Right time, right place

8th of January 2019
Right time, right place

Swiss Post is a business that takes innovation very seriously. In fact in 2014 it established its Development & Innovation unit to act as a hub for projects and bundle them into subject-specific development programmes. One of the areas of focus has been facilities services. ECJ speaks to Kaspar Adank, head of innovation for Swiss Post real estate management and Vanessa Schneider, expert in digitisation for the innovation team to find out more.

As a business with its eye firmly on the future and how digitisation can improve all aspects of its business, Swiss Post drives innovation through its Development & Innovation unit. This supports group-wide projects, with its experts helping the different units to identify new ideas and expand them into new business areas. It draws on the ideas of the group’s 60,000 employees and also works with external partners including start-ups, universities and state institutions. Innovation is driven through collaborative web platforms.

Kaspar Adank is head of innovation for Swiss Post real estate management. He explained his team may have between 15 and 20 innovation projects in action at any one time – not all of them will succeed. The emphasis is on speed of innovation and projects are quickly shelved if they are not obviously viable very early on. “The key focus is data,” he says, “and data is vital. In fact it will become more important than the building itself – it is set to dominate the FM sector.”

Digital FM is in fact part of Swiss Post’s Strategy 2020. With that in mind it developed Service on Demand, a product geared towards building users’ behaviour and their actual needs. This means the operator can maintain customer satisfaction by keeping hotspots under control, a close eye on the workflow and costs lower.

Service on Demand devices are installed at service-intensive points in Swiss Post buildings such as paper recycling containers, coffee machines and washrooms. One of the building users notifies the FM team when a service is required by pressing a button so employees can service an area only when they really need to. Adank explains: “The head of FM wants to reduce the number of routine checks carried out by employees and achieve a scenario whereby they are ‘fire fighting’.

“For the cleaning and other FM teams this means a reduction in service rounds, dynamic operational planning and automated order management. Staff are also free from unnecessary tasks so
have the capacity to become involved in other duties.”

Of course the introduction of the new technology also brings with it improvements in the customer experience too. Building occupants can actively notify the FM team about all kinds of incidents, with a quick response time guaranteed. The devices are easy to use and use LoRaWAN (long range wide area network) so integration is simple and does not depend on the existing infrastructure. The battery operated buttons can be installed anywhere and battery life is more than five years. All information needed by the service provider is filed in the app and progress can be tracked throughout the process.


Innovation has now moved on another step with the development of IntelliClean, a solution developed specifically for the cleaning teams within the FM function. Vanessa Schneider, expert in digitisation for the innovation team, has been involved from the start. “We started by making a roadmap of innovation/challenges in cleaning and technical aspects,” she explains. “IntelliClean is an algorithm that predicts what cleaning is needed in different areas and in order to develop it we measured different rooms – for example meeting rooms and washrooms – and collected data from each area. Data is gathered from sensors and WiFi usage, which illustrates the areas people are populating most.”

Sensors in meeting rooms measure the number of door openings. Schneider continues: “We can then target areas where people are for cleaning services. So we visualise that data on tablets
and give them to staff. There is an A3 print-out of tasks over the week which is given to operatives.”

New way of cleaning

Adank adds: “Our task has been to develop a whole new way of cleaning at the right time, in the right place – according to sensor data and the population of the building. And cleaning only what’s necessary is an important element.”

Schneider explains how this has been a resource-intensive project up to now. “We spoke to the cleaning staff almost daily in order to get their feedback. Doing that helps us learn much faster, however it is time consuming.”

She found cleaners were happy to work with the touchscreen technology. “They all have smartphones anyway so it was not alien to them.” Throughout this trial stage the development team has emphasised the need for cleaners’ input and feedback and this has helped a great deal in how they feel about the technology. “They like being involved,” explains Schneider. “A dynamic plan means the cleaners and the organisation must be more flexible. So the job will change and we are still looking at how that will pan out in the long run.”

The policy within Swiss Post is that teams learn as quickly as possible when developing innovations. “It is also very important that prototyping is fast, and if it isn’t working we move on,” says Schneider. “We work to KPIs and we must prove gains very soon after embarking on a new project. For example with Service on Demand, idea to implementation was just six months.”

And the latest news is that IntelliClean was given final approval in June of this year and has now gone live in two Swiss Post buildings – it is now at the acceleration stage of the innovation process. “We have built the solution for our own use at Swiss Post in the first instance,” Adank explains, “then we will go to the open market with it. So that means cleaning service providers, also big hospitals, airports etc.”

“Open innovation is very important to us as an organisation so the aim is to offer it to other businesses with a similar structure to  ours.”

The cleaning service provider at the Swiss Post building where IntelliClean is now being used is Vebego. Head of key account management Jürg Brechbühl explained that the collaboration on IntelliClean began around 18 months ago. “To make sure the solution will also work in ‘third party’ markets we have initiated a field test.”

What has been the reaction from staff? “They see this test as a good opportunity to work with a smart tool, and to develop dynamic working hours models. This in turn could result in higher workloads.”

Brechbühl sees a number of important benefits in the IntelliClean software. “It reinforces the perception of the customer that we are an innovative and advanced employer,” he explained. “They also appreciate the transparency of the services provided and that also applies to cleaning as a key component of quality control.

“We like the fact the customer has access to all information and there is the option for them to control cleaning frequencies – the opportunity to reduce costs is an important selling point. The efficiency benefits are clear, and it is also an advantage to offer a system like this to differentiate us from other companies in the market.”

As IntelliClean develops, Brechbühl would like to see all relevant data available via one tool. “We would prefer to have as few interfaces as possible,” he concludes.

For more information: intelliclean@post.ch or visit www.post.ch/intelliclean

• This article is part of the 2018 ECJ supplement Cleaning in the Digital World. Click here to read it.


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