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VOL. 127 | NO. 65 | Tuesday, April 03, 2012

ServiceMaster Clean Granted Dust Removal Patent

By Bill Dries

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For 30 years, Tony Loftis had been thinking about how to improve the process for cleaning offices, other commercial spaces and homes.

One of the dilemmas was how to do more than unsettle dust and disperse it only to have it settle somewhere else. The basic task has changed with dusters that the dust clings to.

Three decades later, Loftis, director of system development for ServiceMaster Clean, has come up with what is the next step.

He was recently granted a patent for ServiceMaster Clean “Capture and Removal” technology, which involves a “dust wand.”

“Instead of moving the dust around like we would with a big, wooly duster or a feather duster, we are actually sucking that dust up and taking it out of the building, which leaves a cleaner environment for the building occupant,” Loftis said. “There’s less dust to move around the next day.”

The process extends to how the dust is disposed.

The other change in technology recently has been microfibers, which have replaced the old, cotton cloths used in home and office cleaning.

But Loftis has also moved to change the cleaning regimen or process to get the most out of such changes in materials in the last 8 to 10 years. That process, as well as the technology, is used by franchisees of the commercial- and home-service company, one of several businesses under the Memphis-based The ServiceMaster Co umbrella.

“The industry has changed,” Loftis said. “But what we’ve done traditionally is adapt these new tools and equipment into an old, antiquated system, and we don’t get the efficiencies from them that we should.”

With that in mind, “capture and removal” includes the patented dust wand. But it also includes more efficient vacuum cleaners that more quickly cover a larger area.

“The sum total is we get out of the building quicker, so we are able to turn the lights out sooner than we ordinarily would be able to,” he said.

“We took a very efficient system we had and decided we wanted to address some outstanding issues. The actual cleaning solutions we use are shipped highly concentrated, which means there is less money spent on freight. We dilute them on sight with special metering devices that are built into the system.”

The system lends itself more to commercial environments, although ServiceMaster Clean also works in homes. Office environments tend to have more common features for cleaning services.

Franchisees were using the technology and techniques even before the patent was granted. Loftis was in Chicago last week to talk with franchisees about it and found that the majority of those in the room were already using capture and removal.

Loftis is still looking for new techniques and new technology. One area is microfibers as a potential power source.

“We’re looking at robotics. I’m looking at some research that harnesses the power of wearing a microfiber shirt and powering a vacuum cleaner,” he said. “It’s almost like space-age technology now in the janitor’s closet. It’s a fun place to be right now.”

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