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Tennant Topics: 2024 Cleaning Industry Forecast

December 13, 2023 9:14 AM by Tennant Company

Posted in Industry News & Trends

Tennant Topics: 2024 cleaning industry forecast and trends

As we rapidly approach 2024, we’re continuing our “Tennant Talks” series with a roundtable discussion on how the cleaning industry has changed in the past few years—and where things are headed in the next 12 months.

Josh Person | Strategic Accounts Manager

Demian Navarro | Strategic Accounts Manager

Trevor Countryman | Strategic Accounts Manager

Bill Ruhr | Senior Product Category Manager - Industrial

Chris Greenwood | Global Product Manager - Walk Behind Scrubbers

Brian Miller | Senior Product Manager

Gordon Frazier | Lead Field Service Technician

Chance Aldrich | Lead Field Service Technician

Josh Kyle | Lead Field Service Technician

John Ickes | Director Industrial Design & Innovation

Davida Suiter | Director of Purchasing

Q: What are the most important changes or trends that have shaped the cleaning industry over the last few years?


Chris Greenwood: The key story over the last few years is everybody is getting more cost pressure, and you’re seeing a split between high-end innovation and pragmatic innovation. One example is how the industry looks at cleaning machines: they either want machines that bring more value to the table (like robotic/automated cleaning machines), or they want lower-cost machines that don’t have all the bells and whistles.


Demian Navarro: Supply chain shortages and labor shortages have impacted every cleaning team in every industry.


Davida Suiter: On the supply chain front, the ongoing challenges changed how cleaning teams make purchasing decisions and think about equipment reliability. It’s not just, “How often does a machine break down?” It’s, “When a machine goes down, how quickly can we get it fixed? Or how quickly can we get what we need to get it fixed?”


Bill Ruhr: The labor shortages continue to cause organizations to have to choose between cleaning and shipping product. For example, if you can only get one person instead of two, are you going to have that one person spend their time cleaning the floors—or working on the production line?

Q: What are the most significant innovations or breakthrough technologies in cleaning over the last few years?


John Ickes: I think three main breakthroughs have happened:

  • First is that automation is going mainstream. In three years, we’ve gone from a few vendors dabbling in robotics to nearly all vendors offering robotic solutions. And as the software improves and the navigation improves, productivity improves. AMRs are cleaning more square feet per hour and doing it with fewer assists (less interaction from the operators).
  • A second and related thing is we’re starting to see more businesses looking to maximize their ROI on robotic cleaning machines by combining use cases or applications—inventory scanning, security, etc. For example, we used to have multiple electronic devices to do different tasks, but smartphones merged these technologies into one device. I think we’re going to see robotic equipment help merge technologies as well.
  • A third point is cleaning teams are really figuring out the power of data—what data can do for their cleaning operations and how they can use it to manage performance across their fleet. They’re using data to understand battery health, to monitor the machine’s vital signs and proactively service a machine before it fails, etc.

Q: Have these trends changed how companies make purchasing decisions or structure their business models?


Trevor Countryman: In retail specifically, we’re seeing more companies leasing cleaning machines instead of outright purchasing. And there are more departments involved in that decision: the buying committee for an AMR may have procurement, HR and risk management all involved. Retail is also leading the way with AMR. They’re recognizing they can use an AMR to clean their floors at a fraction of the cost of their old contract cleaning. And they’re already used to using automation across their business--like self-checkouts they’ve been using for more than a decade.


Gordon Frazier: Companies are definitely thinking further ahead with their purchasing decisions. They’re frustrated that supply chain challenges are still happening, so they’re trying to plan ahead and create supply chain resilience.


Josh Person: I’m seeing more BSCs and cleaning teams build their business model or operational model around the adoption of AMR technology. It’s not only about dealing with the labor shortage; it’s also about everything they can do with the data. Because a BSC’s customers now want to see “proof of clean.” And an AMR automatically provides all of that. They can see exactly how much is being cleaned, they can see the hours the machines are being used. And they're also seeing, from a safety standpoint, no one's crashing into anything. They're not hitting customers and they're not hitting the machine on anything. Putting all that data together also allows them to show that they’re getting an ROI from their investment in AMRs.

Q: What strategies have customers deployed that are most successful related to the staffing challenges?


Josh Kyle: We’ve already talked a lot about AMRs, but that’s been the most successful strategy, in my experience. Cleaning teams are using AMRs not just to address a lack of employees, but to increase their overall productivity by freeing up their employees to do other work.


John Ickes: The other way that organizations are making employees more productive is by making their job easier. And one way cleaning teams are doing that is by focusing on cleaning machines that are significantly easier to use, easier to maintain, and easier to fix. We’re seeing more cleaning teams seek out equipment that offers innovation in the form of addressing those basic needs in a really intuitive way.

Q: How have expectations of “clean” continued to evolve?


Demian Navarro: In my experience, I haven’t heard customers talking about COVID or extra disinfecting for a while now. That’s obviously different in healthcare and education. But the level of disinfection that was the focus even a year ago, I don’t think is there anymore. I think we’re back to an approach that focuses on how do we clean to make spaces look appealing? I would sum up the expectation of clean in one word: perception. If it looks clean, then it is clean.


Chance Aldrich: We’re still seeing healthcare and schools working extra hard to get to that highest level of clean. They recognize the value of keeping spaces as clean as possible. They are also very conscious about what they are cleaning with and how it could impact students or patients.


Trevor Countryman: In retail, we’re starting to see more companies draw the direct line from cleanliness scores to sales and revenue. We’re seeing stores and companies that have raised their cleaning scores see huge impacts on revenue and store traffic.

Q: How is sustainability playing a bigger role in cleaning programs?


Bill Ruhr: We’re seeing customers wanting to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and move their fleet from internal combustion engine-powered to battery-powered.


Josh Person: A lot of our leading-edge customers are moving toward electrification, or hydrogen — anything other than an internal combustion engine (ICE). We have a lot of customers that are trying to get all the old-school ICE-powered stuff out of there. They want to get rid of all the emissions, the particulate matter, etc. Because of those reasons, I’m seeing more sites shifting to AMRs and other battery-powered machines.


Davida Suiter: Companies are also looking closer at their vendors and holding them accountable for sustainability standards and goals. At Tennant, we’re passing a lot of our sustainability commitments along to our customers—our responsible supply chain and sourcing, our fair labor practices, making all the ESG documentation readily available to make sure customers can meet their certifications in Europe, for example.

Read an Overview of Tennant Company’s 2023 (FY2022) Sustainability Report

Q: Finish this sentence: In 2024 the cleaning industry will…


Bill Ruhr: The cleaning industry will continue to move toward more sustainable solutions and will be looking for innovations to make their lives easier. In particular, I think fossil fuels will continue to get hit really hard by the ESG goals that companies are setting right now.


John Ickes: The industry will split into a dichotomy. On one hand, the cleaning industry will continue to become more sophisticated, leaning more into data and robotics and high-tech equipment. Meanwhile, the other part of the industry is moving toward simplifying as much as possible.


Chance Aldrich: To pick up where John left off, we’re going to see a big focus on simplification. Simpler machines make for simpler repairs. Fewer moving parts make machines less likely to break and easier to fix—and are less likely to have delays waiting for parts to make the fix.


Brian Miller: Here’s the split that I see: We'll have organizations that just want to get the dirt off the floor. It doesn’t need to be fancy and expensive—it just needs to get the job done reliably. And then there will be others investing in high-tech solutions that can help them meet sustainability and operational efficiency goals.

Talk with Tennant experts today

As you plan for 2024, what are your biggest challenges and key goals? Which strategic route is your business taking: building new advantage by investing in high-tech innovation—or streamlining by investing in simple-yet-reliable tools?

No matter your plans, Tennant can help you put together the right tools to meet your needs and goals. Reach out to a Tennant expert today and let’s talk about how we can move your business forward in 2024.


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