A new challenge awaits on every floor


There is virtually no other object that requires as much flexibility and vigour on the part of cleaning staff as a high-footfall shopping centre. Ruth Burri and her team of FARO Facility Services AG allowed us to accompany them for a full day of their cleaning tour at the Concept Centre Welle7 at the edge of Bern’s central train station. Our report highlights one fact in particular: Situational cleaning is definitely a discipline for professionals.

Working strictly by the book? That is definitely not an option for Ruth Burri and her team. “More often than not, our plan for the day has fallen by the wayside before the first coffee break”, says the object team leader. Exactly that is why Ruth Burri enjoys working on this particular cleaning object: No two days are the same. She is employed by the facility services provider FARO AG. FARO has been in charge of cleaning this particular object ever since the official opening of Welle7 in 2016. The very modern shopping centre includes 14,000 square metres of shops, food outlets and restaurants, meeting rooms that can be booked on per day basis, as well as an adult education centre (Migros Klubschule), which offers courses on nutrition, fitness, languages and more – all of these are spread across 8 floors. Ruth Burri and her 32-strong team of cleaning professionals are working from 6 am to 11 pm each day to ensure that all visitors enjoy their stay at the centre. The cleaning team completes all the traditional tasks like ensuring the cleanliness of floors, surfaces, seating and public toilets. Their responsibilities, however, don’t end there: They are also in charge of the cleaning and dish-washing services of most of the centre’s food outlets and restaurants, make sure that the business facilities look immaculate and take care of the clean-up after cookery classes at Migros Klubschule. Their main job, however, may sound surprising: They are troubleshooters.

Of coffee afternoons and mixer mishaps
While Ruth Burri tells us about her various responsibilities in the seating area at the food court, a group of customers is finishing their lunch break at a neighbouring table. The table is left with numerous coffee stains and ketchup smears. A member of the cleaning staff comes over immediately to collect the dirty dishes and wipe the table clean with a microfibre cloth. It is Ana Palizas Romero – one of Ruth Burri’s crew. Unlike cleaning staff at other objects, she wears black slacks, dark shoes and a blue shirt with a small FARO logo. “Looks are important at a centre like this one. Since we do our cleaning during regular business hours, our cleaning staff wears outfits that are quite similar to those worn by the in-house maintenance crew of the centre operators Genossenschaft Migros Aare”, explains Ruth Burri. Her phone rings. It is one of the course instructors of Klubschule: One of the participants of her cooking class forgot to screw on the lid of the blender before pressing the button. The contents are spread across the entire room. Ruth Burri immediately calls over one of her cleaning crew and instructs her to take care of the mishap on Deck 4 (the floors at the centre are referred to as ‘Decks’).

Around 2000 public toilet users per day
Meanwhile, Inmaculada Rodriguez, another member of the cleaning crew, is doing her hourly check of the public toilet facilities two floors below us. These are frequented by around 2000 users each day. The cleaning professional zeroes in on splash residue on some toilet seats and smears in the area of the hand basins. She comes well equipped: a microfibre cloth and a bottle with pre-mixed cleaning foam (Wetrok Caledor) is all she needs – a few seconds later, the area is left gleaming once again.

The foam bottle promotes economical use of chemicals and water, as the multiple-spray reflex is significantly reduced in comparison with traditional spray bottles. The “damp wiping with foam” method is a good procedure for cleaning staff as well: No breathable spray particles are released into the air. There is no need to carry around water buckets or to wring out cleaning cloths either, eliminating unnecessary strain on the wrists. The woman leaves the public toilets and takes the escalator up to the next floor. Her gaze locks on the rubber handrail of the escalator. The black rail and the glass area below show traces of greasy residue – probably left behind by kids, who had not washed their hands after they had eaten. She springs into action right away: She gets out the microfibre cloth and the cleaning solution to get rid of the problem. Being alert to the environment and a trained eye for details are essential for her work – especially during the lunch hour, when the centre is particularly busy.

The business facilities at the centre are cleaned on an ‘as needed’ basis
Another member of the cleaning crew, Andrea Rossi, is stationed on Deck 7. The centre offers a business area on that floor, consisting of various meeting and seminar rooms. “The business facilities can be booked online at any time, which means partial cleaning and periodic checks are needed several times a day”. Ruth Burri elaborates on the various challenges of the multiple hand-over cleaning passes required in the business section. Customers tend to leave coffee stains on the carpeting from time to time. Today, Andrea Rossi is in charge of making sure that each room is left impeccable after each use – after all: the next business client could be arriving in the next half hour.

Turning circle and lift suitability are important selection criteria for cleaning machinery
Evening has come. While the centre is now closing down for the night, the most work-intensive time of the day is now starting for Ruth Burri and her crew. The doors of the centre have barely closed after the last visitor, when Ana Palizas Romero makes her way quickly to the main cleaning room in the basement. Moments later, she can be seen leaving the lift on a ride-on scrubber-drier. A breeze for Drivematic Delight: The machine is so compact that it fits into the smallest lift.

She navigates the narrow stairwell like a pro – the small turning circle of the machine makes that an easy task – and begins cleaning the floor of the food court.

When there are no more crumbs and stains left, she takes the machine in the lift up to the business section on upper floors. The bamboo wood flooring in the hall also gets cleaned with the scrubber-dryer.

Her cleaning colleague Andrea Rossi works meanwhile on the glass areas and windows in the meeting rooms. They must be clean for the next day’s round of business people, so they too can enjoy the beautiful panoramic views of Bern’s mountain region.

The work day for the team finishes at 11 pm. Ruth Burri checks the work schedule for the next day. There will – no doubt – be the usual set of surprises upsetting her plans. However, she knows as a fact that her cleaning crew will overcome all obstacles with excellent response times and unrivalled problem-solving competence.

Short interview with Ruth Burri, Regional Manager and Property Coordinator Welle7 at FARO AG

“The one constant in our daily routine is that we need to be able to respond to unforeseen circumstances”

What are the challenges in cleaning a shopping centre?
Challenge number one is the high visitor numbers. And the irregularities in terms of numbers: The highest footfall is always around lunch time – after that, numbers dwindle rapidly. The trick is to make sure that visitors are presented with a pristine centre at all times – without people being actually aware of the work going on. Flexibility in terms of the cleaning schedule, ‘as needed’ cleaning passes, keeping distances as short as possible and decentralised cleaning facilities on each ‘Deck’ make that possible. Since we do our cleaning during regular business hours, we have to keep various aspects in mind in terms of the choice of cleaning materials: The cleaning carts must be lockable to protect passers-by from contact with cleaning chemicals. When purchasing scrubber-dryers, we look for compact dimensions – when we work in a building with several floors, the machine must fit into the lift. The fact that Welle7 is a business centre as well as a shopping centre is an additional challenge. Business and seminar rooms are on the upper ‘Decks’ or floors – and these can be booked from one hour to the next. That means we need to be extra flexible: Any coffee stains left on the carpeting after a business meeting must be removed straight away. Similar “emergencies” can also happen at the adult education centre in permanently rented facilities at the centre: Among the courses on offer there is a cooking course. Our services are needed if – for example – a glass bowl falls and shatters into a thousand pieces.

Does the cleaning of a shopping centre pose special challenges for the cleaning crew?
Most definitely! The relationship between us and our client Welle7 is one of absolute trust. The decision of what to clean when is completely left to us. The members of my cleaning crew must all be self-starters, take responsibility and be able to respond quickly to changing situations. Some cleaning personnel would likely find it easier to simply work off a set cleaning schedule. However, here at Welle7, we expect our staff to move around the property with their eyes wide open and to work proactively. In return, my staff enjoys a lot of freedom and each member of my crew appreciates their autonomy at work. The one constant in our daily routine is that we need to be able to respond to unforeseen circumstances.

Are there seasonal differences that affect cleaning?
Yes, there are. In winter, the degree of soiling inside the centre increases, as people carry in leaves or salt residue on the soles of their feet, while a lot more work has to be done outside the centre in summer. That is when overflowing rubbish bins and left over food need a lot more attention. The summer holidays give us some much-needed respite and time to do our basic cleaning.