Winner | Asian Digital Media Awards 2020

Raising the game of Asia’s ‘unloved’ industry

CleanEnviro Summit Singapore speaker Oliver Andersch, director at ISS Facility Services, shares with Eco-Business how Asia’s “unloved” cleaning industry can leap 10 years forward and raise its game by adopting existing tools and methods.

Oliver Andersch, the director of Cleaning Excellence and Development for Singapore-based ISS Facility Services, a leading global provider of facility services, has no qualms about rolling up his sleeves to get the job done on the ground.

He conducts one-on-one training sessions for new cleaners joining his firm in Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand, and explains why – and not just how - things are done a certain way, so as to professionalise the job and help bring Asia’s cleaning industry on par with that of Europe’s.

The Austrian-educated expert in surface and cleaning technology is also a certified management consultant with expertise in the business development of cleaning companies. He is convinced that the cleaning industries in Asia-Pacific can “jump 10 years forward” if they implement 90 per cent of the existing methods and tools that are available in other parts of the world, thus helping to change the service-buyer’s perception of what cleaning entails at the same time.

He tells Eco-Business: “Nothing new has to be done, no trials need to be undertaken – simply copy and paste the best of the best but, of course, always adapted for cultural and demographical differences. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel twice.”

Andersch started his career in Europe’s cleaning industry in 2002 when he joined  Henkel-Ecolab, a global provider of water, hygiene and energy technologies and services, where he developed cleaning standards, introduced efficient workflow processes, methodologies and technology, and ensured good health and safety standards. In 2007, he joined ISS - a wholly-owned subsidiary of ISS Global A/S - and two years later, became an associate trainer of the new Austrian Cleaning Academy.  In early 2013, he moved to Singapore to work for ISS, covering the Asia-Pacific region.

Andersch is currently in charge of projects in Europe and Asia which focus on developing a results-based, holistic and sustainable approach to creating a triple-win situation for employees, service-buyers and service-providers. He is also working to raise the standards and reputation of the cleaning industry in the region.

Andersch will speak at the Clean Environment Convention (Cleaning track), as part of the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore 2014, on June 3 and 4 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

Countries must set standards of cleaning as they define and raise the quality of services provided. Service-buyers can be sure that everybody is referring to the same thing only if cleaning standards exist.

He said, “The Clean Environment Convention will be a simple and effective way for me to hold a ‘show and tell’ session of the best practices, in terms of education, tools and methods, which are already well-developed and implemented by the cleaning industries of other regions. Of course, we have to change the mindset of service-buyers first by professionalising the industry.”

Why did you choose to work in the cleaning sector? How did your training in chemistry and industrial business management prepare you for the cleaning industry?

When I was hired by Henkel-Ecolab as its general sales-and-division manager for professional cleaning products, I became responsible for clients from the cleaning industry, like contract cleaners, institutions and hospitals. I realised very quickly that I would have to learn more about the industry and strengthen my technical knowledge. My training in chemistry gives me a better understanding of the various cleaning detergents, including their influence on outputs and surfaces.

My education in business management enables me to seek solutions at an early stage to help clients improve productivity and enjoy cost-savings, for example, by integrating periodically-scheduled cleaning tasks into the daily routine. I thus create and offer holistic systems, instead of just products, that increase the productivity of the cleaning industry and offer better-value service. 

Cleaning is an essential service in every country and city. As the region continues to develop, the demand for cleaning services is expected to increase. How does that influence your approach towards the development of cleaning standards and methodology? 

The demand for cleaning services has always existed but the cleanliness achieved was based on different, or lower, perceptions of cleanliness. As a place develops, the perception of cleanliness and expectation of hygiene levels, which go hand-in-hand, will definitely rise proportionally.

Based on my experience, countries must set standards of cleaning as they define and raise the quality of services provided. Service-buyers can be sure that everybody is referring to the same thing only if cleaning standards exist. Some European Union (EU) countries have established official standards for cleaning that are approved by their authorities, but there is no common EU-Standard so far. At ISS, a board of experts, including myself, developed our own Cleaning Excellence standards, an international process-optimization and standardisation initiative based on best practices worldwide.

But even with established standards, the results delivered by service-providers may differ because service provision depends on humans. Hence, there must be minimum standards for methodology – doing the right things in the right way such as having a systematic workflow, moving from dry to wet areas and clean to dirty areas. We look for best practices globally and work closely with big suppliers of tools, chemicals and systems, like Ecolab and Diversey, to refine our methodology with the aim of being more productive.

How can the cleaning industry develop a competent workforce to manage more complex challenges?

Manpower development and training for the cleaning industry in Asia is lacking. It is necessary to improve training, including technical knowledge, so that workers not only do the right things in the right way, but know and understand why as it is a service-oriented business.

If workers do not understand why, they will use the new work flow, but unthinkingly. Cleanliness is based on different needs and includes many factors, like the amount of dirt, the types of dirt, the types of surfaces, the traffic in the area, the varying importance of different areas, and so on. To deliver cleanliness, we train cleaners to look, think, and then, act; we want them to have, at the very least, the same perception of the cleanliness to be achieved as our customers.

At the same time, the cleaning industry is more about as just cleaning, like maintenance and reducing the life-cycle costs of building. Professional cleaning means ensuring the right maintenance of surfaces during the cleaning-process. If we only remove dirt without taking care of the surfaces, they will eventually be damaged and require additional maintenance and restoration, which requires additional costs.

For example, when a wooden floor is wiped daily with the wrong method, it will require additional maintenance or even refurbishment. But if the right method is used, no added maintenance or refurbishment is needed, thus reducing the cost to the customer.  If everyone hires low-priced, less-educated cleaning contractors, the final costs will be high, so licensing of cleaning companies here in Singapore is a first step in the right direction.

How can the cleaning sector change the perception in Asia that cleaning is a low-status job? What are some efforts that have been effective elsewhere in the world that can be applied to Asia?

The cleaning industry in Asia, and many other places, is unloved, seen as a necessary evil. A cleaning job is considered low or no status, one that is performed by people with no or low education. Due to headcount-based contracts, these jobs are done by an army of workers using old, dirty tools instead of productive methods. In contrast, in Europe the cleaning industry is based on productivity and performance, otherwise it would be much too expensive due to the high labour costs.

The cleaning industry in Asia is unloved, seen as a necessary evil… In contrast, in Europe the cleaning industry is based on productivity and performance.

Cleaning has to be seen as being a necessary part of our social lives, and the basis for the clean and hygienic environment that everybody wants. In countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway, cleaning is regarded as a high status, professional job and valued by all parties. This should be our target.

Cleaning has to be seen as being a necessary part of our social lives, and the basis for the clean and hygienic environment that everybody wants. In countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway, cleaning is regarded as a high status, professional job and valued by all parties. This should be our target.

Based on our experience, it is possible to raise productivity in Asia by around 30 per cent when compared to global benchmarks. We are training our workers to use modern tools and methods, and to be more productive. In this way, we can change the perception of the cleaning industry to one that is professional and based on knowledge and craft. 

In your view, what are the key factors necessary for developing an environmentally-sustainable cleaning industry in Asia? What are some of the obstacles to overcome and what are the opportunities?

Sustainability is, unfortunately, definitely not well-developed in the cleaning industry in Asia. Even though there are green buildings, the accompanying cleaning processes are still faltering behind the scenes. Changing the mindset of everyone involved is crucial. There are many possibilities for going green and raising the standard of sustainability in our business, like taking steps to save water, energy and chemicals as well as using green chemicals for cleaning. All these systems are available, albeit at a higher cost, and ready to use – we just have to kick it off.     

To hear more from Oliver Andersch and other experts, register for the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore 2014 here.

Thanks for reading to the end of this story!

We would be grateful if you would consider joining as a member of The EB Circle. This helps to keep our stories and resources free for all, and it also supports independent journalism dedicated to sustainable development. For a small donation of S$60 a year, your help would make such a big difference.

Find out more and join The EB Circle

Topics
Regions
Tags
blog comments powered by Disqus

Most popular

View all news

Industry Spotlight

View all

Feature Series

View all
Asia Pacific's Hub For Collaboration On Sustainable Development
An Eco-Business initiative
The SDG Co