Panel Examines Status and Future of the Cleaning Industry

November 19, 2021

A panel of industry leaders kicked off Wednesday’s education sessions at ISSA Show North America 2021.

Customer Power Panel: What’s Next for the Cleaning Industry?, moderated by ISSA Executive Director John Barrett, took a look into what’s next for the cleaning industry from its customers’ perspective.

“This past year has tested our industry in profound ways,” Barrett told the three-man panel. “While the odds have been stacked against us, it’s clear the industry is resilient,” he said, pointing to the industry’s growth during the pandemic along with the general public’s new, improved attitude toward cleaning.

When the pandemic first began and facilities shut down in March 2020, building owners and providers were unsure where to turn, said panelist Ignacio Guerra, Sr. Vice President of Operations & Engineering at Staples Center in Los Angeles. “At first it was hard to find guidance, but we had a good partner in our in-service building provider and we put together a plan. We invested in some new technologies and said ‘no’ to others.”

Once the stadium was able to reopen, it reworked its cleaning protocols and followed lower capacity guidelines until things began looking more like normal. “Throughout we were worried about having enough supplies and staff,” Guerra said.

John E. Kelley, senior director of Global Operations for Janitorial Services at JLL, a Fortune 500 financial and professional services firm that specializes in commercial real estate services and investment management, admitted to making a lot of mistakes at first.

“We cleaned so much we cleaned the finish off things,” Kelley said. “Now we realize that surfaces are not the main place where coronavirus is, it’s spread through the air.”

When asked about the future of the cleaning industry, Brett Friedman, CEO of Precision, a leading informatics and big data firm, said 2022 growth figures in some markets will approach 2019 figures, but “there are winners and losers.”

“The towel and tissue market will not get back to 2019 figures until 2023 but hand sanitizer is doing well and figures in 2022 will be higher than those in 2019,” he predicted. “Health care is doing well in acute care, but not in primary and long-term care.” As for people returning to full-time to offices and other facilities, he said, “There are still less butts in seats, to quote a technical term.”

When asked when the commercial facility market will get back to pre-pandemic levels. Kelley said businesses have gone through three historic events, September 11, the 2007-2008 financial crisis, and now the pandemic, so full recovery will take a while.

Regarding changes in customer expectations, Ignacio said his stadium visitors “wanted a lot of hand sanitizer, they really wanted a lot. They also wanted visibility of cleaning crews.”

With a labor shortage, Ignacio worried about having enough cleaning crews to meet customer expectations without overworking his current staff. “We are pushing people and I worry about burning out our workers,” he said.

Despite staffing and supply problems—and some fans wanting to politicize the pandemic with their resistance to wear masks—Ignacio said overall customers have been cooperative and satisfied. He related a story of a Lakers player who waited patiently to take his practice shots while cleaning crews disinfected the rim and backboard of the hoop.

Watch the slide show below for a picture recap of Wednesday at ISSA Show North America 2021.


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