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Although use of technology is becoming a hot topic in the cleaning sector, I think we have to admit that getting here has been a slow crawl.

Traditional methods of cleaning have survived while other sectors such as retail have had their business models blown out of the water due to disruptive market entrants like Amazon. Other sectors have had to change rapidly to survive, whereas cleaning hasn’t been expected to innovate and transform itself until relatively recently. The fact that everything needs to be cleaned, and cleaned repeatedly, isn’t going to offer companies anywhere near the security we once enjoyed, without embracing and leading the change.

There are lots of factors affecting the move towards technology: the trend towards the convergence of facilities management and the need for cleaning companies to provide real-time information compatible with many other systems, the focus on how much and how often we are paying our staff, stiffer competition and the need to bring down costs, regulation on chemical usage from the European Union, and of course, reducing our environmental impact.

In my opinion, the biggest technological impact has been in terms of management information. The ease, speed and compatibility of how we report on our performance can really change the client’s perception and opinion of a cleaning company. We are now reporting via smartphones, accessing payroll remotely and responding to client helpdesk queries faster than ever before using these tools. There is a huge amount of choice in the market for these products, and cleaning companies are investing.

Looking to the future, innovations from the US and China, such as window cleaning robots, automatic

the industry a luddite or it comes to technology?

The Cleaning industry is assumed by some to be somewhat of a luddite, but this label could not be further from

the truth. Over the last 20 years, the advances in new technology directly designed for the cleaning industry have been staggering, and what’s more, the uptake of these developments has been swift. In fact, advancements that were once considered new and innovative have quickly become the norm.

The idea that cleaning organisations lag behind where new developments are concerned is largely related to where the cleaning industry stands in perceptions of people outside the industry, who have no understanding of how it operates. Chemical advances are constantly ongoing and are being taken up by large and small cleaning businesses, as an extension of their drive for higher standards and lower costs. Dosing equipment, higher concentrates, reduced water usage and specifi cally designed chemicals for diverse types of fl oors, have all been adopted and utilised across all different sectors by cleaning contractors.

Micro fi bre systems in the late 1990s were initially designed with the healthcare market as the primary recipient of this ground-breaking development in collecting dirt. Within a couple of years, the same systems were being used in transport, retail, hospitality and every other part of

sanitisers for use in hospitals and self cleaning surfaces, have come to light in the last year. A study from the States has even shown that viruses can be tracked via comments made on social media. Technologies such as these, if they continue to develop and improve at their current rate, could change our business models radically. Our staff will need to specialize, become qualifi ed and trained to do the jobs that robots can’t be programmed to. They will also need to know how to operate and supervise these technologies. Training and development will become even more vital and the industry's associations will need to respond accordingly. It’s important that we embrace change so that it works for us, not against us, and make the case that our industry is fl exible, dynamic and integral to the economy. Let’s learn the lessons of HMV and Blockbuster, and do it before it’s too late.

Sarah Bentley, Chief Executive of Asset Skills

the cleaning world. Individuals may be of a luddite-outlook, and they may try to, for whatever reason, hold back the tide of new developments. However, no organisation running a business in this highly competitive market can afford to ignore the technological advances that can make the job of cleaning more profi table, ecologically benefi cial and aesthetically advanced.

The industry market leaders will always be the organisations whose purchasing directors have an eye on how industrial equipment, chemicals and consumable products are developing through innovation and technological advances.

Brian Boll, Systems Director, Jigsaw Cleaning


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