Are you ready for evolution?

1st of April 2022
Are you ready for evolution?

Cleaning operations are becoming more competitive, while labour shortages and cost pressures present operational and commercial challenges. So the requirement for companies to optimise efficiencies to deliver outstanding service by sourcing efficient cleaning machinery including scrubber dryers, is more important than ever.

Martin Troelsgaard, global head of insights at Nilfisk, outlines how companies can address the issues that are driving evolution in scrubber dryers.

CLEANING PROFESSIONALS SEEKING to protect revenues, extend services, and underpin a sustainable future, need to consider and address emerging trends and market demands helping to shape the future of cleaning.

Remaining relevant within an increasingly competitive marketplace necessitates a strategic approach that includes long-term planning to enhance performance optimisation and support the drive for operational efficiencies. Doing so will help companies address some of the current challenges facing cleaning professionals, including acute labour shortages, rising cost pressures and staff churn.

As the world reacts to the lasting impact of the Covid pandemic, the vital importance of effective cleaning regimes is being recognised by many and demand for third party cleaning services is on the rise. Companies that have carefully considered the emerging trends and reviewed how best they can deliver a sustainable, efficient, attractive, and safe work environment, will be the ones best placed to benefit from the expected heightened levels of demand for well-run operations.

Whilst cleaning machines like scrubbers are responsible for a small percentage of the cost of cleaning - labour costs account for around 80 per cent - it is nonetheless now more important than ever to optimise overall costs and productivity potential by deploying effective scrubber dryers designed to enhance time efficiency from preparation to cleaning and daily maintenance. This can have a real impact on service levels leading to increased business efficiency and ultimately profitability.

Looking to optimise performance, drive efficiencies and therefore managing costs while remaining competitive through the prism of three critical areas: sustainability, technologies, and health & safety - can assist organisations when it comes to addressing the underlying issues of manpower, cost and optimal service levels.


In this environment sustainability is vital for businesses to stay relevant and competitive in the market. Sustainability is becoming a key driver and prerequisite for businesses when it comes to cleaning, as it is in other sectors too.

Satisfying customer sustainability demands is growing in importance on one level, but it is also becoming a business-critical issue for companies through its potential impact on the bottom line, in terms of managing costs and increasing commercial revenue. In the current market, businesses are increasingly looking at environmental impact as another area where costs need to be managed and therefore need to be as sustainable as possible, it’s going to be increasingly expensive not to do so. This is a crucial driver for manufacturers as well as cleaning operators.

As well as considering higher resource consumption and how technology can help improve sustainability. Cost-effectiveness and external presentation play an important role. To do justice to the increasing public awareness of climate and environment-related issues, it is important to rely on well-thought-out operational measures and the use of suitable equipment.

There is a chain of demands when it comes to sustainability, with clients of commercial cleaning facing growing attention from the public, their stakeholders and regulators. This then passes to commercial cleaning companies and then cleaning machine manufacturers. Businesses in all sectors are now more aware than ever of their own environmental responsibilities and the need to ensure their daily operations and third-party services they use consistently follows the sustainability-led ambitions they proclaim.

There are growing demands and expectations on commercial cleaning companies to be proactively transparent about sustainability and offer ‘green cleaning solutions’ to support compliance and live up to the increasing demands placed on their clients. The commercial importance of sustainability will only grow and this will have a knock-on effect throughout the cleaning supply chain.

Commercial cleaning companies must increasingly be prepared to match such ambitions and demands and display how the procedures they adopt and the technology solutions they use are making a positive difference. It goes beyond the simple limiting of water and detergent levels when carrying out cleaning services – it extends to the adoption of a more holistic outlook that encompasses all aspects of cleaning operations.

Interest in the concept of ‘cradle to cradle’ for equipment used within the cleaning industry is on the increase and manufacturers need to be able to respond with accurate and substantiated information around the equipment life cycle choices they are making.

The market is posing more specific questions of their scrubber dryer suppliers and manufacturers and is actively asking about the type of equipment use. Cleaning and facility managers may well begin to be probed more frequently about the performance and life cycle of the equipment they use. What happens to the machine after use? Does it help to tackle emission levels?

Customers could also enquire how cleaning materials are sourced, how does the manufacturing process work, what about the levels of plastic used in the packaging and how much energy, water and chemicals are being consumed? Is, for example, the manufacturer looking to deploy new and emerging types of detergents that are less environmentally damaging?

It’s important to understand where it can fit in the circular economy. Can the equipment be recycled? Is it energy efficient? What are the repairability and serviceability credentials that can increase the lifetime of the scrubber dryer?

Repairability is a key issue for when it comes to both sustainability and cost management. Where we can keep scrubber dryers operational with timely maintenance and service, we avoid machines going to landfill. There’s an increasing demand on producers to incorporate this in their designs, for example by making key components easily replaceable, to keep machine performance quality high, downtime low and prolong machine lifetime.

This way, a number of cost-reduction benefit drivers such as minimising risks of cleaning operations disruptions and the need for full machine replacements go hand in hand with driving a focus on sustainability and lowering the environmental impact of cleaning.

In relation to this, machine serviceability and how it ultimately underpins sustainability ambitions is critical.

The emergence of demands for ‘plug and play’ solutions, where machine service costs are included and companies do not face unexpected or unwanted additional costs, is set to gain traction.

Robotic cleaning solutions

There is a strong and emerging interest in the use of autonomous - also known as cleaning robots - solutions from within the cleaning sector and from its customer base. Mindful of the extreme pressures caused by current labour shortages and associated costs of labour, autonomous solutions can help to fill gaps and save time for businesses seeking to maintain service standards whilst grappling with manpower resource issues.

Such machines require minimal human assistance and are becoming increasingly popular within commercial and industrial environments. Expected to continue to become increasingly popular, companies are being attracted to autonomous solutions such as floor scrubber dryers because of several benefits.

They include the ability for scrubber dryers to cover large floor areas, freeing up cleaning staff time to concentrate on more laborious manual tasks that require a human touch, these high-value tasks provide a higher return on investment, as well as the guarantee of consistent results.

Autonomous cleaning solutions can help businesses address labour shortages and costs and productivity as well as improving consistency, giving them opportunities to optimise their cleaning processes and associated energy consumption.

Connected digital services can provide data-based actionable insights about cleaning machine status, mapping of cleaning activity and performance. There are also maintenance benefits for cleaning companies, as autonomous solutions can enable preventative and predictive maintenance, for example through customisable alerts about performance and service needs, resulting in less unplanned downtime and helping businesses to manage costs.

Finally, this technology also documents proof of clean as clients increasingly want transparency about services delivered according to contract and data to reassure customers’ cleaning has taken place in light of the new cleaning requirements raised by the pandemic.

The adoption of a more autonomous-based business model may be a challenge for some within the cleaning sector. There is a need to balance the cost of labour with technology costs and, for some, the high upfront equipment costs can be a barrier. This is particularly the case in markets where labour costs are low and there needs to be a clear business case which balances the costs with the benefits. As the technology evolves and becomes cheaper this will likely become less of an issue and autonomous scrubbers will become more accessible.

With uncertainties associated with labour management and high staff turnover, embracing the potential benefits of autonomous cleaning solutions can help to offset such challenges and enable businesses to maintain service standards and competitive ability.

Health & safety

Attracting and retaining employees continues to be a major issue within the cleaning sector. With renumeration levels perceived to be relatively consistent across companies – and with high staff turnover a constant (and costly) challenge as workers migrate between businesses, the focus can fall on the working environment to offer a competitive advantage that attracts and retains staff numbers.

The ability of companies to reduce the physical strains of cleaning routines and use cleaning technology solutions such as ride-on scrubber dryers, not only delivers better health and safety outcomes for workforces, but it will also reduce company insurance costs, incidences of injury-related compensation claims, and contribute to a lowering of staffing turnover.

Design-led ergonomics, delivering cleaning scrubbers that are intuitive, comfortable and safe to use and maintain, can help separate businesses from the competition when it comes to convincing potential staff to join cleaning teams.

As well as having health and safety implications, it also fosters the establishment of an inclusive working environment that is important for all businesses. It is more crucial than ever machine design considers the diversity of people in the workplace and allows for optimal adjustability and accommodation to different body sizes and ages in every aspect of user interaction. As the cleaning workforce dwindles in numbers and ages in many countries around the world this will become even more important.

The business of cleaning needs to pivot to deal with sustainability, evolving automation and employee-related health and safety challenges. Those that do will be best placed to secure new and emerging commercial opportunities as sourcing effective cleaning service solutions become a business priority for many organisations.


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