Big Data: The Airport Cleaning Management Revolution

By Jimy Baynum

The idea of a “smart airport” may seem unobtainable. Occasionally, massive crowds, delays and various other touchpoints from check-in to the gate can affect airport visitors’ experiences and make it hard for them to imagine that they are in an intelligent environment. The problem lies in the fact that many airports, especially the nation’s largest airports, weren’t built to handle the current volume of traveler traffic, often exceeding their design limits by millions of travelers, according to Michael Taylor, director of J. D. Power’s airport practice.

Yet, airports have found ways to overcome infrastructure limits by working on the things they can influence. One way they have done so is by turning to a technology that is helping to create smarter, more efficient airports – the Internet of Things (IoT). But the value of IoT lies not in connectivity itself, but in the new information it can provide – and the actions you can take based on that information.

It’s no secret that data has the ability to transform a business and offer it greater opportunities for competitive advantage. It enables executives to measure results and performance and, therefore, manage more precisely than ever. It enables leaders to make better predictions and smarter decisions, as they can identify pain points and target more-effective interventions based on precise data, rather than gut and intuition. Companies that have transformed their business models to be data-driven have seen greater financial and operational success. In fact, companies in the top third of their industry that use data-driven decision-making were, on average, 5 percent more productive and 6 percent more profitable than their competitors. Airports have already applied IoT to improve check-in, security screening and the food, beverage and retail shopping experiences, so why not use it to improve cleaning operations?

Real-time data is a powerful change driver that enables better-informed and faster decision-making. When airport facility managers and their cleaning staff are empowered with real-time data about cleaning needs, the very logic for how cleaning can be done changes and operations are dramatically improved. It becomes possible to be proactive and do exactly what is needed when and where, and handling a complex facility like an airport is transformed into a fact-based science.

This is data-driven cleaning.

By knowing what issues need attention and where, staff’s time is not wasted on unnecessary work checking for issues, thereby improving overall efficiency. This time means cleaners can go the extra mile to ensure travelers have the best experience in an airport, with managers resting assured that

nothing has been neglected. This real-time information also provides airport decision-makers the ability to analyze the data over time to improve planning, purchasing and logistics.

Data-driven cleaning also enables higher quality facilities with no more empty bathroom dispensers and untidy gate waiting areas. By keeping airport facility managers well-informed of restroom or gate traffic, and alerting them exactly when and where issues arise, staff can proactively address a refill need for each restroom and dispenser. This ultimately helps reduce the number of complaints and creates a well-cared for environment that increases visitor satisfaction and cleaning staff productivity.

Leveraging data also reaffirms cleaning staff’s sense of purpose, helping to improve their engagement and well-being. Your people are your most important resource. Work feels meaningful when they know every task matters, as they know now that each stop they make makes a difference, meaning better control, less stress and a more balanced working situation.

While the cleaning industry has already seen a boom in technology, such as automated cleaning robots, in recent years, the latest shift toward data-driven cleaning is not about replacing humans with machines. Cleaning and facility management operations – particularly in airport facilities – are too complex and unpredictable for an automated machine to handle. This is why data driven cleaning becomes so important.

As MIT and Duke University researcher Mary Cummings writes, “As a team, the human and computer are far more powerful than either alone, especially under uncertainty.” <

Jimy Baynum is Director of Market Development, North America, Essity Professional Hygiene Business.