Industry Leaders Forum: Greg Whiteley, Whiteley Corporation

How was 2021 for Whiteley? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

2021 was an incredibly challenging year for everyone. Within our business we experienced unprecedented customer demand on many of our products, especially in the infection prevention space.

Whilst increased demand is usually a good news story, trying to keep up with supply to meet the demand was exceptionally challenging.

Raw material availability was a constant challenge, as was the scaling up of production, warehousing and distribution.  We were swamped with phone and email enquiries nationally and internationally. As a business we were forced to pivot heavily and work in a way we have not experienced before.

Despite the challenges there were also many highlights. The way our team stepped up to this challenge was incredible, and the way they demonstrated flexibility and tenacity was amazing.

We delivered flexibility in our operations to dramatically increase manufacturing output and ensure product supply was maintained for all customers, albeit in a reduced capacity at times.  It was great to see hand hygiene become a key focus outside of the traditional channels like primary healthcare.

Is there an achievement that you’re particularly proud of from the past 12 months?

Without a doubt, Viraclean becoming the very first product in Australia to achieve a TGA registered claim around effectiveness against COVID-19.

This was an immense step forward and allowed us to supply a proven COVID-19 killing solution to the broader community to improve hygiene and help keep people safe

Secondly our ability to maintain a very high level of supply to primary healthcare. We became well known as a reliable place to get hold of high quality ready to use hospital grade disinfectants for surface and hand hygiene.

Being Australian made we were able to maintain a high-level of supply status which was not something that many of our competitors could deliver on especially with imported products.

I was very proud of the essential support that Whiteley were able to provide within healthcare in our collective fight against COVID-19.

What will be the immediate focus for Whiteley in 2022?

We do not want to lose any momentum, so 2022 will see a significant step change for Whiteley in terms of our production capability. We are building a new human therapeutics plant which will enable increased capacity for registered products.

We are also building our internal expertise to enable us to deliver even more world class innovation.

This will put us into an enviable position to ensure that we will have even more ability to keep our products in a very positive supply situation going into the future.

What are the major opportunities you foresee for Whiteley in 2022?

Given we are very focused on local manufacturing, we are in a good position to maintain supply versus many other manufacturers that bring in their products from overseas.

We will be able to capitalise on this and ensure that both our existing and new customers can get the stock they need throughout 2022 without any lengthy delays.

What challenges do you see for the wider market in 2022?

I expect that 2022 will see a lot of challenges relating to global freight and sourcing of componentry. Those who are importing will continue to see shortages and this will lead to ongoing out of stocks.

Like many industries there are many components across so many areas spanning chemical ingredients, packaging, pumps for dispensers right down to mops and replacement handles. Anything that is a challenge to source will create knock on effects throughout the supply chain.

How will the pandemic, and its challenges, re-shape the cleaning industry in 2022?

The pandemic certainly placed cleaning and hygiene at the forefront of people’s minds and increased visibility for the industry as a whole. Its an important industry and one that can be taken for granted, but we have seen that in times like these that great hygiene does play a vital role in minimising the spread of viruses and infection rates.

I would like to see some of the new habits continue longer term such as more regular cleaning of high touchpoint areas, more resources allocated and better overall conditions for those working front line in the industry.

I do believe that this new focus will remain in pockets longer term such as aged care and schools to name a few.

How has the public’s expectations of ‘clean’ changed as a result of the pandemic?

The public is now much more aware that visibly clean does not always mean it is clean, and they are far more educated about the risks associated with hand hygiene in the fight against viruses and bacteria.

The use of registered products and Hospital Grade Disinfectants, previously considered premium products for medical use, have become more mainstream as people seek efficacious products with approved claims.

Businesses want to reassure customers that their premises are clean and safe. Customers want quality hygiene products such as alcohol-based hand rubs readily available and easy to use when there are out and about.

What impact will these new expectations have on the industry, in terms of cleaning standards and processes, in 2022?

Training needs to continually improve and be formalised. Awareness of basic infection prevention guidelines are needed to ensure cleaners are using products correctly and with the correct contact times, and the cleaning process is done in a manner that does not spread bacteria or viruses from one surface to another.

We have evolved along way over the past two years, and it would be a shame to see practices revert back to pre-pandemic practices.

What is one issue in the cleaning industry that you would like to see addressed?

I would like to see a greater focus on training. If we use COVID-19 as an example, cleaners are a first line of action when active cases are presented, therefore correct training is essential to protect the cleaners, but also ensure the site is effectively cleaned and made safe again.

We need to increase the perceived value of cleaning and to better value the cleaning teams that are out there getting the job done.  That means more reward and more recognition for those on the front line.

Do you have a message for the cleaning community?

The work carried out by the cleaning industry over the past 18 months has been nothing short of incredible. I would like to personally thank them all for the vital role they have all played and continue to play in not only making our environments clean and pleasant to be in, but in helping to keep us safe.

I would encourage you all to stay the course and make the things that you have learnt in the past two years part of your standard procedures to help reduce virus spread as we move into the future.

We wish you a fantastic year ahead.

This article first appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of INCLEAN magazine. 

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