Looking For Innovation In Cleaning Products

Even if it ain’t broke, you can still innovate it

Efficiency and practicality can often result in products that last 50 or even 100 years. Although improvements and modifications are made over time, the general product concept would still be recognizable to a visitor from the past. For example, my wife’s carbon-fiber road bike that she rides in triathlons weighs a fraction of a steel contraption from the 1890s, but both bikes share two wheels, foot pedals and handlebars. The steel option wasn’t bad, but improvements over time have made the bike better.

Unfortunately, some products stick around because we humans are resistant to change. In the world of facility maintenance, we are actually focused on first cost, instead of life-cycle cost or cost of ownership.

Here’s an example.

Thomas Edison filed his patent for the incandescent light bulb in November 1879. Despite being only 10 percent efficient (10 percent of the energy used is converted to light and 90 percent to heat), incandescent light bulbs can still be found in use today. In fact, they would probably still be more widely used if not for legislation. 

But President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act in December 2007, which established new efficiency requirements for 40, 60, 75 and 100-watt “general service” incandescent lamps. What this meant was that consumers were gradually shifted to more efficient, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), halogen lights and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, as efficiency deadlines hit between 2012 and 2014.

Despite innovations in lighting that were multiple times more energy-efficient, lasted longer, and generated far less heat into interior spaces, it basically took a law to overcome 128 years of complacency with Edison’s invention.

This realization raises the question, how often does your staff and organization look for innovation? Are you reading the relevant print and electronic trade publications? Are you attending industry and peer conferences and trade shows? Are you asking your suppliers and distributors to provide demonstrations and trials of new products and equipment? If you’re not regularly (quarterly, semi-annually) engaged in product and procedure introspection, it’s a good idea to start.

You don’t necessarily need to be on the cutting edge of new products because there are plenty of innovations readily available in the comfortable middle.

For example, ISSA launched their Innovation Award program in 2005 and, each year, features the entries at ISSA/INTERCLEAN. There are five categories: Cleaning Agents, Dispensers, Equipment, Services and Technology, and Supplies and Accessories (2017 winners are named here).

Green Seal also recently certified the first products under the GS-20 Standard for Environmental Innovation: Products, Services, Processes, and Technologies (www.greenseal.org/gs20). In the past, Green Seal was unable to respond to requests for certification of products and services that did not fall under the scopes of our existing standards. Since innovations, like patents, may be non-obvious, the GS-20 standard enables Green Seal to recognize the environmental benefits of leadership initiatives that are not covered by existing Green Seal or other ISO Type I ecolabel standards.

One of my favorite sports marketing campaigns is Garmin’s “Beat Yesterday,” but by looking for innovation, you could also improve upon the Nike classic “Just do it” and “Just do it, better.” 

MARK PETRUZZI is Senior Vice President of Outreach and Strategic Relations with Green Seal. He’s in his third decade of striving for more sustainable purchasing and operations by using his engineering powers for good.