Distribution Hygiene Services have been providing specialist outsourced cleaning services for retail warehouses and distribution centres since 2000. They work in ambient, chilled and frozen environments with no disruption to customers’ working routine, and with an increasing emphasis on sustainable solutions and minimum environmental impact.
DHS’s cleaning processes for the food distribution industry include both interior and exterior deep cleaning. They provide full method statements and risk assessments at quotation stage, and supply ‘after clean’ reports to all clients.
Distribution Hygiene Services have a blue chip client list, with grocery sector customers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Booker, Iceland and Musgrave Group, all the major refrigeration companies, and in the food logistics area clients including NFT and Wincanton. An increasingly important aspect of their work is minimising the environmental impact at the sites they clean, as a recent project for Tesco highlighted, and they are constantly researching new methods to improve their sustainability, from the proportion of water they recycle to running their cleaning machines on bio fuels.
Dr Robert Perryment, founder and Chairman of Distribution Hygiene Services Ltd, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News
Warehouse & Logistics News – Robert, we last spoke in May 2010. What’s been happening since then in your business?
Our focus has been on improved training, which has resulted in greater efficiencies – we have worked hard to meet the budget requirements of our clients in difficult economic times without sacrificing our high standards or our own requirement of remaining a viable and profitable company.
WLN – As Chairman of DHS, what is your role in the business these days? Are you still involved in developing solutions for individual clients?
I have had to spend more time on the overall strategic planning of the company – ensuring that we continue to develop in the right direction; however, I am always keen to become ‘hands on’ when a particular problem needs to be addressed for any of our clients. Recently, we were asked to come up with a plan to ‘deep clean’ the exterior of a very large distribution centre for Tesco but the rub was that within the grounds were two sensitive wild life ponds, and none of the run-off detergent/traffic film remover must be allowed to stray into the water table. We designed and built a recovery system that enabled us to recycle all the water over and over again. The result has meant that we are now able to offer all our clients this kind of service, which will save 85% of the water required to ‘deep clean’ a large building. With much of the country already experiencing drought conditions, this will become a very important factor in what we will be doing in 2012.
WLN – Who else is in the senior management team now?
The senior management has been bolstered with Glenn Ward as our National Sales Manager, Kay Robinson, our Company Secretary, who ensures that all aspects of our company governance runs smoothly and that men and equipment all end up where they need to be at any given time; Jane Riphagen, who has developed a completely new cost analysis system that allows us to review every job that we complete in order that we may remain competitive without slipping into loss making situations; and Ricky Jones who, makes sure that standards are maintained at the sharp end.
WLN – Where are you based? Do you cover the whole UK?
From our base between the M1 and M11 we are able to cover the entire UK. Today we have one team working in Scotland, one team in Bristol, and two teams in Daventry.
WLN – What about other countries?
Our main focus is the UK but we are always happy to talk to potential clients in other countries about how we can work together. Our interest in supporting our colleagues on the west coast of America continues. I was assisting their efforts in San Francisco earlier this year.
WLN – What proportion of your clients are in the grocery industry?
We are always available to support our clients in whatever requires attention – historically the food and beverage distribution sector has been the largest part of our business although we are also carrying out more and more builders’ cleans as big sheds are completed around the UK.
WLN – What kind of work do food industry clients ask you to do?
Sometimes it is full ‘deep cleans,’ other times it may just be a section of coolers and their drain lines, or it might be a complete exterior clean, and other times just a roof of main gutters that need to be attended to.
WLN – Which other industry sectors do you clean for?
A growing part of our business has come about as the beneficial owners of large warehouses are demanding that a full external clean be carried out at least every five years – there is also a requirement for a thorough exit clean to take place before premises are handed back.
WLN – What different cleaning services do you provide?
We provide cooler/evaporator cleaning, warehouse interior cleaning and cladding/exterior cleaning.
WLN – Roughly what proportion of UK warehouse cleaning is outsourced?
There are two answers to this question: if we are talking about routine daily cleaning regimes, I suppose that it is probably 50/50% – we don’t provide this service – but if you are asking about annual ‘deep cleans,’ including working at height, then it is mostly all outsourced as it requires specially trained personnel who carry the necessary licences, and of course the expensive insurance that goes with the job.
WLN – What does your cooler/evaporator cleaning service cover?
We work in both chill (+1°C) and frozen environments (-25°C) to ensure that all coolers and evaporators are maintained in the best possible condition. At the same time, we ensure that all the condensate lines – the drains – are thoroughly cleansed.
WLN – Do you use your own cleaning equipment that you have developed for the purpose, or other people’s?
Over the years we have developed our own systems and equipment. Whilst superheated water at very high pressure is the backbone of the system, we have developed contain and control procedures together with various chemicals that we have developed for the food industry, along with swab testing and the use of biocides.
WLN – What do your After Clean reports include?
Our After Clean reports give pre-clean and post-clean airflow readings for each cooler, as well as any other relevant information gained as the result of the clean. I believe that this is one of the most important procedures that we offer as it allows our clients to see the results of the work that we have carried out.
WLN – How often should coolers and evaporators in these environments be cleaned?
Having established that keeping coolers in a pristine condition actually saves money, I am now recommending to our clients that they should be cleaned twice a year.
WLN – What can happen if they aren’t cleaned as often as you advise?
Eventually drain lines will become blocked. The bacterial slime that can build up in the drain lines is an ideal environment for pathogens to thrive. When the pipe becomes blocked, the defrost water is unable to run away and backs up into the drip trays. Worse still, when the fans resume working, contaminated water is broadcast over the produce and picking staff below! It should be remembered that regardless how sophisticated the refrigeration system is, at the business end of the system is a heat exchanger – or more accurately a cold exchanger. If the process is not allowed to operate efficiently because it is clogged up with dirt, the whole system is having to work twice as hard to maintain temperature, and this costs a great deal of money.
WLN – What kinds of improvements can people expect to see after you have cleaned their coolers?
As part of our procedures we take airflow readings before each clean, and on completion we take further readings. We regularly see improvements of over 40%.
WLN – How does these improvements translate into cost savings?
During a recent experiment with one of our major clients, it was found that an improvement of 12% in the airflow translated into a 21% saving in their coolers’ energy costs. If their coolers could have been kept in this condition all year round, the annual energy savings would have amounted to £1,400 per cooler. Thus, the cost of regular cleaning can be seen to pale into insignificance against the savings in energy costs. As an additional point, when you are saving money on energy by keeping the coolers/evaporators clean in a chilled or frozen environment, it makes sense to ensure that the walls and ceilings are also kept clean, otherwise the dirt will simply be drawn back into the coolers, slowing down the airflow again.
WLN – What exterior cleaning services do you provide?
As well as cleaning the exterior elevations of big buildings, we also clean the car parks and paved areas. We have in the past carried out surface cleaning for a number of major leisure parks including the London Eye and Alton Towers where we carried out a chewing-gum eradication programme.
WLN – How often do you recommend exteriors should be cleaned?
We recommend that DC’s exteriors are thoroughly cleaned at least every three years. There comes a tipping point when if the buildings are left to get too dirty, they can never be redeemed. These buildings are valuable assets, and the beneficial owners require them to be kept in a good condition at all times. A bit of TLC with superheated water at 3,500 psi and some traffic film remover will bring a building back to looking like new. When you are doing the cleaning, it is also a good time to ensure that all the gutters and down pipes are clean and running freely. Furthermore, if the company’s name is displayed on the building, keeping the exterior clean communicates confidence and the advertisement will be there for all the world to see.
WLN – What kind of cleaning contracts do you offer?
We have recently developed our Energy Efficient Cooler (EECO) Cleaning Plan, in which we receive monthly payments to cover two cleans per year and an immediate response for any interim call outs necessary at no further charge.
WLN – What kind of cleaning would an interim call out involve?
An interim call out is likely to cover any situation where the coolers were not functioning correctly because of a build up of grime or ice. Some sites can be a lot dirtier than others because of their location and the local environment.
WLN – Do you charge for quotations?
No, we provide our quotations completely free, using digital pictures, and including a full method statement and risk assessment.
WLN – How quickly can you come and carry out a clean for a new client?
The usual lead-time is two weeks, however we can manage an immediate service in the event of an emergency.
WLN – Can you tell us about some of your customers and the work you do for them?
We have ongoing contracts with Tesco, Morrison’s and 3663, and regularly work for all the main players in the food distribution industry. We currently provide five-year annual programmes of deep cleaning combined with cooler cleaning for Morrison’s, and deliver a similar service for Tesco on an annual basis.
WLN – Do you publish customer case studies?
Yes – see opposite page
WLN – Do you see factoring environmental considerations becoming even more important in planning cleaning contracts?
Yes, we do, very much so. UK industry takes being ‘green’ increasingly seriously, and the grocery retailers are leading the way. As a company one of our goals is to reduce our water usage by 75% and for our commitment to water recycling to become one of our USPs. We are also looking at reducing our energy use in the cleaning process and at running our machines on bio fuels. Because of our work in the US we have become very interested in the use of photovoltaic panels upon the large roof areas that we regularly clean. We are presently carrying out feasibility studies, not only concerning best practice for keeping these panels clean and improving efficiency, but also our options for providing a service that will include the setting up of energy producing facilities that will reduce substantially the carbon footprint of chilled and frozen distribution centres.
WLN – Are you members of any industry associations?
We are members of the Food Storage & Distribution Federation and the British Frozen Food Federation.
WLN – Are you involved in working to develop industry best practice?
Yes, we are constantly liaising with both bodies to provide hygiene answers for their members. We are also members of the Safe Contractors scheme as we are justifiably proud of our outstanding healthy and safety record.
WLN – What effect, if any, has the recent economic climate had on demand for your services?
Because the food industry aspires to the best hygiene procedures possible it is always very high on their budget proposals, and thus we have been insulated from the worst effects of the economic downturn, however we have had to work hard to prove efficiencies commensurate with the reductions in our pricing.
WLN – Finally, where do you see Distribution Hygiene Services going from here?
Over the years we have managed to capture a key part of this niche industry. Our year on year growth has increased by 12.5% and we trust that by maintaining our standards and keeping our prices competitive we will continue to provide these services to all our clients in the future.
Distribution Hygiene Services Ltd
Tel: 01763 287267