New study: Staffing shortages, pressure on margins, physical strain—cleaning companies view robotics as the solution to the industry’s problems

Study Cleaning Industry

Wuppertal, May 2023The cleaning sector is undergoing a profound transformation. Staffing shortages, pressure on margins, and physical strain on cleaning professionals pose growing challenges for the industry. Now a representative study of decision-makers at cleaning firms undertaken by Mentefactum on behalf of the technology start-up Nexaro has highlighted the biggest problems facing the industry—as well as a possible solution: the use of autonomous cleaning robots as part of a holistic cobotics approach. At the same time, it makes clear just how poorly the industry scores in terms of innovation, and how far behind it is when it comes to digitization.

When asked how far their companies have gone on the road toward adding digital support to their cleaning services, only 12% of decision-makers in the cleaning sector said that their companies were “advanced.” A mere 6% felt that their companies were “well advanced.” These were the findings of the representative study "Attitudes to robotics in commercial cleaning" undertaken by the prestigious market research institute Mentefactum on behalf of Nexaro.

Nine out of ten companies do not have enough skilled staff

Dr. Henning Hayn, General Manager of Nexaro, stresses the importance of state-of-the-art technologies: “It is high time that we move forward in terms of digitization and automation.” More than nine out of ten companies (91%) point to the shortage of skilled personnel as one of the biggest challenges they are facing today. In an industry that is especially labor-intensive, general bottlenecks in the labor market are particularly pronounced, with the result that some jobs can only be partially completed or must be turned down altogether. Hiring sufficient personnel is rendered even more difficult by factors that are inherent to the job. According to the Mentefactum study, decision-makers identified the high level of physical strain (60%), the low level of attractiveness of professional cleaning jobs (55%), and the unattractive working hours (55%) as particular problems. The industry is also suffering from increasing pressure on profitability. General cost pressures were considered to be among the biggest problems today by more than three-quarters of the decision-makers surveyed (76%). The result is labor costs now reaching record highs. According to the German commercial cleaning trade association (Bundesinnungsverband des Gebäudereiniger-Handwerks), these now account for approximately 85% of costs, placing commercial cleaning near the top of the service sector.

“Traditional cleaning that relies on a large number of staff has reached a dead end,” said Dr. Henning Hayn in light of these figures. “The only way to increase sales is to hire more staff—yet getting more people is practically impossible. Robotics offers a way out of this dilemma, because it has the potential to solve not only the problem of insufficient staff, but also the pressure on profitability that is being felt by cleaning companies. Our cobotics approach does not mean reducing personnel levels. Instead, the goal is to relieve the burden on cleaning professionals by allowing robots to autonomously perform the monotonous and strenuous process of dry floor cleaning and reducing the time people need to spend working unattractive hours.”

87% of those surveyed think that collaboration between humans and machines is useful

The industry feels the same way: 87% of decision-makers believe that collaboration between humans and machines as part of a cobotics approach is useful, with 36% believing it is very useful. Larger companies are particularly in favor of this, with 91% of decision-makers in cleaning firms with over 1,000 employees saying that collaboration between humans and machines is useful. Yet smaller companies also expect positive effects, with 85% of respondents in both smaller (less than 200 employees) and mid-sized (200 to 999 employees) companies answering in the affirmative.

About the Attitudes to robotics in commercial cleaning study

What are the biggest challenges currently facing the cleaning sector? And what specific requirements must any solution satisfy? In order to obtain a scientifically sound answer to these questions, the Mentefactum market research company developed the "Attitudes to robotics in commercial cleaning" study on behalf of Nexaro. 

A random sample was chosen from the sum-total of all decision-makers in the German cleaning sector. Interviews were ultimately conducted with 203 decision-makers using a computer-aided phone survey. The results are representative for the cleaning sector in Germany.

Study Cleaning Industry

About Nexaro

Nexaro is a start-up from Wuppertal and is part of the Vorwerk Group, which has been a guarantor of the highest quality since 1883—and today is a globally active group with revenue amounting to EUR 3.17 billion and more than 9,000 employees in more than 60 countries (as per Annual Report 2022). As an independent company within the Vorwerk Group, Nexaro benefits on the one hand from the mutual transfer of knowledge and technology and on the other hand has the necessary freedom to develop its business model and become a driving force in the cleaning industry with the innovative Nexaro cobotics approach. Intensive research and development work as well as cooperation with leading companies in the industry have made the development of the Nexaro NR 1500 autonomous robot vacuum cleaner and the Nexaro HUB software solution possible. In addition to the focus on the highest quality, another focus at Nexaro is on the topics of data security and sustainability.