As colleges and universities around the United States reduce operating budgets, their facility managers are searching for ways to do more with less.
Increasingly, higher education custodial directors are turning to core suppliers to help them control spending on cleaning and maintenance supplies.
They also want help on how to clean smarter — all while meeting important new environmental and sustainability goals.
xpedx, one of the largest U.S. JanSan distributors, has long worked with colleges and universities of all sizes and recently expanded its decade-long relationship with the University of Washington''s flagship campus in Seattle.
"Our overriding goal with colleges and universities today is to help them do their job more effectively, cut costs, eliminate redundancies and simplify tasks," proclaims Michael Feenan, vice president of marketing for xpedx. "We are helping them clean smarter and greener — even with fewer resources at their disposal."
Prior to its sole-supplier relationship with xpedx, the university''s custodial department relied on multiple distributors to provide cleaning supplies for its 10 million-plus square feet of research laboratories, libraries, offices and lecture halls.
The university said its use of multiple suppliers — together with traditional ways of doing things — served it well.
But, it also resulted in a variety of challenges large and small, including: Purchasing inefficiencies, higher-than-required inventories, cumbersome paperwork, manual order entry, time-consuming phone calls, inconsistent ordering and the inability to efficiently order products online.
Following an intensive vendor selection process, xpedx was chosen because of its ability to provide the University of Washington with documentable cost savings, expertise on sustainable cleaning products, an online ordering platform and personalized support from an entire xpedx team dedicated to the university.
Strong business relationships with other large universities also helped convince the University of Washington that xpedx could deliver exceptional daily service and support.
"When we started our search for a single supplier of cleaning products, we knew we wanted to cut costs, expand green cleaning and have close, personalized support from our supplier," says Gene Woodard, director of facility services for the custodial division at the University of Washington''s Seattle campus. "xpedx worked hard and helped us achieve those goals. We have a real partnership with them, and we appreciate that they''ve dedicated a whole team to meet our ongoing needs across many fronts, from budgeting to information technology (IT) to green cleaning."
Into The New
After winning the contract, the first project xpedx tackled was getting the university''s custodial purchasing functions consolidated and online.
The University of Washington and xpedx worked closely together to build a customized electronic ordering method that standardized ordering across 11 campus service areas.
Their efforts also unified JanSan supplies procurement across the university and eliminated the manual approval process.
The new online site is customized for the university and features all University of Washington-approved cleaning products, purchase authorization codes and budgeting details.
Because this is the custodial department''s first online ordering system, it also was designed to meet varying computer skill sets.
"We made big leaps in efficiencies by ordering online and streamlining product selection and delivery dates," explains Woodard. "It''s saving us increasing amounts of money each year."
The University of Washington''s custodial service division is dedicated to meeting important environmental policy goals, including the use of Green Seal®, low volatile organic compound (VOC) and concentrated products where possible.
It also seeks increased use of supplies with high post-consumer fiber content and products that meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification requirements.
The xpedx team helped the university benchmark its use of environmentally responsible cleaning products and worked with them to expand green cleaning campus-wide through best practice training.
Lisa Jonas is the marketing communications manager for xpedx.