The future of janitorial bidding software promises to be exciting as it moves from being slow, difficult-to-use, limited, and providing general estimates to one that is increasingly fast, easy-to-use, unlimited and accurate.
How did we get here?
Well, as in many things, the changes in janitorial bidding and estimating software have come in waves.
Starting with rules of thumb
For many years, and still today, a variety of industry bidding and estimating "rules of thumb," such as standard office cleaning production rates or price per-square-foot guidelines, have been used to create a number of basic spreadsheet applications and simple bidding calculators.
Production rate estimates for standard office cleaning tasks are built into these calculators allowing facility managers to estimate labor hours needed to clean specific areas, while price per-square-foot guidelines are used to help building service contractors (BSCs) determine how much to charge for monthly cleaning services.
These spreadsheets and calculators are generally easy to find and are provided for a modest charge, if not for free.
They can be helpful to new users who may not yet have a method to bid or estimate jobs as well as to those who may be simply guesstimating to establish cleaning times or prices based on experience.
However, these bidding and estimating spreadsheets and calculators can become limiting since they may only address the most general building information, such as overall building size and cleaning frequency.
In addition, they do not generally address the wide range of cleaning tasks a user may want to include, such as high-speed burnishing or auto-scrubbing of floors.
To estimate times or prices for these "other" cleaning tasks, the user would need to find, if available, separate calculators to address those tasks.
Technology leads the way
The next wave of change in janitorial bidding brought a number of CD format or downloadable software products with varying levels of sophisticated programming and features.
These software programs "opened the door" to a much greater level of customization, not only regarding the building information to be workloaded in them, but in the appearance and content of the reports as well.
Information entered into the process could be merged to produce professional looking work schedules and reports.
Finally, an easier and more efficient way was now available for BSCs and facility managers to factor into the workloading process a number of building-specific factors so the resulting calculations more closely reflected the building they were working on.
Today, these programs generally come with a detailed list of cleaning tasks and associated production rates from which the user can create the work schedule they desire.
Then, however, the user can go on to enter building-specific information, such as actual room dimensions, floor surfaces, and counts for various items such as drinking fountains or showers.
These software programs may also allow the user to assign important subjective factors to the bid such as a degree of difficulty or density.
The results can be broken down and printed by individual area or for the entire building.
In addition, these CD or downloadable software programs often provide a way for the user to conveniently and easily save their individual bids to be reviewed, edited or printed in the future.
This wave of janitorial bidding and estimating software programs, which are still widely used today, represented an important step forward in accuracy and professionalism for both the facility manager and BSC.
It''s not just for dusting
While these janitorial bidding software programs are useful for standard office cleaning situations, which include common tasks such as dusting or emptying trash containers, they are able to do much more.
Any number of periodic cleaning tasks such as high-speed burnishing or auto-scrubbing of floors, as examples, can be workloaded using these programs.
In fact, as long as an appropriate production rate can be determined for a specific task, if the program allows, it can be used to provide a calculated cleaning time by taking into account the size of the area and cleaning frequency for the task.
Some industry associations offer useful reference guides listing production rates for a wide variety of cleaning tasks.
Janitorial companies and facility managers who use in-house cleaning staff can both benefit by performing their own studies to develop cleaning task production rates of their own.
The results can provide a useful insight into the efficiency, or inefficiency, of their own company or department.
One of the most recent developments in janitorial bidding and estimating software is the move to go online.
This next big wave of change in bidding and estimating offers even more opportunity for improvements in speed, ease-of-use and accuracy.
While providing the features of traditional janitorial bidding and estimating software, online programs have a number of distinct advantages.
The "live" nature of the Internet allows for real time training on and updating of the bidding software.
Users can receive valuable live bidding help and training on their actual bid remotely via the Internet.
In addition, BSCs can use the program to bid on jobs anywhere and anytime they wish, even in the prospect''s office.
Janitorial bidding and estimating software is well positioned to benefit from operating in new areas like the online environment.
For example, the Internet provides a platform where continuous learning to improve the program can take place based on the analysis of raw building data gathered, not from just a few bids from a handful of companies, but from thousands of real life bids from hundreds of users.
Our current Information Age, resulting from the incredible wave of technology, promises to deliver BSCs and facility managers alike, faster, easier, and more accurate bidding and estimating software in the future.
Dan Liebrecht is co-creator of the CleanBid Program, an online janitorial bidding tool that gives users instant price recommendations, calculated cleaning times, and ready-to-deliver proposals. Find out more at www.CleanBid.net.