Look back, and forward In its 50th anniversary year, Rawlins MD James White reflects – in his final column in this

series – on some of the major developments in those five decades, and the continuing role of innovation in the cleaning industry.

As a forward-looking company committed to innovation, sometimes it’s good to look back and consider the industry changes we’ve seen. The 50th anniversary of Denis Rawlins Ltd is such a time.

In 1969 the Apollo 11 lunar landing was a giant leap for mankind, while a smaller step taken by our company’s founder led to great strides in cleaning efficiency.

Denis Rawlins had quit his job with a machine and chemical manufacturer when they rejected his idea for a new vacuum machine. He set up his own company to introduce the first tub vac. Small and easy to manoeuvre, and pull instead of push, the tub vac was a welcome innovation for cleaning teams. Today, tub vacs are probably the most widely used vacuum cleaner in the UK.

One of Rawlins’ biggest customers in those early years was his former employer. The entrepreneur had established what was to become a pattern – innovate, educate often- sceptical buyers, and secure markets for new products. Early clients included a local authority DSO (direct services organisation) and the public sector’s central procurement bodies.

A true innovator, Rawlins sought out technologies that would improve cleaning. A notable example was the Nilco upright vacuum developed in conjunction with a major contract cleaning company in 1975. Rawlins helped develop and then launch the world’s first two-motor upright vacuum five years later. As the brush was now powered, this meant uprights could give carpets a much deeper clean.

When Denis retired in 1988, his son Stephen took over and kept Rawlins in the vanguard of vacuum development – introducing the first commercial battery vacs and water-filled vacs in the UK. The company also secured the exclusive UK rights to the USA-manufactured Waterhog entrance mats. The innovative matting ranges of The Andersen Company remain an important part of our offering today.

Stephen Rawlins also oversaw the company’s investment in our strategic Sutton Coldfield warehouse and distribution centre, and led the industry with innovations in warranties and customer service. These developments provided the solid foundations that saw Rawlins trade through the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession.

Rawlins was also ready for the next chapter in its evolution, which began in 2012 when SGI Group

acquired the company. It backed our passion for innovation. In 2014 Rawlins won the exclusive UK rights for Kaivac’s No Touch Cleaning System, introduced the REN

Clean escalator cleaning system in 2016, and followed with Spacevac high-level cleaning in 2017.

Having campaigned to ‘Chop the Mop’ on hygiene and efficiency grounds, we went on to launch our ‘Return on Innovation’ initiative. By redefining ROI, we seek to inspire the commercial cleaning and FM industry both to challenge traditional cleaning methods and achieve better financial returns and cleaning results. This is why Rawlins has championed the use of ATP monitors for measuring cleanliness scientifically.

By investing smarter to maximise this wider ROI, clients can accelerate returns and achieve excellence in daily cleaning consistently. So, the cleaning industry can consign to the past the added expense of deep cleans and premises otherwise left in a less-than-hygienic state.

Efficient, fit-for-purpose cleaning methods are also essential if we are to polish the image of our industry by making cleaning a truly professional service. At a time when innovators are once again inspiring a new era of moon and space travel, our industry can and should continue making valuable, incremental gains through innovation. That is the spirit in which we celebrate our 50th anniversary year. 26 | REGULAR

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