Thomas Caruso Is Bringing The Clean Facility Approach To Manufactures Across The Americas

I sat down with Thomas Caruso, who is the commercial director of controlled environments in the Americas for Vileda Professional, a brand of Freudenberg, to talk about The Clean Facility Approach and the innovations they are bringing to manufacturers in the Americas.

BIM: I appreciate you spending time with our readers today. Tell us about Vileda Professional. Who is your company?

THOMAS: Vileda Professional is a leading global manufacturer of innovative cleaning systems, specifically for healthcare, controlled environments, general building cleaning and specialty markets. And Vileda is a brand of Freudenberg. Freudenberg is a company that is 165 years old. They were founded in 1849 in Germany. Globally the broad variety of business including seals and vibration control, non-wovens, chemical specialties and home cleaning solutions. Vileda is actually part of the whole cleaning solution business. Freudenberg generated more than $10,000,000 in sales in the prior year, had 43,000 associates in 52 different countries throughout the world.

BIM: That’s a lot of business and a lot of impact in the industry. So tell us about the types of customers you’re helping with your products at Vileda?

THOMAS: The customer base that we support is the controlled environment business within Vileda. Our customers are manufacturing a product that typically goes in and on of the human body but the product where bacteria and/or particulates can cause a problem in the manufacturing of the product. And our company manufactures systems which include microfiber technology which remove contaminants, including bacteria and particulates from surfaces, which is important. But even more important is that we sell the customer a system which lowers their overall chemical usage, ultimately providing an improved level of cleanliness. In addition, we focus on ergonomically sound products which are durable, lighter and easier to use than competitive systems. We design complete training programs specifically for their facilities, a holistic approach. We provide the full analysis of how we would lower their entire cost and use. So their total cost goes down.

BIM: That sounds like a pretty robust and complete system and cost savings you give to your customers and end users. What got you in this field? How did you get you started in this business?

THOMAS: I spent the last 23 years in the contamination control industry and in different consultative roles and selling products for contamination control. What I’ve learned in those years is that customers are very standoffish to total cleaning concepts. Primarily because they want a quick answer. They want, in a lot of cases, something that’s cheaper or something that is touted to be the next best thing that removes stuff and they typically go with it. And that’s the challenge because customers are only recently starting to look holistically. And it really has to be those folks who are looking for a solution; the engineers, the quality folks and microbiology managers, where they can look at this holistically and say, “Hey, what I need is a system. What I need is a total cleaning system that can bring my particulates and bacteria down and ultimately my cost.” I’ve been now with Vileda for the past ten years and what made me get into this and really attracted me to Vileda is that they manufacture innovative cleaning systems, things that aren’t typically seen in the States. The cleaning system that has been introduced in the States were derived from European leading cleaning systems and we’re taking those systems, which are extremely lightweight to remove bacteria particulate, which are very smart in the way they wring within different types of wringers and things like that. They’re very smart in the way that they apply disinfectant. And we’ve taken those things and we’ve now made them compatible with controlled environments and clean rooms. And so end users are now looking at complete solutions to their contamination needs. I thought Vileda Professional was the place for me to be because of their innovative approach in cleaning, but also their total system and total cost down approach that offers the customer a complete opportunity to bring a solution into their facility to solve their biggest challenge. And their biggest challenge is how do we control our bacteria and particulates. How do we get the contamination levels down.

BIM: That’s fascinating. So what would you say is one of the biggest myths or misconceptions that your end users face?

THOMAS: The end users in our market really are people who are manufacturing in controlled environments. So people like pharmaceuticals, or biopharma, or even medical device, customers that are manufacturing solutions, again that go in or on the human body, typically. These customers are really focused on the clean room or the controlled room and they’re looking for what’s out there in the clean room mop or a clean room tool. And one of the biggest challenges is that the distribution base that manufactures in this space then go out, sell them that tool or that product. And the customers need to open up their minds for systems and complete contamination control. And looking outside of that core cleaning room is really important into the clean facility, which is where Vileda now in the Americas is focusing their time – is full contamination control in the whole facility rather than in just that controlled space.

BIM: And you’re calling that the clean facility approach.

THOMAS: Yes. The clean facility approach is a concept but it’s also the future of the way an end user looking at controlling their contamination in their facility. They’re asking the question, where is the contamination coming from that’s getting into the core areas where the products are being manufactured? In most cases, it’s coming in from human interaction and yes, when they get into the gowning area they are putting on the protective gowning to protect the stuff that may come off the body onto the product, or even, that protective garment to protect the product is actually put on their bodies also to protect themselves from the product. That’s also a fact.
But the bottom line is, humans are bringing in a big amount of that contamination that’s in the actual core cleaning room itself. And the clean facility looks at all the key areas where the personnel who are inside their core cleaning room may be coming from. Places like the QA area or the laboratory, production area, the processing or packaging area. Potentially even the warehouse. And obviously the gowning area where they get set up before they go in. And the clean facility approach now takes a look at the whole facility and says, “Hey, now let’s reduce the contamination in all of these areas so by the time you get into that core cleaning room, the amount of risk is reduced dramatically.”

BIM: So you have an entire holistic approach looking at the whole facility, not just the clean room, which has been the main focus of manufacturers for a long time. I can tell you’re very passionate about what you do. So what drives you? What gives you that passion to get up in the morning and help the end users and the distributors that you’re working with?

THOMAS: For myself, this has been a career. I’ve been doing this for 23 years. I’m personally excited for the challenge to bring solutions to the marketplace. I’m excited about the team that I have, who are professionals in contamination control. We have a representation throughout the Americas. I’m excited about the technical department that we have and the marketing folks and customer service. And I’m also excited about Vileda Professional’s commitment to innovation. Our innovation pipeline in the controlled environment space in extremely healthy, with new products being introduced every single year and a pipeline that is healthy for the next five years. And with that in mind, with people and product and happy customers, it allows me to get up easily in the morning with a smile on my face.

BIM: What would be your best advice to an end user manufacturer who’s considering this whole clean facility approach?

THOMAS: The best advice really is to sit down with one of our sales managers and best understand how Vileda Professional and their systems can help bring the customer to their goals, which are typically to control contamination. But also to keep complete open mind that we can’t look at product and price in the marketplace. We need to look at solution-based approach. And what I mean by this is: let’s look at all the areas of potential contamination within the facility. So let’s look at any potential area that can bring in the most amount, or the gross amount of stuff all the way into that core cleaning room, and allow us to show you how we can get the gross contaminants all the way to the fine contaminants and help you can control that. So let’s not just look at a mop or a wipe for a solution. Let’s look at the total system in removing the spills that are on the floor, cleaning the floor, sanitizing the floor, cleaning the surfaces themselves, with wipes and sponges and things of that nature.

BIM: That’s great advice. So if the end users would like to find out more about your company, your product, your clean facility approach as well as contact you and possibly even set up a facility visit, how do they go about doing that?

THOMAS: We can do this at our website at Or they can call 630-270-1437 and let Gina know that they’d like a site visit or a phone call, or call 1-800-838-0151 extension 1437 and do the same.

BIM: Thank you, Tom. You really have given us a lot of golden nuggets for our readers.