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IWMS+ Smart Cleaning

Clean Better, Not Just More
August 4, 2020

In the age of COVID-19 and “enhanced cleaning,” how and how often an organization cleans its facilities has drawn unprecedented levels of scrutiny. In March, Amazon announced that it had added over 5,700 janitorial staffers to its existing teams,1 while Marriott established a Global Cleanliness Council and rolled out hospital-grade disinfectants for cleaning across all of its properties2 . Surveys are consistently finding that employees see cleaning procedures as one of their highest-priority concerns when evaluating whether or not they would feel comfortable returning to the office3 . With so much public attention focused on cleaning, one important question to ask is how an organization can clean better.

IWMS+ Smart Cleaning image

Sometimes more is just more

The most common answer has been to simply clean more. For example, many companies are now assuring employees and visitors that certain assets or spaces will be disinfected a fixed number of times per day. Others, like Amazon, are emphasizing the additional number of cleaners that they have hired. But simply cleaning more doesn’t automatically lead to better outcomes. If building users are mostly sitting at their workplaces, do they really benefit when cleansers disinfect the doorknobs in a conference room that hasn’t been used all day?

What Smart Cleaning offers is a way to target cleaning services to address real-time needs. It does so by combining the power of an IWMS with live sensor data in such a way as to improve cleaning outcomes, ensure cleaner safety, and support management all at the same time.

Moving from more to smart

The first step in the process is to use the IWMS to lay out a clear cleaning program. This program identifies what types of cleaning activities should be performed in any given location and at what type of frequency – informed, for example, by OSHA or CDC guidelines. Each type of task is broken down into its component parts, ideally illustrated with pictures or videos (including safety warnings) and accompanied by instructions about what types of supplies are needed for any given task. This information feeds into a mobile Work Assistant app that displays different tasks on a visual floorplan.

The second step is to augment this static cleaning plan with ticketing information to reflect urgency and to add new tasks on the go. Cleaners would then have the autonomy to redirect their activities to locations where urgent needs have emerged, and would also be given the ability to activate tickets themselves – notifying managers if they notice anything that requires additional attention or that cannot be completed as anticipated.

The third stage of Smart Cleaning is to introduce live sensor data into the mix. Depending on an organization’s priorities, occupancy sensors could be used to trigger automatic work orders for certain types of spaces. For example, if one concern is that conference rooms need to be sterilized between reservations, automatic cleaning requests can be logged when the room is vacated. Conversely, if a reservation was made but no one showed up, the sensor data could be used to notify cleaners that the work order need not be filled. Doing so would make rooms available more quickly and would save time and supplies while freeing cleaners for other tasks. Sensors could also be useful in other applications: door count sensors installed at the entrance to a bathroom might be used as to trigger cleaning or refills when utilization reaches certain thresholds.

Looking ahead

Over time, data from various sources – sensors, historical work orders, user surveys – can all be fed into a machine learning algorithm to develop a self-learning system to schedule cleaning tasks. Such a system would be able to better estimate how much time different types of tasks require in a given location or what types of cleaning needs tend to arise in different areas, resulting in more efficient use of resources and better cleaning outcomes.

Ultimately, as Smart Cleaning becomes increasingly smart, we can redefine what it means to clean better. Rather than simply more cleaning, better cleaning means more efficient use of cleaner time and materials, more effort allocated to cleaning where it matters, and better user outcomes in the form of improved health, safety, and satisfaction with the cleanliness of their work environment.

This post is Part 2 of an ongoing blog series on IWMS+. The previous post introduced the concept of IWMS+ and provided an initial list of topics to be covered. If you’d like to receive notifications about future additions to this series and other Spacewell knowledge content, please sign up here.

  1. https://blog.aboutamazon.com/company-news/how-amazon-prioritizes-health-and-safety-while-fulfilling-customer-orders

  2. https://news.marriott.com/news/2020/04/21/marriott-international-launches-global-cleanliness-council-to-promote-even-higher-standards-of-cleanliness-in-the-age-of-covid-19

  3. PwC (5/11/2020), “PwC’s COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey: US findings” https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/covid-19/pwc-covid-19-cfo-pulse-survey.html
    Facilities Executive (5/5/2020), “Employee Views on Current and Post-Pandemic Office Life”, https://facilityexecutive.com/2020/05/employee-views-on-current-and-post-pandemic-office-life/

By Nicole Weygandt, Ph.D.

Head of Strategic Development at Spacewell

Dr. Weygandt is the Head of Strategic Development at Spacewell, with professional experience in finance, energy, and higher education. She previously worked as Head of Research at project finance advisory firm Taylor-DeJongh and has held fellowships at Princeton University and Northwestern University. Dr. Weygandt received her Ph.D. from Cornell University and holds degrees from Georgetown University and the University of Chicago.

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