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Get more quality out of your quality assurance program

September 19, 2010
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Although inspection programs have been around for years and are the report card for a cleaning and maintenance program’s performance, we are now seeing a movement toward a new type of program.

This new program uses the inspection program as a management tool to not only determine the end product, but as an evaluation tool for the entire program.

In the past, inspections were performed by the person directly responsible for cleaning and maintenance. It was generally used as a tool to determine items that needed correcting or as a way to evaluate employees.

The new program represents an entirely different approach from what has been the norm.

Traditional systems have simply asked: “Is it dirty or not?” A score based upon the number of dirty/clean observations was then determined.

These systems are falling out of favor for three reasons:

  1. They do not correct technique.
  2. They do not account for frequency variations.
  3. The data can be misleading, unless 100 percent of the building is inspected.

In other words, areas need to be evaluated based upon the specifications and importance of the area; as an example, restrooms have more importance and carry more weight than loading docks.

The new systems utilize a numerical evaluation and should be implemented so you can see if your cleaning and maintenance operation is getting the job done for your clients and building occupants.

Why measure quality?
Before describing a program, we should review the reasons for a quality-control program.

The most obvious benefit is that any present cleaning problems will be found and corrected, which previously has been the main intent of most programs.

The other, less obvious benefits relate to how the work is performed and what can be done to improve it.

The result of this focus can be increased effectiveness or productivity, improved quality, a satisfied client, and reduced costs.

When performing the inspection, it is important not to look at the end result but to assess how it was achieved.

For example, excess build-up on the floor will indicate a need for stripping as the corrective action, but an analysis of why the floor requires stripping is also important.

Is it the use of the wrong spray-buff solution, the wrong pad, or simply poor technique on the part of the operator?

A review of all the techniques leading to the result is the first step in a preventive program. If, in this example, the technique is in error and it is corrected, all of the above benefits will be derived.

Less stripping will have several desired results:

  • Reduced cost (stripping is one of the most expensive of all the cleaning operations)
  • A better and more professional looking job that translates into higher customer satisfaction
  • Increased productivity with less effort on the part of the employee to maintain a uniform shine on the floor.

Check the specs
In order to set up a quality assurance program, a review of the service schedule or specification is necessary to determine if the schedule is sufficient to meet the expectations of the building’s management or occupants.

In most quality assurance programs, the service schedule is then translated into manpower and staffing requirements using time standards for each task in the schedule.

This process is referred to as workloading.

By reversing the workloading process, it is possible to develop statistically accurate numeric quality standards for an entire facility, for one part of a facility, or for an individual cleaner.

A simple example would be if we had a building that, based on workloading, requires 50 hours per night to clean to specification. If high dusting was found to be nonexistent in all areas, and high dusting required one hour per night, then the quality rating would drop by one hour as a percentage of the 50 hours, or 2 percent.

The program simply deducts from the total workload the time required for tasks not performed at a quantitative performance level.

Variations of the system should be made by weighting areas for importance, such as an increase in the numerical workload value for highly visible or sensitive areas.

In these cases, main lobbies in office buildings or operating theaters in hospitals would have the workload value increased by as much as 20 percent.

Areas of lesser importance, such as loading docks and storage rooms, could have a lower weighting and the value decreased by as much as 20 percent.

Leave room for overachieving
When developing a scoring program, it is important to determine a benchmark or base score that is received when an area is cleaned to the specification.

This score would not be 100 percent, as many times a building will be cleaned to higher than the specification and there needs to be room to achieve a higher score.

A normal score for achieving 100 percent of the specification might be 85, with the score being higher or lower depending on the performance according to the specification.

It is usual that a passing or minimum acceptable score in this system might be between 70 and 75, as having more than 15 percent of the work not performed would be simply unacceptable to the customer.

We are increasingly seeing contractors being evaluated on this type of system, with bonus points for exceeding the specification and penalty points for being below.

These bonus points may also be translated into financial rewards for the contractor and its employees, or a financial penalty to the contractor for less than acceptable performance.

In most cases, the contracts that allow for this type of reward/penalty require contractors to place a portion of their profit — sometimes as much as 50 percent — at risk.

They then have an opportunity to increase their profit by 50 percent if performance is above the specification or within the acceptable range, or lose 50 percent if it is unacceptable.

Bill Garland is joint managing director and owner of Daniels Associates Inc., a consulting company specializing in the sanitation and building operations industries that services organizations and facilities in the United States, Canada, England and South Africa. Garland is a member of the CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management® magazine’s 2006 Dream Team. He can be reached at

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