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Management And Training

Hire An Operations Expert

May 23, 2011
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Vassar recruits high-performance cleaning tools, advisors for productivity, sustainability

Vassar College, set in the scenic Hudson Valley in Poughkeepsie, NY, 75 miles North of New York City, was founded in 1861. Over 100 academic and residential buildings grace the campus, ranging in style from modernist to collegiate gothic, including two National Historic Landmarks. The most recent additions include the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film — with state-of-the-art screening rooms, studios and production facilities, and Kenyon Hall — with a dedicated dance theater.

As the manager of custodial services at Vassar, Cynthia VanTassell is faced with sizeable responsibilities in the comprehensive cleaning and maintenance of the college seven days a week. Her crew of 68 custodians covers all day-to-day challenges, in addition to cleaning services for special event functions and lodging for summer programs.

Over the years, VanTassell sought out information and help in order to implement the science-based system known as Team Cleaning® on her campus. She found salesman and factory representatives capable and willing to offer an overview of the program, but she wanted in-depth analysis and training to truly transform the health, productivity and cleanliness at the college.

It was then that a trusted supplier to Vassar, Bill Bostwick of G.C. Bostwick Sales in Wappingers Falls, NY, introduced VanTassell to both ProTeam® backpack vacuums and the custodial training resource of Pro-C-Systems, led by Bob Cummings. Cummings draws on 25 years of extensive experience in the cleaning industry to offer custodial efficiency engineering and training services that allow organizations to put progressive high-performance cleaning practices in place.

"If you have known Cynthia for any time at all, it''s evident that she takes a great deal of pride in her job. She stays abreast of the latest cleaning methods and techniques. That''s very important to her," said Cummings. "She was quick to see that using ProTeam backpack vacuums could improve quality and reduce cleaning times while eliminating costly dust mop purchases and upright vacuum repairs. Then, she quickly found me."

VanTassell decided to engage Cummings to implement a pilot model building for a "Train the Trainer" program at Vassar to see if his system would work on her campus. Cummings'' pilot model gives organizations the intensive and personalized direction and training often needed to successfully implement a new cleaning system.

"In short order, it became evident that his approach was unique," noted VanTassell. "He created a customized cleaning program using some of the great techniques that we already had in place on campus. But, he also introduced us to improved vacuuming methods, dusting routines and an overall workflow plan. Bob trained our supervisors to be capable of training our custodians how to perform the required cleaning tasks correctly the first time in one pass, which reduced wasted motion and greatly improved quality."

The maintenance crew at Vassar has a narrow window of opportunity before classes start early in the morning to finish the academic buildings. They then reroute to the dorms after students have departed.

"We are on the verge of rolling out our plan in all of the academic buildings. We are very excited about attacking the dorms next," VanTassell commented. "The cleaning crew actually likes the new system because they know exactly what is expected of them and have a clear roadmap to follow that shows what, how, when and where they are expected to work."

ProTeam backpack vacuums allow them to cover ground over three times as fast and 43 percent more effectively than with commercial uprights. With this dramatic productivity improvement, VanTassell can dedicate time and resources to detail work or pressing concerns. The new system at Vassar is proactive and solutions-based, as opposed to the complaint-driven status quo at many facilities.

"My supervisors find quality control inspections are much easier to conduct because we check the areas that were detail cleaned that specific day," noted VanTassell. "If cleaning issues are exposed in these areas, we immediately know about it and can double back to find a solution proactively. We prefer this method rather than sitting back waiting for the phone to ring with a complaint being reported. Implementing the system designed by Bob Cummings was a challenging goal for Vassar, and we definitely now see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel."

Contact operations expert Bob Cummings of Pro-C-Systems at or (951) 746-6021.

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