Industry Leaders Forum: Mark Piwkowski, CEO, Quayclean

How was 2020 for Quayclean? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

2020 will go down as a year of challenge, opportunity, and change. We emerged a stronger, more diverse enterprise both geographically and by service.

Quayclean secured several new customers, notably the Australian Turf Club and Venues Canberra, extensive COVID-19 related work opportunities for public health authorities in Victoria, medical institutes, local councils, court authorities and private schools.

Quayclean was the unsung hero for the AFL season with cleaning responsibility at over 120 AFL games in the 2020 season, including 78 fixtures in the Queensland “bubble” of the Gabba and Metricon Stadium.

These outstanding results were once again only possible through the commitment and dedication of our people. While this has been the case for many years, these qualities, which are central to Quayclean’s culture, stood out like a beacon last year.

They were exceptional, going above and beyond to keep our customers, students, patrons, and their facilities or venues safe and hygienic.

How did Quayclean respond to the impact of the pandemic?

Our experience from the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games supported our experience when there were Norovirus outbreaks among athletes and officials.

Using this experience, we were able to respond quickly to the pandemic, developing COVID-19 operations manuals and safe space guidelines for staff, venues, health and educational facilities.

Hundreds of staff completed online and in-house COVID-19 training and developed clear procedures on how to respond to customer and government demands for services.

Additional emphasis on high levels of communication, sanitising and disinfection ensured we had clear procedures and contact with our customers. Our new commercial arm, Quay Supply Network, was established to source and supply hygiene, sanitary and PPE and we saw early and ongoing success.

What will be the immediate focus for Quayclean in 2021?

Continue to build deep in existing market sectors across the country in metropolitan and regional locations whilst building wider markets in key target markets. Focus on building customers for life, providing broader services and value.

We earn customers trust through our actions and adding beyond the job of cleaning by having systems of cleaning, sustainability, technologies and resources that are at the core of our capability. Together, they support the optimisation of labour and equipment in the most efficient and effective manner.

What long-term changes do you think will be implemented to business processes as a result of the pandemic?

Quay Academy provides a staff training platform, leadership development programmes and foundation ‘apprenticeships’ for our staff that are second to none. 2020 has shown for our industry that cleaning is not merely a mop and a bucket, but an essential front-line service in combating COVID-19 and other potential viruses.

Currently, there are Certificate Courses available at TAFE’s, but we believe strongly that a tertiary education-backed apprenticeship programs for the industry, where more industry training and a deeper understanding of sustainable cleaning techniques, needs to be established.

Just like an apprenticeship for a plumber, electrician or carpenter, customers must have demonstratable evidence and confidence that all cleaning has been performed to a standard consistent with recognised government standards including verification of how and when cleaning was performed.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for the wider industry in 2021?

Our industry has allowed itself to be exploited to low competitive pricing for too long. Combined with competition for labour, the industry has allowed the evolution of labour that is either underpaid, employed under sham contracting, or where employees are employed under an ABN.

Too much of the industry lacks the skill and specialty, and they have been exposed during this pandemic. There is a lack of qualified staff, and stronger training and development is a real opportunity for the industry to pursue.

Looking at the future – both short and long term – what do you see, as far as changes and adjustments, that the global cleaning industry must embrace?

Globally, the industry needs to adopt world-wide industry sanitisation and cleaning standard benchmarks. At present, standards vary from country to country, and continent to continent. Sadly, we have seen second and third waves in outbreaks of COVID-19 in many countries for a variety of reasons.

But the cleaning industry can help mitigate the spread of the virus by adopting standard industry practices and the use of globally accepted cleaning products. The World Health Organisation approves hospital-grade cleaning and disinfectant products, but as an industry, we need to go further.

What do you expect to be the big trends of 2021?

Significant focus on sustainability and recycling within the cleaning industry. In Australia, our population has increased by 30% in 20 years, but waste volumes have increased by 170%. We must reduce the volume of waste generated in addition to achieving high levels of recycling.

We will be setting new benchmarks with our customers in waste, energy and water management by adopting the three Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle. Together with facilities owners and their customers, we should be looking to reduce waste generated and move towards carbon neutral facilities.

The Sydney Opera House is certified as Carbon Neutral, and we have ambitious sustainability and recycling targets with customers such as the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust and the Australian Turf Club’s horse racing venues.

What is one issue the industry should urgently address in 2021?

Currently, there are too many confusing and unfounded regulations, all designed to get the industry to adopt effective labour practices. The Fair Work Commission has been developed to ensure labour practices are carried out according to its requirements, yet many businesses continue to demand cheap pricing. The industry’s focus must be on developing skills to train and optimise labour, and not battle for cheap unskilled labour which adds less value operationally.

What additional advice or guidance do you have for the cleaning community now and after the pandemic?

We should not undervalue the work and services we provide. COVID-19 has demonstrated that cleaning is an essential, premium front line service. We should not be pressured by hiring procurement managers who press for lower prices because they do not fully understand the scope of works industry professionals provide. At the end of the day, a lower price cannot sustain high level cleaning services over the longer term.

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

Read the original article here.

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One thought on “Industry Leaders Forum: Mark Piwkowski, CEO, Quayclean

  1. Spot on Mark, our industry has been in this position for many years however on the back of COVID and our experiences we should stand firm as an industry and position ourselves to be respected as professionals and valued service providers. We are mature enough to recognise the value our people, the adherence to awards and to comply with other industry elements of business today and that comes at a cost. I can go on, great article Mark, cheers. …john

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