By Markus Asch
The question as to how cleaning will be performed in the future is a concern for our sector. More than that, we are being challenged in our thinking on conventional business models and how they will change over time.
Cleaning today can no longer be considered an isolated, rigid process, for it must be viewed in a larger context—as one part of many interlocking systems. The decisive factor is no longer the specified routine, but instead it is actual requirements with the aim of making cleaning more efficient and customer-friendly. We summarize this needs-oriented cleaning with the phrase “cleaning on demand”.
The crucial factor in the idea behind this phrase is the intelligent use of data where relevant information is provided to the cleaning staff, and, in the future, also to autonomous cleaning machines via IT technology in real time. It is then possible that cleaning takes place where it is necessary, and not only where the schedule specifies it.
For this purpose, systems for data acquisition can be used that are already available in most buildings. Light, heating and elevator sensors provide indirect indications of the number of people present, and thus the degree of dirt in a room or on a given floor. Alternatively, or in addition, sensors can be used to determine data relevant for assessing cleaning requirements. For example, sensors can determine the dust concentration in the air. If a specified limit value is exceeded, then cleaning work is initiated in that space.
This gives rise to another future-oriented topic which is increasing in focus: “verifiability of cleaning”, i.e., evidence of the cleaning performance. By means of optical analysis procedures and machine learning, it can be measurably shown what work has been performed and of what quality. In addition, representative area feedback systems can indicate the level of customer satisfaction to ensure the cleaning performance is positively experienced by the customer.
Furthermore, this transparency has the advantage that actual and target values can be compared and, based on these values, the processes involved can be optimized. Pilot projects have shown that savings of up to 30% are possible.
Driving forces for such cleaning-on-demand models, on one hand, are building operators. On the other hand, the major players in the area of facility management are including in their portfolio more and more sensor-operated services. This results in increasing pressure on the cleaning sector to make use of the existing data and to provide modern and sustainable solutions.
One thing is clear: digitalization will reshape our industry. It has the potential to raise productivity and cleaning quality to a new level. This, in turn, ensures another thing: anyone who does not confront the challenges of the future today will not be able to survive in the market in the long term.
Article by Markus Asch, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Alfred Kärcher SE & Co. KG in Stuttgart, Germany.