Animated paper towel dispenser on wall

Thanks to their close working partnerships, jan/san distributors know that building service contractors and cleaning department managers must contend with all manner of expectations from building owners. 

Among the most pressing is the need to do more with less, delivering an exceptional tenant and visitor experience despite ever-tightening facility budgets. Along with other measures, meeting this requirement involves improving operational efficiencies, reducing waste and the unnecessary consumption of resources. A good place to begin the effort is the building’s restrooms, homing in on the paper towel waste typically associated with conventional dispensers.

It may surprise that this aspect of operations can prove costly to facilities, but the impact can be “significant,” says David Mowbray, marketing and sales leader, Smart Solutions, for Roswell, Georgia-based Kimberly-Clark Professional. Consider the issue of “stub rolls,” rolls only partially used but are nevertheless discarded and replaced with new rolls at the end of the day by the custodial staff.

“Wasted paper towels can be a significant cost for a facility,” says Mowbray. “[But] I don’t think most facility managers are aware of the specific implications to their budget. If a partially used roll has 15 percent of the total towel remaining on it and it’s thrown away, that is a 15 percent increase in cost for the facility.”

To avoid stub rolls, many facilities use folded towels. But these, too, can be problematic. 

“The easy accessibility of folded towels makes them readily available to grab by the handful,” says Sylvain Martin, product manager, Cascades PRO, Candiac, Quebec, Canada. “This often creates large amounts of waste and increases maintenance and supply costs for facilities.”

There’s also the issue of folded towels falling from dispensers. Mowbray says this can happen when there is sizing incompatibility between the dispenser and the paper towels used by the facility, causing towels to fall to the floor or counter when a guest takes one. Improperly loaded towels are another problem.

“If a dispenser is overloaded, towels will often tear, creating confetti on the floor,” says Mowbray. “This creates extra work for the custodial staff, can lead to increased costs and to a poor user experience.”

And user experience matters, says Claude Corcos, commercial segment marketing director for Essity, Philadelphia. Messy or poorly stocked restrooms can impact the facility’s reputation whether the guest returns or not, he says.

“For high-traffic facilities that serve food, such as stadiums, this negative impression can impact purchasing decisions,” says Corcos. “For example, guests might be less likely to purchase food or beverages to avoid the restroom because of a prior bad experience.”

Labor inefficiency is another form of waste associated with conventional paper towel dispensers, says Julie Howard, vice president and general manager for the towel category of GP PRO in Atlanta.

“This is often overlooked when thinking of towel dispensers,” she says. “A significant amount of custodial time is wasted checking product levels in towel, tissue and soap dispensers. [And] while it can be easy to track towel purchases, the labor costs of frequent — and often unnecessary — checking and refilling of dispensers aren’t easy to quantify, nor is the impact of a negative users experience due to jammed or empty dispensers. The intangible costs of dissatisfied patrons or tenants who cannot dry their hands could be the highest costs of inefficient bathroom systems.”

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