How Good Cleaning Practices Can Save FMs Money
Second of a two-part article on the benefits of a robust cleaning program.
Another way in which a high-performing cleaning program can save money is by extending the life of assets. Carpet is a perfect example, Peduto says. The carpeting installed in an office building can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Proper cleaning, including regular vacuuming, stain removal, and deep cleaning, can add years to its life, just as preventive maintenance extends the life of a piece of machinery.
Neat, clean facilities also are more appealing to prospective tenants or customers, which can impact companies’ top lines. Consider the 2015 J.D. Powers Airport Satisfaction Survey, which studied gate cleanliness, along with other factors. The researchers state, “gate cleanliness is critical.” A clean gate area boosted satisfaction to 745 points (out of a possible 1,000), while a messy gate caused satisfaction with terminal facilities to drop 25 percent, to 555 points.
Together, the benefits of an effective cleaning program are too compelling to dismiss. “You’re talking really large gains from a function typically not viewed as contributing anything to the bottom line,” Peduto says. “The right cleaning program can have a positive impact on the bottom line.
What effective cleaning is
That prompts the question: What constitutes a strong cleaning program? Balek uses the term “high performance cleaning.” This refers to cleaning procedures that provide the maximum extraction of harmful contaminants, while minimizing the impact on human health.
A quality cleaning program encompasses people, processes, and tools, Peduto says. Because labor accounts for about three-quarters of the cost of any cleaning program, proper management and organization of the individuals doing the work, as well as the processes they’re following and the tools they’re using, is critical, he adds.
“It all starts with making sure the service organization has a dependable foundation of quality management and operations,” Wagner says. “Only those organizations that have invested in making sure they have all the management pieces in place will be in a position to truly deliver a dependable cleaning regimen.”
Many facility managers apply the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) to identify a well-run cleaning organization. According to ISSA, CIMS is the first consensus-based management standard that outlines the primary characteristics of a successful, quality cleaning organization.
CIMS looks at six areas:
• quality systems
• service delivery
• human resources
• health, safety, and environmental stewardship
• management commitment
• green building (for CIMS Green Building)
Several hundred firms have been CIMS-certified, Peduto says. He notes that the fee is affordable for most firms, as ISSA instituted CIMS to boost the professionalism of the cleaning industry, rather than as a money-maker.
While an effective cleaning program won’t cut corners, facility owners shouldn’t worry that they need to write a blank check to ensure quality.
The cleaning industry has made great strides in increasing workers’ efficiency. A few years ago, most cleaning workers would cover about 3,000 square feet in an hour. That’s risen to about 5,000 square feet, Balek says. Better tools, such as backpack vacuums, and improved processes are behind the jump, he adds. “There’s a lot of innovation in equipment, and it’s a way to increase efficiency.”
Peduto identifies several ways to keep the costs in check. One is by shifting some, if not all, of the cleaning work traditionally done after-hours to the work day. This reduces the need to light and heat or cool the building for a handful of workers.
The cleaning crew could start their shifts in late afternoon, so their hours overlap with the occupants’ work day. They might begin by pulling trash, or doing other tasks that are unlikely to interfere with occupants’ work. Once everyone else has headed for home, the cleaning crew can start jobs that would cause more disruption if they were done during the work day.
With this type of schedule, the building still is being powered after hours, but for a shorter period of time than it would if the cleaning staff didn’t start until everyone else had gone home.
To be sure, the workers’ productivity may decrease a bit, because they’ll have to work around the occupants. However, the reduction in energy use typically far outweighs the slight drop in productivity, Peduto says.
In addition, when they cross paths, the occupants and the cleaning crew have an opportunity to develop a connection they otherwise wouldn’t. That can lead to what Peduto calls “cooperative cleaning.” The effect is similar to homeowners who clean their homes before their cleaning service comes over, because they don’t want to be thought of as slobs. “If you know the person delivering the service, you’re not going to leave a mess,” he says. That in itself can help keep a facility clean.
Advocating for cleaning
Given the cost pressures many organizations face, most facility teams will need to repeatedly make the case for an appropriate cleaning budget. “In all organizations, there’s a battle for resources,” Peduto says. “Cleaning competes with HVAC, with a new roof, with a new sidewalk.”
“Education is crucial,” Wagner says. “Most individuals who are responsible for setting budgets are going to be influenced by one thing: tangible evidence that shows that investing in cleaning can reduce risk and have a positive impact on the bottom line.”
An effective advocate for the cleaning budget will need to maintain a mindset that cleaning is an investment and not a cost, Peduto says. He or she should know the details behind the facility’s overall cleaning expense, and show how an investment in cleaning will generate a return. “They need to understand cleaning can be as financially driven as other departments,” he adds.
Karen Kroll, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management, is a freelance writer who has written extensively about real estate and facility issues.
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