The two-sided mop market

17th of September 2019
The two-sided mop market

‘Smart mopping’ has become the new watchword as companies increasingly seek to develop sophisticated systems that gather data and monitor water and chemical use. But is there still a place for the traditional, manual mop as well? Ann Laffeaty looks at both sides of the mopping market in a bid to discover which way it is heading.

Like most things in life, mopping is becoming smarter as manufacturers increasingly come up with high-tech, sophisticated solutions that enhance efficiency and improve productivity.

For example, some smart mopping systems keep track of their own water and chemical use to allow cleaning companies to plan their operations and make savings where possible. Others use sensors or microchips to monitor mop efficiency.

But when one hears the familiar call for a “clean-up on aisle three” resonating through a supermarket, one rarely witnesses a smart, technology-led solution being deployed to cope with that spill of jam or fruit juice. No: the staff simply bring out an everyday mop and bucket instead.

So, does this indicate there is still room in the market for both types of mopping – the simple, manual method and the more sophisticated technology-led solution?

One first needs to define the term ‘sophisticated and intelligent mopping’ according to Kärcher’s international sales and business development project manager for detergents and consumables Christoph Scheiwiller.

“If we suppose the mop in question uses sophisticated technology and a system that delivers data, that intelligence can only be gathered through processing the acquired data,” he said. “And data is gathered in a number of different ways: for instance, it could be harnessed with the use of a scanner or by manually recording the movements of the mop holder.”

He claims the industry is divided about when a system can be called a ‘sophisticated mopping solution’. “If it involves recording tasks and activities, almost all big suppliers are willing to offer digital solutions to their customers,” says Scheiwiller. Besides a range of traditional floor mopping solutions Kärcher also offers ECO!manager which is a software package designed to optimise cleaning efficiency, plus Kärcher!Manage that records and analyses cleaning times and quality checks.

The key benefit of smarter mopping is that it provides greater transparency, he says. “Labour accounts for the biggest percentage of cleaning costs, so the industry needs to create visibility because only what is visible and transparent can be measured and optimised,” he said.

According to Scheiwiller, smart mopping systems are better suited to larger buildings than those that can be cleaned in under 10 hours per week. “The information must also flow dynamically in both directions - to and from the cleaning staff – in as close to real time as possible in order to create a successful solution in which all staff are integrated,” he said.

“Increasing digitisation demands new communication channels. And in fact, the next generation of sophisticated mopping solutions is already on the starting blocks.”

Filmop’s export area manager Paolo Scapinello agrees the mopping market is constantly evolving. “In the last few years we have witnessed a growth in demand for technologically advanced equipment that is also easy to use,” he said. “Customers are increasingly seeking professional solutions that permit them to gather data about chemical and water consumption as well as information about the various costs related to cleaning operations.

“So there is a growing demand for technological solutions along with a strong need to control the cost of operations.”

Filmop offers the Equodose mechanical dosing system which is said to provide accurate data on the use of cleaning solutions. The system is also claimed to reduce chemical consumption since only the side of the mop that comes into contact with the floor is impregnated with detergent.

Smart mopping systems are particularly useful in healthcare where the cleaning needs are specific and where costs are typically high, according to Scapinello. “In this sector it is pivotal to maintain the maximum level of cleanliness and hygiene to ensure efficient operations,” he said. “Offering a cleaning service in line with these parameters can really make a difference in healthcare.”

However he feels operators also need the option to deploy equipment that can cope with quick clean-ups and general cleaning. Filmop’s own Sprinter system is quick and easy to use because the solution is contained within the tank-handle and is released at the push of a button.

Not all mopping companies believe smart mopping to be the future, however. “Virtually no-one is actually using data gathering for mopping,” according to Crisp Clean’s general manager Paul Frost. “There might be some software shown at exhibitions by some of the larger companies, but I have never come across them in use and have never been asked about such a product.”

Little demand

Sales director of Robert Scott Alastair Scott feels the same. “I’ve not yet personally come across any mopping systems that can gather data - but we’ve seen continued growth in the demand for microfibre products with more customers looking for intelligent materials that use less water and require less chemical cleaning agent,” he said.

The company’s Pro-mist mop system comprises an ergonomic spray handle and microfibre pads to provide a quick response to clean-up needs, says Scott. This is said to feature a lightweight break-frame and a built-in release system to avoid any operator contact with soiled mop pads.

He claims volume is growing in the traditional mopping market. “Demand for quick-drying spot cleaning is also increasing to ensure facilities can be cleaned efficiently during busier periods and reduce the risk of any slips or falls due to residual moisture,” he said.

Role of technology

“While the industry is changing, I don’t foresee any drastic changes in floorcare systems in the years to come. At Robert Scott we’re selling more traditional mops today than ever before.”

Conversely, IPC communications manager Gabriella Bianco believes technology to be changing the face of mopping. “Tracking data has become one of the most important aspects of cleaning today,” she said. “In fact, the IPC Group is now studying and developing this objective in the healthcare sector, tracking mop efficiency through a microchip encapsulated within the microfibres.”

Like Scapinello, she feels healthcare to be a sector in which smart mopping systems are particularly useful since efficient results and safety for patients and operators are the primary goals.

According to Bianco, one of the drivers behind the new, smart mopping trend is a more general acceptance of technology in today’s world. “Technology is increasingly playing a larger role in our everyday lives,” she said. “But at the same time, customers are beginning to feel the need for more tangible evidence based on results and performance instead of simply replying on empirical data.

“This means smarter solutions are particularly widely requested in developed markets where customers increasingly require their cleaning processes to be tracked.”

She claims these more developed markets are also seeking higher cleaning standards, greater efficiency and reduced costs alongside the data that smart mopping can provide. “Additionally, there has been an increased awareness of the need to avoid musculoskeletal disorders such as shoulder and back pain due to incorrect movements or positions at work,” she said. “For this reason, ergonomic mopping solutions are also being pursued.”

New from IPC is the Kinetik system which offers a choice of three wringing levels depending on the type of surface to be cleaned. By offering a choice of high, medium or low settings the machine is said to improve the efficiency of water use which is claimed to save time and operating costs.
So, is there is room in the market for both the intelligent mopping system and the rapid clean-up solution?

Yes there is – in the immediate future at least according to Kärcher’s Christoph Scheiwiller. “There are still countries today where colour coding is not implemented and where the floor mop is still the standard tool for the job – a situation that seems inconceivable in other countries,” he said.

“And in any case, it is not about whether or not there is a greater acceptance of the technology – it is more about managing the entire use of resources in order to achieve clean buildings.”

Filmop’s Paolo Scapinello says there is definitely room on the market for both types of mopping systems. “In my opinion, the industry will make cleaning even easier in future in order to respond efficiently to ever-changing needs,” he said.

And IPC’s Gabriella Bianco also believes quick and easy manual systems for ad hoc clean-ups will continue to be required alongside smarter solutions.

“Items such as mops, wringers, squeegees and trolleys are designed to back up those tasks performed by cleaning machines, completing the operations wherever the use of a specific product is needed,” she said.

“There are so many different types of cleaning needs that it’s inevitable several types of mopping system will continue to coexist. Innovation will always be sought, but ease of use will also play a key role. And mopping systems will never be a replacement for machines - but the two will be used hand in hand to achieve the most effective results.”


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