Leaders Forum: Steve Agar, Agar Cleaning Systems

INCLEAN chats to Steve Agar, joint managing director, Agar Cleaning Systems.

How was 2019 for Agar? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

Every year is full of challenge and change at Agar. We continue to develop new products to meet evolving marketplace needs and pleasingly had some great new product introductions in 2019. Outwardly, our revenues continue to grow modestly, but behind that we continually must adapt to a changing market and expectations.

For a chemical formulator and manufacturer, a key challenge is perception. Most people are not chemists, so they’re not able to objectively assess the level of hazard or lack of hazard presented by a chemical substance. This can be taken advantage of by those marketers who purport to have non-chemical alternatives and leads to much misinformation in the market.

What are the key strengths of Agar?

Two strengths stand out to me:

Our in-house chemical formulation capabilities enable us to constantly monitor product composition and performance and develop highly effective new products at highly competitive prices. We continue to build knowledge in how to formulate environmentally-responsible products which offer a high level of performance.

Our expertise and the advice we provide means we can genuinely help customers solve their cleaning and hygiene problems. And we are ethical in how we give advice – we’ll give the customer the right answer, regardless of whether it leads to a sale.

What will be the immediate focus for Agar in 2020?

We’ll continue to challenge ourselves to develop products that can earn GECA certification with clearly reduced environmental impacts and additional societal benefits.  We will also focus our attention on applications where chemical expertise is best and most usefully applied and look at simplifying our offering for internal and external benefit.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for Agar looking ahead to 2020?

More competition, more new technologies and more products come into the market each year making it a crowded and complex arena

We will continue to address the issue around the perception of chemicals and educate the market that chemicals have a valid and important role to play, and that cleaning operators should understand the limitations of, and risks presented by the use of non-chemical alternatives.

Agar is a trusted brand with a large range of well-respected products that our clients tell us work well which is a welcome alternative to new and unproven options. Our opportunity is to help more cleaning operators navigate their way through the maze of options available now

What do you expect will be the big trends of 2020?

In relation to the industry generally, we seem to have reached a tipping point where automation like robotic cleaning machines have evolved to be viewed as practical and viable to more customers. Gathering and using data digitally from machines and devices to support service delivery and to optimise processes will start to become more widespread.

The “cradle to grave” life cycle will receive more consideration. This includes everything from the recycling and re-using of solid chemical packaging, avoiding plastic film to selecting more durable cleaning equipment which can be re-cycled at the end of its life. In other words, moving away from a ‘throw-away’ society.

Ethical business will be topical as businesses continue to work on corporate social responsibility, and the Modern Slavery Laws filter through the marketplace. Regulatory scrutiny and enforcement will continue to rise and place pressure on players who try to take shortcuts.

What is one issue you think the industry should urgently address in 2020?

There is an understandable desire of mankind to find more environmentally friendly ways of operating but when it comes to hygiene there are growing risks of infection from ill-informed choices such as chemical-free cleaning in situations where chemicals are the most appropriate, or part of the most appropriate solution.

Also making sure “green” products are more than notionally green. Unfortunately, misleading greenwashing is still rife in 2020.

Is there one key message you would like to share with the industry?

Choose your cleaning methods wisely to give substance to your service. There is an ever-growing suite of options, yet some are more appropriate for specific situations than others – such as for cleanliness, look, durability, hygiene as well as environmental and societal impacts.

Go beyond the sticker price by seeking expert advice to enable you to make the right informed decisions for you and your clients. Look at the value delivered in terms of hygiene, productivity, availability, support and overall cost-in-use.

Read INCLEAN’s inaugural Industry Leaders Forum Report in the January/February issue of INCLEAN magazine. 

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