We live in an interconnected world where anyone and anything can exchange information in real time and increasingly vast amounts. One of the clearest examples of this is the Internet of Things – the myriad of gadgets that communicate with each other over “the cloud”. According to global research analyst Gartner, around 20 billion such devices – excluding tablets and smartphones – will be in use by 2020 – almost three devices for every human alive. Some estimates suggest even more. Gartner also predicts that around two thirds of enterprises – doubling the total in just three years – will have adopted IoT products by 2020. By then the global value of the IoT will be over $7 trillion according to some reports.
While some of this technology is employed in what many consider to be trivial tasks there are many useful applications. Amazon, for example, offers small wireless gadgets that attach to home appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers. Just a single tap on the device’s button issues a request via a smartphone or home network to the company’s systems and automatically generates an order for replacement detergents which are then delivered the next day. The user has no more interaction than that, yet the system works seamlessly to ensure they never run out of product. Some domestic appliance manufacturers have gone further and embedded internet connectivity into their machines. This allows users to check, control and manage their washing machines and dishwashers remotely using apps on their smartphone or from their PC or tablet.
Similar concepts are now emerging in the professional cleaning sector and Diversey calls this the Internet of Clean. This provides a framework that remotely monitors equipment, machines, and operations through sensor-generated data. Analysing this data enables insight into cleaning operations, dosing, compliance and machine performance.
We’ll be featuring The Internet of Clean as one of our Top Ten products at The Cleaning Show (21-23/3 London).
Businesses are investing heavily in the IoT to integrate new and existing equipment and technologies with software applications. The amount of information that can be generated can be bewildering but used wisely it offers new levels of oversight and control. The aim is to produce business-class solutions that are robust and secure while delivering the insight and performance gains that justify the investment. There are already many examples across food service and related sectors:
Remote Dishwash & Laundry Monitoring: operators can monitor dishwashing and laundry machines to see information such as the number of cycles completed, temperatures, volumes cleaned, product levels and the amount of water and energy used. They have greater control to improve results and reduce costs while maintaining food hygiene and safety compliance. Such systems have shown, for example, that around four out of five dishwashing processes use too much fill and rinse water and that most machines are 10-15 per cent off spec in rinse temperature. Insight like this allows operators to remodel their processes to reduce the associated wastage.
Information is automatically and instantaneously analysed so that status reports and alarms are shown immediately on an interactive user dashboard. This provides a clear and intuitive view of every connected dishwashing machine, even at multiple locations. Such systems can send alerts to authorised recipients to enable rapid response. This might include, for example, when energy, water or detergent usage exceeds predetermined limits. Operators can then proactively predict and prevent unexpected downtime to maximise machine uptime, performance and efficiency. Information required to resolve issues can be provided in the form of video attachments and contextual content that also acts as training material.
Hand Hygiene Compliance Monitoring: the latest hand wash dispensers monitor the number of uses and the amount of product consumed. When connected to the Internet of Clean they allow managers to monitor and manage multiple units across several sites simultaneously, reducing workloads while enhancing efficiency. Operators have a clearer understanding of utilisation and hand hygiene compliance. This is particularly important in food service and healthcare settings where the link between good hand hygiene, food safety and patient safety is critical. Smart dispensers can reveal under- or over-usage that helps operators understand users’ behaviour and intervene with appropriate remedies armed with accurate information. These dispensers also issue alerts when product or battery levels get too low so that supervisors can respond proactively to maintain availability.
Cleaning & Food Safety Audits: devices including smartphones are used by teams to complete audits, follow instructions, confirm actions and provide feedback using text, images and video. Managers can see the status of any operation, where tasks have yet to be completed, and overall performance levels. They can assess success and compliance with service level agreements, provide evidence to customers and streamline their operations to improve productivity and profitability.
Food Waste Monitoring: kitchen staff place food waste in a bin mounted on scales and confirm information on a connected touchscreen. The system provides instant feedback on the amount and type of waste being generated. Through Internet of Clean connections, managers can monitor individual sites and aggregate information from multiple locations to analyse daily and weekly trends. With up to 20 per cent of food purchased in kitchens ending up in waste bins the insight provided by these systems can help food service operators understand and reduce their waste by up to half and cut costs by up to eight per cent.
Optimising Resources: the information available through Internet of Clean technologies can help managers to benchmark and understand staff behaviour so that they can deploy teams more effectively and productively. With labour costs representing by far the biggest element of any cleaning operation this can yield significant benefits. Teams can do more in the same time and focus on tasks that make the biggest difference to customers.
Augmented Reality: feature-rich interactive content is delivered direct to the user to complement conventional operating, maintenance and training guides. This not only promotes greater efficiency but reduces the need for time-consuming interventions to deal with routine issues.
These and other innovations are accessed over the Internet of Clean using smartphones, tablets and desktops. Users have a digital portal and intuitive dashboards where they can review data and trends. This quantifiable information offers valuable, real-time insight into their operations, delivered in easy-to-interpret KPIs. Operators can improve their qualitative standards while lowering the cost of cleaning and hygiene programmes. In the majority of cases the services can be configured to send a text or email alert when predetermined conditions arise. This means that supervisors and managers can take action before an issue impacts on the customer or end user.
As with any innovation the real benefits of the Internet of Things can only be realised when the investment delivers a justifiable and quantifiable return in a meaningful timeframe. The return can be relatively easy to justify and accrues quickly when remote diagnostic and management prevents unexpected equipment outages or reduces the need for expensive on-site intervention. However, innovation and improvements to customer service and the resulting increase in loyalty or reputation may be somewhat harder to quantify in hard cash terms despite adding value.
The cleaning industry is starting its own journey with the Internet of Clean. The future is as hard to predict as ever but there is little doubt that these – and as yet unforeseen innovations – will enable operators to improve service, productivity, compliance, operational performance, and sustainability.