In this article I try to discuss opportunities that lie ahead for commercial cleaning companies in terms of cleaning innovation and technology. I certainly have a double feeling about this, given the number of victims and seriously ill people. But also personally because some of our employees have been directly affected by Corona and not so much further away even with fatalities. And also as an entrepreneur. Our newly opened esports gaming center (H20 esports campus) is not open at all for the time being and lies completely still. Our online marketing agency is being dealt a heavy blow, as marketing budgets are being slashed. But it’s cleaning that can make a difference now – and in the near future. Because at some point the world will have to open up again, and it will have changed permanently.
It took me some time to find a new way, because my work has changed completely from one day to the next. Everyone will have to do their utmost to get through this time. Meanwhile I’m in a ‘what can be done now’ mode and I’m trying to create perspective in this blog for cleaning entrepreneurs. Cleaning companies active in hospitals and food production are busier than ever. For those who are active in, for example, hotels, holiday parks, government buildings and transport, it is a different story. Maybe it’s time for them to rethink their business and prepare for the future?
Branches that grow are 80% online/tech businesses
All around us we see entrepreneurs seizing opportunities. I have them in my own network. From an entrepreneur who had hundreds of thousands of mouth caps made in various factories around the world, to entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry who switched to online sales within one day. But also initiatives and ideas that now need to be implemented faster, for example in education or sports. Where the need is greatest, people and entrepreneurs become creative to deal with these tough circumstances.
Where are the opportunities in cleaning during the Corona crisis?
You don’t have an influence on everything, but you do have influence on a lot of things. Maybe there will be projects that you now suddenly have time to work on. Below are a number of things that, based on my own experience in recent years, may be ready for an acceleration. Of course, this is partly corporate propaganda, but whether you do this through the FacilityApps app platform or through colleagues (Leviy, CleanJack, LOSK), it doesn’t really matter now.
Opportunity 1: Corona extra reason to say goodbye to paperwork faster and start working 100% digitally
It has been proven in recent years that replacing paper with digital tools makes business operations more efficient and cheaper. Often something important is overlooked, namely speed. The processes in your organisation can be accelerated, so you can react more quickly to complaints and problems. Reacting faster to incidents and then reacting faster with your workforce. Despite these advantages, we still see a lot of paper work orders, work programs/tasks, product information sheets, HACCP/inspection forms, questionnaires and checklists. Paper is easy, flexible and can also be filled in afterwards. It is easy and therefore still sticks to this ‘old-fashioned way of thinking’.
We also understand that there is a business case that is not clear to everyone, because we do need to invest in digitisation. Mobile devices, software, training, etc… As one of our customers (who did implement the whole company) said in an interview the other day: Would you have done it again? I would have done it much sooner and faster throughout the entire organization.
Now with Corona there’s an extra reason to say goodbye to paper. Because the virus can also be passed on through money/paper and ‘survive’ for some time. We see the “contactless delivery” everywhere, so we certainly don’t exchange paper and pen. We ourselves have experienced that a courier had to put his signature on a delivery note, because we were not allowed to touch his paper. So this is an extra reason to let your employees make the change, because it remains a change process.
I have even seen a number of entrepreneurs in the cleaning industry who are able to operate with a much smaller office.
One of the things FacilityApps had on the roadmap was the remote signature. This means that, for example, a work order or quotation is made on the work floor, but the customer is not present to sign it directly on a tablet. In that case, the customer would receive an email with the request to approve it. There are already separate tools for this, but for cleaning companies it would be useful if they could draw digitally and safely from anywhere without printing, drawing and scanning.
Often the costs of the paper solutions are not correctly estimated. The amount of time that is lost by paper forms that are retyped in other systems, information that has become unreadable, or forms that get lost, etc… Companies therefore sometimes do not see the business case, while it is there!
Opportunity number 2: Managing your company online saves leadership
The whole world has been using conference tools in the last few weeks. Consultations should now take place online without physical contact. Consultancy should take place online. Education must take place online. Things that many people thought were impossible or better to do physically, MUST now take place online. There is no option not to do so, and then it turns out that a great deal can and is already being done. Of course with good will from everyone, because apart from the necessity this also requires habituation.
Can this also be done in cleaning?
Many cleaning companies are still organised top-down and a lot of control is needed through different layers. Can we use this crisis to have more direct and online contact with cleaners? What is needed for this? Actually, only a smartphone. In recent years I’ve already written an ebook about ‘Smartphone use in cleaning‘ and I also recorded a webinar about it. This because I’m convinced that the smartphone will eventually become an essential tool of a cleaner.
If cleaners would now use their own smartphone at work, a lot more would become possible. Think about it:
- Further elimination of paper, see also opportunity 1. Paper is a possible distributor of viruses. If everyone does administration on their own telephone (from work orders to tasks and work programmes to looking up documents), then that paper is no longer needed;
- Know in real time who is working where and what has been done (of course GDPR/AVG privacy proof);
- Insight into what time employees check in on a site/object;
- Cleaning staff who are always on the move with the most recent and correct data: digital work program/tasks. But also documents such as safety sheets!
- Clients who can watch real-time and online what is happening on their premises;
- Possibility to tick off (additional or separate) tasks (from daily to periodic) or create work orders and have them signed off immediately;
- Each employee only gets access to what he needs.
- Shorter communication lines (send message directly via notification, task or log);
- Chat with a group, preferably in a controlled environment. Please note that WhatsApp may not be GDPR/AVG proof;
- Cleaning staff can report their ideas/improvements more easily;
- Direct communication is possible between clients, cleaners and managers via a digital logbook;
- Managers can control more objects by remote control and ‘management by exception’ and still be better informed of what is happening!
- Access to important documents anywhere and anytime;
Digital is real-time, so responding to complaints in real time is certainly appreciated by clients. They certainly appreciate it! So it also certainly contributes to customer satisfaction!
Opportunity number 3: Enforce methods and tick off tasks
Customers often complain about the invisibility of cleaning. Has it really been done? Where has and hasn’t it been cleaned? When was the last time this happened? And was it done properly with the right materials and means? Internally, cleaning companies also do a lot of training, instruction, re-instruction and education. Due to the high turnover, this is not an easy task. And in the end, customers and end users want to see that this has been carried out.
Now more than ever, a broad group in society is aware that this is super important! People search much more on Google for cleaning agents and disinfectants. Hand hygiene and hand washing is a hot topic!
Demonstrably clean has been given another charge in the Corona era, which may well be permanent. There’s more attention than ever for disinfection. We see videos from China that entire streets and cities are disinfected. Even in offices they pass by and spray everything full of disinfectants. But we shouldn’t forget the basics of cleaning.
Back to basics: tips for safe and responsible cleaning
Qualis came up with a document about ‘the basics’, with the most important tips for safe and responsible cleaning in this time of corona:
- Think carefully about the frequency of work. The higher ridge is much less important than the work on: stair railings, door handles, telephones, chairs, proper cleaning and disinfection of toilets, urinals and taps, etc.
- The routing / sequence of work is now also important. Make sure that there is no cross-contamination. Finish the work at the (front) door and finally the latch of the building.
- The right resources are very important right now. Alcoholic detergents have a disinfecting effect provided they are used in the right proportions and in the right way.
- Microfiber cloths are an excellent alternative, but use them as they meant to be used!
- A minimum of 8 clean and properly washed cloths on a 2-hour task is a guideline.
- Put used cloths in a laundry net.
- Keep clean and used cloths strictly separated
- Use clean cloths and mops for every room
- Prefer to work with disposable cloths now
- An open door for many, of course, but toilets can only be cleaned with gloves on. Now it is also important that the gloves are worn during the rest of the work.
- Put on new gloves after every room
- Clean all your materials well after work
- Provide clean work clothing
But how do you, as a cleaning company, ensure that this is also done in this way? How do you know for sure that this happens every day and how do you guarantee that? And how do we as a cleaning industry and cleaning company show this to customers? How do we ensure that end users such as passengers, hotel guests, office workers, customers and employees can work with a sense of security, not only now during quarantine, but also later when everyone has to pick things up again?
There is a chance to secure this together with the customer!
A lot is already possible here with apps and technology. Tasks with instructions (e.g. video or manual with subtasks) so that there really is a check on the correct execution. Real quality checks are also possible via random samples, as is done in the food industry with ATP checks. But nanotechnology may also offer a solution here.
Opportunity number 4: Preparing and implementing Smart Data Driven Cleaning in combination with a Smart Building
The Internet of Things (iot) has been talked about more and more in recent years. Smart buildings and smart machines powered by sensors and software. These ‘things’ start to ‘talk’ and in general this is called IoT. Also in the cleaning industry there have been several pilots. Some are more enthusiastic about them than others. Precisely now that companies are at a standstill and many buildings and even public places are barely or not at all occupied, there is an opportunity to prepare yourself for the future.
Suppose you know which buildings and spaces will soon be in use and with which occupancy rate? And suppose you can see live when they were last cleaned, disinfected or decontaminated? This is becoming essential in the post-corona era, perhaps to prevent new corona outbreaks.
If you carry this on, you can do a lot more. Have the right cleaning materials been used? Are mops changed in time? Are clean and used cloths kept strictly separated? Are clean cloths and clean mops used in every room? Technology hasn’t solved all these challenges yet, but it already exists.
What equipment are we using? How effectively are they used and by whom? Are they used at all? How often and where are they? What kind of people are there in certain places? And what is their status? Haven’t/have you been ill, have you had a fever?
Often IOT projects didn’t go ahead in the past for various reasons. From a cleaning perspective, the question is who is going to pay, because the building is not owned by the cleaning company, nor even by the client. And the yield is not 100% clear either, although various pilots have shown that more efficiency and therefore time savings and greater satisfaction can be achieved. But for whom is it this advantage? Also the question of who owns the data is an important one where things sometimes go wrong, or what is needed in terms of infrastructure (privacy, data sharing, wifi use of customer, etc.).
Also, things always need to be installed. Now that the World is largely at a standstill, this may be the ultimate opportunity to prepare and install these kinds of innovative projects.