Half-century celebration

13th of September 2011
Half-century celebration

One of the UK cleaning industry's leading organisations celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, explain's ECJ's reporter.

As mentioned in the last edition's column the British Institute of Cleaning Science  (BICSc) is 50 years old this year, which marks the first for a number of our cleaning organisations. In many cases the members of these organisations believe that they have shaped or helped to shape the industry into what it is today.

This is perhaps a good time to take a look back and observe the changes. Yes, there have been some, probably not enough, but speed of thought has never been one of the outstanding characteristics of our industry.

Which parts have changed the most? Have public attitudes changed? Unfortunately this is the most easily answered question, with a swift negative. Cleaning is still a music hall joke long after music halls have passed into oblivion - but cleaning has always been good for a laugh. The BICSc was formed to create some status for the industry. Did it succeed?

Frankly no, although its sibling the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners, growing from the original Guild of Cleaners, has achieved a veneer of respectability. The British Cleaning Council (BCC) has developed towards the original dream of a central body with political power and influence but there remains much to do. Political power in the sense of influencing decisions of government features in most associations but is probably beyond the industry.

But it has made small gains. This has partly been due to national press coverage of some of the less attractive habits of the NHS, which began by centring on cleaning. As it turns out cleaning is not the major villain, but sheer carelessness and a lack of interest by many staff. The unions continue to agitate for more money but offer no solutions to improve the service. They are not alone in operating the Whifm principle. (What’s in it for me). Almost all other branches of the profession also have restrictive practices.

This has led to overall consideration as to whether the NHS is a force for good and efficient management. The jury is still out on this.

Contract cleaning rise

The major change in the cleaning industry has been the rise and rise of contract cleaning. Fifty or more years ago in-house cleaning was the norm but the rise and rise of the accountant and the need or perhaps the vision that overheads needed to be reduced changed the picture. The point has been reached where the big players are FM companies - some actually employing contract cleaners to carry out their work as well as being willing to carry out outsourcing of almost any commercial activity for major clients.

The salesman who plied his trade door to door or shop to shop is now  the rarely seen sales representative appearing only in response to a complaint. Vast sales forces are a thing of the past. Online marketing is increasing but it would be unwise to see it as a panacea for all ills. Attention is needed in the areas of customer care and call centre response.

In the columns of the Financial Times and the cleaning journals the buzz words are 'sustainability’ and ‘carbon capture’ together with the mother of them all, ‘green’. Many companies make much use of their ‘green credentials’ in promoting their products and services.


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