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Challenges and Opportunities Facing Cleaning Businesses
During the recession, the cleaning industry took a downturn, and many businesses cut back on cleaning services. However, as the U.S. economy has steadily improved in recent years, the commercial and industrial cleaning industry has bounced back. A 2018 market report by the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) and the American Association of Cleaning Equipment Manufacturers (AACEM) shows that as the U.S. economy continues to grow in the coming years, commercial growth will also continue to improve, providing new opportunities for commercial and industrial cleaning businesses. In fact, the global commercial cleaning industry is expected to reach $74.3 million by 2022.
With these opportunities and benefits also come new challenges for businesses in the commercial and industrial cleaning industry. A strong economy means more competition, making it important for cleaning companies to continue to find ways to remain competitive in the busy modern marketplace. In addition to staying on top of and adapting to industry trends, businesses in this industry will also need to address potential weaknesses and take full advantage of new market opportunities if they want to grow and thrive in the coming years.
Commercial and Industrial Cleaning Industry Trends
Trends in the cleaning industry change over time as the needs and desires of modern businesses evolve. It’s essential that commercial and industrial cleaning companies stay up-to-date with these industry trends and adapt their practices to account for the unique demands of their market. Below, we’ll provide a brief overview of the most pressing trends in the industry today and how these trends may impact your cleaning business.
Healthier Indoor Environments
One of the most defining trends in the commercial and industrial cleaning industry today is driven by increased public concern over health. While in the past, commercial cleaning companies may have been cleaning for mostly appearance, today’s cleaning companies are increasingly more focused on cleaning to create healthier indoor environments. An emphasis on cleaning for health means that cleaning professionals are now held to higher standards as they are often the first line of defense when it comes to stopping the spread of viruses, infectious disease, and other contaminants in public spaces.
In addition to an increased public focus on healthier indoor environments, there are also a variety of regulatory agencies and standards that can impact commercial cleaning companies. In order to remain compliant with rules from agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and meet certain criteria from regulatory rating organizations like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), cleaning companies need to focus on using technologies, products, and processes that meet the established health and safety standards.
One of the biggest concerns when it comes to cleaning for health in large commercial and industrial spaces is improving and maintaining indoor air quality (IAQ). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 150 million workdays are missed each year due to poor indoor air quality and the related health issues it causes. This is a major reason why more commercial and industrial facilities are moving toward using greener, environmentally preferable products that don't leave behind chemical residues that can impact the air quality.
In fact, one study showed that thorough cleaning procedures including technologically advanced cleaning equipment and greener cleaning supplies can significantly improve IAQ in commercial and industrial facilities. The study showed a 52% decrease in airborne dust, 42% decrease in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), a 40% decrease in bacteria growth, and a 61% decrease in fungi colony formations.
With the busy modern marketplace creating new competition every day, more and more businesses across industries are looking for ways to simplify their processes while cutting costs. For this reason, many companies want to consolidate the number of vendors they are using, including those they use for commercial cleaning services. One cleaning vendor means one point of contact for services with one invoice, which is ultimately more convenient and has the potential to benefit the company’s bottom line.
The growing trend of vendor consolidation makes it vital for cleaning companies to provide value-added services to their commercial and industrial customers. For many cleaning businesses, this involves expanding their service offering to include specializations such as HVAC cleaning or carpet cleaning. Providing specialized services requires companies to hire new personnel or expand their training programs to accommodate these specialized services as well as invest in new technologies to improve quality and efficiency.
The need for value-added services coupled with ongoing budget constraints means that cleaning companies are constantly expected to do more with less. In order to take advantage of the growing trend of vendor consolidation, commercial and industrial cleaning businesses need to market themselves as capable of meeting all of their customers’ unique needs. As commercial and industrial facilities look for ways to transfer more of their cleaning services to one supplier, cleaning businesses need to market themselves as a valuable partner supplying specialized and experienced personnel that most businesses can’t afford to hire in-house.
Hiring & Training Practices
Improved hiring and training processes is another growing trend in the commercial and industrial cleaning industry. Commercial cleaners lose an estimated 55% of their customers based on inadequate cleaning practices. Given the level of competition in today’s market, most businesses will not hesitate to find another cleaning service if they are not satisfied with the level of service. That’s why in recent years there has been more emphasis on better hiring and training practices for cleaning companies to ensure that staff is capable and willing to provide the quality service that their customers come to expect.
When it comes to hiring, commercial cleaners need to take time to thoroughly screen their potential new employees. Not only does screening employees help ensure that your cleaning company is hiring trustworthy individuals, but many commercial and industrial facilities prefer to work only with vendors who provide national background checks on each of their employees.
In addition to hiring better personnel, cleaning companies also need to make sure that their training processes are adequately preparing staff to provide high-quality service. Employees need to be trained to work fast while also working effectively to keep up with the service schedule and price points. Though this may cost cleaning companies more time and money initially, it will more than provide a return on investment when it comes to retaining business and attracting new customers.
Unique Market Challenges and Opportunities
Retail locations, grocery stores, medical facilities, and other commercial and industrial buildings all have similar things in common when it comes to their cleaning needs. However, increasing competition and rising customer expectations have started to create unique market challenges that cleaning companies need to be aware of and account for if they want to keep their current customers and attract new ones. Similarly, valuable new opportunities are also opening up that commercial cleaning businesses need to take advantage of if they want to improve performance and grow their business.
Some argue that the challenges most commercial and industrial cleaning businesses face today are the same challenges the industry has always confronted. While that may be true, these challenges don’t seem to be going away any time soon, and, in fact, they are often amplified by rising consumer expectations in the modern marketplace. Below are just a few of the most common market challenges facing cleaning companies and how they can be addressed.
Labor: Finding & Keeping the Right Employees
The public perception that professional cleaning is not skilled work has long been pervasive in the cleaning industry. Though this is not true, especially for highly specialized commercial and industrial applications, this perception tends to lead to high employee turnover for cleaning companies. Due to this negative perception, those who apply for open positions may not be the best fit, and those who are a good fit may not want to stay in the position long.
Companies spend a significant amount of time and resources hiring, onboarding, and training their employees. The more turnover a cleaning business experiences, the more costly hiring and training can become. Not to mention, the business can also lose money if they find themselves short-staffed or if they have under-trained staff who are not performing to the customer’s expectations.
Staff can make or break a commercial or industrial cleaning business. If cleaning companies want to reduce hiring expenses while improving the quality of their staff, they need to become adept at hiring the right professionals for the job. This requires cleaning businesses to provide more detailed and accurate job descriptions and perform national background checks as part of the hiring process. Additionally, cleaning companies need to develop more effective interview questions and make sure that their expectations are clearly communicated during the interview process.
It’s important to not only hire effectively but also work to ensure that employee retention is a major focus. Improving employee retention starts with understanding how your company culture impacts employee job satisfaction. Identifying areas for growth and making positive changes to the culture can help ensure that employees are happier and more productive in their workplace, which can lead to lower turnover rates.
Here are just a few ways that cleaning businesses can improve employee retention:
- Having a formal recognition system that acknowledges employees who go above and beyond in providing quality service.
- Providing the opportunity to complete varied job tasks that keep employees interested and satisfied with their jobs.
- Creating a system for collecting employee feedback and making changes based on this feedback for a better work environment.
- Investing in new training programs that allow employees to learn new skills and expand their knowledge of the industry.
By hiring more suitable employees and finding ways to keep these employees happy, commercial and industrial cleaning companies can combat turnover and stop wasting money on hiring and training the wrong people for the job. Not to mention, the more capable, productive, and satisfied your employees are, the happier your customers will be.
Productivity: Improving Cleaning Efficiency
As mentioned earlier, the cleaning industry has seen a major shift in customer expectations when it comes to cleanliness. The trend of cleaning for health forces professional cleaning companies to be more thorough in their processes to provide more effective services. However, if they want to also be profitable, they need to stay productive and efficient. This makes it vital for cleaning companies to find ways to improve their efficiency so that they can remain effective without increasing service turnaround times.
Investing in effective cleaning equipment makes it easier for cleaning companies to boost efficiency without impacting quality. Choosing the right equipment for your cleaning needs is essential for companies that want to improve commercial cleaning productivity. For instance, using machines that have pre-set cleaning options allows your staff to start cleaning right away without wasting time on set-up. This not only improves productivity but can also provide more consistent cleaning results.
In addition to machines with pre-set cleaning options, cleaning companies should also consider investing in equipment that allows employees to get into tight spaces and hard to reach areas. Rather than having the employee get off a machine in the middle of a service visit and switch to a broom or mop, they can use machines that allow for close cleaning, giving them the ability to clean close to equipment, pallets, shelves, racks, and other infrastructure.
Aside from investing in the right equipment to help staff clean more effectively, cleaning companies should also consider what new commercial cleaning technologies and automated systems may improve productivity even further. By automating some cleaning process and investing in technologies like IoT-enabled cleaning equipment, commercial cleaning companies can improve productivity while also boosting visibility and gaining greater control over service consistency.
Budget: Doing More with Less
For as long as commercial cleaning companies have been in business, cutting costs has been a concern. Like any other industry, the commercial and industrial cleaning industry is impacted by budget concerns. Budgets can limit a business, forcing them to do more with less. As the economy dips and cleaning becomes a luxury service that businesses feel they can cut back on, cleaning companies have to continue to provide quality service with a smaller budget.
While opportunities for conventional growth may be limited, especially during times of economic struggle, commercial cleaning businesses can focus on providing value-added services. Companies can differentiate their offering through niche services and specialized personnel that allow them to provide more types of services as one vendor. As commercial and industrial facilities look for ways to cut their own budgets, they may seek to consolidate vendors, choosing a cleaning company that can offer more than just standard cleaning services.
Another focus when it comes to budget is cost control. Cleaning companies need to analyze their operational costs and look for opportunities to keep costs down without sacrificing quality of service. This may require you to change the way you operate and look past what you already know and are comfortable with to take advantage of new ways to save.
Planned maintenance of cleaning equipment is a simple way to save on operational costs over time. Just like a vehicle needs an oil change, tire rotation, and other basic maintenance services to maintain performance, so does your cleaning equipment. Routine maintenance saves you money in the long run by making sure that your equipment performs effectively with fewer breakdowns. It can even extend the life of your equipment, allowing you to get more life out of the machine before it needs to be replaced.
There are also ways that commercial and industrial cleaning companies can reduce cleaning labor costs without sacrificing quality. One way is by developing a strong training program that teaches staff how to work effectively while also being efficient. The more efficiently your team works, the more services you can provide with fewer people. Another important way to reduce labor costs is by investing in innovative and efficient cleaning technologies that automate some of your cleaning processes and improve productivity. This allows you to do more with fewer people.
Safety: Protecting Employees and Customers
Yet another challenge that companies in the cleaning industry face is how to improve safety in commercial and industrial facilities. Safety will always be a focus in public areas. From minimizing slip and fall accidents to preventing the spread of disease, cleaning companies play a major role in improving the safety of businesses and industrial buildings.
Slip and fall accidents are one of the most common types of safety issues in commercial buildings and industrial facilities. It is the cleaning staff's responsibility to ensure that any spills are cleaned up properly and signage is placed in areas that are still wet. To ensure that staff is consistent with these practices, cleaning companies need to make preventing slip and fall accidents a part of employee training.
Another safety issue that cleaning companies must contend with is the impact that cleaning processes and products have on the environment within the commercial or industrial facility. For instance, using harsh chemicals that give off a strong odor or equipment that creates noise pollution can impact customers and employees that are in the facility at the time of cleaning. Investing in more efficient cleaning technologies can help reduce both noise pollution and chemical use.
Not only do cleaning companies contribute to the safety of employees and customers in a commercial building or industrial facility, but they also must account for the safety of their own employees. This means providing any safety gear necessary and offering adequate training on how to operate cleaning equipment properly. Using equipment and cleaning solutions that reduce the need for harsh chemicals not only provides a cleaner, healthier environment for the commercial or industrial building but also for the cleaning company's employees who are regularly exposed to these materials.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides a list of regulations for cleaning companies regarding maintaining a safe and healthy work environment for cleaning staff. Following these guidelines helps ensure that cleaning staff is taking the right safety precautions to protect themselves while working around industrial cleaning solutions and equipment.
Along with the challenges addressed above, there are also some exciting new opportunities that cleaning companies can take advantage of. The sustainable cleaning trend, new cleaning technologies and automation systems, and the introduction of specialty cleaning services help cleaning businesses differentiate their company and processes while saving money by reducing time and resources without sacrificing quality service.
TECHNOLOGY & AUTOMATION
Sustainability: Cleaning for Health and Environmental Impact
All you need to do is look at the cleaning aisle of your local supermarket to see how far-reaching the green cleaning trend has become in recent years. Alongside a shrinking selection of traditional cleaning products are a variety of “green cleaners” meant to reduce the individual’s impact on the environment while also using all natural cleaning agents that don’t leave behind a chemical residue that can impact indoor air quality and health.
And this phenomenon is not just limited to consumer cleaning products. The commercial and industrial cleaning industries are also seeing an increased push toward green cleaning products and more sustainable processes. Whether due to the commercial facility’s own ethical stance or the demand of their own customers, more companies are choosing to partner with cleaning companies that can provide sustainable cleaning solutions.
The green cleaning trend opens up an important opportunity for commercial cleaning companies that want to specialize in green cleaning or offer it as a value-added service. By providing the option to use non-toxic yet effective cleaning agents in place of traditional chemical cleaners, commercial cleaning businesses can work to meet growing customer expectations given that many businesses have come to expect green cleaning options from their commercial cleaning provider.
In addition to green cleaning products, commercial and industrial cleaning companies can also adopt more sustainable processes that reduce chemical and water use. This not only reduces the company’s negative impact on the environment, but it also helps companies save money by reducing their waste and cutting back on the resources needed to provide quality services. (In the section below, we’ll talk a little bit more about ways that commercial and industrial cleaning businesses can work more sustainably.)
Technology and Automation: Investing in the Right Tools
New technologies and automation capabilities are also changing the way that commercial and industrial cleaning businesses approach efficiency and productivity. Investing in the right technologies can be a real game changer for cleaning companies that are looking for ways to improve the type of services and quality of work they provide to commercial buildings and industrial facilities.
Big data is an important tool in commercial cleaning companies' technology arsenal. Asset management technologies provide cleaning companies with greater visibility into cleaning performance metrics, allowing them to identify areas for improvement and recognize opportunities for growth. By looking at a wealth of data from the asset management system, managers can find ways to improve cleaning efficiency and lower cleaning costs while still driving improved cleaning performance and consistency.
Automation is another way for commercial and industrial cleaning companies to reduce costs while maintaining the quality of service. Companies that utilize technology to automate parts of the commercial cleaning process not only improve efficiency and help cut down on labor costs, but they can also improve consistency, which leads to a better experience for commercial and industrial facilities. Harnessing the power of automated cleaning technologies like cleaning machines open up a wealth of new opportunities for increased productivity.
Lithium-ion and other battery technology can also be a game-changer for industrial cleaning businesses. This technology makes it easier to take cleaning portable by serving as a power source for the cordless backpack and upright vacuums. Battery technology makes it easier for cleaning staff to work efficiently and get to hard-to-reach areas quickly and effectively.
Specialty Services: Adding More Value for Customers
Another opportunity that commercial cleaning businesses can take advantage of is the need for specialty cleaning services. As commercial building and facility owners and managers work to simplify their processes and cut costs, they will be looking for ways to consolidate vendors to get more of their needs met by fewer suppliers. Cleaning businesses that provide specialized services like HVAC cleaning or upholstery care are able to provide extra value to their industrial and commercial customers, thereby increasing their value in the marketplace.
Commercial cleaning businesses that want to add value for their customers through specialty services will need to invest in the technology and training necessary to offer these services effectively and efficiently. Consider what initial and ongoing costs will be necessary to provide specialized services as well as what an adequate training program would look like so that you can ensure your staff is ready to complete these new services.
When deciding which specialty services your commercial cleaning business should add, consider your customer needs as well as the knowledge and experience you already have on your team. The best way to find out what your commercial and industrial clients need when it comes to cleaning services is to ask. Send out a survey or conduct some customer interviews with your best clients to find out what additional cleaning services they may be interested in. You can also survey your staff to find out what additional experience they may have that lends well to specialized cleaning services.
Ultimately, cleaning businesses should invest in the additional cleaning services that make the most sense for their company. Discover which specialized services there is a need for in your area and which services you can realistically provide with your current staff. Then, consider what type of investment you would need to make in both equipment and staff to effectively offer these services at full scale. After weighing your options, choose the services that provide the highest ROI for your company.
Anticipating Workforce Training Issues
We’ve touched on the importance of hiring and retaining the right employees for your business. But it’s vital that commercial and industrial cleaning companies not only invest in better hiring practices but also provide more adequate training. A cleaning company’s staff is an extension of the company itself and their performance can make or break the company’s reputation, either leading to increased growth or causing the company to become stagnant or lose business.
Proper training starts with a proactive approach that focuses on the skill sets that deliver the highest return on investment for the cleaning company. This is where your value-added services come into play. By providing specialized training to your staff, you can help expand their skill set to include more profitable services.
This training should also focus on the technologies that you’ve invested in. Technology and automation can help save cleaning companies money and boost productivity, but only if staff knows how to properly use these technologies. Technology training should include set-up, operation, and basic troubleshooting to ensure that operations go smoothly in the field.
Make sure that your employees can advocate for themselves when in the field. If they get stuck on a task or have an issue with a machine while on a job, contacting the office may put them behind schedule or in some cases may not be feasible if they are working after business hours. Using just in time employee training helps empower your staff to find the answers to their questions in the moment, reducing frustration while improving the employee’s ability to fill in their knowledge gaps. Just in time training can include training manuals that are available on-site or training videos that the employee can access from their smartphone.
Adequate training empowers employees to not only improve their skill set but also take pride in their work. With on-demand training options that offer just in time training on the job site, staff can ensure that they are working effectively and serving as an accurate representation of the company as a whole. Better training leads to better employees, which enables better customer outcomes.
Sustainability and Commercial Cleaning
When it comes to commercial and industrial cleaning services, sustainability is about more than just reducing the cleaning company’s environmental footprint. It’s about staying relevant and competitive in the modern market. Sustainable commercial cleaning processes are no longer optional for companies. With an emphasis on cleaning for health, businesses are seeking out professional cleaning companies that have adopted more sustainable cleaning practices like using fewer harsh chemicals and reducing water waste.
With cleaning for health comes an emphasis on green cleaning, or cleaning using eco-friendly products that reduce the amount of chemicals and toxins left behind. The desire for healthier indoor air quality is coupled with a public push for organizations to be more conscious of their consumption and impact on the environment. Due to this, more companies are choosing commercial or industrial cleaning businesses that emphasize green cleaning through natural or environmentally friendly cleaning products and processes.
Here are just a few ways that commercial and industrial cleaning businesses can adopt more sustainable cleaning processes across their organization:
- Invest in technologies that cut down on cleaning time, thus using less energy, water, and chemicals to clean.
- Eliminate or avoid cleaning agents with harsh chemicals to reduce environmental impact and maintain healthy indoor air quality.
- Utilize practices and equipment that cut back on noise pollution, which can impact the health of your own team.
While there is a notion that greener cleaning means higher supply and operational costs, the opposite is actually true. Sustainable cleaning practices and products can lead to significant cost savings for commercial cleaning companies. That’s because these processes help companies save money on costs associated with energy, water, chemicals, and waste. Greener cleaning products also help reduce illness and injuries to cleaning staff while cutting down on workers’ compensation costs.
Commercial Cleaning IoT and Automation
When it comes to commercial and industrial cleaning technology, there have been a wealth of innovations that have changed the way that professional cleaning companies work and provide value for their customers. If they want to stay competitive in the modern market place, commercial and industrial cleaning businesses need to stay up-to-date with these innovations and look for ways to incorporate new technologies into their own services and processes. Not only will it help them improve efficiency and productivity, but it can also significantly impact the company’s bottom line.
The Internet of Things (IoT), or connected device technology, is revolutionizing nearly every industry by opening up a world of possibilities for improving business operations and efficiency. The same technology that allows homeowners to control their home thermostat from their smartphone has also had a significant impact on the commercial and industrial cleaning industry. IoT enables cleaning companies to manage fleets of equipment from one convenient dashboard, allowing them to get the data they need to improve operations and drive growth.
With IoT-enabled commercial cleaning technology, cleaning businesses can get real-time updates on equipment status, usage, and location. This means that supervisors can manage several teams at the same time from one location, making sure that service schedules are met across the company. Operations managers can also see updates on equipment maintenance needs, which helps them efficiently schedule maintenance services to reduce downtime and repair costs.
Commercial and industrial cleaning companies can also use robotics to automate some of their cleaning processes. When deploying robotics, cleaning companies no longer have to be concerned with the impact that the work will have on cleaning staff or whether the equipment is being used properly and as necessary. This not only reduces labor costs, but it can also enable cleaning companies to work faster while improving consistency, boosting efficiency, and reducing waste. All of these benefits offer a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.
While many may argue that robots are meant to replace employees, that’s not entirely accurate. Robotic cleaning machines can be used for repetitive, labor-intensive tasks like floor cleaning, which enables trained and experienced employees to focus more on the high-value tasks that provide a higher return on investment for cleaning companies. In the end, robotic cleaning equipment supplements the work completed by cleaning professionals, allowing them to work smarter, not harder to provide consistent, quality service.
Ultimately, if commercial and industrial cleaning businesses want to remain competitive in the busy modern marketplace, they need to stay up-to-date with industry trends. Working to proactively address market challenges while taking advantage of new opportunities will help these companies stay profitable even during downturns in the economy. The key to staying productive, efficient, and consistent is utilizing the cleaning technologies available to you, from environmentally preferred cleaning products to IoT-enabled cleaning machines.
Allied Market Research (February 2017). Cleaning Services Market to Reach $74,299 Million, Globally, by 2022. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cleaning-services-market-to-reach-74299-million-globally-by-2022-613830813.html
Heinl, Archie (September 2017). Top 10 Innovative Cleaning Industry Trends You Need to Try. https://www.janitorialmanager.com/blog/top-innovative-cleaning-industry-trends-need-try/
United States Department of Labor. Cleaning Industry. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/cleaningindustry/standards.html
Wagner, Dan (November 2012). Sustainable and Effective Cleaning Practices Lead to Cost Savings. https://www.buildings.com/news/industry-news/articleid/14996/title/sustainable-and-effective-cleaning-practices-lead-to-cost-savings