Interclean Memories with Dick van Zomeren and Ronald Bruins, about memorable cleaning innovations and first impressions.
As former and present jury members of the Amsterdam Innovation Award, Dick van Zomeren and Ronald Bruins have seen many cleaning products over the years. In this Interclean Memory, they tell us about what has changed since the first time they attended Interclean and were jury of the Amsterdam Innovation Award. They also discuss the most memorable innovations.
Dick and Ronald both have visited Interclean Amsterdam many times. Dick tells us more about the very first time he visited the show in 1979: “It was 1979 the second week of May, and I had to visit Interclean Amsterdam for my job as a chief editor at the Dutch magazine about cleaning called Service Management. I had never written about cleaning before and knew nothing about the industry. When I entered the RAI, I saw enormous halls with hundreds of cleaning products and services. I was flabbergasted and thought to myself: where do I start? Since that year I have been to every edition of Interclean Amsterdam.”
The first time Ronald visited the show was when he had taken over from Dick as a chief editor of Service Management. “My first memory is in sync with what Dick says. For me it was in 2012. I had just taken over from Dick and had to write multiple articles about Interclean Amsterdam for Service Management. You don’t know what you’re seeing; so many halls, lectures, meetings, networking opportunities and more. But how do you give your readers an idea of what is happening, when so much is happening? It is almost impossible.”
In addition to visiting the show, Dick and Ronald have both been part of the Amsterdam Innovation Award jury. Dick has been part of the jury from the start of the Amsterdam Innovation Awards. “I took over that role from Dick in 2020,” Ronald shares.
The shift to products
Comparing Interclean and the cleaning industry to forty years ago, Dick sees that a lot has changed. “The character of the show has changed radically since the end of the 1990s. Before that, the entire hall 1 was dominated by huge stands of cleaning companies who are now mainly visitors of the Interclean. So the service aspect was very important. Only when the cleaning companies dropped out at the end of the 1990s did the service aspect fade into the background and the current Interclean was created in which the product range is more central. That happened because manufacturers and distributors of cleaning equipment took over. Before that time, products were secondary. This is also when the products became the main focus of the Amsterdam Innovation Awards. In the years that followd the show became bigger and bigger and much more international.”
The international aspect of the show didn’t exist from the start. Dick: “The internationality of the show was also a result of this shift. Interclean became all about cleaning products, but there were not many companies in the Netherlands that produced their own cleaning products. For instance, products in chemistry came mainly from Germany and so on. So it is actually quite remarkable that the largest trade show for cleaning products is held in the Netherlands, when you look at it like that. But Amsterdam has this beautiful complex, knowledge, service, the accessibility of Schiphol, and we all speak English. So Interclean became a facilitator.”
Ronald adds to this: “This is what former director Rob den Hertog also explained: the Netherlands is neutral territory for manufacturers. And don’t forget the city Amsterdam, which is great fun.
Memories of the Amsterdam Innovation Award
As jury members of the Amsterdam Innovation Award, Dick and Ronald have seen many cleaning innovations over the years. According to them, an innovation is a success when it makes the life of a cleaner easier. Dick explains: “I always thought that the Amsterdam Innovation Award should focus on products that can be used by the everyday cleaner. Like the spray method, with which you spray on a desk and wipe it off with a microfibre cloth. This was a great step forward for the ordinary cleaner. But of course we also like innovations that include robotised machines, because this makes a big impression.”
Sustainability has exploded
Ronald adds to this: “It is not always the innovation that wins that also gets the most reach. It depends on many factors: do they have good marketing, do they have the right connection with distributors, do the cleaning companies like it, and so on. I remember for instance we started off with a small corner of ‘Management and Mobility Solutions’ somewhere at the bottom of the stairs at the show floor. You could walk through it in five minutes. Those solutions have become much more successful now. And of course innovations that are sustainable. This topic has exploded during the last Interclean Amsterdam. We've seen tremendous development in that in those two things.”
Cleaning innovations to never forget
Some of the innovations, the (part) jury members will never forget. Dick: “There are three innovations I still remember that stood out for me. The first was an Israeli innovation: a renewed towel dispenser. It worked like any other towel dispenser, you pull out a towel, dry your hands, and then it rolls itself back up. But this Amsterdam Innovation Award nominee had a devised system: the towel was sprayed with a cleaning fluid when it rolled back up. It was meant as a kind of nightly laundry, so you didn’t have to change the towel so often. This innovation was also awarded.”
Dick continues: “The second innovation that stood out for me was an English innovation: a small oven for the ladies’ toilets. You could put used sanitary napkins in the oven and it would be burned. This was a closed system, a kind of drawer that you slid shut. So it wasn’t dangerous.”
“The third innovation that stood out for me was a Dutch innovation: a machine with which you could clean glass side walls. Those kind of side walls you see along the walking treadmills at airports. The machine would be on the walking treadmill and would clean the glass on both sides. I have never seen those innovations again in practice. This amazes me, because they were such amazing innovations. But apparently there was no market for it.”
Inventiveness of companies
Ronald has his own favourites: “I am always impressed by the inventiveness of companies. You would think that everything has already been invented. But then there are innovations that are so clever. It doesn’t always have to be big steps. One innovation that stood out for me was a dispenser system that has electronics in it to give you always exactly enough detergent. Because overdosing can lead to mistakes in cleaning itself. You can analyse on a computer to see how often detergent is beining used. Or another innovation that stood out for me was a supplier that invented a box you could hold against a cleaning machine, which then reads the data of a scrubber dryer machine. Based on that data you can determine if the machine needs maintenance. I like that kind of clever stuff.”
“What I also remember is a kind façade cleaning machine”, Ronald tells further. “All municipalities do not want the detergent from the cleaning of façades to fall on the floor. This innovation had a devised container that hangs behind the machine to catch the detergent. There are always innovations of which you think, can you change even more in the process? Yes, that is always possible. Even in cleaning. I'm mostly surprised about that.”
All these innovations don’t make it easy for the jury to choose a winner. Dick: “There are always lots of healthy discussions. We take it very seriously. But in the end we always agree.” Ronald adds to this: “Some years it takes a long time to agree. Sometimes there is an innovation that everyone says is something special. But then there are other jurors who say fine, but I want arguments why. That’s a healthy discussion. A jury should be like that. Some years it is immediately clear and some years the jury is very divided.” But some years, it was immediately clear who the winner would be. Ronald: “For example Lionsbot, that was really something new. It was new that hospitality was so central in a cleaning robot. But then again, it’s not always certain that such an innovation makes in daily life.”