Rumour has it …

Jan Raycroft visits Ecolab to see what’s really happening at their Northwich plant and Innovation Centre in Cheshire

Our industry loves a good gossip, not that we’re alone in that.

Even if we wanted to lay claim to being the best industrial soap opera, or the one which must come clean after producing a lot of hot air, our efforts would still look puny when measured against gossip giants ranging from ‘The Arts’ to the mainstream media, let alone what happens online.

Bob Morrish, Ecolab’s director of corporate accounts and sales manager for UK and Ireland

Every now and again a rumour starts in the world of laundry and cleaning but other than the occasional acquisition – and mostly hints of new products or processes ‘which will revolutionise the industry’ in the pipeline – on we go, excelling at what we do best. Most of these ‘hint, hint, hint’ suggestions of potentially good news eventually come to fruition, while a few fizzle out.

However, some of the vaguest rumours about change in the offing are still enough to be eyebrow-raisers. No one knows – and that includes Bob Morrish, Ecolab’s director of corporate accounts and sales manager for UK and Ireland – where a recent one started that Ecolab might be planning to scale back its textile care division. Indeed, all the evidence points to the opposite of that, and during a visit to the extensive UK manufacturing and supply plant at Northwich in Cheshire by Laundry & Cleaning Today all the evidence pointed to the contrary.

There may not be the sense of urgency witnessed in 2020 when the site stepped up production to supply five million litres of hand sanitiser to the NHS supply chain by the end of that year as Ecolab increased production of the sanitiser across Europe by 700 per cent to meet demand. But this is clearly a busy place where they are working on new developments and turning out thousands of the products familiar in laundries up and down the land.

As visitors we may be mesmerised by complex robotic workers rapidly filling and closing spray bottles before they head along a conveyor belt to humans making sure they go in the right boxes for onward delivery.

However, Morrish drags us away from this engaging scene to talk about the future: “Ecolab textile care is here to stay and investing in the business,” he says. “There’s investment at the UK production site to produce a new range of emulsion detergents for the hospitality, industrial and healthcare markets.” We witness some of the R&D testing for the new emulsion detergents, but this is commercially sensitive info, so we’ll bring you more on that at the earliest opportunity – you’ll read it here first!

In any case, Morrish is able to distract us from the detergent ‘secrets’ by something attracting visitors from numerous industries – including ours – the Innovation Centre which opened at the Northwich site last year. It’s a bit like a modern version of the Science Museum, an extensive state-of-the art space with eye-catching displays where you are lured beyond the obvious laundry issues such as cleaning power, digital monitoring and operational efficiency to the likes of drain disinfection or even fryer cleaning.

During our visit it was hosting groups of visitors probably far keener to learn about Ecolab’s hygiene innovations in their own spheres – Ecolab now serves some 40 different industries – before joining training sessions which are clearly a two-way knowledge exchange. But there’s more than enough space and time for those from across the textile care industry. Morrish reveals: “Ecolab is keen to offer customer training programmes.

The first two-day course was completed in April with others planned for July and October this year. The topics covered during the training will include chemistry, stain identification and reject analysis, wash house operations, machine types, water, data management, operational improvements, and savings.” It’s a chance to find out more about Ecolab’s water and energy solutions for commercial laundries which not only reduce energy and water usage, but drive higher quality by filtering and removing lint, hair, sand and debris from water and fabrics.

The water and energy engineering team assist individual laundry operations to improve water reuse and energy recovery, which benefits both the environment and the laundry’s bottom line. One thing’s for sure. The Ecolab story, now stretching back over 100 years, is built on innovation and being ahead of the game, growing from a very small operation founded by Merritt J. Osborn in the USA as Economics Laboratory in the 1920s with just a couple of products, to the worldwide corporation today with some 1,200 scientists, engineers and technical specialists working alongside some 40,000 plus employees.

Visitors to the Innovation Centre can share knowledge and take part in valuable training

While the name change to Ecolab didn’t happen until 1986, a year before the business formed a textile care division to serve the larger commercial laundry customers, it’s worth noting that their sustainability drive began way back in the 1970s with the development of products like highly-concentrated detergents alongside a focus on recycling natural resources, reusing synthetic materials and reducing food waste. And that’s still the message today, with a just introduced new professional cleaning textiles made from 100 per cent recycled microfibre and cotton. ‘From Waste to Textile’ is the credo Ecolab’s development team focused on which led to the Rasant Planet series of flat mops and Polifix microclin microfibre cloths.

The new mops and cloths have been thoroughly and intensively tested at Ecolab’s research and development centre in Monheim, Germany and have passed over 500 (for the mops) and 1,000 (for the cloths) test wash cycles with top marks in shrinkage, water absorption capacity and sqm-performance. We mentioned being ahead of the game and having surpassed their environmental goals in the 2010s and set themselves new challenges, Ecolab has also been looking at other ways to create change for the company, communities, customers and the environment.

So far in this decade they’ve achieved a 50 per cent increase in female and BIPOC executives and 35 per cent of all new hires are people of colour. It’s regularly named as a best place to work for LGBTQ+ Equality and in May won the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Champion Award at the ETSA 30th Anniversary Congress meeting.

Judge Lisa Lang, director for EU Affairs and Policy Orchestrator for EIT Climate KIC and chairperson of the Cultural & Creative Taskforce for the United Nations Global Innovation Hub (UGIH) said: “The effort is going across all departments and is ongoing – a true ‘walk the talk’ achievement and exemplary for other companies to apply.” That probably sums up Ecolab’s response to ‘rumours’ – they’re far too busy ‘walking the walk’ to deal with rumours!

A place for everything and everything in its place: the hi-tech production centre at Northwich

Jan Raycroft visits Ecolab to see what’s really happening at their Northwich plant and Innovation Centre in Cheshire

Our industry loves a good gossip, not that we’re alone in that.

Even if we wanted to lay claim to being the best industrial soap opera, or the one which must come clean after producing a lot of hot air, our efforts would still look puny when measured against gossip giants ranging from ‘The Arts’ to the mainstream media, let alone what happens online.

Bob Morrish, Ecolab’s director of corporate accounts and sales manager for UK and Ireland

Every now and again a rumour starts in the world of laundry and cleaning but other than the occasional acquisition – and mostly hints of new products or processes ‘which will revolutionise the industry’ in the pipeline – on we go, excelling at what we do best. Most of these ‘hint, hint, hint’ suggestions of potentially good news eventually come to fruition, while a few fizzle out.

However, some of the vaguest rumours about change in the offing are still enough to be eyebrow-raisers. No one knows – and that includes Bob Morrish, Ecolab’s director of corporate accounts and sales manager for UK and Ireland – where a recent one started that Ecolab might be planning to scale back its textile care division. Indeed, all the evidence points to the opposite of that, and during a visit to the extensive UK manufacturing and supply plant at Northwich in Cheshire by Laundry & Cleaning Today all the evidence pointed to the contrary.

There may not be the sense of urgency witnessed in 2020 when the site stepped up production to supply five million litres of hand sanitiser to the NHS supply chain by the end of that year as Ecolab increased production of the sanitiser across Europe by 700 per cent to meet demand. But this is clearly a busy place where they are working on new developments and turning out thousands of the products familiar in laundries up and down the land.

As visitors we may be mesmerised by complex robotic workers rapidly filling and closing spray bottles before they head along a conveyor belt to humans making sure they go in the right boxes for onward delivery.

However, Morrish drags us away from this engaging scene to talk about the future: “Ecolab textile care is here to stay and investing in the business,” he says. “There’s investment at the UK production site to produce a new range of emulsion detergents for the hospitality, industrial and healthcare markets.” We witness some of the R&D testing for the new emulsion detergents, but this is commercially sensitive info, so we’ll bring you more on that at the earliest opportunity – you’ll read it here first!

In any case, Morrish is able to distract us from the detergent ‘secrets’ by something attracting visitors from numerous industries – including ours – the Innovation Centre which opened at the Northwich site last year. It’s a bit like a modern version of the Science Museum, an extensive state-of-the art space with eye-catching displays where you are lured beyond the obvious laundry issues such as cleaning power, digital monitoring and operational efficiency to the likes of drain disinfection or even fryer cleaning.

During our visit it was hosting groups of visitors probably far keener to learn about Ecolab’s hygiene innovations in their own spheres – Ecolab now serves some 40 different industries – before joining training sessions which are clearly a two-way knowledge exchange. But there’s more than enough space and time for those from across the textile care industry. Morrish reveals: “Ecolab is keen to offer customer training programmes.

The first two-day course was completed in April with others planned for July and October this year. The topics covered during the training will include chemistry, stain identification and reject analysis, wash house operations, machine types, water, data management, operational improvements, and savings.” It’s a chance to find out more about Ecolab’s water and energy solutions for commercial laundries which not only reduce energy and water usage, but drive higher quality by filtering and removing lint, hair, sand and debris from water and fabrics.

The water and energy engineering team assist individual laundry operations to improve water reuse and energy recovery, which benefits both the environment and the laundry’s bottom line. One thing’s for sure. The Ecolab story, now stretching back over 100 years, is built on innovation and being ahead of the game, growing from a very small operation founded by Merritt J. Osborn in the USA as Economics Laboratory in the 1920s with just a couple of products, to the worldwide corporation today with some 1,200 scientists, engineers and technical specialists working alongside some 40,000 plus employees.

Visitors to the Innovation Centre can share knowledge and take part in valuable training

While the name change to Ecolab didn’t happen until 1986, a year before the business formed a textile care division to serve the larger commercial laundry customers, it’s worth noting that their sustainability drive began way back in the 1970s with the development of products like highly-concentrated detergents alongside a focus on recycling natural resources, reusing synthetic materials and reducing food waste. And that’s still the message today, with a just introduced new professional cleaning textiles made from 100 per cent recycled microfibre and cotton. ‘From Waste to Textile’ is the credo Ecolab’s development team focused on which led to the Rasant Planet series of flat mops and Polifix microclin microfibre cloths.

The new mops and cloths have been thoroughly and intensively tested at Ecolab’s research and development centre in Monheim, Germany and have passed over 500 (for the mops) and 1,000 (for the cloths) test wash cycles with top marks in shrinkage, water absorption capacity and sqm-performance. We mentioned being ahead of the game and having surpassed their environmental goals in the 2010s and set themselves new challenges, Ecolab has also been looking at other ways to create change for the company, communities, customers and the environment.

So far in this decade they’ve achieved a 50 per cent increase in female and BIPOC executives and 35 per cent of all new hires are people of colour. It’s regularly named as a best place to work for LGBTQ+ Equality and in May won the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Champion Award at the ETSA 30th Anniversary Congress meeting.

Judge Lisa Lang, director for EU Affairs and Policy Orchestrator for EIT Climate KIC and chairperson of the Cultural & Creative Taskforce for the United Nations Global Innovation Hub (UGIH) said: “The effort is going across all departments and is ongoing – a true ‘walk the talk’ achievement and exemplary for other companies to apply.” That probably sums up Ecolab’s response to ‘rumours’ – they’re far too busy ‘walking the walk’ to deal with rumours!

A place for everything and everything in its place: the hi-tech production centre at Northwich

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