Robotics: From the early tech fascination to proven concepts
Robotics were relatively rare in the cleaning industry just five years ago. But today, almost all manufacturers offer a robotic solution for cleaning (or are at least working on it). And to make sure these solutions go beyond tech experimentation and fascination, manufacturers are increasingly innovating and maturing not only their autonomous machines but all the related services to market needs.
Today, it is no longer enough for manufacturers to have a robot on the market. The ‘wow’ effect of a self-driving machine has to a large extent been replaced by a need for autonomous concepts that have matured to work in real-life conditions. During the CMS trade show, Martin Troelsgaard noticed facility service providers looking for proven autonomous concepts that work across the value chain - from product, service and maintenance to support and training.
The regulation around autonomous solutions have also matured significantly since the first autonomous solutions hit the market. Today, bringing a robot to market also means ensuring that the machine is compliant with and certified against applicable standards. One example being the safety standard, that first came into effect in US and Canada in 2018 and which has since then been expanded to also regulate autonomous solutions sold in Europe.
Sustainability: From one-off product features to complete operational integration
A shift towards incorporating sustainability into the core business agenda is hitting all industries, and cleaning is no exception, which was also very clear at the CMS trade show in Berlin. Today, facility service providers increasingly need to collaborate with suppliers that integrate sustainability across production and product and help them embed sustainability into their day to day operations.
Indeed, it is no longer enough to have green features on a product or sponsor philanthropic environmental causes. Legislation and regulations related to the environment will increasingly make non-sustainable practices expensive and ultimately redundant.
A development which is also becoming more and more evident also outside Europe. As an example, Martin mentions that US Federal government agencies are now required to hire cleaning and janitorial companies that are green cleaning certified. Alongside this, all major companies that hold standard certifications, such as the HACCP Standards Certification, ISO Certification, LEED Certification, or CFGS Certification, require cleaning companies that are green cleaning certified.
Because of this, the need to display credible green credentials is filtering through to suppliers, who are now creating and offering more sustainable alternatives for facility service providers.
“With increasing legislation and regulation around the environment, sustainability is no longer just about CSR, brand values or marketing gimmicks. It will increasingly become sound business to act sustainably – because it will be much too costly not to. This was evident also at this year’s CMS, where the ‘green gimmicks’ were replaced by a more solid approach to sustainable cleaning solutions”, says Martin.
Digitization: Still early days – but solutions are available
Another key trend for facility service providers is the move towards digitization. And although it is still early days, the CMS 2019 showcased some inventive new solutions for resource management and fleet management.
For fleet management, for example, some suppliers including Nilfisk now offer sensors that can be retrofitted to existing machines. These send data to a main system and allow facility service providers to look into a machine’s long term costs and service history.
In relation to fleet management, Martin also noticed a beginning shift towards solutions that focus more on the customer, the company and the job at hand – rather than merely monitoring the fleet of cleaning machines. Over time these solutions will be able to integrate building usage data, weather data and cleaning data from all machines into one platform – hereby enabling contract cleaning companies to react quickly to changing needs.
Overall, it was evident at the Berlin trade show, that the cleaning industry has matured when it comes to digitization. But at the same time, it was also clear that there is still a way to go before we get the full benefits of using data to optimize cleaning. It will be interesting to watch the digital solutions presented at the trade show develop going forward, and see them mature to the same level as other areas of facility management, such as heating systems and lighting systems.
Flexibility: New flexible business models to suit contract cleaner needs
Finally, Martin noticed a strong focus on new business models to suit customer needs, with many packages highlighting flexible opportunities with rental or lease opportunities. These include hiring machinery with fixed monthly rents, a rental contract with insurance, or even adaptable seasonal rental for when cleaning needs are higher or change.
“The conference wasn’t just about cleaning machines, sustainability or digitization – I also noticed a significant uptake in suppliers highlighting different business models and approaching the customer with flexible options. Whatever your business, your budget or your needs – there are now solutions available to help with that.”
Overall, these 2019 trends show that suppliers are increasingly focused on the specific needs of facility service providers and now offer solutions that work for them across the board. It was also evident that cleaning services and machines should be seen as an asset that integrate into the overall ecosystem of a company and its long term goals.
Therefore, by utilizing advanced robotics, focusing on sustainability, shifting towards digitization and taking advantage of new business models, there is ample opportunity to keep down costs and improve existing processes – helping facility service providers make smart decisions on a day to day basis.