Digital Landscape Changing in Commercial Cleaning

The advancement and accessibility of mobile are seeing management and reporting processes become more efficient and streamlined with just the click, or swipe, of a button. Virtual Manager CEO Anil Patel spoke to INCLEAN editor Claire Hibbit on the digital shift taking place within the sector.

The Virtual Manager team

The role of technology is forever changing in our everyday lives and has become just as essential in the workforce. In the commercial cleaning industry, the ability to manage staff and tasks remotely has led to an increase in software management systems that offer convenience, usability, and real-time data.

Anil Patel, CEO of Virtual Manager, told INCLEAN magazine, his company launched its software application SmartCleaner– targeted specifically at the commercial cleaning industry– four years ago after seeing friends with cleaning companies have issues managing and monitoring staff remotely.

“Their staff base was geographically dispersed over Queensland and New South Wales and they used to spend more of their time on the road, calling around and making sure everything was okay,” Anil said.

SmartCleaner works on any mobile device and allows supervisors and managers to assign tasks to staff by day, week or month, while also monitoring their progress. Employees log when a task has been completed and can also add any maintenance issues, which is automatically sent to the supervisor.

“We date, geo-code and timestamp every event so we know where and when tasks have been completed.” Anil said. “We’re seeing a real drive to get away from paper, and a drive to reduce supervisor head count. There’s also a greater appetite for knowledge – with employers and staff wanting to improve the cleaners’ expertise.”

The application has built-in learning facilities such as training videos and information on safety material and can be used in multiple languages. Users can also upload photos via the software.

“If [staff] have issues with hazardous materials they know how it should be handled so essentially it’s also a toolkit for cleaners out there infield.”

SmartCleaner’s strongest uptake has been in schools, hospitals, and healthcare, predominately across the ACT, Queensland, and NSW.

Anil says the accessibility and the ever-improving capabilities of mobile phones have driven the use of SmartCleaner, and similar systems, in Australia.

“When we built the product four years ago I would say that it was ahead of its time. The main challenges we had back then was that mobile phones were still quite expensive, and [data] connections out in the field also weren’t as good as they are now. But now that the hardware has come right down in price, and data is also cheap, that has helped the uptake of this technology.”

However, Anil, who believes that while this type of reporting software is becoming more mainstream in Australia we still lag behind other international markets like the US, says one of the biggest challenges is ensuring usability.

“The main challenge is that the software is easy to use for the end cleaner. Ultimately they’re going to be the ones that will make this a success or a failure. The other is to get commercial cleaning owners understanding and developing more of an appetite for this type of technology. The pioneers get it, the mainstream are starting to get it, but I still don’t think everybody gets the value of it yet,” Anil said.

“In some of the other industries we work in – it’s a complete no-brainer. However, in commercial cleaning there still seems to be the notion that everything needs to be completed by paper, which has been the standard for the last 50 years.”

Anil said the company is seeing a “dynamic shift” within the sector, where the final cleaning contract negotiations are becoming less about price and more about proving the consistent quality of work.

“In commercial cleaning, it’s about ensuring you are ahead of the competition and today that involves embracing technology such as SmartCleaner.”

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