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Tennant Topics: The Future of Cleaning Innovations & Technologies

January 25, 2024 12:25 PM by Tennant Company

Posted in Sustainability Robotic Cleaning Machines Innovation & Technology Industry News & Trends

Tennant Topics: The Future of Cleaning Innovations & Technologies

With Pat Schottler, Vice President of Marketing, Tennant Company

While it’s impossible to predict the future of cleaning with 100 percent accuracy, recent innovations, trends and challenges are key indicators that change is on the horizon.

In this post, we’re chatting with Pat Schottler who has experienced the commercial cleaning industry from varied perspectives across sales, service, marketing, operations, engineering and support functions. If past is prologue, expect commercial cleaning innovations to continue to proliferate and provide opportunities to clean smarter, better and more cost effectively.

Q: How will cleaning evolve in the future?

Beyond cleaning for appearance, the industry has increased its focus on cleaning for health—which was brought to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic elevated the importance of true cleanliness in all shared spaces. This resulted in cleaners being asked to clean more spaces, clean them more thoroughly and to do so with the same or reduced budgets. All this is happening at the same time labor costs are increasing and labor supply is shrinking.

Takeaway: To overcome many challenges, organizations need commercial cleaning innovation. Automation helps to address the fundamental issues related to cleaning—consistency of clean, proof of clean, costs to clean and labor challenges.

Q: Why is automation an important innovation—now and going forward?

With persistent labor shortages and a heightened expectation for clean, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are already here and working alongside human cleaners. These robotic cleaning machines tackle floor cleaning and free up people to perform higher-complexity tasks. Autonomous floor scrubbers also provide data in real time that can be used to validate and improve cleaning while demonstrating that the right steps are being taken for a healthy and safe clean.

Takeaway: With the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence and robotic technology, automation is likely to increase as machine learning helps improve the efficiency and effectiveness of cleaning automation.

Q. How can the industry reduce waste and advance sustainability in cleaning?

Cleaning still generates a considerable amount of waste. Going forward, enhancing product circularity and extending product life cycles will play critical roles in reducing the amount of waste in cleaning. Also, cleaning with detergent-free, water-based technology (rather than chemicals) will likely grow so as to reduce the negative environmental impact of packaged chemicals and to help clean more sustainably.

Takeaway: Floor cleaning systems of the future will be designed with circularity in mind. To do their part, organizations can adopt more sustainable cleaning technologies and new business models—such as reconditioned equipment—to help extend equipment life and ensure there’s a sustainable plan for equipment’s end of life.

Q: Will the industry shift away from fossil fuel powered machines?

Climate change is leading to the use of more energy-efficient Lithium-Ion batteries, which are shifting the industry away from fossil fuel powered cleaning machines. Going forward, there will also be a shift toward electric powered machines to continue to advance sustainability in cleaning.

Takeaway: The key to success of electric powered machines in cleaning some of the most demanding applications will be overcoming the challenge of delivering the right cleaning performance at the same or lower total cost of ownership as the fossil fueled product being replaced.

Q: What regulations should the cleaning industry expect going forward?

Sustainability, circularity and carbon-free energy will continue to be a focus for regulators in the future. We expect to see an increase in mandatory sustainability reporting requirements and an increase in regulations mandating the displacement of fossil fuel emissions.

That’s why Tennant is committed to becoming net-zero by 2040 and recently launched our new sustainability framework—Thriving People. Healthy Planet. We are focused on areas we know we can—and should—create change. Recently, our net-zero targets were validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

Takeaway: A heightened focus on sustainability initiatives will likely drive a regulatory clamp-down on corporate greenwashing to ensure companies are delivering real sustainability value.

Q: What challenges and opportunities will the cleaning industry face in the future?

The cost and availability of labor in cleaning is likely to continue challenging the industry for the foreseeable future. That challenge will be met with AI enabled automation. The ability of organizations to successfully adopt automation is likely to be a key differentiator for cleaning success in the future. The industry has an opportunity to deploy new technologies and play an instrumental role in organizations achieving their net-zero and overall sustainability objectives.

Takeaway: By mechanizing and automating more routine, mundane tasks like floor cleaning, organizations can upskill their labor and provide more compelling career development opportunities. This presents an opportunity to improve the lives of cleaners, enhance the quality of clean, and do more within the same or lower budget. The adoption of sustainable cleaning technologies will play a critical role in combatting climate change.

Q: Will cleaning in the distant future be fully automated or will humans still be needed?

I envision a future where the cleaning industry will be highly automated and completely sustainable, therefore improving the lives of people in the industry and everyone served by it. Humans of all backgrounds will be needed to realize that vision and to sustain the industry indefinitely.

Takeaway: Automation is an opportunity to improve the quality of cleaning jobs by increasing worker pride, motivation, engagement, purpose and job satisfaction.

The Tennant team of experts can help guide you into the future of cleaning. Contact us to learn about our forward-focused floor cleaning solutions designed for today and what comes next.


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