One of the frequent subjects I write or speak about is future trends.
People, companies and associations want to know what''s new, where the industry is going and how these changes will impact their business and future.
Where To Look
I don''t look too much at the cleaning industry itself, as we are an industry that responds to the needs of the industries that we serve.
What I do is look at the industries we serve to see if I can get a handle on the challenges and problems they face and then envision how that will impact the cleaning industry.
I also look at the big-dollar businesses and high-tech industries, as they are on the forefront and cutting edge of change and driven by money, research and talent.
I read newspapers and magazines and watch television, looking for stories that give me a glimpse into these other industries or societal changes that will impact the cleaning industry.
I also attend industry trade shows other than those for the cleaning industry to see what I can pick up or learn that may in one way or another impact our customers.
Trends don''t just happen to one industry; they start in one industry and then roll over into other industries.
Beyond Our Shores
I''m not sure why, but the European market tends to be three to five years ahead of the U.S. in terms of technology.
By attending these shows, I can get a clear picture of what equipment, processes and chemicals will be coming our way in the next few years.
What I Am Seeing
Change is definitely taking place in the cleaning industry.
At the same time, some segments of the industry are moving more quickly than others.
Right now, for example, hard floor care is going through rapid and dramatic change.
Ten or 15 years ago, the same thing happened to office cleaning when team or specialist cleaning and backpack vacuums impacted the industry.
With regard to floor care, examples include new surfaces, the expanded use and treatment of concrete, a trend away from floor finish, burnishing, stripping and recoating.
Even water is changing; it''s being treated to make it a hybrid product that has enhanced cleaning and sanitizing capabilities.
Dry vapor technology is an example of using enhanced water to clean and disinfect surfaces.
I suspect it won''t be long before some form of dry vapor cleaning equipment replaces damp mopping and wet carpet extraction processes.
I see a definite trend toward low moisture carpet cleaning and a return to more emphasis on dry soil removal on a regular basis and prior to deep or even interim cleaning processes.
I also see more true science coming to the cleaning industry.
What we are getting now is what I call marketing research: It''s not necessarily fact-based and is often filtered or screened to promote a specific product or process.
Green/sustainable cleaning is not going away.
If you aren''t green or going green, you are headed in the wrong direction.
Production rates will continue to rise and costs will continue to fall.
Equipment will play a bigger role in getting the work done as machines replace people.
Specifications will become more technical in nature and customers will require validation that the work you do actually achieves the results you promise.
Third-party certification will become the norm.
Today, anybody and their brother will give you a plaque for the wall and certify you in any way you want.
Over time, this will sort itself out and certification programs of true value will set the benchmark for quality, production, health and success.
Good luck and keep it clean out there.
Wm R. Griffin is president of the International Custodial Advisors Network Inc. (ICAN) and owner of Cleaning Consultant Services Inc. ICAN is a non-profit association comprised of industry consultants with a wide range of expertise in building management, indoor environmental and service disciplines. This network provides free janitorial and building maintenance consultation service to the industry through the Cleaning Management Institute (CMI). Comments to Griffin are welcome: (206) 849-0179; WGriffin@CleaningConsultants.com.