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Innovation is the way forward

07 March 2013

The 2010 Interclean Innovation Awards showed the road ahead for cleaning. Gerardine Coyne reports

The 2010 Interclean Innovation Awards showed the road ahead for cleaning. Gerardine Coyne reports

A clean environment makes people happy,” stated 'Trend Watcher'Adjiedj Bakas in his presentation to attendees of the 2010 Innovation Awards.He was referring to the new spin that Unilever has put on its branding - emphasising the happiness aspect rather than the actual cleaning product.

“In planning for the future, you need to be aware of trends,” stated Bakas,“but you also need to be aware of wildcards, like the volcano - ask yourself - could you specialise in ash cleaning?

“Currently the population is increasing everywhere bar Europe,” continued Bakas,“therefore our issue will be how to clean with less people and more machines. In Asia it's the opposite story.The three main trends that will influence us are: Finance - entrepeneurship in a period of high capitalism,Greentech - sustainability from cradle to grave, and Economic Nationalism - how are we going to clean as life changes?”

Innovation means doing things differently. It should not be about making things too complicated.After all it was banks selling complex products that they did not fully understand that led to the collapse of the economy.There is also the question of how companies will finance innovation.

Bakas went on to reference the Russian economist Kondratiev who after studying capitalism in the 1920s proposed a theory of cyclical economic seasons; after winter (depression), always comes spring (inflation).“This current depression will give way to 'greentech',” announced Bakas, indicating that he among others, predicts growth opportunities in sustainability, and sees growth as part of the cycle in which capitalism by its very nature, renews itself.

New directions
In essence, growth is always about moving forward, not about returning to a former secure existence.This can be problematic.“A lot of people are afraid of the future, they don't want change, but you can't insure yourself against risks in life,” continued Bakas. He went on to list the changes that are already happening, and all seemed to be centred around saving resources and producing less waste.“There will be a digital revolution with many more virtual meetings.Water will be a massive issue as agriculture currently accounts for 70% of water usage and this will increase as the population grows.We will reuse garbage, and this will lead to a massive increase in cleaning.”

Bakas' suggestion for the industry was that cleaning companies should be forming ventures with garbage companies.Overall, the main point to grasp was that change is inevitable and indeed necessary. Putting one's head in the sand and hoping things will return to 'normal' is not an option. “'Shift happens,'”argued Bakas. “History has never been fair,why should the future be?”

The shift in the economy and the way resources are used will also necessitate a sea change in the way we think about business, products and services.According to Bakas, in a post material economy the question is,'What is making us happy?'This means, like Unilever, companies will have to invest in storytelling to reframe their products and sell goods to consumers. Stories have to be told to counter any resistance to change and, carefully crafted they do work. “A good example here in Holland is the story of the little Dutch boy - it never happened!” exlaimed Bakas.“But if people have a problem with dykes they come to Holland, so it did the trick.” Bakas ended by recommending industry to use the element of surprise in its next move. “Innovation means astonishing people.Do what nobody expects you to do.”

What makes a winner?
“There are a number of trends,“ said awards judge Michelle Marshall. “More manufacturers are looking at customers' needs when developing solutions.And 'Sustainability' and 'Environment' are big buzzwords that are being taken into account during development.
“There is more use of new technology including the internet and SMS messaging.These technologies enable monitoring, measuring, staff training and most importantly accountability.”

The criteria for the innovation awards is originality, the impact it would have,practicality in use, sustainability and cost in use.

The Machines,Accessories and Components winner was Karcher for the BD 50/40 RS step on scrubber dryer.“We feel it brings mechanical design into traditional areas.The step-on makes it easy to use and the squeegee system is an innovation for the scrubber dryer market,”said Marshall.

“We take it as a responsibility to provide innovation for the future,” commented the Karcher team.

The Equipment/Tools for Cleaning, Care and Safety winner was Baudoin for the Travelator Cleaner.“Again it brings mechanical cleaning to a traditional manual area. It gives a professional modern appearance to cleaning operations,” said Marshall.

“We worked very hard on this project!” said inventor Erik Van Liempd.

The Cleaning Managment and Training Solutions winner was Alpheios Sustainability for the Vive Sustainability Scan.“Cleaning companies need a lot of guidance to make operations sustainable.We felt this had a wide range of guidance and help to enable companies to go through the processes they need to make change,” said Marshall.

“This is a signal to the cleaning industry,'work for a better world',“said Roger Ian Wersch of Alpheios.

The overall winner was Baudoin for the travelator.The Baudoin team celebrated with a big joyful man hug.“I am confident about everything I build!” smiled Van Liempd, holding the trophy aloft and shaking it like a victorious football captain.

“It is difficult to clean large areas of glass,”stated Marshall.“This machine is professional and laboursaving and has lots of possibilities in other sectors.”

A cheque for €12,000 (from Interclean Registration fees) was presented to AMREF The African Medical and Research Foundation.