Innovation Nation
Innovation Nation

Episode · 1 year ago

Mark Alpert on Hygiene Audit Innovation w/ Mark Alpert

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Once upon a time, customers didn’t ever want to see people cleaning. Now they expect it. 

The ways we have innovated in the hygiene industry are here to stay. 

In this episode, I interview Mark Alpert, VP of Business Assurance at TÜV SÜD, about innovations in hygiene audits. 

What we talked about:  

  • The hidden industry that makes us feel safe during COVID-19 
  • How Mark has innovated on innovation 
  • The qualities of communication & responsiveness that are here to stay 

Innovation is all around us. In fact, everyone innovates, often unbeknowntes to themselves. Many mistakenly assumed the innovation is either a big capital project, a figurative bolt of lightning that brings inspiration, or the province of some exceptionally gifted person. This is the myth of innovation. But you can innovate as well. You are listening to innovation nation, the podcast where top executives in industry experts are sharing their insights on harnessing the power of innovation. We're here to help you stay ahead of the curve by driving your own innovation. Here's your host, Jasmine Martyr Rossen. Hi, everybody, I am joined today on our innovation nation podcast by Mark Alpert, who is the vice president of business assurance at to zood mark. These are fast moving times, with covid seemingly having accelerated a lot of things driving innovation. How have you responded? Well,...

...we've tried to react as quickly as possible and I think the one of the most recent or key things that we've done is that, as the conversations around covid have shifted from flattening curves and protecting each other to restart and were getting back to work and reopening. How do we do that safely? And so we were able to quickly react put together a suite of services that we call smart restart solutions to help companies who are looking to bring people back to the organizations in as safe as manner as possible. And so these are services around hygiene audits, ensuring personnel safety, helping with supply chain solutions to make sure that products that are being received are safe and proper working conditions, proper working order, as well as training and helping organizations to become more aware of hygiene operating in a new norm and again, how to be both keep one eye focused on being operational and another, I focused on being safe. Thank...

...you. So, as you bring up hygiene, not it's kind of interesting. Up until recently people did not talk too much openly about hygiene. Right, hygiene was more as a personal matter or when you go to hotel, you expect it to be clean. You almost never saw cleaning people walking around. What does the hygiene at a mean? Yeah, you're absolutely right, and so it actually before I for I answer your question it because it's interesting. It's hygiene and and the whole cleaning industry per se was kind of a hidden industry. To your point, you never saw the maintenance people, are the cleaning people in your hotel. They would come at night or they would come during the day when you were out, and now it is become front and center and very visible and you will see cleaning people in the hotel lobby all day long, when you go to when you go out for dinner or you go to a restaurant, you're going to see people. They're cleaning while you're while you're having dinner. So what was typically a kind of a hidden...

...a hidden industry, is becoming very much front and center and and very much public. And so our response to this is a suite of services to help organizations ensure that the practices that are putting in place comply with both federal, state, local association, Whatever the guidance documents are that are providing direction to their particular industry, to ensure that those are being interpreted correctly, to pretty sure that the measures that are being put in place are accurate and, if as well, effective, again to ensure that people who are not only working there but people who are visiting can have a level of confidence that they're doing so safely, that the Management Team within that facility understands the criticality of this, how to protect their people and how to communicate openly about issues that might occur within the factory, take appropriate action to mitigate those risks and manage any issues accordingly as well. So that's really where the focus is, helping organizations to because an audit is just a onetime event, so to come in and...

...do a compliance, do a hygiene audit. So today, at the this time, you are compliant. That doesn't mean next week or two weeks or a month from now that you'll continue to be as compliant. And so the effort, the effect, is to be able to come back on a periodic basis to ensure the ongoing effectiveness, the ongoing efficiency of the systems that have been put in place or the practices that have been put in place again to make to maintain cleanliness and safety for the workforce. So, in effect, is part of the audits. Don't your experts also educate the facility that they're visiting about what components they're looking at? Yes, very much so. So our auditors or assessors have been trained. They're coming in depending on where the location of their facility is. You're coming in with full knowledge of the local laws, or the local I should say laws, but the local criteria, requirements, standards, whatever the government is proposed, whatever the local agencies have proposed and whatever specific to that specific to that business specifically. They're coming on...

...in armed with the latest and greatest knowledge on those topics and very much part of their activity is to want to be able to share that experience with the company, who in turn can share that with the work with the workforce, and so not only the workforce but also that those companies suppliers or those companies customers, you know, the entire supply chain, so that everybody within the entire supply chain can can remain safe. I would say, not only armed with the knowledge of the requirements that are in place these days, but also given the experience that they've gained now by doing more are and more and more of these audits and they're having the opportunity to see it done more and more different ways within different facilities and able to bring that experience and say, Hey, we've seen others do it this way or we've seen interesting we just saw best practice at this company. Maybe a little bit different of an interest, but they took an interesting approach to be able to share share some of those lessons learned and share that experience with with our customers. This is very interesting. So, in effect, you were able to stand up new service fairly quickly. That to me is innovation. And then you're just now and your...

...previous response. We're telling me how they're innovating. On the innovation, can you tell me what you have in plays to kind of promote that kind of behavior and rapid responsibility? Well, so there's all kinds of communications that are going out where we're are marked together with our marketing team, generating infographics, we're writing white papers, were doing webinars, where hosting chats, fireside chats, in order to communicate as best as possible with the market at large that these services are available, but that we're gaining experience, like everyone else is gaining experience and being the independent third party voice as part of the services that we provide. That it's one thing for you as an organization to be doing all the right things and inviting people and it's another thing to be doing all the right things, inviting people in and being able to say that it was very verified or validated by an independent third party and that we are serious about our commitment to health and safety. So I can clearly hear your passion,...

...mark is you're talking about this. What do you do to stay fresh and innovate yourself on a personal level? Well, I think you go where you go, where the need is, and so, you know, in talking to as many customers as possible and staying in touch with not only our customer base but our employees and hearing what they're when information they're calling back from their customers. And that was really the first the first point, I think the priority number one, was to be able to reach out to our customers, let them know that we're here, let them know that we're thinking about them, let them, letting them know that we care and letting them know that we want to be able to shit have a shared responsibility with them as they make their plans to move forward and understand where their challenges are right now and and how maybe we could insert ourselves to help and kind of in a partnering kind of way, a community being a community together. And so by having those own conversations myself with customers, listening to the our frontline workers who are...

...out there having these conversations every day, understanding where the where the real challenges are, understanding where the need is for our customers to be able to pivot right now and try to work out solutions in a way that suits them best. I think that that was the thing that helped us turn this around as quickly, because we knew our question was that we knew our customers needed either a new or enhanced kind of service right now, and we went out and had those conversations with them and they validated that for us and said, yeah, we do need something new or something enhanced. It has to be able to do this, and that's how we were able to then put that together to meet that need for them. So you can't innovate in a VAC and what I'm hearing you say is that the human connectedness and the voice of the customer keeps driving innovation. For you and your team, absolutely that was it. It's not innovation, more times than not, is not something that just percolates here internally or the next great innovative idea is something that happens internally. It's by listening to the customers. It's something that comes from outside more externally...

...that gets translated internally into something we can bolt on together, bundle together or create from new that will help our customers solve their most pressing issues. That is really an important message. You can't innovate in isolation. Right, you're absolutely right. You're absolutely right. So any tips, things that keep you personally fresh and connected to see the next market trend, to respond to evolve? Well, I would just reiterate that. You know, the natural thing in times like this is to circle the wagons, get internally focused and if you're sort of in the service industry like we are, and it might sound a little bit counterintuitive, but to me the opposite is true, it's is the time to be communicating more, the time to be reaching out more, the time to let your customers know that you're here. We know our customers are postponing business, we know they're canceling things that we're scheduled to happen in...

March or April due to their closures and they've been pushed out to September, October, and so by remaining flexible, by meeting their they're changing demands, only creates a stronger partnership between us and so by being there for them by listening to them, by trying to come up with solutions to their pressing problems, as will go a long way, not only when when the pandemic is over and we start to get back to work, for for things start to return to the real normal normal, but it creates a lasting relationship because they're going to remember for for a long time that we were there for them and we listened and we did what we could do to help them out. So it's not a it's not a time to get internally focused, completely internally focused and and putting a halt to all communications. It's really a time to talk more, to reach out more and to let them know that that we're here for them. Is it fair to say now that we're talking at a time that's so dominated by covid nineteen and everybody has to be on hire alert? In essence, do more, innovate more, that a lot of these qualities...

...we will actually carry through afterwards? I think so. I think I hope so. I think I think we will all benefit from a higher level of connectedness and developing, you know, stronger mutually beneficial relationships that you become a trusted partner and and that's always been our goal to put ourselves in that position of being the trusted partner and although we fulfill a sort of a certification based activity, that doesn't mean that we can't be used as a resource and that we really want our customers to think of us as a resource first and that, other than the few days that we come and spend on site with them, that as issues come up or decisions need to be made or or they're innovating themselves internally within their own organizations and would like to have somebody to think through something with or to have somebody to provide feedback to them. You know, we want to be those guys. We want to be the ones where they pick up the phone and say let's let's let's talk to him, and the feedback is good. They've got they know what they're talking about, they've...

...got expertise and they're always seemed to be available. So, you know, that's that's the relationships. We hope to that those don't go away, those relationships last, those are eternal. That is any thoughts? In closing, a question that you wish I had asked and I did not know I as it relates to you know, covid it's it's hot spots continue to the cycles continue to to merge around the country and hot bots continue to pop up and I know it's confusing for organizations about should we started, we restarting or we not restarting? And you know, I think you need to safety first, and I understand this business that has to go on and we're certainly no different at our company, but just to be very, very conscientious about your most important assets and that they're you're not at and alone, you're not by yourself out there. You've got a partner, you've got people to talk to and to reach out and together we will we will get through this and we will be stronger for it and I think there will be lots of innovative lots of...

...innovations to come as a result of this. And so the new working the new way to work, new way to communicate, new digital tools that have been developed as a result out of the need over the last few months. I don't see any of that going away and we'll find find good ways to continue to prove on those tools and those techniques again just to be more efficient, more effective and stronger as we go forward. Thank you. I really appreciate your time and insights. Thank you, Jasmine. I enjoyed the chat. Thank you, thank you. Thanks for joining the show. You've been listening to innovation nation. For more subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast player or connect with us on Linkedin. Thanks for listening.

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