Cleaning, connectivity and collaboration

Karcher deputy CEO Markus Asch discusses how technology is reshaping the industry.
Markus Asch

In September Karcher deputy CEO Markus Asch presented at the World Federation of Building Services Contractors Congress (WFBSC) in Berlin, where he discussed how technology is reshaping the industry.

Technology will support people and processes in the cleaning industry, not replace them, with collaboration between man and machine key to future industry success, according to Karcher deputy CEO, Markus Asch.

“I am a firm believer that technology will not replace people in our industry,” Asch said on stage at the World Federation of Building Services Contractors Congress (WFBSC) in Berlin.

“Technology will support people, improve the way we do business and introduce processes and structures to a quality that we don’t see today,” he said.

During his keynote presentation, Asch said he predicts technology and data will further aid in the advancement of the cleaning industry through the use of ‘cobots’ – collaborative robots.

“Robots will be a part of our life and they will be a part of cleaning. They will not replace people. They will replace some of the work that can be easily done. But the major challenge we have today and tomorrow is how [people and robots] work together.”

Although technologies such as AI and autonomous vehicles are still in their infancy around the world, Asch believes this forward thinking will have flow-on effects to the cleaning industry.

“What we’re seeing in other industries is robots and people merging. They support each other. They understand each other. They communicate with each other. Robots in [cleaning] will be used where standardisation and quality is crucial.”

Asch also discussed the concept of ‘connected cleaning’ and the challenge that many in the industry face, understanding the data generated from smart machines, and applying it intelligently to drive efficiency and processes.

“Right now, there are billions of devices being connected. We are in an emerging time where everyone connects to everything. Only a few companies understand what to do with that. Our task is to prepare for the future and understand where this will lead to.

“Different technologies from different industries and backgrounds will move into our industry. The competitor of tomorrow might not be the competitor you know today, it might be someone totally different,” he said.

“My prediction is what people expect in their private life, they will soon expect in their business life.”

Asch said cleaning is ideal for digitalisation, with the FM sector already beginning to influence the industry through the development of smart buildings which today incorporate digitalised monitoring and metering.

“Cleaning by definition is a process and it is ideal to be digitalised. Through digitalisation you can generate transparency.

“From the FM side, there’s huge pressure on digitalisation and this will automatically apply to cleaning because cleaning is just one part of total integrated FM. While cleaning is more isolated today, it will soon become more  integrated into FM. It’s important we understand there will be pressure on cleaning to move into a structure of digitisation.

“Today, how often do you have to prove to your customer that the cleaner was there? Now, you have the opportunity to prove it to your customer through the use of data. It is changing the way we do business with customers and I’m convinced we’re just at the beginning.”

In his closing comments Asch encouraged delegates to not look at technology as a trend.

“Understand digitalisation, or connected cleaning, as a support function to help your people drive optimisation, improve quality and reduce costs. But don’t underestimate the importance of people in our industry.

“[Cleaning] is a people industry. It will change, innovate and more technology will be introduced, but it will be a guiding function. Digitalisation has the potential to heavily reshape our industry. The challenge ahead of us is how we can manage all of this together.”

This first appeared in the November/December issue of INCLEAN magazine.

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