The Wash Podcast: Handwashing as a Service (HaaS) with the CleanTech Plus Program
Welcome to The Wash, your trusted resource for the latest and greatest in public health and hygiene, where we will tackle topics like hand hygiene, best practices in footwear sanitization, creating an employee hygiene program, and more!
On today’s episode, we invite CTO Paul Barnhill and VP of Sales Will Eaton to talk to us about why handwashing should be handled as a service, rather than a product and how the CleanTech Plus program helps provide this service to our customers. You can listen to the podcast using the media player or read the podcast transcript below:
Podcast Transcript: Handwashing as a Service (HaaS) with the CleanTech Plus Program
Jen: Hello, and welcome to "The Wash", your trusted resource for the latest and greatest in public health and hygiene. This podcast is brought to you by Meritech, the leader in automated hygiene technology. I'm your host, Jennifer Taylor. I am pleased to introduce you to two of our very special guests: Paul Barnhill, Chief Technology Officer here at Meritech and Head Engineer. Paul, thanks for coming back on the podcast today.
Paul: Thanks for having me!
Jen: And, for our very special guest today, first time on the podcast, please welcome Will Eaton, VP of sales here at Meritech. Thanks for joining us today Will!
Will: Thanks for having me, I appreciate it!
Jen: Yeah. Really excited to explore today's topic with you both. We are exploring the concept of Haas or H a a S typically referred to as "Hardware as a Service", but we are giving it a new name and a new meaning. We are talking about why handwashing should be handled as a service rather than in a product or as we lovingly refer to it as "Handwashing as a Service". So we have arrived at this concept because we have heard from many of our customers, folks in the industries that we serve, that there are a handful of challenges associated with managing a hygiene program in their business. And, you know, these challenges, it's never been more important to overcome them because hand-washing is the best defense against the spread of disease. And given 2020, given what we've experienced this year, given what we know could be ahead of us in the future, it's never been more important to take hand-washing seriously and to have an excellent program to mitigate that risk. And so we hear those challenges from our customers and we thought, "You know, is hand-washing really best considered as a product or a service?" So to start this discussion, I want to tee up the question of: "What challenges do our customers and those in these spaces currently face that we can help them with?"
Will: I mean, I think the biggest concern challenge that anyone's going to face with handwashing is gotta be compliance and validating that compliance. You know, myself and Paul talked to a lot of people about how to oversee their hygiene zone and hygiene protocols and ensuring their employees are performing a proper hand wash every single time is extremely difficult and almost impossible to validate that type of compliance.
Paul: It really is Will. In fact, the only way to really validate that process is to actually police the behavior. No one wants to be policed in regards to their hygiene practices every day. It's also a large drain on resources that you may not necessarily have, depending on your plant size. You may have some plants that have maybe 10 people coming in to a zone, or you have the medium plants that have somewhere between a hundred to 200 people coming through a hygiene zone or those mega plants. That are really focusing on moving large numbers of people thousand people plus through a hygiene zone within a time that's a lot of resources for a company to dedicate to police a behavior when you're lacking that compliance, which can have a net effect directly on your food safety. It also boils down to the very beginning. Part of that is how do you create that culture? What do you do to create that culture and have that built within your system as a food safety mechanism that everybody's tied to?
Will: Yeah, I completely agree. And you know, really looking at, you know, the policing aspect that you mentioned is a challenge, but the other one too, like you said, starting that culture training. What type of training is involved with the employees and who provides retraining?
Paul: Excellent point of the, one of the challenges when I started in this industry 29 years ago, there was about six dialects spoken in a plant. I was in a plant not long ago. There was 33 different dialects spoken in that plant. That's an incredible challenge for any business owner, any organization to sit there and onboard somebody, let alone retrain. To be able to have that continued education and assurance that people are going to be washing their hands correctly, following the proper PPE procedures and assuring food safety. And you do that by design, you do that by layout, you do that by culture, but those are the biggest challenges that these owners face today is assuring that people are doing this correctly every time.
Will: Absolutely and I love it, how you brought up the language aspect, Paul. You know that many different dialects being spoken in a facility because I've heard all too many people say they use the "Happy Birthday" song as the metric to get the right timing down for hand wash. Well, how do you see the "Happy Birthday" song in 36 different dialects? How do you frame that as a benchmark? Unfortunately too many people use that as a benchmark to get the timing of the handwash right. But not all the steps. Just singing "happy birthday" twice might get you the right time, but all the steps involved in a proper handwash being able to train that, retrain that and ensure people are doing it correctly every single time.It's very, very difficult and always is going to be a challenge.
Paul: Absolutely. Those 12 handwashing steps that you have to follow for that proper hygiene event and that singing "happy birthday" twice. One of the things, when people ask me that question, a lot of times, you know, about that, I said, well, not every day is your birthday that isn't becoming a special day, but we understand the importance of washing that again, that lathering time of that 20 seconds. So when you think about that timing, You think about moving large numbers of people through making sure that everybody's washing. In reality, that a true hand wash is somewhere between 30 and 40 seconds of going through the process of rinsing the hands, washing and lathering the hands, post rinsing the hands, and then drying the hands. You really end up about the 30, 40 seconds. So it's a large amount of time that requires somebody to be able to make sure they do it. What happens in time, especially in manual hand hygiene is that you get a little bit complacent. And when you're complacent, you start to fall down. So what do all the business leaders do? They start retraining and educating. So they get a spike in compliance and so forth. And then all of a sudden it goes for a little bit and then it starts dropping off. So they retrain again, and again, that challenge with those 33 or 36 different dialects that are being spoken in these plants is incredibly challenging. How do you do it? Do you have it in written form? Do you have that in a video? Do you have that in posters? I mean, it's incredibly complicated for these businesses to be able to keep up with that constant reeducation and retraining when there's simpler ways to use automation to bridge that gap.
Jen: Let's talk a little bit about, you had mentioned the throughput through a hygiene zone and the design and how the design of that throughput can really either help reduce cross-contamination or potentially contribute to cross-contamination risk. Let's talk about the flow of that hygiene zone and what type of challenges that presents for food processors and other plant managers today?
Paul: You know, it, one of the funny things, when, again, you know, when I started in this industry hygiene zones, weren't exactly something that was there. They had a sink on the wall and your frocks may be over here in your hair nets were over there that was kind of weird. And it really wasn't well thought out, you know, it's somewhat like an afterthought. One of the things that Meritech is doing a lot in a lot of things that a lot of companies are investing in is really rethinking that exact area. How do we design a hygiene zone to where we can get the proper throughput following the proper steps prior to entering a manufacturing zone? It's really a control choke point, but that control choke point needs to be designed in such a way that you're really guiding them to every single step and maneuver that they have to follow through. So when you're looking at that design, how do we guide people through to get through these steps, knowing how much time it takes to get through the hygiene zone?
Jen: And can't imagine what type of challenge that must feel like for quality managers and operational managers that are trying to create that sense of workflow and process on their own Frankensteining and pulling together sinks and all sorts of other materials that they can use to create this workflow, but then essentially having to design it themselves. So the difference of working with a hygiene service partner would be somebody that could advise you through that process and help make that simpler and bring some best practices that have been gained from thousands of other facilities, you know, to that hygiene zone.
Paul: Absolutely. Because one of the things that Meritech does is when we go and look at a facility, when somebody asks to engage with Meritech, you know, they'll reach out and we have incredible number of experts in employee hygiene. They understand the challenges, and every plant is different. Every plant we go into it is: "Are they dealing with, with a protein? Are we dealing with an allergen? Are we dealing with a raw product or a ready to eat product?" Each of these has their own challenges and how you design a hygiene zone and working with somebody like Meritech, you're able to really figure out exactly what are all those challenges, what is your facility layout and, and exactly what's gonna fit best, especially with where you are today or where you're going to be in two or three years from now, as you may grow and thinking about those different things so that we can make sure and assure that you're going to have the proper hygiene zone to fit your needs today, tomorrow, and in the future.
Jen: Beautiful. What a great insight, Paul. I really appreciate you sharing that. One of the things that, , cropped up in my mind, as you were talking about hygiene zones and challenges today is one of the biggest challenges that many of, folks in this space are probably experiencing right now in 2020 that we haven't talked about yet are access to supplies. Given supply chain strains right now what does that landscape look like for food processors, ensuring that their hygiene zones have the proper supplies and how can a vendor and partner support them in overcoming that challenge?
Will: That's a great question. And you know, when you look at the Handwashing as a Service or HaaS, what's the most critical supply? It's gonna be soap and a lot of our partners that we see out in the field have to maintain their supply on their own, to know when they're running low, to know when to reorder, to make sure they never run out of soap, because that is the critical piece to making sure people have clean hands. A big question I always like to ask is "Well, how many hand washes do you get out of that container of soap that you have?" And I always get the blank stare because no one really knows how many hand washes they get out of that container because there's no control mechanism in place. Some employees may think they need more, some employees may think they might need less, but there's no control over that. So if you have a shift full of people who decide that they need to use more soap that container might run out a lot quicker than the second shift who people use one squirt of soap versus the people who use four or five. So it was very difficult for these people to control those supplies and know how much they need to support their staff, per as many handwashes they need in that day.
Paul: I think something to add on to that Will, that's really important is that it becomes a really known cost as well. That's really important that you know, but in these challenging times that we're in right now, supplies are difficult. So you're dealing with supply chain. And so you're reaching out, you're trying to get the solution that you need. Make sure that it's there on time. Everybody's running out, the distributors are running out that are supplying this. By setting up a service like this, you really take all that off that plate. You push that back to that vendor, let them manage that system for you. Being able to sit there and make sure and assure that it's there on time, when your facility needs it in advance of it so that you're not running out of supplies. You know, supply chain is critical right now, especially when it comes to anything. That's a hand soaps solutions, disinfectants, they're all being challenged right now because of just sheer demand.
Will: And I think Paul, you nailed it right there. I mean, when you really look at Handwashing as a Service (HaaS), having a partner that can come into your facility, not only do the things that you mentioned Paul, and help design a hygiene zone, but to be able to look at the number of employees, they have, how many hand washes are required in a day, and be able to provide them with soap or hygiene solution to support that without them even having to think about it, it coming on a reoccurring basis to support their needs. That's a true partner and that is truly providing a service.
Paul: And that really is the big thing that kind of lets that person that's especially in charge of supply chain, focus on the critical things they need to do. They don't have to worry about this, let your partner do that.
Jen: Absolutely. You know, quality managers, operation managers, they should be focusing on quality and operational excellence. Not "When do I need to reorder soap?" You know, and an excellent hygiene partner will know that for you. Just like Amazon, I love those little buttons that you can press now. You don't even have to press the button. Your partner knows when you need more, never run out. So we've talked about a few of the challenges that many business owners are facing today when managing their employee hygiene and guest hygiene programs. So we've talked a lot about also what is Handwashing as a Service (HaaS)? So here at Meritech, we have rolled out a new program that falls into that hand washing as a service category that we call CleanTech Plus. And just want to take a few minutes to introduce to our podcast listeners, what is included in CleanTech Plus and how this program has been designed to overcome these challenges that we've talked about.
Will: CleanTech Plus is an all-inclusive program. It does provide you with everything you need to ensure you have effective hygiene throughout your facility. So what do I mean by that? The first part of it is providing that hygiene consultation. As Paul mentioned, ensuring your hygiene zone is set up properly to ensure throughput and whatever restrictions may be in place to include. As Paul mentioned, as well as social distancing. Our team provides assistance with that. Once we determine what that zone should look like, we decide: how many hand washes do you need for your program? So we're going to look at how many employees you have, how many times they wash their hands in a day, we're going to be able to determine how many handwashes you'll need as an organization on an annual basis. And with that, we'll be able to provide you with a hygiene solution to support those hand washes. In addition to the hygiene solution, we'll be able to provide you with the equipment required to support your needs and your throughput which can include the hand-washing, can include footwear, sanitation, even bootscrubbers, if that's what your facility needs. In addition to those great things, during the CleanTech Plus program, we provide you with an all-inclusive warranty. We provide you with free shipping. It's a true service for our customers.
Paul: I think one of the things to add onto that will that's really important is understanding, especially when our team is coming in and looking at these design layouts, when it comes to the CleanTech Plus of what the right equipment needs to be in your main zone, because there's really about three different areas that you have hand hygiene, you know, and/or footwear sanitation. You have your main hygiene zone, you may then have a supplementary hygiene area, and then you may have a satellite hygiene zone. Those satellite areas have to be addressed as well. You may have people that are coming from a raw area to a cooked area that need to be addressed. And we'll be looking at those things to make sure that you have an intervention step for hygiene in those areas so that you can make sure that they're controlled. And so looking at that, that it's an all encompassing package that really addresses everyone's needs.
Will: You go back to the challenges we brought up, and then when you think about compliance and validating compliance with CleanTech Plus program, you will receive the CleanTech equipment that does have compliance tracking. You will be able to see how many employees go through that zone to ensure compliance within your facility. The other challenge we brought up is maintaining supplies. I mentioned, we come up with your annual handwash usage. What that means in CleanTech Plus is you get your solution shipped to you on a monthly basis. You don't need to stop, you don't need to check and you don't need to make sure you're running low. It'll come to you on a monthly basis to support your hygiene requirements. It is truly a service that people do not need to think about.
Jen: And with free shipping!
Paul: All inclusive means all inclusive!
Jen: Yes. Yeah. We didn't leave anything on the table here. What I love about this program is that handwashing is the best defense against the spread of disease. Not a sink, not a boot dip pan handwashing. And buying one component, one product does not create a perfect hand-wash. You're relying on that employee and human behavior, whether they're an employee or a guest. To follow all 12 of those steps for 30 to 40 seconds. And it's just too much variability and risk to rely on in today's modern business. It's too much to put on the line when we're all working so hard every day focus so hard on quality. We have our HACCP plans, all these other processes in place to ensure quality. We can't allow this one step to trip us up and hand washing is the best defense against the spread of disease. You should be buying hand washes, not products that get close.
Paul: So it's the challenge of, making sure that people are doing it right. Ensuring it's done the same every single event. And that's the part back to that policing behavior. And it's really difficult for plants to be able to do that too. What do you do? You need technology? Okay. We use technology in everyday of our life. Yeah. We used to look at maps and no one looks at maps anymore. They plug it into their phone and they follow the GPS to where it tells them to go anymore. And so it's a way of helping deal with these challenges, to where they can focus on the things that are most important to their business, you know, address their "Why", let us handle that other part of that.
Jen: Yes. Our customers got into business to make excellent food products, to make life saving medicines, to offer amazing experiences at restaurants and airports and venue halls. We want to help our customers focus on what makes their business great and gain peace of mind and take the guesswork out of hand-washing and know that they have it taken care of.
Paul: Yeah. Create that culture.
Jen: So if we have learned nothing else in 2020, we have learned that being in business means braving change and being flexible to that. So what about customers of the CleanTech Plus program? What if their business changes? What if they need to increase staff? Decrease staff? Have seasonal temp shifts? Let's talk about that.
Will: That's a great point. And we have seen it with the CleanTech Plus program. We've seen companies increase in size. We've seen, unfortunately, companies decrease in size. CleanTech Plusis a program built upon partnership where we're willing to be flexible and we're willing to revise the program to meet the customer's changing needs. So Jennifer, the best way to answer that is it's not a rigid program. It's a consultative approach where we provide the perfect program for the customer. And if things change, we're here to work with them. We're looking for the long-term partnership.
Jen: Beautiful. So if number of hand washes needed increases or decreases that's allowed within the program.
Jen: That's a great service for customers to know that they, that this is truly based on partnership and that the program is designed to grow with them as they evolve and change.
Paul: It really is a worry-free program.
Jen: Take the guesswork completely out from the hand-washing itself and also supporting the program. So to that point of taking the guesswork out and making this completely worry-free. What about what happens when the subscription term ends?
Will: Yeah. When the subscription term ends, at that point, if the customer decides to renew they will get brand new equipment at no additional costs.
Jen: Amazing. So they never have to worry about the equipment becoming obsolete or getting old essentially. Yeah.
Paul: New technology is evolving all the time. . And we, as a company are always reinventing and creating new technologies to assist in this to help address these human behavioral challenges when it comes to hygiene. And so, yeah, you know, you purchase a system now and then three years from now, we may have something newer, better does more, that you find is valuable to your business. You have an opportunity at that time. To upgrade that equipment directly to that.
Jen: Well, that sounds amazing, but it also sounds exactly like a lease. Is this a lease or who owns the equipment?
Will: Great question! This program has absolutely not a lease. The customers own the equipment from day one. And as we mentioned at the end of the term, that equipment after the three-year term, the customer owns it's their equipment. So there's no issues with that is not a lease, it is full ownership.
Jen: Fantastic. So with the full ownership, though, just like renting versus owning a home, when something breaks down, it's your problem, right? Is that the case with CleanTech Plus?
Paul: Not with CleanTech Plus. So as long as you're within the CleanTech Plus program, not only is your preventative maintenance covered, but all your warranty goods are covered as well. We have skilled engineers throughout the country, to be able to assist and help you with those challenges. But we also have a lot of self help videos that really can help you if there's something simple, it can be addressed with a piece of equipment. But a lot of times, yeah, that's a hundred percent covered by the system. Again, like we'd mentioned earlier, it is a worry-free program. So the equipment is covered. Your solution is coming in when it needs to come in. It's based on the information and data that you gave us in a flexible program. That is worry free.
Jen: Sounds perfect. But in the event that someone is unsatisfied, are they locked in?
Will: Well, absolutely not. So if a customer decides to improve and change their hygiene zone, and let's say they decide to remove their sinks and, and decide to move away from a manual hand wash into an automated hand wash and decide CleanTech Plus is the right program for them, we give a 60 day period once the equipment ships from this facility. , and if they're not happy, there's absolutely no cancellation fees within that 60 day period. So if they're unhappy from the beginning, they're not locked in for three years.
Jen: So it sounds like everything is included. There's a theme here, "all inclusive"!, But we also know that and we talked about at the beginning, that culture is such a big part of your hygiene program because hygiene is inherently behavior based. So even outside of making the perfect handwash occur in your hygiene zone, what are some other areas of a hygiene program that businesses should be considering? And how does Meritech help with those?
Paul: I think the biggest thing is to understand this is a partnership and that's what Meritech strives to be with every one of our customers. It is not transactional. We want to become partners with them. We want to be advisors to them. We are experts in human hygiene. And so what we want to look at is being able to give them assets and tools that really help them do their job better and improve that culture. One of the things to help them with that is what we created in partnership with Food Safety Magazine, which is called the Employee Hygiene Toolbox. And the Employee Hygiene Toolbox is actually a six module set going through everything from: how do you create the culture by creating a hygiene social contract, to then hand hygiene, to footwear hygiene, to how do you set up your hygienic zoning and so forth? How do you validate your hygienic zoning and how do you go back and retrain and reeducate and so forth and go through this process? And that's just one aspect of it, but some of the things we conduct a lot of times for a lot of our partners is they may be hosting a safety day. That safety day, we are more than happy to come and assist and train and educate. And a lot of times we do that initial safety day, on an onboarding process. That's a great opportunity to start that fire of culture within the staff, to be able to get them to understand the expectations are greater, to give them pride in what they're doing, you know, help them teach themselves, create a hygiene mentors within the facility. And it puts really everybody on that flat line of food safety culture. So everybody, regardless if you're the CEO or if you're the guy sweeping the floor, you all have that same responsibility of culture and hygiene and food safety.
Jen: Is so critically important that every employee in your business understands the role they have individually in ensuring the health and safety of not only themselves, but each other and your consumers and an effective hygiene program will do that.
Paul: It will, it will. And, and one of the things with the Employee Hygiene Toolbox, as well as in the partnership with Meritech, we supply you a lot of assets to help you with that. With actual written procedures or guidelines that you can use directly as they are, or tweaked, to make sure that they meet your company requirements for your SSOP easier HACCP plan exactly. There are great posters that you can download. There are some great videos to watch. There's a lot of different assets help you create that culture, that partnership of hygiene excellence.
Jen: Fantastic. Well, Paul and Will, thank you so much for joining us today on the podcast. Great discussion, and look forward to further episodes with you both.
Paul: Thank you very much.
Will: Appreciate it.
This podcast is brought to you by Meritech, the leader in automated employee hygiene. Meritech offers a complete line of fully-automated hygiene equipment that provides the only clinically-validated, technology-based approach to human hygiene in the world. Meritech’s line of CleanTech® Automated Handwashing Stations perform a fully-automated 12-second hand wash, sanitize and rinse cycle, removing over 99.9% of dangerous pathogens while wasting zero water or solution. Meritech delivers employee hygiene, contamination control, and infection prevention programs within a wide variety of markets, including food production, food service, cleanroom, healthcare, medical, theme parks, and cruise lines. For more information call 303-790-4670.