Technology will play a vital role in shaping the future of the cleaning industry. Already, the Singaporean government has rolled out numerous technology grant schemes that companies large and small can access to transform cleaning across their facilities.
The manpower crunch when it comes to cleaners is a chronic issue. Singaporeans continue to resist taking on a cleaning profession and the government maintains strict controls on work permits for foreign workers typically employed in these roles.
The introduction of the Progressive Wage Model will put pressure on the overall cost of cleaning but it presents opportunities for service providers to improve their productivity and operational efficiency even in a tight labour market.
The Technology-supported Approach
Instead of sticking to a fixed schedule for cleaning, cleaning companies are increasingly experimenting with the Internet of Things, robotics, AI, and apps to shift towards demand-based cleaning. Odour and movement sensors will soon be able to ‘talk’ to robot cleaners to activate a work order to clean areas that are littered and soiled, or once the number of people using the area crosses a certain threshold. Cleaners will be re-skilled to perform higher-value tasks, possibly managing a cluster of premises in the vicinity to ensure quality control.
With the huge amount of data collected, cleaning companies are able to analyse the data to deduce cleaning patterns, plan resources to match demand, measure cleaner productivity and manage customer feedback. The companies will then be able to optimise resources, whether it’s investing in a robotic cleaner or deploying more sensors. Whatever the decision, cleaning firms will have the confidence to make better business decisions, all supported by data.
Cleaning robots have been steadily deployed at Singapore’s National Gallery, Jewel Changi Airport and some government agencies. The company, LionsBot, has developed 13 different models that can scrub, mop, vacuum, sweep, shine and even transport cleaning equipment. Robotic cleaners may not be the solution for all kinds of assets, however.
From Optional to Essential
The cost-to-benefit calculations for robotic cleaners may favour large facilities because of the hefty capital outlay. Smaller facilities may be better off using a range of tech tools including new carts with built-in tools, ride-on vacuums, and compact auto-scrubbers whilst still relying on physical manpower.
Automation and robotics will change the way contracts for cleaning services are administered. Service providers will increasingly be assessed on the ability to use technology to manage costs and use data to maximise performance. Property owners will increasingly want the flexibility to pay for cleaning services on demand rather than paying a fixed cost upfront and service providers will have to respond by adopting a nimble and agile approach in service contracts.
The Environmental Imperative
Cost aside, sustainability and safety will gain increasing importance in the assessment of service providers. Vendors who demonstrate the ability to purchase in a way that reduces adverse impact on the environment while satisfying customer demand for environmentally sensitive products and services will stand out. Purchasing teams will be pressured to develop agreements with selected manufacturers for consumable products that reduce harmful contaminants to the facility and reduce excess packaging.
Facilities will be scrutinised on their ability to reduce and eliminate toxic compounds from cleaning and maintenance materials and products, cut air borne particulates and volatile organic compounds in the workplace and the efforts to purchase chemical concentrates to minimise waste by reducing the volume and weight of packaging. These efforts create healthier, greener workplaces while helping to reduce costs associated with purchasing, operating, and disposal.
To conclude, the cleaning industry is faced by a series of remarkable pressures, whether those be manpower or customer-driven. However, with the right technological and strategic solutions in place, suppliers can be well placed to better serve not just their clients, but also the environment at large.