The 3 Cornerstones of Cleaning Innovation: Technology, Management, and Business Model – Peter Rochford

What do you think of when someone says the word innovation? 

Most people’s minds go straight to new technology. In my previous article, I explained why the future of cleaning isn’t just technology, it’s people. In short, technology has an exciting role to play at CleanTEC, but technology alone does not make an innovative cleaning service.

 True innovation takes a combination of new technology, original management styles and an innovative business model. Innovation in just one of those three areas alone is not sufficient. In this article, I wanted to break down how we’re currently innovating in technology, management and our business model to consistently improve our cleaning service for our clients. 

Technology

If we associate innovation with technology, why not start there? 

At CleanTEC, we take two approaches to cleaning tech: cobotics and specialised tools. 

Cobotics are, for lack of a better term, robots. The Eco Vac 40, for example, is an automated vacuum cleaner which uses AI navigation to clean hallways. This frees up our operatives to carry out other duties, massively boosting productivity and giving our clients great value for money. Specialised tools are investments made by CleanTEC to ensure that our operatives can carry out otherwise difficult, time-consuming tasks with ease. High-level vacuum cleaners, for example, allow operatives to reach and clean areas up to 14 metres away. Not only does this make it far easier to clean areas like school sports halls, but it also reduces health and safety risks. 

Together, we have cobotics automating time-consuming but simple activities like cleaning hallways while our operatives use specialised tools to complete tricky tasks in record time. That’s just one example, but it’s proven a winning combination for our clients in education, healthcare and industry. 

Management 

You can’t innovate just by throwing new technology at old problems. You need to consider the human factor. Innovation in management is one of our areas of expertise. After all, our people are our greatest asset – if we can’t find innovative ways to work with each other, we’ll be going nowhere, fast. Here’s how we get the most for our clients and our staff. 

First, all of our client contracts are bespoke – they’re all completely customised based on in depth surveys of the premises. That comes with a new challenge, however – ensuring that those bespoke contracts are fulfilled down to the smallest detail by our operatives across every site we work on. 

That’s no easy task. Like our technology, it requires another two-pronged approach: hands-on contract management, and our Quality Monitoring System. 

Hands-on contract management means that our Contract Managers don’t step back after the contract is signed. They’re available to both our clients and our operatives when they need support. The risk here is that this style of management becomes purely reactive – that we’re hands-on only when there’s a problem. 

That’s where our Quality Monitoring System comes in. Our Contract Managers visit each site on a regular basis and complete audits which are sent to our integrated CleanTEC portal. This allows both our team and our clients to analyse how the contract is running in real-time, helping us ensure that each detail of the bespoke contract is being met while identifying all areas for improvement. 

Business model

All of this technological and managerial innovation, however, requires buy-in from our cleaning staff. That’s where our innovative business model comes in. 

In 2021, CleanTEC became the UK’s first employee-owned commercial cleaning company. Simply put, that means that the majority of the business is owned by the employees who helped to build it, while also giving them a voice in how the business is run through our Employee Council. 

This has had a huge impact on our business and our clients. Giving employees a direct stake in the success of the business motivates everybody across all of our sites. It makes delivering the best possible service to our clients everyone’s direct priority. 

I’ve written more about employee ownership’s impact on CleanTEC and beyond, but the bottom line is that employee ownership isn’t just a fantastically innovative business model, but the driving force behind every other innovation at CleanTEC. 

It motivates each and every member of our team to seek out ways we can improve and deliver an even better service for our clients. When approaching innovation, our minds might go to technology first. The truth is, however, that innovation starts with your people – you need their buy-in, and you need to be able to support them every step of the way. It works for us, and it works for our clients. 

Peter Rochford

Peter Rochford

Peter is Managing Director & Co-Owner at CleanTEC Services. Peter co-founded CleanTEC with Chris Rogers in 2000, and played a key role in the company becoming one of the UK’s first employee-owned commercial cleaning businesses in 2021.

Peter Rochford

Peter Rochford

Peter is Managing Director & Co-Owner at CleanTEC Services. Peter co-founded CleanTEC with Chris Rogers in 2000, and played a key role in the company becoming one of the UK’s first employee-owned commercial cleaning businesses in 2021.