Crunch numbers, cut costs

11 March 2016

Nigel Dawson, product director at Minimise Solutions, explains how access to data can drive efficiencies in washroom cleaning and maintenance programmes

Consider this: you’re in a washroom with vacant toilet cubicles to your left and right. Which do you choose? As far as I’m aware, there isn’t a study stating which is the most popular choice. And even if there were, your location is likely to be subject to additional, influencing factors.

If, however, you have access to data showing exactly how your washroom is used, you may be able to drive efficiencies in your cleaning and maintenance programme. Which is exactly what a major national mail provider has done at one of its regional depots after data collected using the Minimise Monitoring and Control System showed that right hand cubicles were preferred in the male washroom, while those on the left were used more frequently in the female washroom. 

Here, the wireless RF remote water and energy monitors have provided clear, granular data showing the frequency of flushes per unit. This is now being used as part of a wider programme to inform energy efficiencies and behaviour change at a national level. At a local level, the data is informing cleaning and maintenance schedules, focusing activity where and when required.   

Refining toilet cleaning schedules alone probably isn’t sufficient to merit a data-led facilities monitoring, reporting and analysis programme. But you don’t have to look hard to see how data can (and will) drive operational efficiencies, making washrooms more cost effective and allowing you to provide added value to clients through insights and product and service upgrades.

The same monitors described above can be used to track behaviours such as handwashing. By analysing toilet flush rates against hand dryer use rates, it’s easy to see where a communication programme is most needed to reduce the spread of employee infections and subsequent illness/absence rates. Further, hand dryer data can be used to analyse the cost efficiency of paper towels versus electronic drying, de-risking a roll out of new infrastructure.

Preventative maintenance

One area where real time monitoring can really drive efficiencies is in responsive and preventative maintenance. Historic data provides the benchmark of what should be happening within the washroom environment; when a real-time system spots an exception it will be flagged on the remote dashboard and trigger an alert for investigation and remediation, in many instances before it causes a major incident. 

This is particularly useful for hidden problems such as leak detection. The monitoring system will instantly alert the maintenance team to unusually high water use, ensuring that they are able to deploy a maintenance team before the leak causes problems and costs escalate.   

Frequently, maintenance teams are responsible for water compliance monitoring within the washroom environment. Remote systems can make this role easier and more efficient. Having access to really good data about water use and consumption within the washroom can streamline and improve critical compliance performance, especially in terms of legionella risk mitigation, reduction and reporting.

Continuously monitoring water temperatures will improve ACoP L8 legionella compliance, immediately highlighting exceptions, providing data upon which informed decisions can be made on how to manage these systems. For those who have to maintain and report on washroom environments, it’s more time and cost efficient. 

By configuring the system to monitor, manage and report on standing water, labour and transport costs can be cut. The risk of manual reporting errors, incomplete log books, missed flushes or over-flushing is also reduced. 

The system can also be configured to trigger automatic flushing. By monitoring water temperatures in real-time, it will identify ‘at risk’ water supplies and trigger flushing when needed. This cuts labour costs further and keeps water waste and associated energy costs to a minimum.

There’s nothing new about using data to become more efficient. What’s new is the way that we’re collecting and combining data to increase efficiencies and the ease with which this data is displayed and interpreted. Systems such as those discussed above are evidence of the applications (and benefits) already being delivered by ‘big data’. And this is just the beginning.