Bearded man smiling

I recently returned from Interclean, the largest cleaning trade show, held every other year in Amsterdam. With nearly 900 exhibitors, this event is truly the place to see the future of the cleaning industry. 

Robots clearly dominated the show. Once again, Interclean used a “robot arena” to showcase all the abilities of these machines, and this year, there were far more participants. 

Not only are robots more prevalent in the industry, but the machines have taken leaps forward in progress. New models are truly autonomous — they return to a docking station to recharge batteries, empty solution tanks and refill with water. In addition, robots are getting smaller, making it easier to clean tight spaces. One model had a cleaning width at only 17 inches. 

In the Management and Mobility Solutions Pavilion, connectivity was the buzzword I heard most often. However, I’m not referring to the Internet of Things. Rather, the new trend is evidence-based cleaning. 

This technology uses apps to have janitors clock in and out of each cleaning task. Each shift, a janitor will use his or her mobile phone to access the app and receive a task list to complete for the day. Then, with the swipe of a finger, a janitor indicates when he or she started, finished or paused to take a break. 

Based on these clicks, supervisors can track workers’ locations and see how long they are taking to clean. From the data, supervisors can see if training is needed, or if workers are skipping tasks.

Unfortunately, based on the conversations I’ve had with BSCs, both of these trends are at odds with their company philosophies. Cleaning is a people business. Janitors worry that robots will compete for their jobs. In addition, BSCs want to empower their staff members to take pride in their work and feel that they are making a contribution. “Big Brother” technology that monitors progress doesn’t instill trust.

However, there are plenty of positives from both of these new innovations. Manufacturers encourage BSCs to use robots to fill staffing vacancies they already have. In addition, robots will deliver a consistent clean every time compared to humans who may get fatigued. As for evidence-based cleaning, the data provided by this technology can help BSCs identify opportunities for improvements, including better processes and more efficient tasks. And, this is just the beginning. In the future, its possible for apps to be connected to other real-time sensors in a facility that can generate needs-based cleaning tasks, which will help prevent customer complaints.