SEATTLE — As colleges and universities across the U.S. 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. distributors of cleaning and maintenance supplies and equipment, has long worked with colleges and universities of all sizes. It recently expanded its decade-long relationship with the University of Washington’s flagship campus in Seattle.
Prior to its sole-supplier relationship with xpedx, the UW’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 janitorial-sanitation suppliers — together with traditional ways of doing things — served it well. But it also resulted in a variety of challenges large and small. Among them: 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 UW with documentable cost savings, expertise on sustainable cleaning products, an online ordering platform and personalized support from an entire xpedx team dedicated to the UW. Strong business relationships with other large universities also helped convince the UW 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,” said Gene Woodard, director of facility services for the Custodial Division at University of Washington-Seattle. “xpedx worked hard and helped us achieve those goals.”
“We have a real partnership with them,” Woodard said. “And we appreciate the fact they’ve dedicated a whole team to meet our ongoing needs across many fronts, from budgeting to IT to green cleaning.”
“Our overriding goal with colleges and universities today is to help them do their job more effectively, cut costs, eliminate redundancies and simplify tasks,” said Michael Feenan, vice president of marketing for xpedx. “We are helping them clean smarter and greener — even with fewer resources at their disposal.”
After winning the contract, the first project xpedx tackled was getting the university custodial purchasing functions consolidated — and online.
The university and xpedx worked closely together to build a customized electronic ordering method that standardized ordering across 11 campus service areas. It also unified jan-san supplies procurement across the university — and eliminated the manual approval process.
The new online site is customized for the UW. It features all UW-approved cleaning products, purchase authorization codes and budgeting detail. Because this is the custodial department’s first online ordering system, it also was designed to meet varying computer skill sets.
“Customizing online ordering sites for clients such as the University of Washington is one of the ways we provide well-differentiated solutions that meet critical business needs,” said Dave Wallace, director of customer service and eBusiness at xpedx.
“We made big leaps in efficiencies by ordering online and streamlining product selection and delivery dates,” explained Woodard. “xpedx got the online platform up and running with very few hiccups. It’s a very successful system, a key ‘nerve center’ in our campus-wide cleaning operation. And it’s saving us increasing amounts of money each year.”
xpedx provides the UW with electronic invoicing and monthly usage reports detailing purchase accountability, such as tracking product purchase and usage by manager or building as well as monitoring managers’ budgets. This helps UW facility managers improve oversight and manage their total spending more closely than ever before.
The University of Washington’s Custodial Service division is pledged to meeting important new 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 U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification requirements.
The xpedx team helped the UW benchmark its use of environmentally responsible cleaning products and worked with them to expand green cleaning campuswide. xpedx offers more than1,400environmentally preferable products for facility managers and continues to expand its green products portfolio. It also provides the UW staff specialized training and insights on best practices in green cleaning.