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Technology Steals the Show

June 02, 2016
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The world’s largest cleaning show was recently held in Amsterdam, Netherlands. In case you missed it, here’s a review of some of the highlights.

ISSA/INTERCLEAN® Amsterdam 2016 was a four-day international show with more than 28,000 attendees from more than 80 countries visiting 800 booths. The Amsterdam show takes place every two years and is a regular event on my schedule, because this is where one can find new cleaning products that will show up in distributor warehouses and janitor closets around the world during the next  three to five years.

I attend the ISSA/INTERCLEAN show to gain a better understanding of where the cleaning industry is headed and this year was a real eye opener. I don’t know why Europe leads the way in cleaning technology, but this is a definite trend that I have noticed during the past 20 years. 

Looking Ahead

From the innovation awards to the booths on the show floor, the impact of emerging technologies was present everywhere you looked. Here is a look into the future of cleaning beyond 2016.

  • Connectivity, sensors, beacons, and access to information will become prevalent in the industry. Imagine getting real time reports on your smartphone telling you which trash cans need dumping and which rooms, offices, or toilets were not used today and therefore, don’t need cleaning.
  • Take it one-step further to include soap, toilet paper, and towel dispensers that let you know when they are running low on supplies, soiled, or not operating properly.
  • The next jump will be knowing when a cleaner enters and leaves each room, as well as how long each cleaner spends in the room, and what surfaces or areas of the room they clean.
  • Equipment tracking will tell you where to locate every piece of equipment in a building, where it cleaned, and for how long, as well as any service or repairs it may need.
  • Imagine carpet and hard floor coverings that record and report on when they were mopped, vacuumed, or cleaned via scrubber or wet extraction.

During the show, robots for vacuuming, scrubbing, sweeping, and disinfecting were on display and operational. In the Robot Center, four different manufacturers had cleaning robots operating every day of the show. On the show floor, I found at least four other robotic cleaning machines that were not in the robot center, but planned to be there next year.

Now for the real shocker: Nearly all of the technology outlined above already exists and will be entering the workplace over the next 3 to 5 years or less.

The Next Era of Cleaning

One of the most shocking things about this year’s show wasn’t a product at all, but the speed with which these new technologies are coming into cleaning industry. Two years ago, several equipment manufactures introduced a concept known as “fleet management,” which related to the tracking of equipment; in less than two years, this concept of sensors, beacons, tracking, and robotics basically took over the entire show.

What we are seeing is an evolution into the next era of professional cleaning. Some say there will always be a need for people to clean. That may be the case, but one thing is for certain: Custodians won’t be doing their jobs like they have in the past.

Buildings and surfaces are already being designed  to reduce the need for cleaning, along with the partial phasing out of the human worker. If you don’t think this to be true, surely you have heard about self-cleaning surfaces, no finish flooring, stain free carpet, nano treatments, negative and positive air pressure, clean room environments, and HEPA filters? A quick Google search will open your eyes.

Labor costs in many U.S. cities have skyrocketed to more than US$15.00 per hour and in some cases, as much as $45.00 per hour, and we still can’t find and keep qualified employees, let alone supervisors or managers. If you look at what’s going on in the cleaning industry with an open mind, you can see the handwriting on the wall and where the industry is heading.

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