For Victoria Hueter, director of housing facilities operations for housing administration and dining suite at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, tracking GPS and battery charge wouldn’t be necessary because her more than 50 pieces of floor equipment are assigned to specific buildings, and stored in banks right next to their charging station. However, she would be interested in the third category of data IoT software tracks: usage and productivity.

“What we do now to calculate how much work a custodian can do and identify their zones is usually based on information from the manufacturer or general rule of thumb,” says Hueter. “Data that measures usage would help us identify how much equipment we really need, and it would also help us refine our zones.”

Data is often an elusive concept for managers of large cleaning departments within big organizations. While the demand to optimize productivity is strong, it can be challenging to gauge the right amount of staff members, timing for cleaning particular areas, and even the amount of floor equipment needed for a building, as Hueter says. The ability for IoT-enabled floor equipment to track usage could provide cleaning departments with more real-time data than they ever had access to before. This can have long-term implications regarding refining workloading and zones, planning for equipment needs and staffing, and tracking ROI.

Not only will this data help supervisors verify work more accurately, but it will also create a sense of accountability that can be used to motivate teams and increase productivity.

However, some end users have developed their own ways of keeping tabs on the usage patterns for their autoscrubbers and other floor equipment. For example, the battery meter on many autoscrubbers can show supervisors how long certain pieces of equipment have been used.

“People have figured out other ways to find this intell without requiring that expensive technology,” says Michelle Munvez, vice president at Chemcraft Industries, a Chicago-based jan/san supplier.

The technology is still relatively new, so it will take time for cleaning departments to start investing in IoT-enabled floor care equipment. One of the things holding Hueter back is not knowing how to troubleshoot.

“I’d be interested to know the failure rate for this type of equipment,” she says. “How do you know if it’s performing right and what would be involved if there’s a problem? If you do have to replace it, how does that work?”

Munvez understands Hueter’s hesitation.

“I understand the fear. I think it takes a really long time to truly embrace new technology and get it out to the marketplace,” says Munvez. “It’s just the flow of our industry.” 

NICOLE BOWMAN is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Using Data To Improve Cleaning Processes