Part two of this four-part article reveals a few possibilities of Internet of Things technology in the cleaning industry.

The Internet of Things is not exactly new technology — at least by technology standards — but it is new to the cleaning industry.

The tipping point came when cleaning industry end users began to take notice of the advancement of IoT in the consumer marketplace, says Tom Boscher, general manager of Intellibot Robotics and global vice president of marketing and technology for Sealed Air Diversey Care, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Using a smartphone, a person can now control his or her thermostat, refrigerator, even the garage door. IoT’s level of pervasiveness in the consumer space has bred familiarity with the concept.

“When the cleaners walk through Home Depot and there are entire sections devoted to the connected home — these start to create a tipping point, and they say, ‘Hey, this might not be such a farfetched idea to see this in my workplace,’” says Boscher in an interview with Contracting Profits, a sister publication to Sanitary Maintenance.

To meet the initial demand in the cleaning industry, manufacturers are creating IoT fixtures, such as soap and towel dispensers, as well as waste receptacles that are able to collect data involving usage and traffic in restrooms and other parts of a building. Other manufacturers are creating floor scrubbers that can collect data about usage and location.

In addition, IoT products are being developed that can collect valuable information about the equipment itself. These products allow janitors to easily check the fill levels of towels and soap dispensers and to determine the cause of equipment malfunctions, such as low battery levels and jams.

To complement the hardware, manufacturers are building cloud-based software platforms that can be accessed through dashboard applications on a variety of wireless devices, allowing users to review and react, in real time, to all of the data that has been collected and stored. Many of the IoT solutions are being billed as easy-to-use tools that create efficiencies by directing personnel to the areas of a facility that need the most attention at any point in time.
“We all know technology comes and goes,” says Michelle Nissen, senior product category manager for Internet of Things solutions for Minneapolis-based Tennant Company, in an interview with Contracting Profits. “But the need for data, leveraging that data and insight to drive action that helps anyone better manage business, I think, will always exist.”

Although the value and future demand for this wide-ranging technology is not in dispute, to what extent distributors will have a role in the IoT universe is yet to be determined, according to James Baynum, market development director of AfH Professional Hygiene for SCA, based in Philadelphia. Baynum points out distributor sales reps are typically only trained by the manufacturer to go out and make sales, and thus tasks such as analyzing data, reacting to findings and supporting software systems do not fit the traditional manufacturer-distributor-client relationship model.

Tech-savvy distributors can market and sell IoT solutions as a value-added option along with the more traditional products. For example, if a distributor has been unable to persuade a potential client with prices alone, then it can use the added benefits of IoT solutions as a selling point, says Baynum.

This value-added strategy can also work with current clients when a distributor is facing competition on price from another distributor and there is a threat of losing a client’s business, Baynum says. A distributor could offer an IoT solution “as a way to give the customer more value, because the distributor was bringing in this innovation that they could get in the marketplace,” he says. “So it could help them to retain an existing customer.”

Another way that IoT solutions may be valuable to distributors is when they are dealing with a current or potential client who seems to be on the leading edge of innovation. A distributor that offers IoT solutions will demonstrate to this type of client that it is also up to speed with the latest technology and will thus increase its credibility with the client.

“They would view you as a partner, being able to bring them new and innovative products out there, and, thus, be seen in a different light,” says Baynum.

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How The Internet Of Things Fits Into Jan/san Distribution
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Selling IoT May Require Investment, Sales Rep Training