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New beginnings

27 November 2015

Keith Baker, director of industry outreach, EMEA, at ISSA, reflects on 2015 and looks ahead to what 2016 has in store for the cleaning industry

Welcome to what will be my final column for Cleaning Matters before I hand over to my colleague Dianna Steinbach, ISSA’s recently appointed director of EMEA Services. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing these columns over the past few years. I very much appreciate the fact that you have taken time to read my thoughts and often stopped me at industry events to agree or offer constructive criticism on what I have written. With this editorial changing of the guard, combined with the year coming to its natural end, it seems particularly timely to look back over the main trends of the year and look forward to 2016. 

From technology to training

2015 was the year in which we saw even more office products and industrial distributors add cleaning products to their portfolios than ever before. This presented an opportunity for some, clear benefits for others, and a possible threat for those that are slower to evolve. 

2015 was also the year that we saw the application of technology to the cleaning industry more widely, and more imaginatively, than ever before. Of course innovation has been there all the time in our industry increasing efficiency, boosting productivity and preserving the health of the nation. 

In 2015 though, we saw it surge to the fore – whether it be self-cleaning surfaces, sensor-operated dispensing systems, dashboards for remote workforce management, asset tracking, smart cleaning and specialist cleaning smartphone apps. The rise of intelligent, unmanned robotic floor cleaning machines has also been well documented and I believe these will become commonplace in shopping centres, airports, hospitals, offices, schools and other high traffic areas. 

Another landmark was the take-up and growing momentum behind the ISSA CIMS certification scheme. This consensus-based management standard aims to improve the professionalism of cleaning service providers and offer a clear way for a contract cleaning company to differentiate itself from its competition. This is achieved through demonstrating a commitment to quality, as well as a keen focus on customer satisfaction, continual operational improvement, and best use of resources. In 2015 I was thrilled to see two notable building service contractors and a NHS Trust achieve CIMS Certification with Honours. 

Be more business savvy

When it comes to looking forward to 2016 and beyond, as an industry, I am convinced that we need to be more business savvy. We need to devote more time, energy and resource to training and retaining our people. As a minimum, we should always know more about the professional process of cleaning and the products and solutions that we use than the end customer.  

Our customer-facing people – whether they be employed in a manufacturing company, distributor or contract cleaning company – must be able to communicate and justify the value they, their organisation and the cleaning industry in general brings. They should feel confident enough in this to escape the self-defeating vicious cycle of selling, tendering and negotiating on price alone. 

Thinking more broadly about education, trade shows were once a great place to gain some of that education as well as wider market knowledge. However I see trade shows as generally being in decline – with the notable exception of the ISSA/INTERCLEAN Amsterdam show which of course I have to declare an interest in and which I am confident will break all records in May 2016. Education can be gained at a fraction of cost online, or from other smaller gatherings such as focus or networking groups and distributor days. I would urge those in a position to do so to act on this in the year ahead. 

I would also urge all to embrace the benefits of associations – both the local UK ones and those from around the world. They can do much to assist with training, understanding the complexities of regulations or changing structures and standards and, also, certification. 

Finally, and most importantly, we all should be incredibly proud of who we are and what we do as an industry. Let’s change the way the world views cleaning! I could not be prouder to have worked in this industry all my career and I look forward to the fact that in future cleaning will become recognised for the enormous, indisputable and clear value it brings to our society.