Roger Orth, assistant supervisor of operations for the Modesto City Schools, Modesto, CA, knows the challenges of cleaning facilities that vary in size and age. He and his staff are responsible for cleaning more than three million square feet of space used by 300,000 students and 3,000 faculty and staff. Orth, like many of his peers, continually evaluates new ways to improve his operations, and team cleaning provided an answer for several challenges he faced.
“I attended a Concepts IV Team Cleaning seminar by consultant Jim Harris, Sr., several years ago and felt that team cleaning could help us in a variety of ways,” Orth sys. “One of our greatest challenges is to handle custodial needs while maximizing our budget and maintaining a high level of efficiency. The concepts presented in the seminar made sense. I believed that team cleaning would eliminate multi-tasking, which requires more time.”
Why Team Cleaning?
The idea of switching to team cleaning came at a good time. The school district was in the midst of staff cuts to address budget issues, and custodial staffs were included in this effort. It was Orth’s hope that team cleaning would enable his department to meet cleaning requirements with fewer or the same number of personnel – a belief that has proven true.
“We began switching from zone to team cleaning during the 2003-2004 school year, and now use team cleaning in all our middle and high schools,” Orth says. “The size of our crews varies based on the square footage of each facility. We had a new 275,000-square-foot high school open this year, and its staff is larger than at other locations.”
Team cleaning is not used in the district’s elementary schools because the staff size is typically 1.5 custodians per building. However, team cleaning principles have been applied in a modified format. For example, trash is collected first followed by vacuuming and other duties. This approach has worked well, according to Orth, and has increased efficiency.
Orth admits that the custodians were skeptical when he proposed the switch to team cleaning. “Team cleaning is more active in my opinion,” he says. “It’s the high-impact aerobic version of cleaning. It doesn’t lend itself to time lapses, which required a change of mind set in some instances. The staff embraced the system once they saw the benefits and it’s the only way of cleaning that our newer employees know.”
The Modesto City Schools were in the enviable position of not having to invest heavily in new equipment to support team cleaning. Existing custodial carts were outfitted to meet specialist requirements – one product/service per cart verses having multiple products on a unit – and the switch in this area was very easy.
The district’s investment in backpack vacuums, which began more than 20 years ago, showed the wisdom of that decision when it came to team cleaning. Backpack vacuums are advocated by many team cleaning experts because of their portability and ease of use. “We currently have 90 ProTeam backpack vacuums, and they’re an important part of what we do,” Orth says. “The Coach and Super Coach models that we use are easy to transport, offer excellent cleaning power and the tools enable us to reach all required areas in a room.”
Another important piece is the use of pre-measured, pre-packaged cleaning products. The district uses Stearns Pre-Measured Products for cleaning and disinfecting floors, counter tops, toilets and other areas, and mixes product in both spray bottles and mop buckets. The use of pre-measured cleaning products saves money because waste is reduced – the mixing instructions are easy to follow and there’s no danger of using more product than required. The color-coded packages are an effective tool for visual learners and the district supplies color-coded maps for reference, an added tool. While these benefits are important, it’s the safety aspect that Orth describes as “awesome.” He notes that staff no longer are required to lift five-gallon containers of product, which addresses safety concerns. Orth says the staff appreciates both the use of use and the lighter weight of the pre-measured units, which is much easier on the back.
Team cleaning provides numerous benefits and the Modesto City School District has realized a number of these with a focus on three key areas: doing more with less, enhanced supervision and training, and cost savings.
As mentioned earlier, Orth was faced with staff reductions when he opted to implement team cleaning. Transitioning from zone to team cleaning enables him to clean more space with approximately the same number of personnel that he had when team cleaning was instituted. Efficiency is at the same high level and more square footage is being cleaned with the same number of employees – a very important benefit.
When piece work construction is used for building a house each worker has a specialty they bring to the job – foundation, framing, electrical, plumbing and other assignments. Multiple efforts can go on simultaneously because one person isn’t doing every task, which means that the project is finished quicker and with a high level of expertise applied to every area. Orth views team cleaning in the same way. Staff are trained in all areas so that they can be moved as needed, but they focus on one specialty at a time. Assignments are completed without the interruptions that are required to switch equipment when zone cleaning is used.
Supervision and training are also easier. Supervisors can train a new employee in one specialty and then add other areas as time permits. This enables junior staff to grasp cleaning requirements much earlier because they focus on learning one verses multiple tasks at a time. Supervisors also have to watch an employee using only one cleaning specialty rather than having to watch to make sure that each task is done properly.
Finally, team cleaning really shines when it comes to saving money. Orth looked at efficiency following the implementation of team cleaning in 2003-2004, and converted the hours saved to a dollar value. He estimates that the increased efficiency of the staff in terms of time and motion netted a savings of $236,000 in the first year, and that similar savings would be realized if the same calculations were used in subsequent years.
Team cleaning has proven to be a winning choice for the Modesto City Schools. The system’s specialization, coupled with proven equipment such as backpack vacuums and pre-measured cleaning products, provide a winning combination that enables the district to stretch its budget dollars while offering a high level of service.