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Learning and Networking Abound During ISSA Show Day 3

Highlights include State of Labor and Automation in the Cleaning Industry

November 21, 2019

A busy show floor and scores of educational sessions and demonstrations kept attendees busy all day Wednesday.

If you thought we couldn’t top day two of ISSA Show North America 2019, think again! Day three saw even more exhibit hall demonstrations and presentations as well as high-level presentations on essential business-building techniques across all segments of the cleaning industry.

The thousands of attendees had hard choices to make all day as they chose which sessions they would attend in between booth visits and networking with industry peers. As one attendee put it, “There’s so much to see that I wish there were two of me!”


Wednesday Spotlight Speaker

Spotlight speaker Brady Watkins, head of commercial automation at SoftBank Robotics, took the podium Wednesday morning to dispel a few myths about robotics in the cleaning industry. First off, the choice does not come down to human workers or robots. “It’s not people or robots, it’s people and robots,” Watkins said.

Although automation and robotics are considered new technologies, they have been around for a long time, as evidenced by machines such as the tractor and the printing press, Watkins said. What is new is the understanding of how robotics can create value in service industries, such as cleaning.

Watkins believes robotics tend to scare people because right now technology is advancing quicker than general business growth, which is creating a gap. The cleaning industry should think of the uneven growth more as an opportunity than as a gap. The important thing to remember is that robotics requires HRI—human/robotic interaction.

Watkins presented the robotic process of automation and optimization:

  • Humans conduct repetitive tasks
  • Through these tasks, humans form processes and workflows
  • Robots mimic the processes
  • Humans correct the robots and help them learn
  • The company gains efficiencies.

To demonstrate how robotics can create efficiencies, Watkins turned to a common cleaning task—vacuuming. This task is crucial for cleanliness as most people today spend 90% of their time indoors and carpet is the no. 1 filter of indoor dust and dirt. Although most cleaning services try to vacuum every day, vacuuming is one of the most skipped cleaning chores, often because clients don’t understand the importance of daily vacuuming and professional cleaners simply run out of time. Plus, vacuuming can cause back injuries and is one off the most common causes of workers’ compensation cases. “How do we solve this problem? Automation,” Watkins said.

Automation can also help solve other problems businesses face in soft-surface cleaning—labor, reporting, and differentiation. 

With worker turnover rates as high as 200% in custodial jobs, robotics can provide a needed service. Software can provide data, delivering proof of performance to clients and taking the burden of reporting off human workers. Finally, having autonomous and robotic equipment sets your company apart, making clients want to hire you and people want to work for you.

Wednesday Session Highlights

  • Tim Shea, managing director of Piper Jaffray, and Mark Herbick, CEO of Pursant LLC, gave an enthralling presentation on selling, merging, and acquiring companies in which they pointed out that 60% of industry distributors are over 50 and nearing retirement, but only 10% of the younger generation wants to take over the business for their parents. This leads to a market primed for buying and selling. Herbick said 70% of industry companies are currently buyable, and it is a good time to sell from a valuation perspective.
  • In the Bona US-sponsored presentation “Renovate Don’t Replace: The Future of Resilient Flooring” in the Innovation Pavilion, attendees saw new technology that allows facilities to extend the lives of various floorings, includes various tile, rubber, other flooring, with a specialized paint process. In a demonstration, presenters applied the specialty paint to flooring, sprinkled it with decorative flakes, and covered with clear layers. The process adds 3-5 years to the life of the flooring each time its applied.
  • At the Solve for X booth, Griffin Smith taught attendees how to manage their reputations in an increasingly digital world. The presentation looked at how to grow positive, organic reviews that bring in business.
  • The Restoration Industry Association (RIA) continued its Technical Fire Restoration Summit on Wednesday, which was co-located with ISSA Show for the first time. Attendees were able to visit the exhibit hall floor and network with ISSA Show attendees. At the summit, attendees learned best practices for dealing with smoke and other fire-related odors as well as VOCs created through fire-suppression activities. The sessions also looked at contents cleaning and the impact of heat on interior items.

State of Labor

Attendees learned in Wednesday afternoon’s State of Labor presentation by ISSA Director of Government Affairs John Nothdurft how the industry is dealing with labor shortages and the various policy proposals at the federal, state, and municipal levels affecting the labor market, including minimum-wage laws, overtime, criminal justice reform, and immigration. The combination of record-low unemployment, an expanding economy, and government policies has created challenges for many businesses in the cleaning industry to attract, keep, and afford high-quality workers.

“The cleaning industry is driven by labor,” Nothdurft said. “Currently, with the tight labor market the industry is facing challenges from both the supply and increasing cost of labor. While much of this is market driven, increasingly governments are passing laws and regulations which are also having an impact on labor. ISSA continues to monitor, analyze, and engage policymakers on labor related issues.”

ISSA Show 2019 continues Thursday November 21:

Trade show hours: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Education session, panel, and event hours: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.


View the Digital Show Guide, which includes the complete ISSA Show North America 2019 education schedule.

If you missed this year’s ISSA Show, don’t make the same mistake in 2020. Put ISSA Show North America 2020 on your calendar today.

 

 

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