Digital transformation is advancing virtually all sectors and is continuously creating new opportunities for technological innovations that simplify processes and management. This includes the cleaning sector—the benefits of digital solutions for professional building cleaning were recognized a number of years ago and investments were made in innovative ideas.
The current economic developments are making the topic of digitalization in the cleaning sector more present than ever—the increasing shortage of skilled workers means new methods are needed to make staff planning and management as efficient as possible. The onetime fear that digitalization would lead to job losses has proved to be unfounded.
The day-to-day work of skilled workers is made significantly easier thanks to digital solutions as the digitalization of recurring work cycles markedly simplifies the processes of professional cleaning companies, saving not only time, but also money. Companies that deploy digital technologies correctly therefore secure themselves a clear competitive edge. In this article, we will introduce you to the key digitalization trends in the cleaning sector.
Digital planning: making piles of paperwork a thing of the past
A professional building cleaning company begins to plan its operations as early as at the quotation stage. Who is to be deployed where? What needs doing? What devices are needed? This organization is not always easy as the cleaning staff use different equipment at different places of work/in different buildings.
To simplify the processes from the outset, an ERP system (enterprise resource planning system) should ideally be used for digital planning. All the master data relating to the cleaning staff, the machinery, and the buildings are entered into this, giving everyone a record of who is working in which building as well as what equipment is needed or is currently in use.
Communication between the company and its customers is additionally assisted by cloud and CRM (customer relationship management) solutions. These can also be used for flexibly and efficiently drawing up duty rosters.
Let’s say a customer wishes to spontaneously make a change to the deployment plans. For example, an additional meeting room may need to be cleaned as management has announced it will be convening there the next day. In this case, a company needs to be able to adjust the deployment plan at short notice. For larger companies with a large number of customers, this is virtually impossible using paperwork. But spontaneous adjustments are not an issue if the planning processes are digitalized — everyone involved can access the digital deployment plans while they are out and about, meaning everyone is kept up to date on any adjustments at all times. This also eliminates the time spent and paper used for the tedious task of printing out and filing the plans — a changeover that’s good for the environment.
Digitally mobile—always up to date thanks to smartphone and app
Company cell phones or tablets installed on the cleaning trolley enable workers to directly log their work hours and breaks in an app. Their work hours therefore no longer need to be noted on paper and then laboriously entered into a PC—a media interruption which is not only time-consuming, but also susceptible to errors.
Photographic evidence can also be documented via an app, for example if furnishings are damaged before or after cleaning. A number of apps even offer a translation function for non-native speakers. The GPS function in smartphones likewise offers benefits as the locations of the cleaning staff can be tracked and the time they spend there as well as their travel times between their places of work can be automatically recorded—important data for time management and future planning.
Apps and mobile devices additionally promote a cleaning company’s transparency vis-à-vis their customers because the customers can also provide feedback on the services provided via a corresponding app and let the company know how satisfied they are with their cleaning standards. This, in turn, helps the company optimize its quality.
Digital planning means and software therefore save money, time, and paper, while also affording the cleaning companies greater flexibility.
Smart offices that think for you
Digital transformation is of benefit not only with regard to managing work assignment and cleaning staff. Digital programs also simplify the planning of inventories of consumables like soap and paper towels. What needs refilling or distributing where? What orders need to be placed?
- These days, there are innovative technologies that automatically log material fill levels and share these online via the Internet of Things (IoT). The old visual check—an unnecessary, time-consuming activity—is now a thing of the past. Full waste disposal bins and dry house plants can likewise make themselves known automatically and need not be manually checked every time.
- And there is even more to the smart office of the future—sensors can be installed to log the frequency of use of specific rooms. This makes sense in the case of restrooms, for example, as toilets that are rarely used do not need cleaning as frequently. The sensors use artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically report cleaning needs when the facilities are used more.
- Weather data can be incorporated, too, for example via sensors attached to the building exterior—after all, heavy rain or snow can mean a greater need for cleaning.
- Smart systems can additionally report rooms that need cleaning but were accidentally overlooked, thereby boosting the quality and consequently also customer satisfaction.
Overall, the modern technology aims to focus cleaning on those places that really do need cleaning—in other words, to make the work as efficient and needs-oriented as possible. This frees up time and space for important activities. Smart offices may sound a little like science fiction, but they are already in use in the real world.
The digitalization of cleaning machines
When it comes to the digitalization of cleaning machines, what often comes to mind are the now widespread robot vacuum cleaners that collect all the dust under sofas, beds, and desks without any assistance. But cleaning robots of this kind are not only doing the rounds in people’s homes—they also assist large companies with professional building cleaning.
What’s more, automatic floor cleaning technology is now so advanced that humans are only involved in maintenance work like emptying the dust collector, replacing the brushes, or remedying problems. The robot sees to the thorough and fast cleaning of rooms autonomously thanks to smart sensor technology and AI-based mapping—man and robot working together.
In particular in large spaces spread across one or more floors, what are known as cobots (collaborative robots) are also frequently put to use. A number of these robots are deployed in a building and are connected via a cloud such as the Nexaro HUB. Entire fleets of cobots can then be efficiently managed via smart software/a smart platform. Here, too, human assistance remains essential because the cobots are managed by a person—perfect teamwork for efficient work.
Although the machine cannot get by without human management, the new technology does relieve us above all of monotonous work and allows us to focus on more demanding tasks.
This type of cloud system/software offers additional advantages:
- The cloud continuously monitors the state of a machine, allowing device errors to be identified early on and remedied. In the event of a malfunction, the designated person whose contact details have been logged in advance is automatically notified.
- The GPS function is helpful, too: if a machine is removed from its allocated location, for example in the event of theft, its owner is automatically notified. The device’s current location can then be determined via GPS.
This technology is available in the market in all kinds of models and designs. While fully autonomous machines manage with less human assistance, a semiautonomous floor scrubber, for example, requires more human input.
Digital building cleaning of the future
Digitalization of the cleaning sector is undeniably in full swing and those who get on board early on will secure valuable competitive advantages over their market rivals.
Digital solutions help with the targeted and wise deployment of workers; innovative technologies like cleaning robots, cobots, and the Nexaro HUB assist with day-to-day tasks. Companies that embrace new technologies therefore not only work more efficiently, but also boost the long-term loyalty of their skilled workers.
Smart offices ensure needs-based cleaning as well as a high quality level. The digital documentation of deployments allows not only for a high degree of transparency, but also for flexible adjustments to customer wishes as well as the sharing of feedback—the ideal foundations for greater customer satisfaction. As such, the digitalization of professional building cleaning offers advantages to everyone involved.