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Innovation -what’s new?


David Johnson, MD of MITIE's Environmental + business, explores the issue of innovation in the cleaning industry. It doesn’t always have to involve huge cash investment - sometimes just talking to your clients will pay dividends.


My trusty Chambers dic- tionary defines the verb ‘to innovate’ as the ‘act of in- troducing something new’. However, if we apply that definition to the complex world of contract cleaning we see that this isn’t quite the total story, is it? As a society, we tend to think of innovations in terms of product launches such as the iPad or a technological or scientific paradigmshift that changes everything, like themassmarket of an- tibiotics.We think of these innovations as things that cost billions to develop and employ armies of techies. But coming back to our world, consider that ‘inno- vation’ is in the eye of the beholder, ie the client.We sometimes find with new clients that something we have used on client sites for many years and which we consider to be ‘old hat’ is brand new to them, so that’s an innovation too.


Necessity is themother of invention


So, right fromthe start there’s a lesson there for all of us. You don’t have to be a major-league player in the cleaning industry to inno-


vate. It all starts with how good your sales teamis at developing relationships with prospective or new clients, being able to ask the right questions. There are so many occasions whenmy sales teams have won a con- tract just by keeping their eyes open and by listening to clients. If they don’t have XYZ but you can supply it, then you’d be foolish not to offer it. You will be aware of the constant pressure from clients for something new and better - that’s a healthy sign that clients take their premises seriously and want cost savings on top (after all, who hasmoney to burn these days?).


Using the KanoModel for innovations


Take a look at the graphic on this page. Youmay recognise this as the KanoModel and it’s something that our teams use when thinking about client needs. It’s a very simple graphical de- scription of what it takes to carry out your basic SLAs. The Threshold Attributes (bottomright) are what you do every day for clients. Without these basic func- tions you don’t have a busi-


12 l C&M l SEPTEMBER 2013 l www.cleaninghub.net


ness. The Performance At- tributes in themiddle are what clients really want - this is where you win busi- ness and I think this is where we add what’s com- monly called ‘value’. Now, the really ‘exciting’ part is on the top and is what we call Excitement Attributes. This is pure innovation and are products or services that the client doesn’t even know that they want until you show themhow great it is (think of the iPad again). Of course, it’s only human na- ture that what’s really excit- ing eventually becomes normal.MITIE'smarketing and lean teams reckon that in the cleaning industry it takes about 18months for something to go frompure innovation at the top to threshold. And then you have to start all over again with something new!


What are our innovations?


Although it’s true that some innovations can be intro- duced at low cost, such as


using compostable cleaning cloths or chemical free cleaning agents, the reality is that the real ‘wow’ factors do require investment and planning. Our lean six sigma processes are driven by our Business Improvement Team and this is a game- changer for many of our larger, complex contracts. The critical success factor with implementing lean processes revolves around training everyone involved. So, we’ve set up our very own Lean Academy. This is a major effort and allows MITIE people to study for recognised qualifications through e-learning pack- ages, taking supervisors and managers from Foun- dation to Yellow Belt and then on to Green Belt. It’s a life-changing facility that gives people real qualifica- tions (trust me, the Green Belt is seriously hard work) but it also helps incremen- tally to change the industry. I am also very proud of our


Equipment Services team which tags and maintains over 45,000 MITIE cleaning


machines all over the coun- try (and carries out hun- dreds of thousands of PAT tests each year). Just set- ting this team up six years ago was a major innovation in the industry but it’s going from strength to strength. And how about our MiTec


centre in Northern Ireland? This is the brainchild of our sister Security company and is a spectacular 24/7 remote monitoring technol- ogy centre. In Cleaning we use this for all of our Right to Work employment screening (available to non- MITIE companies too). Where we need to employ people in sensitive loca- tions such as schools or government contracts we hand over the individual de- tails to MiTec and they carry out all the checks we need. In summary, to innovate


you need to be committed to change what you’ve al- ways done, to drop things if they don’t work and to lis- ten to clients. The commit- ment to innovate comes from the top of your organi- sation. It’s nearly always wrong to finish an article on a cliché but this one makes sense: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.”


Further details of all services offered byMITIE can be found at: www.mitie.com


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