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Management And Training

Creating A Cleaning Standard: Part Two

April 14, 2011
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This is a continuation of last month''s column.

To recap: There''s a lot of talk about it, and even some initiatives to define a cleaning standard; and that''s an extraordinary challenge.

Don''t get me wrong, defining standards is a good idea.

And, there are three concepts that this initiative might add to their deliberations: Dr. Deming''s quality concepts, the standard continuum idea and the common standard.

There could be four or more categories of measurement as a basis for setting standards:

  • Financials
  • Customers
  • Visual appearance
  • Contamination levels.

The strategies for measuring in these categories are extensive and not all are understood or used.

These might include: A budget; cost per numbers; a visual attribute checklist; documented customer complaints; a light-emitting diode (LED) flashlight with a focused beam; an ultraviolet (UV) flashlight; cotton swabs and/or wipes; alcohol swabs; clear cellophane tape and a magnifying glass; a horizontal drag slip meter; a portable articulated strut machine; a variable incidence tribometer — sometimes called an English slip meter; a penny trip gauge; airborne particle counters; moisture detectors; biological air monitoring; replicate organism detection and counting (RODAC) plates; a surface air system (SAS); agar settling plates; pH test strips; sanitizer indicator papers; spot test strips; ATP meters; VOC monitors; and more.

Not all test measures may be practical for everyday use, and not all may be needed on any given day.

Nonetheless, if we are setting standards, wouldn''t we need a numerical value for each test indicator of cleaning performance?

What about regional and industry differences for standards?

So, it seems like there might be a long list of standards; or, someone will need to select a rational set of standards, based on a logical set of priorities.

The challenge is how to achieve this selection with a sense of balance between easy and widespread usability on one hand and extraordinary scientific accuracy on the other.

This will be the challenge for the standard continuum facing those pursuing a practical standard for cleaning.

My sense is that different organizations may have different perspectives and, thus, may develop different standards for the same metric.

In the best of all worlds, the various organizations could work together to bring the best of each organization to the industry standard challenge.

For example, the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA) is launching such an effort to connect with other organizations with this idea in mind.

A Common Standard?

If, as Deming suggests, a standard is a barrier that tells management to stop improving when they reach the magic number, it may be a flawed idea that could be more limiting than intended.

Based on the practical creation of an easy-to-use model, the folks working on numerical standards could consider that something that might be connected to constant process improvement.

Whatever the numerical goal set as a standard, it could be both right and wrong.

If the standard is more of a guide, it may be that the effort to create a constant improvement standard could make sense.

Dr. Deming''s first — and some say his most important — point is: “Create a constancy of purpose for improvement of the product or service.”

Philip Crosby, another quality guru, makes the case: “…That the quality improvement program never ends.”

This idea has been echoed by just about every quality practitioner, including Dr. Joseph Juran, Armand Feigenbaum, Karu Ishikawa, Tom Peters, Genichi Taguchi and many more.

I would encourage the current efforts to create cleaning standards to profit from the extensive work of these quality experts and to consider linking with each other to serve the broader interest of the industry.

Vincent F. Elliott is the founder, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Elliott Affiliates Ltd. of Hunt Valley, Maryland. For more information, visit He is widely recognized as the leading authority in the design and utilization of best practice, performance-driven techniques for janitorial outsourcing and ongoing management.

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