“Up to 40 per cent of cleaning could use autonomous solutions”

21st of March 2018
“Up to 40 per cent of cleaning could use autonomous solutions”

ECJ editor Michelle Marshall speaks to Nilfisk’s recently appointed president and ceo Hans Henrik Lund about his ambitious plans for future direction of the group.

Hans Henrik Lund arrived at Nilfisk as its new president and ceo in August of last year, bringing with him a strong background in technology, digitalisation and product development. He has held leadership positions in global companies over 25 years. “I’ve been lucky enough to work for businesses that are customer focused and market driven,” he says. This history means Lund brings with him an interesting new perspective on both the Nilfisk company and the professional cleaning sector as a whole.

Lund’s objective is now to “inspire and set a vision” for one of the industry’s leading developers of cleaning systems and solutions. “There’s a real purpose in what we do as an industry,” he explains. “We make the world a cleaner place, which is very inspiring. And we work with customers who understand the value of clean – we are doing something really important. What we do impacts on business and it impacts on wellbeing, I very much appreciate that.

“And we have well qualified experts and competition in the field.”

He continues: “Innovation runs in the DNA of Nilfisk and I come from a tech industry where that is the top priority. One obvious area for us to focus on is robotics, because we feel the value proposition is so clear.”

The company committed to the development of autonomous cleaning solutions in 2016 when it launched The Horizon Program, a schedule of multiple product launches in partnership with Carnegie Robotics. Its Liberty A50 autonomous scrubber dryer made its debut last year, with further developments to come.

Lund is now raising the stakes as far as robotic solutions are concerned however. He is so committed to the more widespread introduction of robotics into the market that “we have said that within five to seven years up to 10 per cent of our revenue will be from autonomous solutions. That’s the right way to go, and we will make it work. Customers are not the ones to be convinced, we need to make it happen.

Significant payback

“We are partnering with more than one company to solve any challenges still associated with the technology,” Lund continues. “The right sensors and the right cameras are all there but let’s assume you’re cleaning a shiny black floor for example. The time of day, sun coming through the window and shining on that floor – various factors will currently still affect the robot’s performance.”

Every environment is different and that must be taken into account when developing and refining autonomous machines he believes. “There is definitely a need for them now, however, and our customers recognise that. The payback is significant, and the payback is very clear.”

Lund is also confident there will be changes in how autonomous cleaning machines are designed. “Currently standard cleaning machines are being made autonomous. In the future we must design for not having a human involved in the operation at all.”

From Nilfisk we will see an entire range of autonomous machines. “This would cover all the different aspects of floor care, including vacuuming for example,” he explains. In his opinion “up to 40 per cent of the total professional cleaning market can be addressed by autonomous solutions”.

What about the other machines in the company’s portfolio? “We will continue to make small innovations to our other products,” says Lund. “We are also asking ourselves, do we really need so many products? Could we simplify the ranges?

“We are not simply selling products, however, we are selling services and innovations within those services. For example after-market services account for 35 per cent of revenue which is a sizeable chunk. Most is analogue currently but it could be exciting to digitise maintenance, to make cleaning more transparent. This would then involve us in the eco-system of smart buildings with the exciting possibilities cross-sector collaboration could bring.”

Lund is convinced the professional cleaning sector is going through fundamental change and his focus is on placing Nilfisk at the forefront of that change.

“Do we do this at full speed, or do we allow other companies to lead the way?” he says. Hence the ambitious plans and targets. “It will happen. Having that vision will drive the commitment.

“I have already witnessed this trend in other industries – cleaning is currently going through the classic technology adoption curve.”


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