The State of the Industry

Categories: ISSA, Management, Member Profiles, Regulatory

By Jeff Cross | January 27, 2020 << Back to Articles The State  of the Industry

As we enter a new decade, most can’t help but be excited about the evolving force of the global cleaning industry in making a significant impact on the health and welfare of those who inhabit the orb we call home—planet Earth.

If you could anticipate important events, developments, trends, innovations, and projections of what’s important to the global cleaning industry, what would that mean to you? It would give you an edge, an advantage, what you need every day in a competitive and challenging industry climate, one that has seen everything recently from superior innovative products, to shrinking budgets, to consolidation, and more.

Whether you are a manufacturer, distributor, in-house service provider, building service contractor, residential cleaner, or are involved in another segment of our industry, keep reading because ISSA is bringing to you a valuable compilation of information regarding current conditions, developing trends, and opportunities for the future.

Aggregating the intel

Recently, I tapped into the expertise of the board of directors of ISSA and invited them to chime in and dispense expert advice to help you grow your businesses or better manage your organizations.

Coming on the heels of ISSA Show North America 2019, six professionals currently serving on the board of directors put their minds together to provide guidance to the members of ISSA.

What they had to say and share is important to the global cleaning industry.

Those contributing for 2020 are:

  • Ken Bodie, Kelsan Inc.
  • Jim Chittom Jr., Roman Chemical Corp.
  • Christine Vickers Tucker, Clorox Professional Products Co.
  • Tom Friedl, HOSPECO
  • Andy Clement, Kimberly-Clark Professional
  • Michel de Bruin, Greenspeed International BV.

Q: What is your view of the current state of the global cleaning industry?

Ken Bodie, ISSA president

I think the industry will continue to follow economic growth or decline. If you look back over the last 25 years, that has been the trend. We may not be a glamorous industry, but historically we have been very consistent in both good and bad economic times. I do not believe our industry experiences the high of the highs or the low of the lows of the economy.

Jim Chittom Jr., ISSA treasurer

The current state of the global cleaning industry is that of rapid change. There has never been a greater opportunity to change the way the world views cleaning.

Christine Vickers Tucker, ISSA manufacturer director

Commercial facilities continue to focus on reducing costs while demanding efficacious cleaning and disinfecting products that are easy-to-use to reduce illness-causing germs, protect patrons and staff, and maintain a positive reputation. Despite the demand and pressure to do more with less, cleaning professionals are facing a heightened global public health threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi.

Tom Friedl, ISSA manufacturer director

Through the efforts of ISSA, the industry is moving closer to the establishment of global standards. ISSA has been developing homogenized messages with other cleaning trade associations, while partnering with them around the world, promoting best practices and protocol. In addition to being vigilant about coordinated global cleaning messaging, ISSA has invested heavily in education and training efforts.

The importance of this training can’t be overstated since much of our focus is on greater hygiene and safety worldwide. We are being challenged to be more efficient in our cleaning methods, and this will drive better innovation and education.

Andy Clement, ISSA manufacturer director

The global cleaning industry is healthy but changing quickly. The consolidation of manufacturers, distributors, and cleaners is changing the dynamics at unprecedented speeds. Millennials are quickly becoming the predominant decision-makers and they buy differently than previous generations. Also, manufacturers are looking to developing markets in Latin America and Asia Pacific to drive expansion and growth.

                                       Michel de Bruin, ISSA Europe council chair

We are still at the beginning of implementing artificial intelligence, robotics, and the green mindset in our industry. Having said that, I see a lot of positive changes that give our industry much more awareness and importance in the eyes of other industries and daily society. People are starting to notice us and feel that we are an important industry. We are still a very fragmented industry. Consolidation is needed to have a stronger voice and presence in the world economy.

Q: What is your prediction regarding issues such as disruptions, the impact of legal issues, challenges, staffing, just to name a few? What do you think we can expect in 2020 and future years?


I believe the labor market will continue to be an issue for our industry if the economy continues to grow and overall unemployment rates remain low. Upcoming immigration legislation could significantly affect our labor force.

I also believe that “less is more” will be the next disruptor. Because employee turnover is so high in our industry, training is non-stop.

When new cleaning products can replace multiple products with the same cleaning and disinfecting attributes, businesses will switch to these products to shorten the employee training curve and to reduce inventory carrying costs. This is also good news for robotic cleaning equipment.

Chittom Jr.

I believe the industry will continue to see overall growth and consolidation. The greatest challenge will continue to revolve around the marketing channels. Another disruption will be replacing the retiring staff with a much smaller pool of potential staff.

Vickers Tucker

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released an Antibiotic Resistance Threats report in the United States, which showed that antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi cause more than 2.8 million infections and 35,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. That means, on average, someone in the U.S. gets an antibiotic-resistant infection every 11 seconds, and every 15 minutes someone dies.

Germs continue to spread and develop new types of resistance, and progress may be undermined by some community-associated infections that are on the rise, according to the CDC. The cleaning industry should no longer view this public health crisis as being isolated to a “healthcare or hospital” issue and must shift its focus from reactionary cleaning and disinfection to prevention.


Staffing continues to be one of our industry’s greatest challenges. First, workers are increasingly in high demand and, at the same time, there is an appropriate attention shift to the quality of life we afford workers throughout the global cleaning industry. We not only need to be focused on how we treat our direct employees, but we need to make sure any of our vendors are treating their workers with respect, dignity, and the proper pillars of work-life respect. We can no longer make the assumption others are treating their employees well; we must take a “trust but verify” approach.

Another huge change in our industry is the increasing awareness of our responsibility to the environment. For example, individual single-use bottles of shampoo and conditioner in hotels are being rapidly phased out in favor of refillable dispensers in the shower. It’s happening at blinding speed because the younger generation won’t tolerate unnecessary waste. This enthusiasm will affect a multitude of choices, from the chemicals we use, to the materials with which we clean, to proper disposal methods.

And, finally, the move toward universal access to feminine hygiene products in women’s restrooms continues to evolve. It’s amazing how enlightened we’ve become in such a short amount of time. I think we are approaching a day when offering menstrual care products in public restrooms becomes as expected as having toilet paper, soap, and paper towels. It’s the right thing to do.


There’s really no need to predict, as we are already seeing it—the biggest disruption and challenge our industry is facing is the push for digital. Millennial buyers feel more comfortable researching and buying products online and are engaging with sellers much later in the buying process. The good news is, this is also a huge opportunity for our industry, as there will always be a need for good service and expertise. I also expect channel consolidation to continue to accelerate as the “big get bigger.”

de Bruin

The quickly growing interest of other industries (so-called disruptive players) in our industry is leading to a shake-out of the traditional distribution landscape. Online businesses will set other standards in our industry. The buying channel has too many steps and therefore, online businesses see an easy and quick win by offering convenience to the distribution channel. Other industries are also investing in our industry, both manufacturing and distribution. They have the money, resources, and smart thinking attitude to develop our industry and are bringing in high intelligent concepts and products to the cleaning market.

Q: How has innovation impacted the industry, and what do you predict for the future of innovation?


Innovation has and will continue to make a huge impact on our industry. Floor equipment automation is a great example.

One of the largest floor equipment manufacturers launched a new robotic scrubber in the past year and one of the largest retailers bought their entire machine production capacity for the first several months.

Innovations like this will help businesses with the labor market shortage.

Chittom Jr.

Innovation has two distinct areas within the industry.

The ability of the customer to be well informed and the transaction process becoming 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

The evolution of artificial intelligence (AI), with more people leaving the workforce, will become essential.

Vickers Tucker

Innovation remains at the cornerstone of our business by continuously offering new technologies, such as cost-effective solutions for efficient, comprehensive surface treatment that is designed to help keep facilities healthier, while saving them time, money, and labor.

We anticipate seeing new technologies and cleaning formulations that will increase productivity, improve quality, and boost profitability.


The staffing challenges of our industry are driving innovation. Automation will continue to be on the rise.

More and more, you are seeing machines cleaning hallways in large public buildings. The hands-free restroom is another example where automation is being used to make our lives easier and healthier.

Innovation is driving a superior performance on a cost and use basis. This will continue to intensify.


I think the easier question to answer would be: What aspect of our industry has not been impacted by innovation? Today, suppliers must keep innovating to drive value for customers, if they want to stay relevant and competitive.

I expect the future of innovation in our industry to continue to be in the “internet of things” (IoT) space. As the price of technology continues to drop and the capabilities offered continue to grow, connected solutions will become more accessible to the general market.

I also expect to see continued innovation in the area of digital, as we continue to evolve and improve the ways we connect and communicate with our distributor partners and end users.

de Bruin

It is easy to say that without a doubt, robotics will change the industry.

In the last three decades, the introduction of microfiber was the latest innovation, which really had an impact on the industry. We have seen less use of chemicals and the declining use of cotton and heavy-to-use textiles, such as found in some mops, for example.

The ergonomic side of cleaning has improved. The focus was, and still is, on introducing sophisticated machines and systems to flooring in order to make the job of the cleaner much easier and lighter.

Robotics, sustainability/green certified products, and ergonomics will set the standard moving forward.

A very positive and challenging trend is that cleaning is becoming more and more associated with the health and well-being of people. This is a great opportunity for our industry to step out of our “invisible corner” and show the world that we are an extremely important part of their lives. This will also lead to more of an interest from the younger generation in our industry. The world will view the cleaning industry in a very positive way in the future.

Q: What advice do you have for ISSA members to help them in 2020 with their companies or organizations?


If you want your company to survive, seek and embrace change. As Benjamin Franklin said: “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”

Chittom Jr.

Evolve. Embrace the changing business climate. Invest in technology.

I can remember when I entered the industry in 1987, we would set a strategy for the next three to five years. Today, we need to review every year. With change comes great opportunity.

Vickers Tucker

Effective products and programs are crucial to compliant cleaning and disinfection in commercial settings. In these resource-constrained environments, professionals are often searching for ways to efficiently train their teams on cleaning and disinfection best practices. We encourage professionals to engage with a multitude of complementary training resources to advance their professions and improve compliance, for both managers and front-line staff.


I think we all need to be focused on creating value for our customers. We need to be innovative, reduce costs, and build value with better cleaning products and processes.

I encourage ISSA members to explore all the perks that come with membership. Many don’t realize everything that the association has to offer—they’re maybe using only 10% of what’s available. ISSA is so much more than a trade show organization. There are excellent research papers on a wide range of industry topics. ISSA is involved in so many industries and offers resources to educate members in all these areas, which can really help grow a business. The education available is top-notch, from online courses to a team of trainers who will come to your place of business and teach courses in-person.

So, my advice is to be involved with the association and dig into your membership. Want more for yourself and your business. This is the reason why businesses collectivize around associations in the first place. And encourage others in your organization, particularly the next generation of leaders, to get just as involved.


Continue to evolve your business model as the market changes. Make sure you are leveraging technology and thinking through your customers’ experience from end-to-end. Partner with suppliers that are delivering innovation to solve the problems of today and the future.

de Bruin

Choose your strategy lane. Find out what you like most and differentiate yourself in our industry. And invest seriously in developing your company. Now is the time to invest. In training your staff, developing new solutions, and bringing content (certifications, research, values) to the customers and the industry. Look for collaborations, partnerships, and work together with other industries around you.

We have to open up to other industries and let them see that we have the knowledge and passion to bring cleaning to the next level and to be ready for the future, together.

Working together

This installment of the State of the Industry is the first of many to come. You will see more participation from the ISSA board of directors in the future, providing valuable guidance you need. Share your own thoughts and concerns, and together we will advance clean and drive innovation.

About the Author.

Jeff Cross is the ISSA Media Director with brands that include ISSA Today, Cleaning & Maintenance Management, and Cleanfax. If you, your company, or organization would like to be considered for inclusion in an ISSA media project this year as part of our 100th anniversary, please contact him at [email protected] or 740-973-4236.