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24-hour opportunities and challenges

September 19, 2010
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In years past, most businesses opened at 9 a.m. and closed at 5 p.m., and employees put the workday behind them.

At the same time, custodial crews were getting ready to begin their work day.

Today, it is common to find companies that have varying schedules, with staff working at any hour of the day — or night.

The cleaning industry, as a result, has had to adjust to these work and lifestyle changes.

Change Is Inevitable

Someone once said, “The only change some people like is when the change makes a noise in their pocket.”

In reality, society is rapidly changing, and adaptation is essential for personal and business survival.

Building service contractors (BSCs) and facilities managers can expect more requests to clean during businesses hours, servicing more 24-hour facilities and even unusual cleaning situations.

Many offices have made the switch to day cleaning, and facilities, such as gyms, schools, fast-food restaurants, airports and even medical centers are beginning to follow suit.

These changes also pose some new challenges and even cleaning equipment may need to be changed.

For instance, older vacuum cleaners — as well as other cleaning equipment — may be too noisy to use when office staffs are working.

Quieter cleaning equipment is necessary in these sound-sensitive environments.

In addition to replacing older equipment, older cleaning methods may no longer prove effective.

New systems that help custodians clean facilities faster and more efficiently may be required.

Change provides new challenges, along with opportunities.

In order to take advantage of these opportunities, flexibility is crucial.

Substantial savings

Ronald Goerne — a cleaning consultant and past president of the Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) — believes many building managers prefer day cleaning models for a variety of reasons.

The most obvious reason is substantial energy savings.

Instead of an office building being open eight to 12 hours during the day and then another eight to 12 hours at night for cleaning, the entire facility — including lights, air-conditioning, computers and other equipment — can be shut down for half the day when a day cleaning model is used.

Although it can be challenging for cleaning professionals to do their work during business hours without disturbing building occupants, it’s easier than one might think.

According to Steve Spencer, facilities specialist for State Farm Insurance Companies, some larger facilities report as much as $100,000 in annual energy savings with a day cleaning system in place because of reduced energy needs.

Under Spencer’s direction, State Farm is converting hundreds of its properties throughout the United States to the day cleaning system.

Spencer stresses that day cleaning is not night cleaning performed during the day; it is an entirely different approach to cleaning.

With a day cleaning model, custodians perform the bulk of the cleaning work between 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.

These duties include:

  • Cleaning restroom floors
  • Cleaning and vacuuming all office areas
  • Cleaning and vacuuming all major building entries
  • Vacuuming the major walkways and common areas

With the introduction of redesigned and quieter cleaning equipment, such as vacuum cleaners and no-touch machines, many of these tasks can even be performed during office hours, causing little or no distraction.

Not all cleaning duties can be performed when office workers are present, but facilities managers can implement small changes to make the cleaning process run more smoothly, including:

  • Making small changes to schedules
  • Moving trash cans outside doors and cubicles so they can be collected unobtrusively
  • Blocking off kitchens and restrooms at specific times during the day so that they may be cleaned
  • Using quieter equipment.

Some facilities that were traditionally cleaned by in-house staff, such as schools and government buildings, are now contracting out cleaning needs.

These changes — from cleaning 24-hour operations to servicing locations that were once “off-limits” to BSCs — have presented many opportunities and challenges for both building managers and cleaning contractors.

One of the major reasons BSCs like day cleaning is that their operating costs are reduced because of lower employee turnover, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Building managers also like cleaning work to be performed during the day because a rapport and trust develops between office workers and cleaners who see each other on a daily basis.

Cleaning workers become part of the office team, with everyone working together to make the business and facility operate more efficiently.

For example, office workers can cooperate with the cleaning staff by dumping their own trash or cleaning off their own desks.

This can save time and allow cleaning workers to take care of more pressing needs, such as the restrooms.

24-hour challenges

As day cleaning becomes more prevalent, the cleaning of 24-hour operations is becoming more common as well.

My company, KCS Cleaning, specializes in cleaning 24-hour operations — specifically holding cells located in 40 different Toronto-area police stations, putting us on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Before beginning our work, we are required to check in with a police officer who informs us which areas of the facility need our attention, any particular concerns that will affect the cleanup procedure, and how much time we have to complete our work before the area will need to be used again.

Even though these are very busy places at all times throughout the day, our goal is to “blend into the scenery” and not interfere with any of the police stations’ activities.

When we are called in, the cells that need cleaning are left empty and inmates are moved to a “bullpen” area until cleaning is completed.

This way, we are free to clean without interrupting the staff or the inmates.

Many of the people housed in these cells are not what most of us would call the “pillars of society” — often they are angry, drunk or sick and they may vomit, bleed, urinate or defecate in the cell.

When cleaning, we require protective gear, such as gloves and goggles for our staff.

Adapting to the environment

When we first started this work, we used traditional cleaning methods and supplies, such as mops, buckets, cleaning cloths, sprayers, etc.

We found it difficult to detail-clean using these methods, and they increased the likelihood that we might touch contaminated surfaces.

Additionally, using these traditional methods slowed us down.

As soon as one person is released, someone else is waiting to occupy the cell, so we need to move quickly.

The fewer tools and products we bring into the facility, the faster we can complete our work.

And, because we are paid per cell cleaned, the faster we work, the more money we make.

We managed to speed up and streamline our cleaning by employing a no-touch cleaning system.

According to 447 Cleaning Times, published by the ISSA, using this type of cleaning system can be as much as 60 percent faster than cleaning using traditional methods.

The increased productivity usually translates into a considerable savings for employers.

In some cases, contract cleaners have found they need fewer workers, or can have workers perform a variety of other tasks because of the increase in productivity.

The no-touch system employs chemical injection, indoor pressure washer, and wet vacuum capabilities.

We apply a disinfectant cleaner to virtually every inch of the cell, from the ceiling to the floor.

Then, the areas are rinsed with pressure to blast soils to the ground.

The machine’s built-in wet/dry vac is used to vacuum floors, walls, doors, and other surfaces, removing all cleaning solution, water, and contaminants, and leaving the floor dry.

We use a similar system to clean paddy wagons and police cars, another new opportunity that has come our way.

Recently, new no-touch systems have been introduced that are much quieter — approximately 65 decibels — than the older machines.

Because this is about the sound level of office conversation, these machines work very well in a day cleaning situation.

We live in rapidly changing times and it is imperative to keep up with these changes.

Those opposed to change may not see the value in switching to a 24-hour module or day cleaning system, but in reality, their value can be added up in dollars.

 


Keith Kidd is the owner of KCS Cleaning located in Southern Ontario, Canada.

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