Amidst changing expectations triggered by the pandemic, has the moment for technological innovation in cleaning finally arrived?
Operators and service providers are scrambling to find solutions to how cleaning is performed and monitored to manage spiralling costs and to provide assurance for end-users.
It is unsurprising, then, that many are looking to technology for answers to move away from industry-standard analogue processes that are demonstrably ineffective.
The good news is that innovation is already starting to happen. Infogrid, a smart building platform, uses passive sensor tech to monitor building performance, covering air quality, occupancy, water safety and occupant satisfaction.
The company has introduced a cleaning and hygiene offering: Sensors are able to monitor when areas are in high use and this information is used to better manage the workforce to attend to those areas, delivering improved and more efficient levels of service.
Another UK firm, Savortex, manufactures sensor-enabled hand dryers and sanitiser dispensers that deliver key real-time information that alert customers on when to top-up on hand sanitiser gel, and when to clean washrooms based on footfall. They have just teamed up with Mitie.
On a more strategic level, environmental sustainability and net zero targets as part of ESG strategies have been a big driver for innovation in FM. There is an obvious fit here for cleaning too, as moving from analogue processes to digital of course means going paperless.
The new super cleaner
But there is an even greater opportunity for innovation through recognising the social element of ESG when it comes to the cleaning sector. This is because of its disproportionately large and unskilled workforce.
According to the British Cleaning Council’s 2021 Trends Report, an estimated 450,000 people are employed in the UK cleaning sector, 82 per cent of whom are low-skilled frontline workers.
Unlike other areas of FM which are far less labour-intensive, when it comes to cleaning, many insights that can deliver better customer service and productivity are bound up in the granular daily activity of cleaning itself. To really leverage the power of technology and data, there needs to be better engagement with cleaners, working day in day out.
Cleaners are the unique and critical content providers when it comes to gathering reliable data in this sector.
Using technology in this way enables targeted professional support for cleaners as it allows for objective measurement of who is or isn’t doing a good job and how best to focus efforts in retraining, upskilling and incentivisation.
The potential to digitise, analyse and share cleaning activity data offers real opportunities to benchmark best practice and make improvements to workforce productivity. Adopting tech to drive innovation will be critical for those in the cleaning sector hoping to master a changing landscape.