Future trends - take decisive action now (ISS 2020 Vision)

20th of September 2013
Future trends - take decisive action now (ISS 2020 Vision)

Global facilities services provider ISS published its 2020 Vision study as an assessment of the trends that will shape the facilities management industry between now and 2020. Responsible for compiling this comprehensive document was Peter Ankerstjerne, group marketing director, who is based at the company’s headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark. He speaks exclusively to ECJ about the background to the study and its key findings.

“The next decade is likely to be as turbulent and unpredictable as this one, presenting new challenges and opportunities for our society, our industry, our customers and our company. Maintaining a competitive edge in the future marketplace will require vigilance, imagination and the willingness to take decisive action.” Those are the words of Jeff Gravenhorst, ceo of the ISS Group in his introduction to the 2020 Vision report.

Peter Ankerstjerne, group marketing director, was responsible for the project which was carried out in conjunction with the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies. 2020 Vision set out to develop a number of global scenarios for the future of the facility management (FM) and services industry. The key drivers were defined as sustainability and technology. ECJ spoke to Ankerstjerne about each of these elements.

“Sustainability is still a moving target,” he explains. “In the macro economy sustainability is something companies are forced to do but it’s not as deeply rooted yet as it will be in 2020. It will become more deeply rooted because it has to.

“The technology trend is key to helping us to support the sustainability trend because development is so much better and more affordable. Of course it still has to be competitive and productive.”

From ISS’ point of view, Ankerstjerne continues, sustainability is just as much about corporate social responsibility (CSR) as it is ‘green’ cleaning. “It’s about health and safety, taking care of people, developing the workforce, etc. One of the greatest challenges is the elderly burden, ie, how do we keep people in the job longer as retirement ages change and people retire older?

“The people management challenge is significant – giving our employees the right ways of working, ergonomic equipment, good chemicals etc. We must also give people a good reason to work in the cleaning industry, by raising its image and perception. And that’s about continuous development.”

In this regard Ankerstjerne believes cleaning service companies may have to take more action in developing skills like language, mathematics, integration into society. “We will start to see more development-oriented employment, whereby providing education to our employees will become part of our responsibility as employers.

“Employees will become a more scarce resource so we will have to work harder to recruit and keep them. This challenge brings with it exciting potential and opportunities. Training will become even more important. It offers organisations a real chance to grow and foster the talent they have within their business.”

In the field of technology too Ankerstjerne feels there are great opportunities. “IT developments are of course important because they affect how we report to clients, manage contracts, etc. “We also see robotics as being a crucial development, a chance to free cleaners up to do other tasks – they could become more multi-tasked service assistants for example.”

So far, however, robotic technology has not been widely adopted by the cleaning sector – which Ankerstjerne attributes largely to the maturity of the technology. “The price does have to come down in order to be more competitive but that will certainly happen,” he points out. “Cleaning service providers must also be a little more innovative and collaborative with the systems manufacturers in order for them to become more widely accepted.”

For Ankerstjerne biotechnology and nanotechnology are also exciting developments and he is certain more widespread use of both in the cleaning sector will happen. “For example self-cleaning windows already exist. So we ask, what happens to the traditional window cleaner? In the long term he could be more focused on façade cleaning, perhaps, and become more specialist.

Adapt and adopt

“In general technology must be adapted and adopted, and then used by cleaning businesses to upskill their people to other areas perhaps. The larger companies like ISS can do that of course – for smaller companies focusing purely on cleaning it is more of a challenge.”

Ankerstjerne goes on: “New technology will also give us better reporting standards – buildings are becoming much more intelligent for example. Real-time information online, GPS systems, will become the norm and that gives us enormous potential.

“This level of reporting means the service provider can become an adviser to the client – which enables us to offer them better services, help them analyse their data and how it can be used. Intelligence means more effective and productive cleaning schedules. For example, if nobody is occupying a room for a period of time why clean it every day? We foresee the job becoming more output-focused, whereby service levels are more in line directly with customer needs.

“Communications technology is very exciting and can certainly be integrated more extensively into the cleaning business. For cleaners working alone at night, for example, GPS systems could be more effectively employed.”

As a service industry cleaning is so vital to its clients because it creates a better environment. Ankerstjerne points out: “A healthier building means a healthier workforce and less absenteeism. This makes our proposition more interesting for a client – we are improving their hygiene levels to make their workforce more effective and more productive.

“We are in a vicious circle of cutting costs – that’s true – but if we add real value we believe that becomes less of a focus. And technology will also help that approach thanks to better equipment, better cleaning chemicals, etc. Because through those technological developments we can deliver savings in water and energy usage, for example. We are demonstrating to clients that we can deliver green solutions and other sustainable systems – and we have a greater ability to document what we do.”

There is still a widespread perception that sustainable systems are more expensive than traditional ones but Ankerstjerne argues this is not the case. “It’s vital to look at the bigger picture and the indirect savings that can result. Less use of energy at night due to daytime cleaning for example. This makes it fundamentally important that we really understand our customers’ operations so that we can carry out full calculations about convenience, water/energy use etc and put our case forward professionally.”

Central to every cleaning operation of course, is the staff, and must be a key area of focus for the FM industry worldwide says Ankerstjerne. “Employees are now not such a scarce resource because of the economic crisis. But this will change so it’s important to achieve better standards of professionalism, cross-border cooperation, training, continuous development. We must encourage cleaners to take pride in what they do and see the bigger picture of the importance of their job as a cleaner.

“This is really one of our biggest challenges and service companies, along with industry organisations, need to stand together more on this. We must protect our employees’ health and safety while also making our operations more efficient, more profitable and more productive.

“There is a real business case for doing this. More motivated and well-rewarded staff give better service and do a much better job for our clients.”

To read the full 2020 Vision report visit: www.issworld.com


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