The digitization of the facilities management and maintenance sector has been slowly gathering pace over the past two years. Large service providers such as ISS, Mitie and Sodexo have focused their digitization efforts on improving the efficiency of maintenance processes with IoT monitoring platforms and mobile apps for field workers. But with a new focus on workplace cleanliness and hygiene following COVID-19, will the digitization of cleaning finally take off?
The cleaning services market has been slow to digitize. It remains very labour intensive and as much as 95% of cleaning costs is attributed to labour expenses. Cleaning has often been overlooked by digitization programmes in favour of optimizing service lines where labour is more expensive or scarce. But with many firms set to double their cleaning expenditure over the next year, the incentive to optimize cleaning will change fast. A US-based facilities manager recently admitted to us that “It is not viable to double our janitorial spend in the long term. I want to apply labour more smartly based on building usage.”
In recent weeks, technology vendors have launched a slew of new digital tools to help service firms deliver cleaning more efficiently. Spacewell upgraded its Work Assistant app to provide cleaners with demand-based work orders on floor plans. SoftBank is offering free trials of its cleaning robot ‘Whiz’, which cleans floors using AI and vision technology. Location-based technology firm TraknProtect has launched TraknKleen, an IoT solution that captures data from cleaning carts and ID cards to keep an auditable trail of cleaning work in hotel rooms.
As COVID-19 bolsters the business case for smart cleaning technologies, we anticipate large facilities management firms will make cleaning the next focal point of their digitization strategies. They will focus investments on technologies that help them deploy labour more efficiently and keep a log of all work. But not all firms will invest. Some facility managers have already opted to push cleaning onto building occupants, encouraging them to self-disinfect workstations and meeting rooms after use.
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