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Interclean: Embracing innovation and sustainability 19/04/2024

AS WE gear up for Interclean Amsterdam 2024, it's evident that the professional cleaning and hygiene industry is experiencing a transformative period marked by innovation, technological advancements, and a steadfast commitment to sustainability.

With the world's largest trade show just around the corner, it's an opportune moment to reflect on how far the sector has come and the exciting developments that lie ahead.

In recent years - especially since the pandemic - we've witnessed a remarkable evolution in cleaning practices, driven by a relentless pursuit of efficiency, effectiveness, and environmental responsibility. From cutting-edge cleaning technologies to sustainable cleaning solutions, businesses are embracing innovation like never before to meet the evolving needs of their customers and stakeholders.

Interclean Amsterdam has long been at the forefront of showcasing the latest trends and advancements in the industry, and this year is no exception. With over 900 exhibitors, 11 exhibition halls, and a comprehensive lineup of knowledge sessions, the event promises to be a hub of inspiration and collaboration for professionals from around the world.

One of the most notable themes of Interclean Amsterdam 2024 is sustainability. As concerns about climate change and environmental degradation continue to grow, businesses are recognising the importance of adopting eco-friendly practices and products. From biodegradable cleaning agents to energy-efficient equipment, attendees can expect to discover a wide range of sustainable solutions that prioritise both performance and environmental stewardship.

In addition to sustainability, technology will also take centre stage at the event. From robotic cleaners to smart sensors and data-driven cleaning solutions, the industry is harnessing the power of technology to streamline operations, improve efficiency, and enhance the overall cleaning experience.

Perhaps more than any other year, Interclean Amsterdam will serve as a platform for networking and collaboration, providing professionals with valuable opportunities to connect, share insights, and forge partnerships that drive positive change in the industry.

In this issue of Cleaning Matters we look ahead to Interclean Amsterdam 2024, and it's clear that the cleaning sector is entering a new era of innovation, technology, and sustainability. By embracing these principles and continuing to push the boundaries of what's possible, we can create a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future for all.

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Survey reveals shocking truth about sleep hygiene 16/04/2024

A NEW survey reveals that 41% of people have never washed their duvet.

The survey was conducted by Happy Beds using its interactive Bedding Calculator tool which provides personalised results to help determine when it's time to replace pillows and duvets. To generate the end result, the tool asks 10 questions about bedding. These questions include the age of your pillows and duvets, as well as bedding cleaning habits.

Key findings include:

  • 41% have never washed their duvet
  • One in 12 have had their duvet for over a decade 
  • One in three have had their pillow longer than two years 
  • One in five wake up with a sore neck each day due to their pillow.

Almost half of those who answered the Bedding Calculator have never washed their duvet (41%). While most wash their bedsheets weekly, duvets can become a breeding ground for bacteria. They are used every night and, subsequently, can hold dead skin, sweat and body oils that can host thousands of dust mites and all other types of bacteria. 

If a duvet isn’t washed regularly, that bacteria can build up over time, discolouring the duvet and even triggering allergies for some people. 

To maintain a healthy sleep environment, Happy Beds advises that duvets should be washed two to three times a year, even if the've recently been acquired.

A useful tip is to time duvet washes with the change in season. So, if anyone swaps their winter duvet for a summer duvet when it gets warm, it is best to wash the winter duvet before storing it to avoid any mould and mildew growing on it. 

The survey also reveals that one in five wake up with a sore neck every day. Pillows can affect physical health with 18% stating they wake up with a sore neck every morning due to their pillow. 

Happy Beds warns that when you sleep, it’s important that your neck and spine are aligned and your neck isn’t positioned at an odd angle that is out of alignment with your spine. However, a lumpy pillow, one that no longer has support, will not hold your neck in the correct position. 

There is a way you can check, however, if your pillow is no longer up to standard. If you hold it up vertically with one arm, check to see if the pillow folds over while you hold it as that’s an indicator that it no longer provides the support you need. 

Pillows are just as important as duvets, but they have a shorter lifespan. The bedding Calculator has revealed that over one third (35%) have had their pillow longer than they should. Pillows last no more than two years and should be replaced every one to two years, or sooner if you feel a lack of support from your pillow. 17% of those who answered the calculator have had their pillow more than double two years. 

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Navigating the changing tides of regulations 11/04/2024

Gareth Copland delves into the evolving landscape of heat network regulations, exploring how the sector is rapidly shifting to embrace low-carbon heating technologies amid government initiatives to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

THE HEAT network sector is changing so rapidly that it can be hard to keep up. Viewed by government as a vital component of the UK’s strategy to reach net zero by 2050, this potentially efficient, low-carbon heating technology is fast becoming the norm in modern urban developments and is now spreading to rural areas, too. So, if you haven’t encountered a heat network yet, the chances are you will do soon. 

As well as growing rapidly, the sector is maturing. This is evidenced by the way it’s evolving to embrace waste heat sources and emerging renewable technologies such as heat pumps. The trend is particularly prevalent in new build-to-rent housing developments where the running costs and environmental impacts of different heating systems are a key concern right from the planning stages. A case in point, is that of the 879 heat networks currently in planning stages*, 75% specify an air, ground or water source heat pump as its energy type. 

This all means that many facilities managers are having to get on top of several new technologies at once. The operation and management of both heat pumps and heat networks differs significantly from that of more traditional, individual heating systems running on gas-powered boilers, so there’s a lot to get your head around. And this is important because efficiency can decline sharply, and costs spiral if equipment is not properly optimised and maintained.

New regime

Another sign of a maturing market is proper regulatory oversight. To date, heat network operators have been less stringently controlled than the rest of the energy sector, leaving consumers unprotected in significant areas. This became headline news in 2022 when energy tariffs soared to record levels and domestic heat networks were initially excluded from price-capping measures, leaving some households facing hikes of as much as 700%. Many blamed their heat network suppliers, who in reality had little control over the situation. 

Lessons have been learned, and we can expect a very different administrative environment when Ofgem takes over as the official regulator for the heat network sector next year. An array of new rules is on the horizon, backed up by stronger enforcement measures, all primarily designed to protect end users. 

Time to act

Although the details of the incoming legislation are still being finalised, we already have a pretty good idea of what will be covered, and heat network suppliers should not delay in preparing for the changes. 

As well as consumer protection, the regulations that are currently proposed encompass technical standards, carbon emissions and step-in arrangements for when contingency plans are needed. Heat network zoning - designating geographic areas where heat networks are expected to provide the lowest cost solution for decarbonising heat – is also being rolled out nationally.

The new consumer protection regulationsshould be fully phased in by 2026 with the other policy areas to follow shortly after, but Ofgem will begin collecting operational and financial data from registered heat suppliers and rolling out the first tranche of customer protection measures from next year. So, time is of the essence to ensure good practice principles are embedded now before they’re enforced later through penalties. 

Consumer safeguards

In broad-brush terms, areas that Ofgem will be seeking to control more closely include energy pricing, quality of service, metering, billing & payment information that must be provided to consumers pre-contract and during residency, and support for people who struggle to pay and other types of vulnerable households. 

In all areas, Guaranteed Standards of Performance (GSoPs) will be applied, and heat network suppliers and operators  will be expected to “behave fairly, honestly, transparently, appropriately, and professionally”. Information provided to customers must be “in plain language, complete, not misleading, and sufficient for informed choices”. Transparent, benchmarked charging breakdowns will be required, including asset depreciation, repairs, administrative costs and variable fuel and production costs.

What this essentially means in practice is that there will be no longer be any leeway or anywhere to hide for system or managerial inefficiencies – every penny charged must be effectively and transparently used to ensure best value for bill payers. Residents will have access to robust support from the Energy Ombudsman and advocacy bodies, such as Citizens Advice, to ensure failings are swiftly rectified and any compensation due is paid in full.

Optimising assets

The single most important thing facilities managers can do to prepare for the new regime is to ensure that their heat network is working really well and properly maintained. If it’s not regularly serviced, monitored and optimised, inefficiencies will mean costly components such as water pumps and boilers will be forced to work harder. This can result in shorter repair and replacement cycles, impaired comfort for users, breakdowns, or even potential safety issues.

Implementing a thorough maintenance regimen, ideally via a planned preventative maintenance (PPM) contract, is crucial. This should cover every aspect of the system, including meters and heat interface units (HIUs). 

Heat network maintenance differs significantly from that of ordinary gas boilers. With multiple properties all connected to the same system, changes to one asset can impact the entire network. It’s important to ensure that potential maintenance service providers can explain this in detail and outline clear strategies for optimising efficiency and minimising heat loss. Check, too, that they have a sound working knowledge of CIBSE's CP1 for Heat Networks: Code of Practice 2020.

Data monitoring

Monitoring is the bedrock of efficiency in any heating system, but with heat networks it’s even more important because of the interconnectedness of all the component parts.

To achieve a heat network’s full potential energy savings, you must continuously and meticulously measure and monitor its performance, correcting issues as soon as they occur. Having a clear understanding of what optimum functioning looks like means faults can be spotted quickly. It also provides essential insights into occupancy rates and peak usage periods, enabling accurate tailoring of heat supply to minimise network losses. 

With new emerging technologies, such as cloud-based dashboards with real-time data, consistent monitoring is now far easier than it once was, and the return on investment is rapid. At Insite, we use our own in-house cloud-based client portal, VANTAGE. This presents essential real-time performance data on a colour-coded dashboard, making it easy to spot issues at a glance.

Metering matters

Effective metering is another crucial element to ensuring your organisation can meet its new regulatory obligations. Smart meters must be used wherever possible, and all meters should be replaced when they near the end of their expected life. If they fail, bills will be inaccurate, leading to residents being over- or undercharged, and making it difficult to manage heat network financials. 

Meters can also help to identify any abnormal consumption levels that could be an indication of a system fault. And they can provide households with real-time energy usage data in line with transparency requirements. 

Information and communication

There are other advantages to giving residents access to their consumption data, besides meeting the incoming obligations for billing transparency and frequency, and smart metering. When people can see in real-time how much heat and power they’re consuming, for instance, via a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) metering system combined with a web-app on their mobile phone, their energy use drops by around 24% on average. It also makes it much easier to coordinate household budgets, so energy debt - a major contributor to the overall cost of heat networks - is around 13 times lower than in similar properties that are credit billed. Investing in this kind of technology at the present time is therefore well worth thinking about.  

Now is also a good time to overhaul your other resident-communication channels to see if there is any room for improvement. Co-operation and communication will be vital to help ensure your residents understand how the new regulations will affect them and what their responsibilities are. In some cases, they might not actually know they’re on a heat network, or what this means. Or they may feel, because it’s a communal system, there’s nothing they can do to make a difference to their bills and emissions, which is far from true. Everything you can do to help them understand the situation will be well worth the effort. This is also a ‘good-news’ opportunity that could help to strengthen relationships – the legislative changes are designed to benefit them, after all. 

Help is out there

Reviewing or putting in place new procedures and processes always takes time, and residents need notice of any changes that affect them, as well. So, if you haven’t already begun to prepare for the new regulations, start now. 

If this feels daunting, remember that help is available. Your metering & billing and/or maintenance providers should be aware of what’s coming and willing to help you get your systems in order, reduce costs, and get the most out of your equipment. Lean on their expertise to help you plan for the road ahead.

*Source:  Barbour ABI Heat Networks Planning Database software, https://data.barbour-abi.com/smart-map/repd/beis/?type=heat_network

Gareth Copland is group operations director at Insite Energy

For more information visit insite-energy.co.uk/business

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BCIS issues forecast for cleaning, maintenance and energy sector 02/04/2024

REPAIR AND maintenance output is expected to fall substantially in 2024, by 5.6% compared with 2023, according to the latest quarterly forecast for the facilities management sector from the Building Cost Information Service (BCIS).

With output forecast to remain static in 2025, and then to slowly and gradually increase again, annual growth is expected be 1.4% in 2028.

BCIS chief data officer Karl Horton (pictured) said: “While the economy was fragile and uncertain in 2023, repair and maintenance showed strong growth compared with new work, with output up 8.3% on the year. 

“However, as private householder and the private commercial sector spending falls, and public sector budgets are constrained, we expect to see output fall in this sector too.

“There are, however, encouraging indicators for the facilities management sector, including decreasing inflation and falling energy prices. 

“We expect that the activity on energy-efficiency retrofit, cladding remediation and RAAC issues – even if a sizable amount of this may be classified as new work for non-domestic buildings – will push the repair and maintenance output to further growth, at least in the later stage of our forecast period.”

Maintenance costs, as measured by the BCIS All-in Maintenance Cost Indices, are set to rise by 19% in the same period to 4Q 2028.

Cleaning costs are forecast to increase by 32% by the end of 2028, with a 9.2% annual increase in 4Q 2024 due to factors including labour shortages and increases in the national living wage. 

Energy costs are expected to fall by around 53% by 4Q 2028, though the sector is of course vulnerable to ongoing geopolitical movements and global conflict.

Horton added: “While materials cost inflation has cooled considerably and there has been less pressure on availability, there are still concerns about developments in the Middle and Far East, which has the potential to put further pressure on supply and drive up prices.

“The slowing materials cost inflation, however, will be offset by higher inflation wage awards in the first two years of our forecast, with labour costs making up between two-thirds to three-quarters of maintenance costs. 

“Although general inflation has decreased, wage awards continue to be influenced by inflation in previous periods and we forecast they will be above the current rate of inflation over the next two years.”

For more information about BCIS visit: www.bcis.co.uk

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Spring clean: Turning clutter into cash 07/03/2024

AS THE spring months roll around, Brits will be looking to declutter and clean their homes, as more than nine in 10 (93%) say they participate in a spring clean every year

If you're clearing out unwanted items and it feels wasteful to throw them out, Amrit Chatha, mobile expert at Mobiles.co.uk has revealed how you can use your phone to generate cash from your undesired belongings. 

  1. For tech: Shpock and Mobiles.co.uk 

“You can get good money for unwanted gadgets, so don’t rush to throw out the old consoles and phones you don't use. You can sell anything from laptops, to headphones, to games consoles on sites such as eBay, but you can also try out apps like Shpock, which is designed as a second-hand marketplace. 

“Alternatively, phone retailers such as Mobiles.co.uk make it quick and easy to trade in smartphones for cash online, or you can also trade in exchange for tech items you do need. Gadgets are likely to make you a lot of money so try to sell them while they are in good condition.” 

  1. For clothes: Vinted and Depop 

“Selling clothes online has become popular over recent years, so if your decluttering jumpers or jeans that aren't your style, turning them into quick cash will be a breeze. Vinted and Depop are useful resale sites, with easy-to-use apps so you can sell from the convenience of your smartphone. Snap a picture, set a price and wait for a buyer to shop their dream item from your wardrobe.” 

  1. For homeware: Facebook Marketplace and Preloved 

“Facebook Marketplace has become a prime location for selling unwanted furniture and homeware items, and most people already have an account for the social media platform, making it an easy place to set up your shop.  

“If Facebook isn’t you’re thing, Preloved is another alternative app which allows you to sell a wide range of items ranging from clothing, household goods and furniture. The best part is you can control everything from the ease of the app, and buyers are typically expected to pick items up, reducing shipping costs.” 

  1. For toys: Toy Trader 

“If you’re running out of space for your children’s toys and are going through a thorough declutter, putting them up for sale can be a great way to get rid of them without having to throw them away, especially if they’re in a good condition. 

“Toy Trader is a great option for selling unwanted toys, with the option to buy, sell and trade with in-app coins. The app is designed by parents and offers a great solution, so you don’t have to spend money on new toys as you can trade in your old toys for new ones, once your little one has outgrown them. This means you can recycle old toys which may have been pushed to the back and find them a better home.” 

  1. For cosmetics: Karrot 

“Makeup and toiletries can quickly end up in a stack that won’t get used before their expiry dates. If you have more than you can get through, selling unwanted cosmetics is a great way to clear some space and make some quick cash.  

“Other than apps such as eBay and Vinted, Karrot is a great app which takes no fees to list your items, as well as taking absolutely no commission once you make a sale. The aim of Karrot is similar to Facebook marketplace, where it focusses on selling within local communities.” 

“Selling unwanted items online has come a long way and has never been easier. Using your smartphone to do this makes the process hassle-free, saves time and allows you to reach people at any time or place, whether at work or home.” 

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The untold stories of migrant women 28/02/2024

In the realm of domestic cleaning, hidden behind the closed doors of households, lies a narrative that often escapes our attention – the experiences of migrant women in this workforce.

Dr. Nicola Chanamuto's recent study, "Behind Closed Doors," unravels the stories of these unsung heroes, providing an invaluable glimpse into their lives and calling for a re-evaluation of the societal perception of their contributions.

In Dr. Chanamuto's article, which appears on page 18, it becomes evident that the world of domestic cleaning is not merely about scrubbing surfaces and dusting corners; it involves a complex interplay of skills, decisions, and discretion. As The British Cleaning Council among many other associations has been highlighting, unlike many societal stereotypes, cleaners are not low-skilled workers but rather individuals engaged in a profession that requires empathy, care, and an acute understanding of the needs of their clients.

The study, conducted through in-depth biographical interviews with 11 migrant women, paints a nuanced picture of their migratory journeys and the multifaceted reasons that lead them to embrace cleaning work in the UK. These women, educated to college or university level, did not envision their careers taking this trajectory. However, faced with barriers like language requirements, lack of desired job opportunities, or difficulties in accessing childcare, they found themselves navigating the complexities of the cleaning sector.

What sets this study apart is its holistic approach, recognising that each woman's journey is unique, shaped by shocks, turning points, and repetition. It demolishes the homogenous perception of foreign-born women, emphasising the importance of understanding their life stories across the entire course of their careers.

Crucially, the study challenges the notion that cleaning is a dead-end job. Even those who transitioned into professional roles considered cleaning a backup strategy, revealing their underlying feelings of insecurity in the local labour market. The research underscores that, despite the hardships, these women do not view themselves as victims. On the contrary, they exhibit ambition, resilience, and entrepreneurial spirit, with some starting their own cleaning businesses.

Beyond the pragmatic aspects of cleaning, the study unveils a deeper layer of care embedded in this profession. Cleaners are not just custodians of cleanliness; they become pillars of emotional support for isolated and vulnerable clients. For older individuals, a visit from a domestic cleaner is not merely about tidying up; it is a connection to the broader community, providing companionship and a lifeline for those struggling with the challenges of everyday life.

However, the study also sheds light on the challenges encountered by these cleaners. From non-payment or late payment of wages to unexpected changes in working hours, the invisible workforce behind closed doors faces a spectrum of issues. Workplace protections, fair wages, and regulation of the sector are identified as crucial components in addressing these challenges.

It is imperative to recognise domestic cleaning as genuine work, deserving of fair wages, reliable employment contracts, and acknowledgment of its essential role in our communities. Dr. Chanamuto's study goes beyond unveiling the untold stories; it serves as a clarion call for transformation. If we fail to recognise the value of domestic cleaning, we perpetuate its devaluation in society.

Moving forward, it is essential to foster discussions that frame cleaning as a form of care. By humanising these workers and elevating the perceived value of their contributions, we pave the way for a more equitable and respectful treatment of cleaners. The study's recommendations, from campaigning for good working conditions to ensuring workplace protections and developing inclusive qualification routes, provide a roadmap for a brighter future for this indispensable workforce.

Dr. Chanamuto's study serves as a catalyst for change, urging us to acknowledge, appreciate, and empower the migrant women who form the backbone of the UK's domestic cleaning sector. It is time to open our eyes to the stories behind closed doors and champion a more compassionate and equitable approach to this essential workforce.

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Behind closed doors: Making cleaning work visible 15/03/2024

There has been little research on the experiences of migrant women working in domestic cleaning in the UK, especially outside large cities. Dr Nicola Chanamuto presents the findings of a recent study aiming to better understand this valuable workforce.

EVERY FRIDAY morning, Roza, 32, drops her children at school and spends three hours working for an elderly lady client of her employer; a locally based cleaning business. It was not long after visiting the home of this client that Roza realised she was not only providing a cleaning service, but also company. Older clients particularly value the friendly conversation and extra household jobs she can do. Roza explains that older clients, ‘try to share... they are very lonely ... they just want to talk with me. They ask me about my family, they ask me about living in Poland...’. Roza provides a lifeline of care for isolated clients who may not see many other people during the week. She says, ‘I feel like I’m looking after them. Because some of them really struggle with just everyday life.’

Roza is part of a global workforce of over 75.6 million domestic workers. Many domestic workers worldwide are hidden and work cash-in-hand, with much of the sector unregulated. Research looking at migrant domestic cleaners is important at a time when there is a focus in politics on reducing migration to the UK.

While domestic cleaners play a central role in caring for clients and their homes, the complex realities of this work are not fully understood or acknowledged. The purpose of the Behind Closed Doors study was to learn about the lives of a group of foreign-born women who had migrated to the UK and were working as domestic cleaners in a city in the East Midlands region.

Cleaning involves a variety of different skills, including decision-making and discretion, and yet it is devalued in society. Cleaners should not be seen as low-skilled workers but should instead be recognised for the service they provide.

The Behind Closed Doors study looked at:

  • How migrant women become involved in domestic cleaning work.
  • What kind of opportunities and challenges are associated with cleaning work.
  • What migrant women feel about cleaning.
  • How migrant women balance their paid work with caring for their families.
  • How cleaning itself involves caring for others.

Hearing from migrant women who clean

For this study, in-depth biographical interviews were conducted with 11 domestic cleaners of migrant origin aged between 20-50 years old, most of whom had been resident in the UK for 10–13 years. The participants also created a timeline of their work histories before and after moving to the UK, to show how cleaning featured in their lives.

The women’s experiences do not necessarily represent those of all cleaners, but they reveal the opportunities and challenges associated with this work and how these change over time. The women were of different nationalities, which means that the findings are not particular to one ethnic or national group.

Cleaning as part of the migratory journey

The women in this study had come to the UK for various reasons, including looking for work, seeking an adventure, moving with a partner, coming to study, or a combination of these factors. Some of the women had struggled to find suitable work in their country of origin, but they were also motivated to move by other factors.

Most of the participants were educated to college or university level when they moved to the UK. When they were young, they had imagined themselves in professional occupations in their homeland, but this had not happened.

The women in this sample did not plan to work as cleaners but had taken up this work in the UK because of specific difficulties. These included being unable to find their desired job, barriers to accessing childcare to enable them to work longer hours, difficulties meeting English language requirements for certain jobs, or a lack of confidence in their English language ability.

This study found that the women’s work trajectories were not simple. Instead, their career pathways had been shaped by shocks (such as bereavement, relationship breakdown or unemployment), turning points (such as having children) and repetition (such as returning to previous employers).

The findings demonstrate that it is important not to stereotype foreign-born women or treat them as one homogenous group. Instead, understanding cleaners’ migratory journeys and work histories across the life course helps us take a holistic view rather than a momentary snapshot.

Reasons for entering and leaving cleaning work

Some of the women interviewed had since moved out of cleaning work or were planning to do so. However, cleaning was still described as a back-up strategy, even for those who had moved into professional jobs. This reflects their feelings of insecurity in the context of the local labour market.

This research shows that, although they face hardships, cleaners do not see themselves as victims. The women in this study were often ambitious and able to find ways of making a success of their work, for example, by starting their own cleaning business.

These cleaners were aspirational and had hopes for the future. Their ambitions included: building a successful business or getting their dream job, moving to a new house, getting married, visiting relatives overseas and seeing their children do well at school. National studies show that these desires reflect those of the locally born population in the UK.

Cleaners provide care in their communities

Cleaning work is a caring activity. Cleaners care for people, homes, and society in general. Indeed, domestic services make all other forms of work possible, by alleviating the burden of housework for individuals and families.

Domestic cleaning services also enable many people to live with dignity and independence. For older clients particularly, cleaners provide emotional as well as practical support. Indeed, a visit from a domestic cleaner can be a valuable link to the wider community. The women in this study connected with lonely and vulnerable clients through their work, including hoarders and those with long-term illnesses.

Migrant cleaners see themselves as taking care of British society, but due to the hidden nature of their work, their contributions to local communities often go unnoticed and under-valued.

Working behind closed doors, often without formal employment contracts, cleaners are largely hidden from public view. Given the lack of understanding of the physical and emotional demands of their work, cleaners are seldom recognised as skilled workers.

Caring for cleaners themselves

Cleaners also need care. This can be provided through workplace protections, fair wages, and better regulation of the sector. Related services such as good public transport and accessible childcare also help cleaners do their jobs more easily.

While cleaners of migrant backgrounds fulfill a valuable role in their local communities, they are not always valued themselves.

Migrant households have care needs, which may be different to those of non-migrant households. Migrant women can face additional barriers to achieving their goals, including discrimination, language proficiency, immigration rules restricting the ability to work, and commitments related to transnational family life (families living across two or more countries).

Cleaners are required to work around clients’ needs and arrange their schedules accordingly, which can be challenging. In many cases, flexibility from employers and clients (for example, agencies allowing cleaners to adjust their working hours) made a significant difference to cleaners’ ability to keep a job.

The importance of respecting domestic cleaning as real work

Larger-scale campaigns are vital to ensure the regulation of cleaning agencies and prevent exploitation in the form of unreasonable workloads, illegal low wages and a lack of physical and human resources resulting in unsafe working conditions.

If we do not recognise domestic cleaning as ‘real’ work, we cannot ensure cleaners’ safety.

Some challenges encountered by the cleaners in this study included: the non-payment or late payment of wages, unexpected changes to working hours, pressure to use chemicals without protective clothing, driving dangerous company cars, sexual harassment, racist treatment, unreasonable workloads and specific physical health conditions caused by manual work.

If cleaning is only considered a ‘dead end job’, it will continue to be devalued in society. Instead, cleaning work should be rewarded with fair wages, reliable in terms of employers and contracts, and recognised as essential to our communities.


Based on the findings of this unique study, several recommendations are made:

  • Talk about cleaning as a form of care, to humanise workers and raise its value
  • Recognise the contributions of migrant workers to the cleaning sector and create various channels to ensure their voices are heard
  • Campaign nationally for good working conditions for agency-employed cleaners
  • Ensure workplace protections including wage security, fair workloads, adequate breaks and protective equipment
  • Develop routes to qualification which are inclusive of domestic cleaners
  • Make personal coaching and small business support accessible to self-employed cleaners.

Dr Nicola Chanamuto is based at the University of Lincoln.

The full Behind Closed Doors study can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/365kjcdv​

For more information visit http://tinyurl.com/krjpzjr5 or contact: nchanamuto@lincoln.ac.uk

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Unblocking logistical obstacles 11/04/2024

Richard Warley explains how a drainage services provider is embracing software to jettison inefficient job management and improve productivity.

TRANSITIONING TO digital working, field operatives from Trent’s Drains, a provider of 24/7 drainage services, are using mobile devices synchronised in real-time with the back-office system. Since implementing BigChange the company is said to have seen a tenfold increase in turnover and has doubled its fleet of specialist jetting vehicles.

Operating from its headquarters in Bristol, Trent’s now undertakes around 800 jobs a month and has managed its growth without having to hire more admin staff. The company is also saving more than £30,000 a year in admin and accountancy fees thanks to a seamless integration between BigChange and QuickBooks, and it has boosted its customer service with more 5-star ratings on review sites.  

Day to day management

A second generation, family run business with over 60 years’ experience in the drainage industry, Trent’s Drains was established by Mark Trent, who still manages some of the larger domestic projects, and his son Louis, who oversees the day-to-day management of the company and works closely with key commercial accounts. Offering expert drainage services, including emergency drain unblocking, CCTV surveys and preventative maintenance, Trent’s team of satellite engineers covers the whole of the south-west from the depths of Cornwall over to Essex and up to the Midlands. Trent’s operates a mixed fleet of Jetting vans, tipper trucks and a 2,000-gallon tanker. 

“We had previously invested in a standalone CRM system but didn’t use it to its full potential,” commented Louis Trent, Director and Co-Owner of Trent’s Drains. “We used it to log some of the jobs, for some of the engineers, whilst others continued to use cardboard job sheets whilst quotes and invoices were done in Word and job histories were kept in Excel. When COVID struck, and we only had frontline field staff, we reverted to tried and trusted job cards with supporting images, etc sent by WhatsApp.

“However, as we expanded this became unmanageable,” he continued. “We had to work through mountains of job cards, ours as well as our customers’, scanning and matching them to quotes, purchase orders and photos, and we knew we needed to make a big change.”

System management

Trent’s looked at a couple of options before reaching out to BigChange having had previous experience of tracking software from BigChange’s founder Martin Port, liking that the system managed tracking and fleet management alongside job scheduling. Using BigChange, which incorporates a mobile workforce appcustomer relationship management (CRM), job schedulinglive tracking,financial management, and business intelligence tools in one system, Trent’s has, according to Louis, “Exceeded our business goals through productivity and been able to take on more work, with the same resource, and grow the business in its entirety.”

Using BigChange, Trent’s can easily manage its growing client base. The CRM tools, linked to Google Maps and with What3Words integration allow for the easy identification of customer locations, even if they are off the beaten track on a private road or in the middle of a field or woodland area. Intelligent job scheduling, taking into account engineer skills and equipment, has replaced whiteboards in the office and back-office staff have real-time visibility on engineers’ progress using the BigChange App running on a tablet or smartphone. This allows Trent’s planning team to monitor each operative’s time and react to changing schedules and circumstances.

Customisable job cards that can accommodate Trent’s requirements as well as those of its larger corporate clients are reducing the time it takes for engineers to complete reports onsite, removing the need to capture multiple customer signatures and eliminating the need to scan paper documents back at the office.

“Prior to BigChange our engineers would have to fill in different worksheets for different clients in addition to our standard job cards,” added Jozef Przytocki, operations manager at Trent’s Drains. “Using BigChange, we can build different templates for different job types with a mixture of questions which, when completed, can be fed into different job sheets. This improves onsite productivity and reduces back-office administration.

“It’s not just about the engineers doing a great job in the field it’s about reporting on this service to the end client. We get a lot of feedback from our commercial customers; property agents, facilities managers, landlords, helpdesks, etc., who are not onsite to see what we have done, about the detail and speed of our reporting.”

BigChange is also helping Trent’s manage the financial side of the business with an enforceable system whereby suppliers will not accept an order without a valid purchase order number, and integration with the company’s accounting system QuickBooks. “With BigChange we can better monitor and manage our spending and have complete visibility of which job materials or tools may have been purchased for. We are also saving many hours a week with our accountants able to seamlessly access invoice and credit note data directly from QuickBooks,” concluded Przytocki 

Richard Warley is CEO at BigChange

For more information visit www.bigchange.com

Tel: +44 (0)113 457 1000

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Smarter, dynamic cleaning technology 23/02/2024

Konnor Baskaran examines how the latest workflow and process automation software and new innovations in internet of things (IoT) sensors/cameras are revolutionising the facilities management (FM) sector.

WORKFLOW AND process automation software technologies are enabling facilities managers in the catering and hospitality sectors to achieve smarter, more dynamic cleaning rotas and workflows: essentially cleaning restaurants, kitchens, toilets, and buildings faster, better, and easier than ever before, at lower cost and with less resources.

However, while it is widely accepted that digitalisation in FM is the next logical step, there is still a bigger problem across the industry. Where to start? 

That’s because digitalisation can be a daunting project for many, both in terms of the implementation of new technologies, and in terms of making a compelling business case with a significant return on investment.

What, for example, do we mean by ‘smart’ or ‘dynamic’ cleaning? And what do you need to know about the software and the IoT cameras and sensor hardware that is powering this revolution? In this article, I will explain everything that cleaning companies and facilities managers need to know about both things in clear, non-technical language.

What is smart or dynamic cleaning? 

First, let’s consider exactly what we mean when we talk about smart or dynamic cleaning. Definitions of dynamic cleaning vary, but they all boil down to this one simple maxim: find ways to work smarter, not harder.  

Some of the world’s biggest and most successful facilities management operators are investing a lot of time and resources into developing innovative new approaches to cleaning, using real-time data, mobile ‘process management’ apps and IoT devices. 

Dynamic cleaning that utilises real-time data and intelligent automation can not only make your operations more efficient but allow you to win new business and assure your customers that you are using your time to get them the best possible results. Which is an obvious win for all involved!

Cleaning companies can cut costs and improve the quality of their delivery, while customers enjoy better value and higher standards, and cleaners themselves are under less pressure as they have very clear direction on where to focus their efforts and maximise their productivity. 

But what kind of real-time data are we talking about here? This could be data or information gathered from apps on cleaning staff’s smartphones or from internet-connected cameras and sensors installed across restaurants, kitchens, toilets, or other key points in any building that requires regular cleaning. 

And what type of apps? Any well-designed process management app or workflow automation software platform needs to achieve two things. Firstly, it will be designed to help cleaning and FM companies do ‘more for less’: improve service levels, while cutting costs and still being able to demonstrate value for money to their customers. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it must be user-friendly: that is, it needs to give a cleaner, or an FM supervisor very clear, actionable instructions on what they need to do next.

What sort of IoT devices do I need? 

Major IoT camera and sensor device manufacturers such as Cisco Meraki and others are developing valuable and strategic partnerships with software and app developers to offer FM companies, or hospitality and catering businesses, innovative new ways to provide sensor-driven cleaning workflows.

Combining IoT cameras and sensors with a good process management app essentially means that cleaning teams can work to demand, cleaning rooms and spaces as and when they need it, as opposed to sticking to rigid cleaning schedules. Which immediately leads to significant increases in cleaning productivity.

This type of reactive cleaning means that a cleaning action can be triggered every time that a particular room, zone, or prepping station has been used “X” number of times, for example. Empowering cleaners to work in response to usage and demand, ensuring a high level of service that’s also extremely efficient.

Cleaning to demand allows for far more efficient cleaning teams, and far less spend, because FM companies or hospitality and catering businesses only pay for the resource they need. Which is basically what IoT and process management app developers mean when they talk about ‘leveraging’ real-time data to achieve measurable, day-to-day operational efficiencies.

What does a good process management app do?

Process management apps have, of course, been available for some time. But in many cases, rigid structures and uniform templates haven’t previously met the needs of those cleaning or facilities management teams that require unique workflows, specific tech stack integrations and distinct user interfaces, data visualisations and a high level of customisation and flexibility.

Today’s best process management apps not only offer all these benefits, but they also integrate easily with IoT cameras or sensors. Which means, for example, that a specific cleaning job can be triggered automatically by ‘smart’ kitchens, restaurants, toilets, and other areas across your estate. 

This type of dynamic cleaning, achieved by an intelligent deployment of a process management app combined with a well-placed network of IoT sensors, is capable of fundamentally altering your entire approach to cleaning. 

Your network of IoT sensors might include PIR (person in room), footfall, door open, or zone occupancy sensors – all of which can automatically identify areas that have seen heavy usage, triggering your process management app to direct cleaners to where they are needed. 

Plus, supplementing these automated sensor-triggered cleaning actions, you can also add an IoT call button, which enables any of your staff or a building’s occupants to alert the cleaning team immediately when they notice a clean is needed. 

In addition to automating your cleaning workflows in these ways, a good process management app will also have a unifying effect on all facets of your operations. Meaning that the software can also be used for operations, audits, reporting and compliance – and all this resulting data can be used to better guide future operations. 

To put it as simply as possible, a good process management app creates a feedback loop: where data drives your working patterns and your work helps to build up a detailed picture of your cleaning and FM challenges and successes. 

Artificial cleaning intelligence in action 

Artificial intelligence (AI) has rapidly become the tech industry buzzword of the moment, following the launch of large language model (LLM) apps such as the Microsoft-backed ChatGPT and Google’s LaMDA in 2023. 

In the world of AI, automation, IOT and more, leveraging technology and analytics in facilities management has never been more critical. Integrating these advanced technologies can increase operational efficiencies, ensure compliance, drive scalability, and provide accurate data analysis to measure it all. 

For many in the hospitality and catering sectors, leveraging AI as part of a wider digitalisation push might seem like quite a confusing or abstract concept. But the process is actually quite simple. 

It’s firstly about gathering and using data to ensure that your operations are dynamically optimised, in the ways I’ve explained above. After all, any AI technology is only as good as the data that is fed into it, so the key is to start to collect far more detailed data on everything. Which might involve auditing individual locations and the cleaning input hours across the same areas, for example.

Secondly, it’s about using a process management app to make some practical sense of all this data you are now collecting – to basically extract value from this mass of raw data - whether that is coming in from remote IoT sensors, or directly from employees using the app in their day-to-day work.

An AI-driven process management app will not only guide your cleaning staff through their key tasks and direct them to ad hoc jobs, as and when needed, it will also act as a central command hub from which workflows, audits, sensor feeds gather, and reports can be created. 

It is the detailed reporting capabilities of a smart process management app and platform that make it such a compelling solution for facilities managers in the catering and hospitality sectors. That’s because, over time, the software will make sense of all your data and then be able to provide valuable business information to enable you to constantly make improvements in the level of service you offer, achieve new efficiencies, and always keep costs under control. 

Ultimately, cleaner restaurants, kitchens, toilets, and buildings are a key factor for customers deciding whether they want to return, or to recommend your business to others.

There are many aspects to dynamic cleaning, but to create reactive, efficient teams that can also deliver a higher quality of service, you need to make a smart investment in a digital platform that can help to automate and deliver real-time feedback to teams and gather the information you need to really understand and improve your operations. 

Konnor Baskaran is facilities management lead at mpro5 

For more information visit www.mpro5.com

Tel: 01892 542444

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Keeping the supply chain resilient 23/02/2024

Scott Sutcliffe discusses supply chain resiliency and the benefits of implementing robust sourcing strategies.

AS HAS​ been well publicised, the last 18-24 months have seen some seismic challenges to global supply chains. From a scarcity of ocean freight, a proliferation of force majeures and a blocked Suez Canal – we have often seen the’ unprecedented’ in recent times. 


As a result, procurement strategies have become a growing area of focus for many businesses, and it is vital that robust, effective, and efficient supply chains can be relied upon. 

As a manufacturer of cleaning products, McBride’s supply chain is influenced significantly by European chemical production volumes.  It would be a logical to assume that as demand decreases or fluctuates in certain sectors, for example the recent downturn we have witnessed in the automotive and construction industry, that this would lead to surplus capacities of materials and feedstocks. 

In fact, the opposite is true, and we see a finely balanced supply and demand trend emerging during the end of 2022 and through 2023.  A recent industry report for example stated that European chemical capacity utilisation is down around 25 per cent versus the average rates of the last 25 years.

Chemical suppliers are therefore working hard to actively manage capacities and provide a stable and predictable price level for customers, that remains economic for the producer.

In this changing supply and demand landscape how should manufacturers implement reliable strategies to ensure supply chain resilience?

Sourcing strategies

As Europe’s leading private label manufacturer of everyday household cleaning products, McBride is seeing volumes currently growing in excess of 10 per cent year-on-year, as consumers seek more cost-effective alternatives to expensive branded products.

This increase in demand presents several challenges. Naturally there is the continuous optimisation of our production processes to meet consumer demand and maintaining inventory at the correct level, but this always has to be balanced against the challenges of material sourcing.

To mitigate for these risks, our Purchasing team has focused significantly on building supply chain resilience, developing methodologies to help anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disruptions and market uncertainties.

The team has worked closely with the Research and Development and Operations departments to reduce reliance on single-sourced materials. It has also implemented effective sourcing strategies that consider the strength of supplier relationships, geographic diversification, environmental credentials and risk management across our entire portfolio.

Risk, quite rightly, is becoming a critical factor in buyers’ decision making. The team works closely with our Legal department to ensure that we have an appropriate level of contract cover in place, that allows us to hold our suppliers to account.  Moreover, identification tools are used to identify aspects of the supply chain where there is an increased likelihood of disruption – and to develop strategies for risk mitigation.

Supply and demand

Keeping production lines running is one thing, but ensuring timely distribution of products to our customers’ shelves is another. We have worked closely with the Group Logistics team to ensure that the right agreements are in place with the right hauliers, with the right performance measures, to service our customers’ growing needs.

This focus has seen a real step-change in reliability in the last 18 months and has delivered a more solid logistics platform to be able to handle the increased volumes we have witnessed.

As we head into 2024 the job is far from done, however I am confident that we have the correct level of continued focus across inbound and outbound supply chains to ensure that McBride remains the supplier of choice for our customers and their consumers.

Scott Sutcliffe is group purchasing director at McBride, a leading European manufacturer and supplier of private label and contract manufactured cleaning products

For more information visit www.mcbride.co.uk/​

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