Optimize Your Cleaning Operations

For utilities with in-house cleaning crews, training may be the missing ingredient.

Optimize Your Cleaning Operations

Proper training is the key to an efficient and effective cleaning operation. It starts with thorough knowledge of the equipment and how it functions.

Efficiency is often the bane of in-house municipal cleaning operations, but for those utilities seeking optimization among their cleaning crews, good news is here in the form of operator training.

One of the most comprehensive cleaner training programs out there is offered by Nezat Training and Consulting. Rusty Nezat, an industry veteran who has been training cleaners for 25 years, combined his years of field experience with research and testing to create a customizable training experience.

The core of his training is a video-based classroom learning experience. But the ideal scenario involves hands-on follow-up in the field, when Nezat often takes the city’s crews out to clean a pipe they had previously thought would require a contractor.

“When we negotiate the proposal, I always ask them about those pipes out there that they’re going to put out for bid,” Nezat says. “The contractor is probably going to charge it X number of dollars. I say, ‘What if we clean it with your people?’”

It’s all based on a proprietary step-cleaning matrix that Nezat developed using a mock above-ground sewer system opened up on the top to give a clear view of what is going on in the pipe. They study different cleaning techniques, and trainees get a real-time view of what’s happening during cleaning — the cornerstone of his program.

“I tell them what they’re going to see, and then I show them. And then we discuss what they’ve seen,” Nezat says. “The feedback is just always very encouraging because they always say, ‘No one ever showed me what you showed me today. Now I know why I couldn’t clean that 18- or that 24-inch pipe. It makes sense to me now.’”

Getting started

“Over the years, we’ve kind of morphed into doing evaluations, first of all. So what I’ll do is I’ll go into a city, and I’ll spend one day with each crew in the field, and I’ll run that truck with the crew.”

Part of the evaluation is a top-level review of the operation: going over planning and control as well as maintenance records to quantify ongoing downtime.

During the evaluation, Nezat often finds issues with the trucks and equipment, which not only hampers the city’s productivity, but can be unsafe — and many times they aren’t even aware of the problem. The first order of business is for the utility to get their equipment fixed and operating at peak.

“We want to see if it’s either an equipment issue or a component issue on the truck, or if it’s just the operators not operating the truck properly or maybe the operators not maintaining the truck properly,” Nezat says. “We incorporate that into our training program.

“So then we give them the report; ask them to fix the trucks; and say, ‘When you get your trucks fixed, we’ll come back and we’ll do the classroom training.’ So now it gives us time to customize our training programs to meet the needs we saw in the field.”

Based on need

Each training experience is tailored as much as possible; every utility has different pitfalls and problems to deal with.

“Some of the basics in our training program never change, like step cleaning, but we address all the other issues — the myriad of issues that we see when we go out in the field with them — and we address those things if it pertains to the productivity of their sewer group,” Nezat says.

In an ideal scenario, the training takes several days: during evaluation, one day per crew with an extra day to meet with supervisors and look through records; one day of classroom training, assuming all crews can be brought in at once; and the optional follow-up field training, which can be anywhere from one to three days in the field per crew.

“At the end of the training program, we try to go out and spend at least one or two days in the field again with each crew. And what I tell the city is, ‘Give me the worst pipe you’ve got out there, the pipe you were going to give to a contractor to clean because your guys couldn’t clean it.’ And I’ll take their people out there, and we’ll clean those pipes.”

This equates to cost savings for the utility, and despite the cost of multiple days’ training, Nezat says follow-up is important and can bring savings in the long run.

“If you don’t reinforce what we talked about in the classroom, people have a hard time making changes,” Nezat says. “Once you take them out there and they see how easy it is and how much more productive they can be if they do it a different way, then they’re more adept to make that change and continue to make the change. So that’s our training in a nutshell right there.”

All utilities welcome

According to Nezat’s research, the average city only spends the equivalent of 43 to 60 minutes per day on cleaning efforts — not enough to keep the system at its most efficient.

“We’re always trying to bump that up, and typically we can double their daily production rates through the training program,” Nezat says.

The average cost per day is approximately $1,500, but Nezat is careful not to put a set price on his services. Due to the custom nature of his business, prices vary, and he likes to give discounts to smaller utilities that may have a hard time affording the daily rate, or those under consent decree that are in greater need.

As training opportunities like this prove, even small municipalities have the potential to clean any pipe in their system; it’s just a matter of knowing how.


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