It cannot be denied that many industrial facilities in the U.S. have stopped or reduced the number of cleaning products and paper goods they purchase through distributors, often referred to as "jansan" distributors. According to ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association:
The number of jansan distributors in the United States has declined significantly since 2000. Some distributors have gone out of business entirely; some have merged with other distributorships to weather the storm; others were bought out by stronger distributors seeking more national coverage; some entered other markets and added vertical service offerings; and others became affiliated with [distributor-based] national buying and marketing organizations.1
While ISSA does not provide the precise numbers, it is believed there were as many as 10,000 to 15,000 jansan distributors in 2000. Today, that number has been cut by about two-thirds.
One more reason for this decline is that so many facilities, including industrial facilities, now purchase products online and directly from mega-retailers. This buying strategy is convenient and cost-competitive, and delivery is very quick—in some cases the next day, but typically in two to three days.
So, now we understand why the number of jansan distributors in the U.S. has declined. Now, there is something else industrial administrators need to know. Along with everything else, COVID has changed the way facilities are cleaned and maintained. Many administrators find they have nowhere to turn when it comes to addressing their new concerns about cleaning. For instance:
- Should they increase cleaning frequencies?
- Disinfect more surfaces and disinfect more frequently?
- Where should they use disinfectants?
- What types of disinfectants should they select?
- And, an even bigger question, should they change their cleaning strategies altogether?
What we see happening is that jansan distributors are needed once again because they can help industrial facility administrators answer these and many more questions. Working with an experienced, astute janitorial distributor can typically answer all the questions mentioned above.
But how to find one?
If you are not working with a jansan distributor but want to, here are some suggestions on how to find a jansan distributor who can help protect the health of your facility, keep it operating, and most importantly, keep your people healthy.
Someone who knows your niche
Jansan distributors often have niches. Some are primarily involved with educational facilities, while others specialize in serving healthcare facilities. In parts of the country, there are even distributors who focus on the cleaning needs of casinos. The benefit of having a niche is that the distributor learns all the ins and outs of these types of facilities, along with the requirements of that industry. Make sure the distributor you select is aware of the cleaning needs of industrial facilities in general and your type of facility in particular.
Most distributors are salespeople, and as salespeople, they are accustomed to doing a lot of the talking. Some may rattle off the features and benefits of a product or rave about some sleek new technology before they ask a single question. However, you also need someone with good listening skills. No two facilities are the same. You want a distributor to listen patiently to your needs and tour your facility before making any suggestions.
Now that we are 18 months and counting into the pandemic, one of the issues that has surfaced is that the professional cleaning industry has been over disinfecting. The overuse of disinfectants—also called indiscriminate disinfecting — is harmful to the cleaning worker, building users, and the environment. Select a distributor who is familiar with disinfectants, including where and when they are to be used.
Reducing the number of disinfectants used in a facility promotes health as it lowers costs.
The distributor should have several ways to be reached: email, messaging, phone numbers, etc. What we have learned from COVID is that the landscape is ever-changing. If you need to make decisions quickly or change directions and need advice, select someone you can reach at a moment’s notice.
If you remember, back when the pandemic first began, there were shortages of many things. This included many types of cleaning supplies and solutions. If there is a product shortage, a local distributor may find it challenging to purchase specific supplies. However, those distributors connected to distributor-membership organizations can turn to other distributors within the organization for out-of-stock supplies.
In most cases, if one distributor member does not have a product, another member does. Ask the distributor you are considering partnering with whether they are part of such a membership organization.
If the distributor selected meets all the discussed criteria, everything can be tossed into the wind if their product prices are too high. Be sure and comparison price. Ask if the distributor can offer volume discounts or pass on discounts from manufacturers. Typically, larger distributors and those part of membership organizations offer more competitive pricing.
Finally, look for a distributor willing and able to work with your cleaning professionals, teaching them how products and equipment should be properly used and operated. It's rare indeed that a mega-retailer, whether online or brick-and-mortar, can offer such services.
When there were larger numbers of distributors in the U.S., this add-on service was common. Although it has dwindled slightly over the years, many distributors still offer this service—and that's the person you want on your team.
1. The Evolving Jansan Distributor Model, by Leah Waldrop | ISSA Today, January 10, 2018.