Industry Leaders Forum: Dr Greg Whiteley, Executive Director, Whiteley

How was 2022 for Whiteley? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

Whiteley had a successful year in 2022. The year provided more challenges that allowed us to continue to strengthen our relationships with customers, suppliers and teams across Australia and New Zealand

For Whiteley, 2022 allowed us to maintain our market position in the industry and focus on continuing to provide our customers with quality products they can trust. It continued a flow-on effect that provided new opportunities and new industries to help expand our product offering. We continued to provide best practices in cleaning for infection prevention, giving the tools the cleaning industry required to protect the public and staff alike.

One challenge for Whiteley and all of the major manufacturers supplying hard floor products, was the supply of raw materials for hard floor industry which had a flow-on effect to customers. Some raw materials have current lead times of 12+ months which disrupts everyone in the market.

Becoming adaptable to find sources of materials around the country and making sure it could be delivered on impacted the cost of manufacturing, this had led to some setbacks, lead-times and of course included costs.

Other challenges were ‘COVID fatigue’ in the general markets with a decreasing focus on Infection Prevention.

But we were able to bounce back with a dedicated team that persisted in meeting our customers’ needs and it made the Whiteley team stronger. Our research professionals have also been hard at work to bring a range of new products to the market in 2023.

What are some of the learnings the company has taken from the past 12 months?

Whiteley has learnt this year the importance of quality over quantity and the importance of educating and supporting customers. Having a great product that is reliable and trustworthy, while ticking all the boxes it is meant to, creates a positive experience for the end user who will likely repeat purchase.

Not only do you need quality but since the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are supporting Australian Made products which have many advantages over foreign competitors. Customers are now looking at whether a product is domestically manufactured which has many environmental benefits.

Whiteley prides itself on nearly 90 years of pioneering products and research, our collaborative approach to working with independent organisations and institutions ensures professionals can scrutinise the products before they hit the market. This unique method with our research and development teams ensures our products provide value through meeting the needs and expectations of our customers.

With an ever changing market it has allowed us to review our own practices to ensure we are still here manufacturing for many years to come.

 What are your main priorities for 2023?

Our main focus in 2023 will be our research and development of new innovative products. We are lucky enough to collaborate with local universities and access their technology which has excelled us in researching product development.

Whiteley is excited to start building our new manufacturing facility in 2023. This will see our footprint increase in the healthcare space with a licensed human therapeutic plant. The new facility also enables us to start manufacturing products that have been created through years of collaborative research and ensure we maintain our premium products, that are backed by science.

What do you expect to be the big trends of 2023?

The industry has been riding the waves of COVID-19 for nearly 3 years, we believe the waves may have slowed but the tide has risen and people are now more conscious than ever of the importance of hygiene. Remaining vigilant of personal and environmental hygiene has been a message Whiteley has stood behind for years and remains incredibly important for the safety of all.

With COVID-19 fatigue settling in, value for money will be a strong topic for businesses continuing to transition back to normality. As part of this sustainability, quality and compliance will be hot topics for most.

2023 will also show an improvement in turnaround times for manufacturing and logistics. We have had the pandemic shift the way our customers do business and for that, turnaround times should increase follow suit.

 What are some of the fresh challenges the market is facing?

The ‘unknown’ was previous a point of concern for most, however businesses that have survived through COVID have developed a level of resilience they should be proud of. We believe the key challenges of 2023 will be establishing a new state of normality. Now is the time to build off our successes and leverage from our resilience.

Currently, we are facing challenges with freight and logistics. This affects the global supply chain, which can lead to delays and setbacks across businesses. Whiteley’s solution is to increase national warehousing for our Asia-Pacific customer base. The build of our new plant will also allow us to manufacture more products internally and keep up with demand of our growing customer base. We will focus on providing our customers with quality products while ensuring the products are always safe to use.

What’s the biggest challenge facing leaders in the cleaning industry today?

There are two main challenges facing the cleaning industry, the first one is maintaining value for customers. Customers are no longer just looking for a product that does the job, they are seeking quality, value and benefits to their everyday cleaning roles.

The second challenge is to retain customers’ infection-prevention cleaning habits.

Now more than ever it is crucial to upkeep our cleaning vigilance. We should still be focussed on minimising every risk of infection. Bacteria and bugs are still present in the environment, and we should not stop our high standard of cleaning because COVID-19 focus is slowing. Whiteley remains committed to protecting lives and livelihoods.

 What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt over the past 12 months?

Most businesses have learned their capability to adapt and respond to any situation that arises. This year Whiteley has had to adapt to the delays and challenges with freight, logistics and shortages in raw materials. However, with a dedicated team we were able to find solutions and overcome the challenges in meeting the needs of our customers.

The biggest lesson from the past 12 months is continuing our focus for education. It is important to learn the processes, but also understand how a product is used. It is also important to refresh the knowledge regarding how the product is being used to ensure maximum safety and correct usage.

Education is a big factor of how to use each product properly, as well as learning how to manually handle the product and overall safety precautions. Ensuring education is undertaken will create best practices for the customer.

Do you have any advice for fellow leaders in the industry?

There is no harm in asking a fellow peer in the industry for advice, or for help. Always note there is another option/s available and be sure to explore these before making a final decision. Don’t rush a process, spend the time to review and adapt where needed. Most importantly always think of the customer.

Is there a message that you would like to share with the industry?

Always remember people are the focus of everything we do, we need to provide them with the tools and technology to continue the foundations of the cleaning industry.  We need to support them in their roles and cleaning needs, whether this is new development, new products, or new methods. They have had a hard few years with the pandemic and we need to supply them with the right tools they need to complete the services they provide.

We also need to note although we make the products for the industry, it is the employees in the industry that deliver the results. Their ongoing commitment to keep all of us safe and dedication to their roles allows us to continue our lives with less risk of contamination, infection and illness. They do the hard work and deserve credit for their contributions. Without them the cleaning industry wouldn’t survive.

This first appeared in the February issue of INCLEAN NZ magazine. 

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