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Cleaning Connectivity: Restroom Technology

Emerging technology to fully connect restrooms to the modern age

November 15, 2016
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Take a look back at what life was like five or even 10 years ago. Odds are it looks completely different than it does now.

Technology has infiltrated every facet of our lives, from how we control the temperature in our homes, to how we interact with the world around us. It has made the world a smaller place, simply by allowing us to connect from one place to another via technology and the Internet.

However, advances in technology are not limited to our homes or personal lives. The cleaning industry has seen great things come out of technology investments, and it has begun to create a more interconnected facility that, in turn, helps facility managers and frontline workers run their facilities more smoothly. From helping to better workload a building, to knowing when a part of a facility needs attention, technology can help facilities achieve higher levels of safety and cleanliness.

This month, we introduce to our readers a new section of Cleaning and Maintenance Management called Cleaning Connectivity. The section will coincide with the Spotlight issues of the print magazine, and will focus on the role technology will play in facility maintenance now and in the years to come.

This inaugural section on restroom care innovations dovetails with the March Restroom Care Spotlight, and will introduce readers to some of the new technology that will help enhance facility image and impact restroom cleanliness.

The Interconnectivity of Restrooms

It’s an oft-touted fact that restrooms are among the most complained about parts of a facility. Not only can their perceived lack of cleanliness—lack of toilet tissue, lack of paper towels, or debris on the ground around a trash bin—turn away patrons, but they can be breeding grounds for real bacteria and odors that will give any business, no matter its reputation, a bad name.

As technology advances, it seems a natural progression for facilities to become more integrated and, in essence, talk to the staff who maintain them. The restroom is one facet of any facility that can use technology to the advantage of facility managers, frontline workers, and patrons alike—if it’s properly equipped.

This technology works on the premise of being able to monitor the status of any given restroom at any given time. For example, systems may allow restroom equipment—including tissue, towel, and soap dispensers—to analyze supply levels and identify product needs.

By utilizing connectivity/monitoring technology in the restroom, facility managers are also able to manage the facility’s staffing and maintenance needs. The technology can alert a facility manager about a problem in a specific location, allowing staff to then deploy to the specific restroom—or even the specific stall—that requires attention. Not only does this feature have the potential to cut down on customer complaints, but it also can reduce the amount of time staff has to take out of their daily routines to search for the problem.

Utilizing Data

Jimy Baynum, the director of market development at SCA - AfH professional hygiene business, said, “Real-time data allows facility managers and cleaning staff to monitor restroom traffic, helping staff prioritize facilities in need of service and avoid cleaning restrooms that have not been used.” 

By analyzing the data received from monitoring systems, building service contractors or in-house professionals are able to determine, in real-time, which of their facilities have the highest needs, and move staff around to suit those needs accordingly. During a time when the budgets of most facilities are shrinking, and staff is being asked to do more with less, it can save time and money to know when and where to place staff, as well as to know what products to purchase now versus at a later date, saving both time and money.

Hygiene Compliance

Besides being an ideal place for connectivity/monitoring technology that targets supply and workloading, the restroom can also be a good place to enforce the need for proper hand hygiene.

Restrooms can be veritable breeding grounds for germs and bacteria, even when they are properly cleaned and maintained, and the most efficient way to stop this spread and eliminate cross-contamination is by practicing proper hand hygiene.

There is technology available that allows facilities, especially health care facilities, to monitor and track real-time hand hygiene compliance in its restrooms. While understanding this type of data in a sensitive facility, such as a hospital or long-term care facility, is important due to the often-weakened immune systems of individuals present, the technology can still benefit facilities of all types. As hand hygiene improves, so does the health of the building and its occupants.

Eventually, hand hygiene compliance monitors can also help to gather a broader range of data to create value in areas beyond hand hygiene. Jon Lerner, a business development vice president for GOJO, said, “This includes solutions for a facility’s cleaning staff that monitor and send alerts on important information, such as dispenser refill status and traffic activity.”

The Future

The days of restrooms going without maintenance or running out of tissues, towels, or soap, may be coming to an end. As technology evolves, it can help to bring the facility closer to the facility manager and frontline workers, even if they’re not currently servicing that area of the building. Knowing when or if there is a problem—even before it becomes a problem—will help keep restrooms clean, safe, and healthy.

Advances in technology are inevitable. Embracing the coming change will put facilities in a position they have never been in before: ahead of the game.

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