The changing face of contract cleaning

Matt Kuwertz, Main Board Director at Principle Cleaning Services, shares his thoughts on the changes that have come to the cleaning sector.

COVID-19 has brought many changes to our lives including the world of work. While it’s clear some sectors have suffered, cleaning included, businesses have also had to evolve and adapt their offerings. Some of these changes will not just be short term

solutions brought in during a pandemic but new, more efficient and effective ways of working for years to come.

Historically, cleaning was something

people wanted to happen but did not want to see. It has traditionally been done out of hours, behind the scenes; perhaps you’d only see the cleaners if you were working late. There has been a slow change over recent years with daytime housekeeping roles becoming more involved with clients’ FM teams outside of the traditional washroom maintenance, but the pandemic has accelerated a shift in approach that was, no doubt, coming.

The cleaning sector is enjoying a higher profile than ever. Cleaners were given key worker status pretty early on in the pandemic. They have done, and continue to do, an amazing job – being on the frontline every day, keeping buildings clean and people safe. People now want and expect to see cleaning taking place during the day, evidenced in front of them so they can feel protected, especially when returning to the workplace as lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Looking at the post-pandemic workplace, our own research shows there seems to be no single preferred way of working, going forward. Flexibility and connectivity appear to be the key drivers with some companies indicating they will take more space so they can give their workforce more spacious surroundings such as more desk room and additional collaboration and meeting room areas. There are also those who suggest that their staff can work from anywhere and for others, a hybrid system of part working from home/part working from the office.

All of this has a knock-on effect on the cleaning model. In terms of providing cleaning services, it’s important to look at strategies that add value and inform decision making, enabling people to take responsibility at an individual and corporate level.

The cleaning sector is embracing science and technology. Collectively, they have lots of strands such as evidence- based cleaning, AI, QR codes, technological innovations


and use data to provide services that match building usage. We need to look at how science, technology and data can help us deliver new initiatives that can make significant improvements to the effectiveness of our workforce.

One of the major outcomes from the pandemic is that it is no longer enough to say that a workplace is clean – it needs to be proven to be scientifically-clean. Principle created Safe Space after identifying a need for more rigorous and evidence-based cleaning, using ATP swab testing and antimicrobial surface protection, which provides reassurance that workplaces are clean and protected, mitigating the risk of infection.

It’s important that we introduce new innovations that can make a meaningful difference. Principle has trialled hundreds of such innovations in the past decade. One of the latest ones to come to the market is OSCAR, a unique waste platform that uses AI and machine learning to ensure waste is disposed of correctly. We have also recently introduced cobotics into our portfolio, which encourages collaboration between technology and human interface. These are not robots designed to replace humans, but smart cleaning machines designed to complement the personal touch, therefore enabling cleaning teams to focus their efforts proactively in those areas.

Needs-based cleaning is another advance in the cleaning model. Pre-set cleaning routines are rarely optimum. Washrooms, for example, are one of the most used areas within a building but not all washrooms are used equally and therefore servicing should reflect this. Cleaning needs to correlate with footfall. This enables cleaning schedules to be adapted to the actual demands of a building.

Creating a dynamic schedule, which Principle has done through its PCS Connect system, is based on real time occupancy rather than the more traditional pre-set scheduling, improving the consistency of the standard of cleaning that could be found at any particular time of the day. It’s not that buildings need to be cleaned differently, it just means they can be cleaned more effectively with the resources available.

Tablets and smartphones are now used on a daily basis by cleaning teams to drive workflow, make informed decisions or monitor stock levels. These can include weather conditions for vertical cleaning, BMU safety checks or simple proof of presence: basically, anything that occurs regularly with live data stored, collated and shared. Another data-driven innovation – drop-marking and fabric reporting, a system which Principle developed – allows window cleaning progress to be viewed in real time, which is visible

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