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Sustainability / Technology
May 2014 Survey Feature

Macro Trends Identified As The International BSC Community Gathers

WFBSC event identifies the biggest impacts to hit facility service contractors in coming years.

May 22, 2014
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Imagine a world where you wake up and look in the mirror to read news, emails, messages and other important information as you brush your teeth.

In this new world, as drones fly overhead and automobiles communicate traffic issues with each other, many professional cleaning workers are replaced by more efficient robots, and a facility’s countless sensors define what is clean.

According to information shared by industry, technology and financial leaders at the 20th Congress of the World Federation of Building Service Contractors (WFBSC), which was held April 6-9, 2014 in New York City, not only is this world possible, it will soon be realized and building service contractors (BSCs) can either adjust or dissolve.

Exponential Technologies

The event’s first keynote speaker and author of the New York Times best-seller, Abundance – the Future is Better Than You Think, Dr. Peter Diamandis discussed technology’s imminent impact on the facility services industry and inventors.

During his presentation entitled, “Innovations & Breakthroughs on the road to Abundance,” Dr. Diamandis provided an overview of how quickly exponential technologies and the business world are changing today.

He noted that we are currently in an age where startups are replacing long-standing, well-funded companies.

Quoting Richard Foster of Yale University, Dr. Diamandis shared, “The average lifespan of a company listed in the S&P 500 has decreased from 67 years in the 1920’s to 15 years today.”

Further, he added, if companies, such as BSCs, are not ahead of exponential technologies they are likely to be crushed by these innovations.

Examples of exponential technologies he noted include: Computation/networks; artificial intelligence; robotics; 3D printing; synthetic biology; and digital medicine.

“The technologies that are in the lab and coming to market in this decade or the next decade are going to be converging,” explained Dr. Diamandis, adding that exponential entrepreneurs are using these technologies to level the playing field against larger corporations. “And, the notion is, if you don’t disrupt yourself, someone else will.”

Dr. Diamandis offered several critical insights during the keynote, including: The only constant is change and the rate of change is increasing; standing still equals death; your competition is no longer the multinational overseas and it is the explosion of exponentially empowered entrepreneurs; and your mindset matters (a lot) … what’s yours?

According to Dr. Diamandis, BSCs must be open to change and stop thinking in traditional, linear ways. Service providers must evaluate their most pressing challenges and understand that there is a technology to help solve those issues.

Automation And Information Drive New Cleaning Industry

Alfred Kärcher GmbH & Co. KG’s Markus Asch continued the technology discussion during his presentation entitled, “Technology Today and In The Future.”

First, he provided some statistics to help the audience realize the scope of the cleaning industry.

“This industry is a substantial industry. It’s an industry of about $200 billion revenue and, what I think is even more impressive, an industry of more than 17 million people employed worldwide. Name me another industry of a similar size and of similar capability,” challenged Asch.

Asch also noted some key industry challenges, such as a lack of standards.

“To put it in a very simple question: What is clean?,” he challenged the audience, adding that for this very reason, people tend to commoditize the task of facility cleaning.

Still, Asch noted, this is a market that shows growth.

“Market drivers, in my understanding, are three major topics,” he added. These areas of growth include additional regions (emerging markets), additional technologies especially toward sustainability and additional services that BSCs can provide to their customers.

During this presentation, the contradictory trend of customers wanting low prices for services and expecting higher quality results was discussed.

Asch also noted other significant trends that are impacting BSCs, such as increased competition and labor costs.

In order for BSCs to overcome these hurdles, helping customers understand the value of cleaning was a major focus of this year’s Congress.

“If we (as a whole industry) are not able to change [customers’ mindsets on the value of cleaning] we cannot get out of this commodity [view of cleaning],” Asch said.  

According to Asch, BSCs must solve two critical issues moving forward — improve efficiencies and provide additional value to services.

Advances in technology, such as better-performing, lighter Li-Ion batteries, are helping to improve efficiencies.

In order to help customers understand the value of cleaning, BSCs can use technology to gather and assess data.

Tomorrow’s buildings will be filled with sensors and smarter devices that will help translate cleaning’s value.

Further, BSCs will want to switch their linear, one-size-fits-all thinking to a more customized approach.

“People want to participate in how cleaning is provided,” asserted Asch. “They want to be part of the solution.”

While technology’s capabilities to gather data and even perform certain cleaning tasks through automated robotics are undeniable solutions to helping improve efficiency, provide transparency and translate the value of cleaning to customers, a BSC’s human touch will still be required on the front line to assess and execute the plan.

“Sensors will help us work smarter and [technology] will help us integrate sustainability,” noted Jeff Gravenhorst, Group CEO for ISS, during a roundtable discussion. “[But,] this is still a people business regardless of how much technology is incorporated.”

Other Critical Issues Affecting BSCs

The issue of sustainability will also be elevated in coming years with technology.

More controls, sensors and monitors will be used throughout a commercial facility to evaluate waste and opportunities for improvement.

Critical resources that will be focused on include energy and water.

During Gravenhorst’s presentation, “The Future of the Facility Service Industry,” he noted three key requirements for our industry moving forward: Technology, sustainability and hiring and retaining qualified people.

During Dr. Gustavo Grodnitzky’s presentation entitled, “Ready Or Not, Here They Come! Understanding and Motivating the Millennial Generation,” the audience was provided with some insight into attracting and retaining a new generation of workers.

According to Dr. Grodnitzky, BSC owners must understand the generational differences among workers today and adjust to meet their unique needs to increase morale and productivity.

For example, while the “Silent Generation” (born in 1925-1945) is most comfortable with the “no news is good news” type of communication, “Generation Y” (born in 1982-2000) prefers more constant communication.

Dr. Grodnitzky noted the following recruiting and retaining strategies to use for Generation Y employees, including: Flex schedule; relaxed/friendly culture; idea sharing; and opportunities for socialization.

However, while focusing on labor improvements through technologies and hiring best practices will be key to BSCs’ future successes, providing hygienic cleaning is a key way for BSCs to translate cleaning’s value and remain profitable, noted several prominent speakers at this year’s WFBSC Congress.

For example, keynote speaker and leading worldwide health care expert Dr. Richard Besser, offered reasons why hygienic cleaning should be a focus of many during his presentation entitled, “The Next Pandemic.”

Dr. Besser, who has worked closely with the U.S. government, shared some past failures and missteps with preventing outbreaks and pandemics.

He also explained the financial risks of facility managers minimizing the role cleaning plays in protecting health.

“For people in your industry, these are diseases that your people need to be aware of because what they do when they clean a building will have a great impact on whether these diseases spread or not,” noted Dr. Besser, adding that for cleaners to help prevent the next pandemic they need training and practice.

Also conveying the importance of hygienic cleaning was Jerome Peribere of SealedAir/Diversey Care in his presentation, “The Value of Clean.”

Peribere used information and statistics from an ISSA white paper and video.

“It is important to note that the ISSA paper begins by pointing out that historically cleaning has been viewed by facility managers and building owners as a cost center. But, it goes on to explain that a review of the empirical data reveals that cleaning activities impact a business’ bottom line in numerous ways and developing [a better understanding of cleaning] will result in greater savings,” said Peribere, adding that facility managers and owners need to think of cleaning as being a value center.

Peribere also noted that selling the value of cleaning provides the clearest path to profitable growth for BSCs.

And, understanding how to sell the value of cleaning was an overriding theme at this year’s WFBSC Congress.

The 21st Congress of the WFBSC will be held in 2016 and more information can be found at www.WFBSC.org.

Recent Articles by Rich DiPaolo, editorial director

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