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Measurement matters more during COVID-19

Measurement matters more during COVID-19

Nils J.van der Zijl, VP Sales & Marketing, Softbank Robotics EMEA

The Measurement gap in Cleaning

A lot has been said and written about the need for the cleaning industry to adapt to the challenge presented by COVID-19. Improved cleaning and hygiene standards are seen as critical in protecting against the spread of the virus and in instilling confidence in workers and customers around the safety of buildings during the pandemic and, critically, as people return to their workplace.

For FM providers and cleaning contractors, the pressure is on to drive performance and productivity, whilst at the same time managing cost and resources against a challenging economic backdrop.

But whilst contractors strive to deliver enhanced levels of service for clients and provide clean and safe spaces for the end users of buildings, many simply do not have the processes, technology and data to measure improvements in performance and demonstrate this additional value to clients.

We recently undertook research amongst FM leaders in the EMEA region, which exposed the extent of this measurement gap within the cleaning industry. A mere 17% of FM organisations (both on the supply and demand side) currently report on KPIs such as return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO), and a staggering 18% don’t formally measure or report on cleaning operations at all.

Worryingly, for all the focus on innovation and productivity, 80% of FM leaders admit that measuring cleaning performance and validating cleaning results is still a challenge.

And for an industry that is seeking to develop longer-term, strategic partnerships with clients in order to protect and grow margins, this represents a huge problem.

How can FM providers and cleaning contractors demonstrate value and business impact to clients when they’re often unable to point to any hard metrics at all?

Time no longer matters in Cleaning KPIs

With cleaning performance in the spotlight like never before, now is the time for service providers to review current approaches to measurement and develop new strategies which deliver meaningful and timely metrics around the things that actually matter to clients and end users.

Rigid input-focused KPIs, based around time and resource, are no longer relevant in a dynamic, agile and unpredictable business environment.

As with so many other industries, measurement should be output and outcome-centric, based on real-time data and insight around quality, productivity and business impact.

Indeed, our research found that FM leaders want measurement to evolve dramatically over the next five years to cover a far wider range of measures such as health, sustainability and employee satisfaction.

Indeed, there has to be a move towards measuring the real business impact of creating clean, safe and comfortable building environments. So within healthcare, that’s linking cleaning and facility service delivery with the speed it takes patients to recover from operations and treatment; and in the airline industry, that’s the time it takes to get passengers through airport security and into retail and hospitality areas. Within professional services, it’s how quickly and seamlessly organisations can get their people into the building and performing fee-earning work. 

During these challenging times, this is what really matters to business. Can cleaning be performed in such a way and to such a standard that workers and customers feel safe and confident visiting buildings? Can it drive improved employee wellbeing and retention? And working back from this, how can we measure this?

Measurement is key to transforming the cleaning industry

Once FM providers and cleaning contractors enter into these types of conversations with clients, demonstrating how improved cleaning performance can have a tangible impact on business performance and profit, and providing real consultancy and advice on re-opening buildings, that’s a major turning point for our industry.

Already we’re seeing some of our clients going down this path, using data and insight generated through their use of cobotics, to create a dashboard of hard, business-focused metrics which can be used to track performance, prove value and optimise operations in real-time. This leads to performance-based contracts with shared risks and rewards, something that is much needed to meet the needs of businesses now and in the move towards smart buildings.

It’s time for FM providers and cleaning contractors to take a more strategic and robust approach to measurement, using data to showcase improvements in hygiene, productivity and bottom line business impact. That’s what is needed to tackle the challenge of COVID-19, to transform our industry and to get our economies working again.

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The British Institute of Cleaning Science is the largest independent, professional and educational body within the cleaning industry with over 40,000 Individual and Corporate Members in the UK and Internationally.

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