Tips to Deal With Growing Demand for Sinks and Sanitizer Stands

The coronavirus response may permanently change your customers’ ordering habits. You need a game plan.

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Question: We are relatively new in the industry and have only seriously entered the hand-wash market as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We have been purchasing sinks and hand sanitizer stands based on availability, not on a business plan. As conditions have stabilized in our area in terms of demand, what guidance would you suggest in this area of our business?

Answer: No one was totally prepared for the coronavirus pandemic and the crucial demand for hand-wash stations. As this element of our industry is now a necessity, there are several issues to be considered by most PROs. We suggest your company consider the following:

1.  Equipment types and supplies

2.  Increased demand for water

3.  Customer communication 

Equipment Types and Supplies – Evaluate the equipment in your current inventory to meet the demand for hand-washing. The primary equipment types are:

Stand-alone plastic sinks

Plastic sinks inside standard portable restrooms

Stand-alone hand sanitizer stations

Hand sanitizer dispensers inside portable restrooms

Metal hot and cold stand-alone sinks with wiring and plumbing

Trailers with multiple plastic or metal sinks

Excluding hand sanitizers mounted inside of units for the time being, after the hand-wash equipment inventory is complete, evaluate the results. Anticipate future demand for this equipment. Based on budgetary requirements and considering manufacturer backlogs on various equipment types, should you proactively place an order for new hand-wash equipment? Can any of the excess inventory currently in the yard be marketed to existing customers who merely have hand sanitizers inside of their portable restrooms?

As far as hand sanitizer dispensers are concerned, will these be standard equipment in all your rental units? Based on increased demand by the general population, a large inventory of hand sanitizer refill bags is strongly suggested. These refill bags will be needed for portable restroom units, as well as the stand-alone hand sanitizer stations.

With stand-alone sinks, you have the option of a dispenser of foaming soap or a compartment where liquid soap is stored for dispensing through a hand pump. Sinks installed inside portable restrooms require soap dispensers as well. Yet another budgetary- and market-driven consideration: Will sinks inside your units become standard equipment throughout your company or perhaps in just event units? Based on your equipment types and decisions, a sizeable inventory of the appropriate refills is required. Also, be mindful of your paper towel inventory.

Metal hot and cold stand-alone sink stations and sink trailers — while currently not as common — are generally used in the special event market. This equipment also has supply and power requirements that should be inspected and monitored.     

A general suggestion is to establish minimum levels of all hand-wash supply items that, once reached, requires immediate restocking. Until demand somewhat subsides, we recommend having larger quantities on hand.

Increased Demand for Water – Stand-alone hand-wash sink stations, as well as sinks inside portable restroom units, require additional water. These requirements should be considered when creating and maintaining service routes. If the volume of extra water is too great and could exceed the capacity of the route service truck, consider running a special route that primarily services stand-alone sinks and equipment that requires water. If present trends continue, you may want to consider having extra water capacity and less waste capacity in your next new truck. We spoke to one PRO who just ordered 100 gallons more water and 100 gallons less waste on their new 1,200-gallon tank truck.     

Customer Communication – This has always been important in our industry and never more than today. Since the concept of public hand-washing is relatively new to some customers, it is vital they be properly informed.

Among the items to mutually decide upon with your customer:

Extra supplies – Do you provide extra paper towels and include this in the rental price, or do you supply when the customer calls? Do you replenish immediately and make a special trip when the customer calls? Do you replenish within a certain time frame, thus giving you the opportunity to plan and schedule the delivery?

Handicapped accessibility – Certain pieces of equipment are not handicapped accessible as currently manufactured, and this needs to be conveyed to the customer as soon as possible. Stand-alone sinks, for example, require a foot pump to dispense the water, and the height of these units are higher than ADA requirements. Modifications can possibly be made to the sink or perhaps a stand-alone hand sanitizer stand — adjusted to the lower ADA height requirements. If the customer is renting an ADA portable restroom, generally used in the special event marketplace, what are the options if hand-washing is required? This may be another instance where wall-mounted hand sanitizer dispensers could be a standard feature in all your units.

Winter weather – This is extremely important in dealing with customers who have never rented hand-wash equipment until the coronavirus hit. Using stand-alone sinks in freezing temperatures is a major topic of discussion, and this should be addressed well in advance of winter. The sinks can possibly be moved into an inside space, but this area must remain accessible to the route service vehicle. Another option would be to replace the sink rental with a stand-alone hand sanitizer dispensing station. If the sink is located inside the portable restroom, this may help to some extent. Also  consider a unit heater that may assist in somewhat colder temperatures. Regardless of the type of hand-wash equipment, be proactive and have this discussion with your customer.

Number of stand-alone sink stations required on a job site or at an event – The answer is dependent on many issues, and communication with the equipment manufacturer is key. With tank sizes of 16 to 45 gallons, from a single sink to several on a trailer, this varies widely depending on the equipment used. As an example, a standard 16-gallon sink will dispense 2 ounces of water per foot pump. Assuming most people use approximately 8 ounces of water to wash their hands, four pumps are needed. The math shows roughly 250 uses are available until the sink is empty. If each person uses a sink after they use a portable restroom, four units would be needed to accommodate 250 uses. However, what if there are hand sanitizer dispensers inside each portable restroom? What if there are larger sinks on site? Again, the answer is to consult your manufacturer and diligently record experiences for use in future situations.         

FINAL THOUGHTS:

The coronavirus pandemic has changed our society. The need for proper hand-wash hygiene has brought hand-wash stations to the forefront in our industry. It is extremely important that as PROs, we are educated and up to date about the available equipment and that we accurately and proactively share this information with our customers.   



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