This spring, for the first time, we saw the whole world grind to a halt because of a pandemic, with whole cities being isolated. At the same time, we saw how good hand hygiene alone can help stop the spread of viruses.
Mikko Eskola works as a Account and Development manager at Kiilto. He is in charge of international key account customer relations and sales operations development. Before joining Kiilto he made a career in international hotel and cruise business.
My professional roots are deep in the international hotel and cruise business. Nearly 14 years of work related to hygiene and environmental safety around the world have not gone to waste. For years, I worked daily on customer experience and environmental safety issues. Through the experience gained in different situations, I developed a significant number of professional skills that I was later able to combine in all sorts of contexts. I’ll give an example of the outcome of one of these many experiences.
I’m sitting in a London hotel room when the television shows news of the start of an avian flu pandemic. Good hand hygiene is emphasised, and disinfectants are being placed in different places so that people will remember to use them, especially in public places. As I watch the news, I wonder how half-litre bottles of disinfectant hand rub can be placed so that they are available to hundreds and even thousands of people to ensure safety. Who will replace the empty bottles or refill them as necessary? Who is to ensure that people actually use the hand rubs?
These thoughts had also been going around in my head earlier, when I was in the cruise industry, where several thousand people pass through the gates every day, and a good standard of hygiene must be ensured. This task is not made any easier by the daily regulatory requirements for ships at international, regional or flag management level. Each company’s own efforts to maintain a high standard of hygiene are closely related to their reputation and to customers’ perceptions of whether it is safe to travel on board.
In the post-pandemic world in particular, creating a sense of security is essential to business operations as a whole. Sitting in that hotel room, the idea of a large hand wash dispenser came to me like a lightning bolt out of a clear sky – a solution was needed for easily and efficiently dispensing hand rub to a large number of people. The idea had been germinating in my mind for a long time, but the breakthrough came in London.
I quickly draw my thoughts on paper, called the company in Finland, and we got the wheels rolling pretty quickly. The beginning was difficult. We eventually got the product to market, but we made every possible mistake along the way. Thanks to the idea for the product and during its development cycle, I switched from being an entrepreneur to a salaried employee. Versions A, B and C of the product were created. There were many technical hitches, with the product being delayed and then missing its window of opportunity. In the end, the project was terminated and left waiting for an eventual chance later on. The lesson was that even if an idea is good, and a solution is needed, successful implementation still requires maturation.
Fast forward to the autumn of 2019. I’m following the new coronavirus situation in China every day, and I fear that it will quickly develop into a global problem, even in 2019. Since the beginning of 2020, the coronavirus has spread rapidly from Asia to Europe, and even in Finland. Apparently the situation got so bad that the whole of the Uusimaa province was isolated for a time. This new pandemic once again drew attention to the importance of hand washing and hand hygiene in general. The demand for disinfectants skyrocketed.
It was like this before at times, but this time something had changed. Instead of sitting in a London hotel room, I’m at home under quarantine, and the scenario I feared in 2009 is becoming true. The time had come for the solution invented earlier.
Thoughts have matured, and there have been other developments too. This time, however, product development moved fast. We had learned from our past mistakes, and the end result was a combination of something completely new and the best aspects of all the previous versions. We gathered a small Finnish team, and in just a couple of months, we developed a device for use in systematically taking control of the situation and ensuring safety. One of the reasons for the rapid product launch was the team’s experience and skill. The product development and design team are Finnish, and the components used are sourced from Finland insofar as possible. In this way, we can guarantee quality and security of supply, because the communication and logistics chains are short.
Ten years and many product versions later, the Safepoint+ automatic hand rub dispenser is the outcome of Finnish design and implementation from start to finish. It´s development required the famous Finnish Sisu and determination in the face of the many setbacks over the years. It was all worth it, however, because soon we were able to launch a product that delivers on our promises of easy and modern hand hygiene.
And what about the future?
Pandemics have occurred throughout human history, and will continue to do so. The coronavirus situation has been good practice for this eventuality, but in the future, we must have a way to systematically take control of pandemics. This spring, for the first time, we saw the whole world grind to a halt because of a pandemic, with whole cities being isolated. At the same time, we saw how good hand hygiene alone can help stop the spread of viruses. Common sense has gone a long way, but the systematic nature of hygiene is always the key to keeping situations under control. The right solutions play an important role in places where large numbers of people gather or pass through. It must be possible to take care of hygiene easily and reliably. We must also be able to make our customers feel safe, whether it is at airports, on cruise ships or in shopping centres.
We continue to maintain our start-up spirit to ensure the safety of our customers. These developments do not happen overnight – they require long-term efforts. We put our lengthy experience to work, and it paid off in the form of reliable solutions.
I wish you a safe and happy continuation of the year – everything will turn out well.