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Using technology to unlock productivity

06 January 2021

As cleaning companies find ways to recover from the unprecedented past 12 months and adjust to some kind of new normal, Mark Ballance explains why turning to technology and software can put businesses on the path to success.

IN THE response to COVID-19, many cleaning companies saw huge increases in customer demand and watched their revenue rocket. But complying with increased hygiene standards and anti-infection protocols, using new PPE where required and keeping to social distancing may have been less than kind to the bottom line.

Once efficient, profitable organisations may have become overwhelmed, stretched and disconnected. In a crisis situation that’s understandable. But as we move into Spring, the weather improves and the vaccine rolls out, companies need to consider the long-term business implications of the pandemic and re-assess their internal operations.

Technology, in terms of science, has helped us find a way out of the global pandemic through vaccines. Technology can also help cleaning professionals to take back control of their businesses and move forwards in an organised, structured and more efficient way, saving time and money.

The use of technology to improve efficiency through equipment is not new to the cleaning industry. For many years, the latest, innovative cleaning machinery has enabled companies to clean more quickly, more effectively, or with less staff. Upright vacuum cleaners can cover larger floor areas in less time, as well as improve the appearance of carpet. The most advanced, patented microfibre cloth technology may well remove 99.99% of bacteria, significantly reducing the risk of cross-contamination in an infection control environment. Robotic and autonomous cleaners can even take over jobs in areas where staff are hard to come by. But is software the top of your list when it comes to finding ways to work smarter?

Making a difference
The right software can make a huge difference to productivity. Whether your operation is big or small, commercial, industrial or domestic, software can help. Software can unlock increased effectiveness in many aspects of a business. At the ‘front end’, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems can effectively manage new client enquiries and help to generate a pipeline of new customers. At the ‘back end’, using software to automate invoicing, payroll and other accounting processes can ensure precious time is spent focussed on client delivery, not managing paperwork. In between, software can be used for virtual staff training on new equipment, health and safety and other procedures. But what about the day-to-day operations of a business?

Managing staff can be one of the biggest challenges of running a cleaning company. How many times have staff been double booked? Holidays clashed? Employees left waiting for the next job? Scrambling to cover jobs after staff phone in sick? Responding to a changing work environment has been a fundamental part of the past 12 months. As staff have had to isolate, adjust to new restrictions and requirements, having visibility within your operation has been critical to understanding who is available, when, to do what.

Scheduling software can give you that visibility. But it can also unlock much more value for your business. Resource management and scheduling software like Schedule it can organise your staff, equipment, clients and tasks, quickly and easily, all in one place, saving you time and reducing your costs. You can schedule any type of resource and asset, planning all of your staff, clients, equipment, locations, jobs, tasks, projects, training and any other important activities you need to track in one system. Schedules can be easily updated, saving hours of staff time reorganising or reprinting schedules. In-built software assistants prevent over-booking of staff or equipment and ensure that any critical skills are covered. No more double-booking of jobs, or staff gaps after holidays clash. Having the right people in the right place at the right time ensures that time is well spent on generating revenue and profit for your business.

Analyse your resources
Do you know where time and money is actually being spent in your business? With software like Schedule it, not only can you easily allocate and schedule work within your team, you can also start to analyse productivity and uncover potential business savings. Access fully-customisable reports on any of your resources or events, such as time-sheets, order forms, booking sheets, or job cards. View them online or export them to other software tools like Excel, so that you can easily see utilisation and other statistical information. Understand who is working on a customer, where it is and what is needed.

Tag people, clients, the work type, equipment required, payment status and so much more with unlimited tagging. Show planned work schedules in a timeline from one day up to one year, traditional month, week and day calendar layouts, a list of activities, Gantt chart or a map to visualise the location of all of your assets, users and planned work. This can help with forward planning for the recruitment of either new staff or new customers, or looking to see where other changes such as new equipment may increase productivity in your business. 

With access from any device and integration with other tools like Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple iCal and more, users can quickly see and be reminded of their next task, receiving schedule alerts, reminders and updates in their favourite communication tool. You can easily alert multiple users to any schedule changes with just one click or remind them to complete regular tasks, like submitting time-sheets or cleaning certain pieces of equipment.

The software can integrate with your existing devices with desktop versions, web access and mobile apps. You can also convert incoming text messages from users or clients into new tasks and events in your Schedule it account as well as send alerts via a text message or SMS using other software tools like ClickSend, Zapier and Twilio, reaching your staff in whichever way works best for them. 

With track-and-trace still likely to be with us for some time, company audit trails which keep track of which staff did what, where and when are critical. With Schedule it you can quickly access full event history and an audit trail for all of your people, clients and other resources such as cleaning equipment or vehicles. Once an activity is planned, it is never lost and is always available for viewing and reporting on at any time, on any device. This could help isolate quickly any staff which may have been exposed to the virus. It could also help access data on recurrent equipment issues which can be resolved to increase time spent on task.

Choose wisely
Just as all automated cleaning robots or sensor hand dryers are not made the same, resource management software varies by provider. From the simplest programmes to use to the most complex and from free versions to very expensive systems. Evaluate several different options to see which will have the biggest positive impact on your business.

Price is of course a factor, but even pricing models can be different depending on the supplier, so think about how many people will need to access the scheduling system and in what way. Does the software solution limit the number of users or the number of resources you can schedule? If so, are you likely to exceed it and incur further costs? Some companies offer free trials of their software so that you can see first-hand how easy (or complex) the system is to use whether it meets your business requirements.

Once you have selected a software solution, embarking on any new software roll-out has its challenges. Like any change, staff must be trained in the new ways of working, and this time spent training can feel like a significant reduction in productivity before you start to reap the benefits. But for thousands of companies across the world, from the cleaning sector, aviation, technology, training and more, implementing scheduling software has saved them valuable time and money. Whether it’s major organisations like NHS, Network Rail or BBC News, global firms like Microsoft and Siemens, through to local plumbing firms running teams of 5-10 engineers, resource management software has helped them unlock greater productivity.

As the world tries to recover from the effects of COVID-19, ways of increasing productivity and operating more effectively must surely be welcome. Not only can software like Schedule it reduce planning errors and avoid missing bookings, but it can also reduce manual paperwork, save time scheduling and linking reports, reduce telephone calls and emails, provide clear visibility and better utilisation of all your resources. An attractive business platform from which to spring into 2021.

Mark Ballance is founder and Director of Schedule it.

For more information visit www.scheduleit.com