The evolving standards of carpet cleaning
Have you ever wondered how janitorial equipment suppliers of professional cleaning tools and equipment come up with new ideas, new technology, products, and equipment? It can happen in a variety of ways. Some companies have entire research and development departments.
However, based on my experience with a large manufacturers of portable carpet extractors, most of the seeds of innovation for this company actually came from just one man. He had been in the carpet cleaning industry for many years, knew first-hand the many challenges and issues technicians faced in their trade, and with that in mind, helped spearhead the development of several machines that addressed these needs which later became very successful products for this company.
However, with time, this gentleman lost touch with his former industry. His focus moved from the needs of carpet cleaning technicians, the company’s end-customers, to the needs of his company’s marketing department, the manufacturing department, and the C-suite, who were, as you can expect, always very cost and profit-focused.
This is not uncommon. This happens with many janitorial equipment suppliers making all types of tools and equipment used in a variety of market sectors.
However, in time, many manufacturers find they must get re-focused on the end-customer and the best way to do this is to interact with them directly.
This is often easier said than done. Even so, some of the largest manufacturers in the professional cleaning industry have found an effective way to accomplish this is by getting directly involved with what are termed group purchasing organizations (GPOs).
Before exploring further, we just need to define what a GPO is and is not. A group purchasing organization does not make, buy, or sell products. According to Terry Sambrowski, executive director of the National Service Alliance, a GPO that serves the professional cleaning industry, they negotiate price discounts directly with janitorial equipment suppliers which are then passed on to their members.
Meet, greet, and learn
Also, they do not distribute products, adds Sambrowski. Instead, a GPO works directly with distributors in specific industries such as the jansan industry, who market the products directly to GPO members
With our clarifications out of the way, we can return to the issue of how janitorial equipment suppliers, and very often the largest manufacturers in the industry – stay close to their end-customers. For some, the best opportunity they have is when they meet cleaning contractors and distributors that belong to jansan-focused GPOs. Sambrowski refers to these gatherings as meet, greet, and learn events.
“It’s the way janitorial equipment suppliers learn firsthand what is happening in the professional cleaning industry, how it is changing, and what types of products contractors need to address these changes.”
As an example, she says that in the past few years, more and more office spaces have evolved from the traditional individual office environment—the way offices have been designed for decades—to the open-space office. An open-space office eliminates most individual office spaces and in many cases, also the partitioned cubicles that became commonplace in the 90’s.
Along with this change in space design, the nine to five office worker has also disappeared. “In some locations, day cleaning is no longer something an office manager requests,” says Sambrowski. “With the new office environment, Day Cleaning is 24 hours a day because invariably there are always people using and working in the office.”
Because of these changes, janitorial equipment suppliers have learned firsthand from GPO members and others in the contracting cleaning industry of the need for equipment such as:
• Carpet cleaning machines and other types of machines that are much quieter than those made in the past
• Apps that sense and indicate where supplies or service is needed in a facility
• Engineered water cleaning systems that electronically create cleaning solutions that are considered far less harmful to the environment than traditional chemicals
• Vacuum cleaners with a wider cleaning path but which are nimble enough to clean and maneuver large office spaces with group work environments
• Battery operated equipment with longer lasting batteries for added versatility
• Robotic, sensor controlled cleaning systems
• Tools and equipment that address green and sustainability strategies which are commonly higher priorities in these new work environments
Furthermore, because some open-space offices are so large, contractors find they need high tech equipment that allows cleaning workers to better track where equipment is used and stored; how effective it is working; what supplies are needed and where; when supply orders are expected and easier ways to order supplies.
In addition, by listening to end-customers through such things as Sambrowski’s meet, greet, and learn session and other interactions with cleaning contractors, many jansan janitorial equipment suppliers have developed new technology to address the evolving cleaning challenges and needs of the professional cleaning and building management industries. Examples of this can be seen with the one tool used by most all cleaning contractors, the vacuum cleaner.
Over the past decade manufacturers have introduced vacuum cleaners that are:
• Lighter and more ergonomic
• Have improved filtration systems
• Are more user serviceable and easier to service overall
• Have fewer components (making the equipment lighter, less costly, and more serviceable)
• The development of diagnostic tools or ‘smart tracks’ which indicate if the vacuum cleaner or one of its components needs repair along with noting filtration status
• Vacuum cleaners with multiple energy packs for continuous use allowing for recharging when the machine is not needed