With 645 exhibitors, 16,000 attendees and dozens of educational seminars, it was virtually impossible to see and experience all that the one show for the cleaning industry had to offer.
So, to make sure nobody missed anything of merit, this article serves to debrief readers about the three days that were the 2011 ISSA/INTERCLEAN North America trade show.
From Green To Chemical-free
At the trade shows, conventions and exhibitions of recent years, nearly everyone was pushing something green, environmentally friendly or any variation of the idea of being less taxing on the built and natural environments and those who habitate them — ad nauseum.
ISSA/INTERCLEAN, in particular, was a green beacon: Companies with verifiable green products, those with greenwashed claims and even those with products that were actually green in color.
This year, however, the green message was far less visible.
I attribute this to the notion that green is simply the way things are done today; it is commonplace.
The new kick that I noticed is chemical-free this, that and the other thing.
Various companies now offer chemical-free cleaning apparatuses, chemical-free stripping and finishing machines and chemical-free disinfecting devices.
"The driving force behind this is the increasing demand for using environmentally preferred solutions, third-party rating systems and certifications," states Neil Eibeler, global president of Rubbermaid Commercial Products LLC.
A logical progression from green, chemical-free is the new buzzword du jour.
Another development witnessed on this year''s show floor was packaged solutions from manufacturers.
Complete solutions have been available from companies for many years, but now it seems as though everyone is seeing the proverbial light in the custodial closet at the end of the hallway by developing and making available thorough product lines.
"We focus on offering high-level business solutions that create a healthier work environment, which leads to better productivity, worker safety support and helping customers meet their sustainability goals," claims Chris Brickman, global president of Kimberly-Clark Professional.
Fewer piecemeal offerings means that customers can purchase most of what — if not all — they need from one company.
This not only simplifies things for end users, but it also ensures compatibility with things such as general purpose cleaners, floor finishes and other formulations that JanSan professionals use daily.
"Leading companies today and in the future will focus new product development and innovation around solutions-based offerings," notes Eibeler. "The benefits vary widely when offering complete solutions and include improvements in productivity, operational efficiencies, lower costs and, ultimately, a reasonable return on investment."
This was not only evident on the chemical side of the industry; equipment manufacturers also got the message and are filling the gaps in their product lines.
Autoscrubbers, for example, are now available is various sizes and with hard floor and carpet cleaning capabilities — a grey area once only fulfilled by purchasing multiple machines.
Building A Community
Aside from developments noticed from walking the aisles of ISSA/INTERCLEAN, scores more happened between the opening and closing of "the start of something big."
Particularly interesting was the co-location of several industry events.
The Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) Convention, the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA) Convention and the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARSCI) Convention all shared the same building this year.
Bringing these organizations together under one roof increases the collaboration of various organizations, all aiming to increase the professionalism and visibility of JanSan personnel.
Another significant development was the availability of new tools for ISSA members, which included a new Power of Clean video, Value of Clean calculator, Value of Clean cards and the ISSA 2011 smartphone application.
Though many in our industry still prefer tangible print documents, the move to mobility through electronic means shows that we are willing to work with popular technology to make our jobs easier and more efficient.
ISSA Executive Director John Garfinkel said, "Shifting trends, budget constraints and environmental and regulatory changes demand that the industry adapts how it conducts business, and ISSA is adapting as well to help our members succeed."
A Rose By Any Other Name
Regardless of what was new, innovative and exciting, there was more of the same at this year''s show.
Claims of "increased productivity with X product or process" were prevalent, as they have been in the past.
One-upmanship claims that one is "bigger, badder and better" than the next company were also echoed.
Regardless of what industry one finds his or her self in, the same issues require addressing: Client retention, cost cutting, product differentiation and procuring profit.
While a slightly new spin is put on them each year through fresh faces delivering content or by dissecting different minutia of business best practices, the end result is consistent.
That is not to say that the various training, certification and educational opportunities available are not worth the investment.
Highlights of the keynote addresses included Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad, discussing his impressions of how the commercial cleaning industry was an unsung source of innovation and business guru Tom Peters addressing how to leverage the "little big things" in your company to excel during tough times.
Some were disappointed altogether with the event.
"We typically get a number of attendees to our booth from the educational sector but, this year, they were missing," proclaims Mike Sawchuck, general manager of Enviro-Solutions Ltd. "But, worse, many of the attendees — the people we want to show our products to — show up on the floor tired or hungover."
I surmise the continuity of ISSA/INTERCLEAN to mean that there is only so much that can be said and done before content begins repeating itself.
That said, this year''s show — at which more than 13 percent of visitors hailed from 69 countries outside of the United States and Canada — provided ample opportunities to network, learn and gain foresight into where our industry is headed in the coming years.
"It is very rewarding to hear so many exhibitors and attendees tell us that this was their best show in recent years," concludes Garfinkel.