People watch robotic floor care equipment
The Robot Arena demonstrated the autonomous cleaning abilities of the latest floor care equipment PHOTO COURTESY OF RAI AMSTERDAM

Trade shows are an insightful way to see where an industry is heading. By attending seminars and walking the show floor, noting and comparing innovations, one can determine how the future will develop.

Interclean, held every other year, in Amsterdam, is the world’s largest cleaning trade show with nearly 900 exhibitors from 47 countries.

“For over 50 years, Interclean has been the hub for the global professional cleaning industry,” says Bas Dalm, executive vice president of RAI Amsterdam

For one week in May, nearly 34,000 cleaning professionals from 143 countries attended the massive show, filling a dozen trade halls. 

For the record-breaking crowd, there was plenty to see. The Robot Arena returned, but what once was a simple and large open area to demonstrate machines was now a complex space with interior maze-like walls, school desk obstacles and individual stalls to return to. The Zero WasteLAB  demonstrated how cleaning departments can sort trash to reduce landfill waste. Finally, healthcare was definitely a focus with a patient room and operating theater demonstration area, as well as the co-located Healthcare Cleaning Forum that attracted 300 attendees.  

Out of all this innovation and information, specific trends clearly emerged that will impact the industry for years to come. 

Robots Dominate Floor Care

When it comes to floor cleaning equipment, there is no doubt the trend is robotics. The cleaning robot market is predicted to double in the next five years from $2.09 billion to $4.34 billion, according to a report by Markets and Markets. It’s easy to see why: Nearly every major floor equipment manufacturer offers a robot. 

Although robotic technology is only currently being adopted by a few BSCs and in-house cleaning departments, this technology is moving closer to a tipping point. As improvements make this technology more practical for end users — which will help justify the budgetary investments — more end users will add robots to their departments. 

One major and attractive improvement is the move towards being truly autonomous. At least one machine seen at Interclean was already there. Instead of relying on an operator to map the route, this robot defines its own route while cleaning. Also, by knowing when to return to its docking station, the machine is able to recharge itself, empty its own solution tank and refill the water tank.

“When it comes to repeatable work, it makes no sense to have a person walk behind a scrubber,” says Markus Asch, vice chairman of the executive board for Kärcher, Winnenden, Germany. 

Traditionally, robots are large machines. They have sensors to work around obstacles, but their size limits them to cleaning larger spaces such as hallways, entryways, open concourses, etc. However, companies are shrinking robotic equipment to autonomously clean tighter spaces.

By being able to reach narrow areas — as well as the fact that smaller machines typically have a lower price point than their larger counterparts — these smaller robots are again more practical investments for end users. 

“There is a need for compact machines, so why not make it autonomous,” says Mark Meng, head of business unit machines, Wetrok AG, an equipment manufacturer in Kloten, Switzerland.  

next page of this article:
IoT Could Bring Evidence-Based Labor To The Cleaning Industry