Flush with Success – Grinnell Magazine

This article originally appeared on Page 6 of the Spring 2006 Grinnell Magazine.

Les Ollinger is proud of his inventions that “just make life simpler.”

Les Ollinger is proud of his inventions that “just make life simpler.”

Les Ollinger is a thinker.

He thinks up ways to make life simpler. Ollinger is the associate director of facilities management, and he focuses on the areas of procurement, operations, and custodial work.

Ollinger has made life easier for College custodians with his patented invention, the Dry Flush. With one or two pumps of the handle, this lightweight device empties the toilet bowl of water so the cleaning agents work better.

Ollinger demonstrated the “old way,” using a short-handled mop to push the water down the pipe. He had to bend over and reach down into the toilet. The Dry Flush eliminates all that with just one or two pumps of the handle. “I didn’t have to lean down,” Ollinger says, demonstrating as he speaks. “I don’t have my head in the toilet.”

It’s all good.

Ollinger developed the Dry Flush on his own time after he saw the need. He helps out during emergencies and analyzes job tasks, so he knows firsthand about the work custodians do. The Dry Flush is just part of his mission to make the work faster and easier. “It’s all to give the custodian the opportunity to be more productive,” he says.

Ollinger doesn’t work alone – he depends on the custodians themselves for ideas and feedback.”We gave it to our people to try it out and evaluate it,” he explains. “It took about a year to get [the Dry Flush] where it’s at now.”

But Ollinger’s thinking doesn’t stop there:

  • The Super Vac (or Super Suck, as it’s been nicknamed) – Ollinger developed a vacuum cleaner on a cart that’s small enough to fit through doorways. The cart also accommodates everything a janitor needs – mop, trash can, cleaning supplies, etc. “That’s the key” Ollinger explains. “You’ve got to have everything right there. You want to multi-task.” And it’s easier for the custodians to operate.
  • An ergonomic doorstop- “They asked for this one.”  This lightweight telescoping aluminum doorstop is simpler to use than the traditional doorstop. “They don’t have to bend over,” he explains.”And it doesn’t damage the door.” Ollinger handed out prototypes to the custodial staff to try, and got proof of how well they worked. “They didn’t want to give them back!”
  • Changing light bulbs can be a tedious job. Ollinger developed a device that allows the electrician or custodian to climb up the ladder just once to change as many as four light bulbs. “That’s the beauty of it,” he explains.”It saves time and it saves trips up and down the ladder.”

Ollinger seems to get a kick out of developing ways to help people in their daily lives. Where others see a dirty, tedious task, he sees an opportunity.

“I guess I just look at things differently than other people.”

The Dry Flush is currently being marketed by American Ingenuity. For more information about the Dry Flush, visit <www.dryflushpump.com>.

[Update: Since the publication of this article, the marketing firm and website have changed.  You can now find the dryflush at ikcorp1.com.]

Photo by Jim Heemstra

Reprinted with permission from The Grinnell Magazine Spring 2006.