There is a great deal of excitement these days about IoT, the Internet of Things, and how it can improve productivity in the workplace. IoT revolves around increased and instant machine-to-machine communication, cloud computing, and data-gathering sensors that provide critical information. For this edition of The Expert Interview, I spoke with April Bertram, Business Development Director for SMARTLINK™ Solutions at GOJO, a global leader in hygiene solutions.
LC: Tell me about your role at GOJO.
AB: I’ve been with GOJO for almost ten years. I started in product management and then moved into a role where I managed the entire product development process and the company’s innovation portfolio. In my new role as Business Development Director for SMARTLINK™ Solutions, I focus on building and testing new IoT technology platforms and business models to meet the needs of our healthcare and commercial building markets. My role also focuses on partnership development for future technologies and platforms.
LC: What is the SMARTLINK™ platform?
AB: The SMARTLINK™ platform has multiple capabilities, from monitoring hand hygiene in a healthcare environment at a group or individual badge-based level, to an integrated observation app that streamlines and digitizes the direct observation process. We know that behavior change requires more than just access to data, so we provide clinician-based consulting services to assist with program implementation and hand hygiene improvement plans.
AB: Our newest addition to the platform is Service Alerts that provides all types of facilities, across commercial building and healthcare environments, the ability to monitor restroom traffic, soap and sanitizer refill and dispenser status.
LC: What changes have you seen take place in the industry over the last several years?
AB: Changes in the industry have been significant, from industry consolidation to new technologies emerging that will have an impact on everyone across the value chain. Digital disruption is occurring, and we are working closely with our customers to ensure they are on the leading edge, having the right knowledge, products and technologies in place.
LC: What are some of the challenges our mutual customers face and how do your IoT systems provide solutions?
AB: It can be a challenge for larger healthcare and commercial facilities to proactively keep up with dispenser servicing, always ensuring product is available for occupants and patrons, especially in high-traffic environments. Many times, product is discarded early in effort to avoid an outage or reduce complaints. Our Service Alerts platform gives them insight on which dispensers require refills and when, reducing excess waste and consumable refill costs. Our technology partnerships have enabled us to deliver predictive analytics and we can provide our customer with the exact date that the product needs replaced. This aides in creating better service routes and ordering the right levels of inventory at the right time.
AB: Service labor is always a constraint in the commercial building industry, and today, the industry is faced with a retiring workforce, a changing skillset, rising labor costs and government regulations, which all can impact the ability to effectively service a building. This leaves many looking for ways to build efficiencies. Our dispenser data combined with restroom traffic information enables them to operate more efficiently and deliver a higher level of satisfaction with the same resources.
LC: That is truly a value-added solution! Reducing waste and increasing efficiencies are excellent benefits for many types of facilities.
LC: What new innovations are you working on now?
AB: We are exploring how we can use technology to further support inventory management; for example, automatic ordering technology based on actual usage. This helps to mitigate inventory management inefficiencies and ensures a business is never without soap and hand sanitizer. We are continually advancing our restroom open-platform strategy and building strategic relationships to create a bundle of best-in-class solutions for distribution, building service contractors, facility managers and our end user customers.
LC: What do you see happening in the industry over the next few years?
AB: It’s not a far stretch to assume most devices, in all industries, will be connected in some form or another. However, we really need to see standards emerge so manufacturers and customers alike can simplify the implementation process. Today, there are many ways to connect devices from the protocols to the physical infrastructure required. Each building and customer has different connection and security requirements. This alone makes the selection process a challenge. Once standards exist, everyone will be on the same playing field and it will be easier for customers to select products, install and derive the benefits from them.
AB: I do envision that technology cost curves will continue to drop and customers will be able to achieve a solid ROI on broader IoT implementations. Today, we are seeing smaller scale implementations for learning. While the technology may advance and costs curves may come down, there will still be a challenge with implementation and really changing behavior of those consuming the data. It’s yet to be seen how much organizations will invest to really use the data to rework their processes to become more efficient. I think this will be the single most important factor for adoption in the next five years. I don’t think all buildings will be categorized as truly smart in the next five years, but they will certainly be smarter and on a great trajectory down this path.
LC: That makes sense, as with most technological advancements.
AB: As you can see, the world of IoT is diverse and rapidly changing and an evolution from individual, closed IoT platforms to an open architecture platform will be important to provide customers with best-in-class choices of restroom consumables and deliver a building’s facilities team with broader insights to effectively manage the restroom and building via a single, integrated interface.
LC: What advice can you share for our readers that want to use new technology to help manage their facilities more efficiently?
AB: First, determine what problems you are trying to solve. Solutions may have similar broad claims, but facilities really need to make sure the solution, data output and ways to consume the data solve the key problems and don’t increase complexities.
AB: Next, make sure the solutions are scalable if the facility decides to move beyond a pilot implementation. Start by connecting with your IT team. Understand your building’s security requirements and the right questions to ask once you start evaluating solutions. If the facility is using this data to make real-time decisions, they need to better understand data accuracy requirements to accomplish their objectives. Any margin of error rate defeats the purpose of installing the system.
AB: Most importantly, expect that the facility will not only need to train staff on the technology, but change processes and workflows. This is probably the hardest part of implementation. Time for continual training and coaching is required.
LC: I’m really glad you pointed that out. Internal communications and employee engagement are so important to the adoption of any change.
LC: Hand hygiene is crucial in healthcare. What is the most important thing a healthcare facility can do to improve their protocol using an IoT solution?
AB: The primary reason for implementing an electronic hand hygiene monitoring system is that it allows for the collection of robust data that is statistically significant, unbiased and actionable. In a recent study, we found that visual observation was capturing .02% of the hand hygiene opportunities that were monitored by the SMARTLINK™ system. If hospitals are only seeing a fraction of what’s going on, they can’t identify when and where there is risk to patient safety.
AB: The data analytics are used to identify a performance baseline and to measure the impact of interventions and behavior change techniques. Customizable reports allow for the data to be sliced and analyzed from many different angles. For example, performance data shown hourly can provide insights for nurse managers that could lead to reminding the staff to perform hand hygiene during the busiest hours of the day.
AB: Education is a large factor in the success of an electronic hand hygiene monitoring system. As I mentioned earlier, we offer Clinician-Based Support, a service where expert clinicians help with the education and roll-out of the new system. They conduct on-site, in-servicing of the technology to ensure the staff understands their hospital’s hand hygiene protocols and how the system works to measure performance against those protocols. These clinicians work to debunk myths and to provide just-in-time coaching to ensure staff is complying with the hand hygiene guidelines.
AB: Hospitals should understand how the system works and how hand hygiene performance rates are generated. Educating on how the system works to capture the hand hygiene events and opportunities leads to greater acceptance by all.
LC: Thanks, April, for taking the time to share how the Internet of Things is impacting the facilities maintenance and healthcare industries. This is fascinating information!
AB: Thank you for the opportunity to participate.
For more information about GOJO® SMARTLINK™ technology and the healthcare study referenced visit www.GOJO.com/SMARTLINK.