Cleaning is a more complex process than we may think

FM newsroom – cleaning, healthcare. Cleaning is one of the most important tasks in facility management, where robotisation and artificial intelligence are advancing like in other areas of life. At Interclean, experts discussed the latest trends and tools for cleaning in healthcare facilities.

At the Interclean Forum 2024 in Amsterdam, Brett Mitchell, an Australian clinical research expert in disease prevention and management, confirmed that cleaning is a complex process in which human behaviour, studies, and the roles and responsibilities of cleaning come into play. Preparation, product, technique, training, feedback and communication within the cleaning team, with nurses and the whole organisation, contribute to the final outcome. Efficiency requires a plan of who, how, where, when and what to do. Part of the practical information is the schedule and frequency of cleaning – reports.

It must be learned and accepted that cleaning is a profession that deserves financial recognition. Unfortunately, however, institutions most often cut cleaning service fees when they need to save money.

30% of hospital infections are spread by hands

It is essential to have proper training, financial resources for cleaning, quality control (visible cleanliness is no longer enough) and the technology used. However, the cleaners, facility management team, nurses, and doctors must all think as a team to achieve adequate efficiency. According to Martin Kiernan, a professor at the research centre at the University of West London, the time spent cleaning and the final result are typically out of proportion to each other. Problems include forgetting to clean surfaces that are frequently touched and inconsistency in where the cleaner starts and in what order they proceed.

The efficiency of cleaning is typically not a priority when designing hospital equipment either, old hospital beds, for example, were much easier to clean than today’s ones with complex functions. Consideration should be given to which cleaning method is best in terms of speed and efficiency. 30% of hospital infections are spread by hands and 20% by frequently touched surfaces, which are touched by everyone from patients to nurses, visitors, maintenance staff, staff and doctors. Examples include door handles, tables and curtains.

However, the human factor is also of paramount importance in the process. Employee skills and opportunities determine motivation, which affects the final result, so professional and financial recognition and appropriate feedback are important. Let’s involve the cleaner in the process so that he or she understands why his or her work is important. This requires appropriate training, education, and verbal and financial recognition of the work. This will increase the quality of cleaning and reduce the spread of infections, Kiernan stressed.

Sustainability in cleaning

British healthcare product expert Clare Nash said that if healthcare were a country, it would be the 5th largest carbon emitter in the world.

When we consider the cleaning products and solutions we use, we must also consider climate change. In the supply chain, 70% of the raw materials are produced by people working in unacceptable conditions. However, climate change is also a factor in sustainable development, for example, through health and well-being, responsible consumption and production, and clean water and sanitation. Of the 118 elements on Earth, 40 percent are seriously threatened.

The key words in reducing the environmental footprint of cleaning are circular economy, recycling, and understanding the life cycle of products. Mining of raw materials has the largest environmental footprint, followed by use, manufacturing, final disposal, and transport.

The potential of artificial intelligence

Finally, we must mention the latest technology pervading the cleaning industry. Artificial intelligence is used in many industries these days, so it is not surprising that the cleaning industry is also increasingly turning to autonomous machines.

The combination of AI and robotics is revolutionising the cleaning industry, allowing autonomous machines to be deployed for essential cleaning tasks to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve overall cleanliness. These tools help cleaning staff to focus on more detailed and specific tasks.

AI-powered machines use sensors and machine learning algorithms to navigate and perform cleaning tasks. These devices can detect and avoid obstacles and gather information about the areas to be cleaned.  And with the development of technology, they will be able to operate more and more independently and efficiently – as Péter Zalka, head of Lab/Da Innovations, the research and development department of B+N Referencia Zrt., highlighted.

AI technology can bring many benefits to the cleaning industry, including increasing productivity, improving safety and driving innovation. Although the initial cost of autonomous cleaning machines is still quite high today, they can clean a significant area in a unit of time without human intervention, resulting in financial savings in the long term. In addition, AI-based solutions can also contribute to a more sustainable work process by saving energy.


Read part 1 of the article.


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