Andrew Neil, former editor of The Sunday Times and currently known for his BBC political programmes, was the keynote speaker addressing 200 delegates from the cleaning industry at the BCC conference 2012, which focused on business efficiency and innovation.
The event, held at Coin Street Conference Centre, London on 23 October provided expert insights to help businesses work smarter and more efficiently with available resources. Opening the conference, Chairman, Doug Cooke, and, Secretary General, Andrew Large, set the tone for the day, indicating there would be a strong focus on new developments and innovation from both inside and outside the cleaning industry.
Andrew Neil spoke about the political and economic environment which businesses are currently operating under. Reviewing the party conference season, he said all three political parties had come out in better shape than prior to it, but that it’s often the topics they omit to comment on which provide greater insight. He said the autumn statement, to be made on December 5th, would be key, in view of the tough target set by government, to see our national debt start to fall by 2015.
Neil added that living standards should improve due to an expected slight growth in the economy, which was confirmed by the Office of National Statistics two days after the conference. He also predicted that businesses will start to invest again, in part due to the European Stability Mechanism, a new European Union agency designed to safeguard financial stability in Europe – reducing fears of ‘Eurogeddon.’
Excessive boardroom and banker remuneration has to end, was the message from former Greggs CEO, Sir Michael Darrington who is the founder of Pro Business Against Greed. Sharing his business success at Greggs he said ‘planning is everything, but the plan is nothing’ as it’s the process of planning, rather than the plan itself which makes you do the right things. The written plan quickly becomes out of date. Companies will go wrong if they start off with a plan just to make money – pride in products, staff engagement, good service and strong business values and culture are, he said, the essence of Greggs’ success. He also recognised the critical importance of cleaning, sharing that the issue of food hygiene and safety had caused him sleepless nights.
Shadow Minster for Innovation and Science, Chi Onwurah MP, emphasised that to keep the UK competitive globally, there has to be the right levers in government to support innovative and productive businesses. She welcomed ‘some of the great work that is being done in the British Cleaning Council to move towards the living wage.’
A practical example of innovation was described by Professor M. Sohail (Khan) from Loughborough University which has won prestigious funding from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reinvent the toilet. He said ‘one of the biggest problems in the world is sanitation, with around three billion people who don’t have proper toilets.’ The brief was to create a prototype which is clean, safe, durable and affordable, without the need for connection to electricity or a sewer. Loughborough’s design uses a process called continuous thermal hydrocarbonisation. This converts human waste into carbonised material to provide heat, minerals for soil conditioning and water for flushing.
Also on the subject of hygiene, Richard Millard from Kimberly-Clark Professional emphasised that clean offices result in a better workforce, sharing research undertaken in this field and practical ways to encourage healthy workplaces.
Reviewing chemical legislation, Dr Stephen Dalton, Vice President of Technology and Innovation at Diversey shared his assessment of the impact and potential impact of the Global Harmonisation System. He said that, whilst this United Nations project had good intentions to harmonise packaging labels and improve worker comprehension, the challenge is the re-evaluation and reclassification of virtually all product lines. This could result in more products being classified as hazardous than under the current system, which will also lead to challenges about how to communicate risk. Although the European Union transition to the system is not due to take place until 2015, countries including New Zealand have already adopted the system, with others countries like China and Japan in part transition.
Slips and trips are a key issue in the cleaning industry and the BCC is currently funding best practice to address this. Christian Harris, Director of Bonasystems shared an early preview of the research being undertaken by experts from within the insurance and cleaning industries. He posed the question – is it fair that the cleaning provider gets the blame? Floors can be inherently unsafe, but may also be made worse by bad cleaning. The report findings will be in depth and designed for a cleaning audience and will be reviewed by Dr Steve Thorpe, Pedestrian Safety Section Head at Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL).
Daniel Francies from the National Apprenticeship Service, which supports, funds and co-ordinates the delivery of Apprenticeships throughout England, shared the benefits of apprenticeship programmes for both the employer and the apprentice.
Businesses need to prepare their payroll and HR processes for the forthcoming change to PAYE via real time information was the key message from Maggie Anderson from HM Revenue and Customs. Good quality information about the identity of each employee will ensure that each person is taxed correctly.
The conference was sponsored by Advanced Mobile Communications, Kimberly-Clark Professional, Selden Research, The Hygiene Company, Diversey, Cleaning and Maintenance magazine, South Thames College, Vitec Global, Norse and NSL Validation Solutions.