Bruce Lees, General Manager, RapidClean
How was 2021 for RapidClean? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?
In terms of business, RapidClean had an excellent year of growth and building our service capabilities, however, socially it has been a very difficult year for many people.
Our sales grew by over 13 per cent this year which maintains our upward trajectory with 10 years of continuous double digit growth and we are very grateful that our clients choose RapidClean to supply their cleaning supply needs.
It has been a challenging year in many ways, but our industry is robust, the people within it are resourceful and they have found a way to overcome the obstacles and succeed.
We now have 56 locally owned and managed stores in Australia and 13 in New Zealand and we look after a broad range of companies in both countries. We value and support our large BSC clients and all of their staff as well as the individual cleaner using our products.
The highlight of the year for me was watching the cleaning industry receive positive public recognition and a heightened level of respect.
The pandemic, whilst tragic, has brought with it knowledge of the strong contributing factor of professional hygienic practices in public spaces on the health and wellbeing of people.
Our industry deserves admiration for the part it plays in society, and it was very pleasing to see the cleaning industry featured in the fight against COVID.
Is there an achievement that you’re particularly proud of from the past 12 months?
I am particularly proud of all of our RapidClean store owners and teams throughout Australia and New Zealand who have managed to continue servicing their customers through a very difficult period.
All of our people face challenges every day to provide the products that their customers require in a timely manner. There have been huge disruptions to supply over the past year with delayed international freight and massive increases in demand for select product sectors such as masks, gloves, disinfectant and sanitisers.
Whilst it has been difficult our people have continued to solve problems as they arise through flexibility much like our customers have had to do operationally. They have worked together to get the job done.
Another proud moment this year was our involvement in Thank Your Cleaner Day, which I think is a brilliant initiative to acknowledge the contribution of people in our industry who face a difficult working environment. Every day should be thank your cleaner day.
What will be the immediate focus for RapidClean in 2022?
We will continue to work on improving our offering and service levels for our clients. We believe that our customers value the support that we can provide with product knowledge, a huge range of products, competitive pricing and a genuine pride for the industry. It has always been the focus of RapidClean stores to be customer centric and look to meet and exceed the needs of our clients.
It is a simple mantra but at Rapid we believe the 7 Rs are what our customers require from us: Right product at the right time to the right place in the right amount of the right quality at the right cost provided in an environmentally responsible way.
That sounds simple but it requires a lot of work to meet those criteria for our customers and we work hard to ensure we can fulfil our obligation.
This is achieved by employing a highly skilled team of people and empowering them with sophisticated IT systems. We continuously invest in our people and our systems to provide us with the tools to manage product ranges, stock levels, online ordering platforms, information platforms, training programs, and electronic data interchange.
What challenges and opportunities do you see for RapidClean in 2022?
Inconsistent supply of product and increased international freight costs will be significant challenges again in 2022 and we are actively pursuing strategies which will protect our customers. We are engaging with multiple suppliers across product sectors so that we can always have an offering to meet our clients’ needs and we are also supporting locally manufactured products.
All RapidClean cleaning chemicals are now manufactured in Australia as are the majority of our paper products. We will continue to support local manufacturing as the benefits to our clients are significant including greater certainty of product supply.
It is well known in the industry that labour is the largest cost, and many companies are looking to robotics to replace people. We acknowledge this inclination and will continue to pursue innovation where it brings benefits to our customers and their ability to generate efficiencies.
However, we believe the most readily accessible efficiency is for us to provide quality cleaning products suitable to the task and assist with product knowledge and training to clean surfaces professionally.
To this end, we work with the manufacturers of the best cleaning products available anywhere in the world and we ensure our teams are well trained to provide those products. Additionally, we provide very affordable online training on our website from a registered training organisation to assist cleaners in achieving optimum results.
What challenges and opportunities do you see for the wider industry in 2022?
Challenges are the forerunners to opportunity and everyone in business knows that they never abate. What is key is how we get in front of the challenges with foresight and effort.
The greatest challenge to the cleaning industry remains the same as it was last year and the year before, how do we do more with less?
Predominantly the less is labour and the solution is to make the labour more productive through improving skills and utilisation of highly effective products and equipment. Our role at RapidClean is to facilitate the productivity improvements through promotion and provision of innovative products.
What do you expect to be the big trends of 2022?
We believe one of the big trends this year will be a continued bearing toward to utilising products with minimal impact on our natural environment. We take our responsibilities very seriously in this area and have a full offering of third-party accredited products available for our customers.
As part of our commitment to our social responsibilities and the environment, this year we have registered as a signatory to the UN Global Compact, registered as a member of the Australian Packaging Covenant, achieved a bronze medal for sustainability from EcoVadis, developed our own sustainability program and implemented a supplier code of Conduct with implicit anti-modern slavery conditions.
We have also maintained our Quality Assured status for Environmental Management Systems, Occupational Health & Safety Standards & Quality Management Systems.
What is one issue in the cleaning industry that you would like to see addressed?
I believe our industry should have mandatory training for all people employed as professional cleaners. Online training is so accessible and effective now that enabling a basic set of skills with certification can be readily achieved.
As a service to our industry, on the RapidClean website we offer a free online safe chemical handling course. Thousands of cleaners have now completed this course and we pay the fee as our contribution toward upskilling our industry and keeping our people safe.
Is there a message that you would like to share with the industry?
I would like to send a message to all of the people in the cleaning industry to be proud of the contribution that you personally make to the health of those who you protect with your services. Our industry is vital for society to work effectively and for people to co-exist in densely populated cities.
The words “I am just a cleaner” should never be heard again and should be replaced with “I’m a professional cleaner”. We need to be proud of ourselves before our value will be recognised by others.
I am proud to be employed in the cleaning industry and hope that you are too.
This article first appeared in the January/February issue of INCLEAN magazine.
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