1.How has the current crisis affected the ICE business and what steps have you taken to support the market needs during this time?
Like many businesses, as the situation started to intensify throughout March it was clear that our sales pipeline and business plan for 2020 was going to be materially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. ICE have always operated a very agile and flexible business model - it’s one of our strongest USP’s - so we immediately set out developing a range of equipment to support with sanitisation and infection control to aid customers in the fight against the virus.
We believe that the hygiene anxiety created from COVID-19 will certainly impact the way in which we clean in the future. To support this change, we recently launched ‘A Clean Start’ - an offer with a variety of products to help combat the virus, but also to measure “clean” in ways such ATP testing. Our teams have worked tirelessly to bring this to life in a very short space of time and have supported many NHS contracts and facilities as well as our long-standing FM and Contract Cleaning customers, something I am extremely proud of.
I think it’s also really important to recognise the efforts of cleaning staff across the UK who have been working through this period on the front line to combat the virus, they are for sure unsung heroes to our nation in my view.
2.Tell us about developments within ICE that are going to support the new norm, changing measures and ways of working going forward.
Aside of our successful ‘A Clean Start’ program, we have just launched our highly anticipated Co-Botics line – the industry’s first comprehensive range of autonomous cleaning machines. We believe these innovations will help shape the way cleaning operations and functions are carried out in the future, but in a collaborative and cohesive way. We have to think differently, and we have to change, if nothing changes then simply put, nothing changes…
Our Co-Botics equipment has been designed to integrate into cleaning team operations, picking up the manual and repetitive tasks, which will then allow operators to focus on hygiene and sanitising activities to promote cleaner and safer environments. It’s not about replacing people it’s about embracing technology to deliver higher cleaning standards, infection control and ‘proof of clean’.
Co-Botics is a very natural and progressive way of how we can help support and deliver these measures and improve wellbeing for hygienic environments - to Co-Exist, to Collaborate, and to work Cohesively within the workplace to drive standards, efficiency and sterility.
The system is as close to human activity as anything available. It is extremely intelligent and can be fully operated, controlled, and managed by the teams on site. The SMART features ensure the delivery of the following key requirements when using autonomous equipment in day to day cleaning activities:
Safety and efficiency – safe, consistent, and easy to map and control. Intelligent - it will clean any area without the need for technical intervention. Environmentally friendly – water recycling capabilities and a run time of up to 5 hours. Proof of clean - fully integrated telemetry and cloud-based reporting on a clean by clean basis. Co-Botics can be simply and easily incorporated into existing or new cleaning operations in almost any kind of environment - commercial, transport, warehousing manufacturing or distribution, healthcare, retail, hotels, hospitality and many more.
One of our major customers, OCS Group, certainly see the value in introducing Co-Botics within their cleaning operations. Yvonne Taylor, Head of Cleaning for UK, Ireland and Middle East at OCS said, “Having been part of ICE’s development of robotics in the UK we know they have the credentials and infrastructure to take this technology to the wider market.
In my opinion, it looks like their new Co-Botics equipment meets many of the growing applications where autonomous equipment would benefit both the economic and hygiene requirements escalated by this pandemic.
I particularly like the term Cobotics and philosophy that this technology will collaborate with human resource to deliver the levels of sanitation the world now demands; whilst complementing appropriate distancing.
This is all part of an inevitable journey which I feel confident ICE are leading.”
3.In terms of the future of the cleaning industry, what changes do you foresee going forward and how will look in your view?
I believe based on recent events that the profile of cleaning will change dramatically in the future - sanitising, infection control and measurement will be key areas that we will all need clarity and comfort around to ensure clean and safe environments.
It’s highly likely that there will be a greater demand for ‘proof of clean’ as businesses will need to prove to both employees and visitors that their facilities are hygienic and safe. They will be looking for guidance from the cleaning industry around the activities that should be carried out to ensure standards are met. This will enable them to provide a guarantee to their customers that their facilities are safe to visit.
As we have seen through the media recently, the profile and importance of cleaners and the cleaning industry as a whole has increased dramatically - we are no longer an invisible resource. I believe that this will continue, and the public will look to cleaners as the visible resource within buildings to give confidence that all environments are clean and sanitised. Daytime and visible cleaning will offer confidence that important tasks are not only being conducted but carried out regularly.
And finally, I strongly believe that the use of automation in cleaning will continue to gain traction, and businesses will see the benefit of Co-Bots working alongside their cleaning teams to give further prominence and legitimisation of “Clean”.