, Head of Soft Services at Emrill.
“All of our team members undergo thorough chemical competence training as a mandatory topic during their induction period. We ensure that they are all competent in dispensing chemicals either by the use of a dispenser or carrying out manual dilution. Our recommendation is an automated dosing system to ensure correct dilution preventing waste or potential harm to operatives or surfaces,” informs Yoko.
Panicker says, “In our energy-efficient ecofriendly Kärcher machines, there is a synergy between the chemicals of the liquid used and the mechanical action of the machine itself. The operator is trained to do this effectively by using the right dosage and dilution of chemicals and at the right temperature,” says Panicker. Ward supports it adding, “Some of the big cleaning machines come with the dosage option, and the operator has to be trained to just follow its directions properly.”
Following directions to operate the machines exactly as they should be is what training is all about. A robust training programme is sure to bring all staff up to a higher standard of competency so that the entire team can share a common set of knowledge and skills. Well trained people operating effective cleaning equipment means that clients save money, get fantastic results and protect the environment all at the same time. And a satisfied client will continue to buy good equipment resulting in each company getting the competitive edge and rise in stature while venturing into new markets and adding more business.