A chat with Dan Weltin on trends in the contract cleaning market

Changes in contract cleaning: a chat with Cleaning Show speaker Dan Weltin

Last month we reported back from our little trip to the Cleaning Show 2017. It was a great experience and we came back with a lot of tips, tricks, and new ideas for the future.

However, there was one speaker we were disappointed we didn’t get to see—namely Dan Weltin, Editor-in-Chief of Sanitary Maintenance and Contracting Profits at www.cleanlink.com, who had flown over from America for his keynote presentation on “Five Trends Changing The Contract Cleaning Market”.

Knowing that this would be a fascinating (and important) insight into our business, we managed to get hold of Dan and quiz him about those trends, and he was generous enough to spill the beans:

1. Your presentation states that floor cleaning is the largest and fastest growing robot category—soon to be a $600 million industry and with Europe set to represent nearly a third of this market. What do you see as the key benefits for, and challenges facing, the expanding robotic contract cleaning industry in 2017? 


Robots bring numerous benefits to cleaning programs. First of all, many companies do not have enough personnel to clean their accounts. Robots can fill these job voids. With fewer workers needed, that’ll result in cost savings because there will be less money spent on wages, benefits and training. Even though companies will have fewer workers, they can still increase productivity — a robot can clean as often as you need. This cleaning will also always be consistent. Human workers are affected by emotion and fatigue, but robots will always clean the same.

“Robots will create safer workplaces for cleaners.”


Finally, robots will create safer workplaces for cleaners. Robots are primarily handling floor care tasks. Studies show that mopping is the second-leading cause of cleaning related injuries. If machines are doing the floor cleaning, there should be fewer injuries to workers. 

Now all that sounds great, but robots aren’t perfect. People still need to program and maintain the equipment. Robots can’t clean crowded spaces; they are still best suited for wider, more open spaces such as hallways, airports, malls, schools and hotels. The last challenge is they are expensive. At $40,000 manufacturers estimate it’ll be 12 months before you see a return on investment. 

2. You talk about the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) being a major trend, which will see a shift from more traditional routine cleaning to a demand-based, internet-connected working schedule. How do you see IoT impacting contract cleaning when it comes to bathrooms?


An advantage of IoT technology in the restroom is the ability to monitor usage. Currently, the World Health Organization reports that hand-washing compliance in hospitals is less than 50 percent. But using IoT devices changes that. A recent study found that introducing electronic monitoring improved hand-hygiene compliance and as a result, reduced hospital-acquired infections. 

In the office sector, IoT in the restroom has a different role. The main use there is to send an alert to a cleaning operative when supplies are low, batteries are about to die or there is a clog. So instead of people leaving the restroom without washing their hands because there’s no soap or towels, a cleaning operative can be alerted to immediately fix the problem. 

But IoT also gives you data on overall usage, which a cleaning contractor can use to develop a “cleaning on-demand” schedule. For example, after analyzing data you may learn that the restroom on the second floor needs servicing three times a day, but the one on the sixth floor only needs to be cleaned once. 

3. Office space is obviously a key factor when it comes to contract cleaning. Can you explain what challenges cleaning companies are now facing when it comes to the offices where they work?


Office buildings are moving to two main types of layouts: Flexible and High-density. Both are going to cause cleaning contractors to revise their cleaning specs. 

In a flexible office there will be a variety of different spaces to clean. According to one study, 75 percent of companies use at least seven types of collaborative spaces. And some of these spaces are quite challenging, for instance cleaning a cafe is much different than cleaning a conference room. 

In high-density offices, there are going to be more people in the space. This means there will be more detailed tasks, such as emptying more waste receptacles, as well as higher traffic in the restrooms. More restroom visitors means more frequent restroom dispenser restocking and possibly more odor control problems.

4. Lost productivity due to illness can cost businesses a lot of money. How important do you think contract cleaning is in tackling office infection control? And is there anything you think cleaning companies could be doing better to help their clients in this regard?


I don’t think office infection control currently gets the attention it should. But I think that will change. Commercial office facility executives and building owners are going to realize how much money they are losing to infections.

“Employees who come in sick… cost the economy $227 billion each year. Proper cleaning and disinfecting reduces the spread of viruses by 80 to 90 percent.”


In the U.S., absent employees and employees who come in sick, known as presenteeism, cost the economy $227 billion each year because of lost productivity. $20 billion of this comes from just the common cold. 

Proper cleaning and disinfecting reduces the spread of viruses by 80 to 90 percent. Every day, cleaning providers should concentrate on disinfecting commonly touched surfaces such as elevator buttons, breakroom sink faucet handles, microwave door handles, water fountain buttons, vending machine buttons and computer mice.

Contractors can also encourage their customers to provide hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for building occupants. That way occupants can clean their own personal space. This will significantly reduce infections and occupant absences. Studies also show it will increase occupant morale. 

5. How do you see a changing workforce affecting the cleaning industry? And are these challenges restricted to the USA or do you see them affecting Europe too?


The cleaning industry has never been flush with youth. And now Baby Boomers are retiring in large numbers. This problem is not limited to the United States. By 2020, half of the global workforce is going to be made up of Millennials. The cleaning industry needs to show Millennials that it has many attractive attributes for this new generation. This is a stable industry that offers opportunities for advancement and leadership positions. There are opportunities to collaborate and work with new technology (i.e. robotics, Internet of Things, etc.). It also is an industry that practices environmental responsibility through green cleaning and other sustainable initiatives. These are all things that Millennials want in a job.  

Thanks again to Dan Weltin for taking the time to chat with us! You can find a copy of his original Cleaning Show presentation here.

Interested in finding out more about how our cleaners can help your business? Get in touch for a free no-obligation quote!

Maria Millgate