Anniversary Coverage 2010s

In recognition of the 80th anniversary of Sanitary Maintenance, each issue will explore a different decade and how events during that time shaped the jan/san industry. 


• The Great Recession in 2008 was slow to impact the jan/san industry, but the new decade had many manufacturers talking cost increases for raw materials by the end of Q1. Pushing back on inevitable price hikes, distributors argued it was too soon in the recovery to be talking increases. “There is too much risk in alienating and angering customers by rising prices just as we come out of the recession,” commented Andy Brahms, president of Armchem International Corp. 


• Green trends from the 2000s continued into the new decade as distributors staffed up with “sustainability consultants,” who not only sold green products, but also spearheaded in-house sustainable initiatives. The early moves paid off as end users seeking LEED certifications increased purchases. Unfortunately, by the end of the year, many end users shifted their priorities back to business survival and growth. 

• In 2007, now chairman Robert Tillis purchased Imperial Bag & Paper. Six months later, his son Jason Tillis, current CEO, joined the organization. Little changed until 2011 when Imperial purchased Burke Supply Company, the first in a string of acquisitions. In 2017, the father/son pair purchased Dade Paper in what was quoted in a 2018 article as a "transformational event" for the company. Imperial Dade was born shortly after, and the company went on to acquire 74 distributors to date (as of press time). 


• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued the largest overhaul of the Hazard Communication Standard since the early 1980s. The move included major modifications to the hazard classification system, chemical labeling requirements, and safety data sheets, impacting roughly 40 million Americans.  

• Amazon Supply quietly crept into the marketplace in 2012, but by the end of 2013, e-tailers had become a growing threat, forcing traditional jan/san distributors to readdress their online presence and service offerings. 


• The Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) created upheaval, and friction from the jan/san industry forced the U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation requiring investigation into the negative impacts it would have on small businesses currently working with the government. 

Sanitary Maintenance launched the Distributor Choice Award, an annual product award dictated by jan/san distributors that continues today. 

• “Cleaning for Health” became a common industry term as the industry targeted infection prevention techniques and indoor air quality inside commercial facilities.  


• The emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) had distributors questioning where they stood in the technological evolution of jan/san. 


• The COVID-19 pandemic initially drove infection prevention and other cleaning efforts through the roof, but soon-to-follow stay-at-home edicts forced the jan/san industry to adjust. Distributors were quick to find ways to meet customer needs and do business — they ramped up e-commerce offerings, diversified products, and shifted to online training and consultation services. 


• Demands for cleaning products and equipment hit an all-time high as the pandemic continued, but manufacturing delays, overseas shipping struggles, price fluctuations, and even severe weather disruptions made matters worse. In a 2021 article, one expert said, “COVID caused a widespread awakening to the vulnerabilities baked into our lean, cost-optimizing supply chains. It has brought a greater focus on the need for building supply chain resilience capabilities.”