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Developing A System For Cleaning

August 22, 2012
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A production system is designed to produce something — thus, in setting up a cleaning production system (CPS), it is important to identify what cleaning outcomes you want to achieve.

The following 12 steps must be adhered to in succession to achieve consistently clean and healthy indoor environments:

1. Start with the right philosophy

Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PCHS) Consortium members believe in cleaning for health.

This is what we want to produce: A healthy indoor environment through cleaning.

The right process flows from this approach in almost all instances and involves adopting procedures that remove rather than redistribute contaminants.

The drive toward cleaning for health with today's limited resources has led the PCHS group to identify methods of soil handling that remove and do not introduce pollutants into the indoor environment.

It is only after this philosophy is established that the right process can be chosen.

2. Create steady flow

Flow occurs like a row of falling, but carefully aligned dominos; one domino, once nudged, moves the next one forward and creates perpetual motion with little new external energy applied.

This is also so with cleaning: When tasks are so well-defined and synchronized that one task leads into another, flow is naturally achieved and the work resembles the steady forward movement of a purposeful and energy-saving tortoise, not the mad rushing of a hardworking but unsustainable hare.

PCHS levels out the workload so no one works too hard; rather, everyone enters a state of flow and works steadily.

3. Get quality right the first time

It often takes twice as much time to rework or re-clean a poorly cleaned area, so you should always strive to clean once and do it right the first time.

This also boosts morale because it's better to get compliments from good work than it is to receive complaints about poor results.

It is vitally important to test procedures, practice them and measure outcomes using objective assessment tools such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meters or newer allergen level sampling or testing tools to determine what works best.

Then, you must use that quality delivery process consistently.

4. Standardize processes and constantly improve

You cannot have peace of mind and good hygienic results if you have 450 ways to clean a restroom stemming from 450 custodians each cleaning their own way.

Without a standardized way of doing things, you cannot have repeatability or effective and consistent training; instead, you will have chaos and confusion.

Also, a standardized way of doing things gives you a clear and understandable baseline upon which to improve.

So, keep looking for improved ways of doing things and then, once you find a better way, make that the new standardized process — remembering to keep improving and re-standardizing the improvement.

5. Create visuals of ideal processes and procedures

Taking and sharing photographs of areas that have been optimally cleaned and organized and helping your staff "get the picture" helps them achieve desired results.

Recording videos of your best workers in action — always with permission — can provide a visual how-to guide for staffs while permitting constructive criticisms to help the entire team improve and win.

6. Investigate new technologies carefully

Test and prove the benefits of new technologies before turning them loose in your operation.

But, once proven, implement them system-wide almost without exception.

Proven technologies make sense as effective productivity enhancers in your CPS.

Examples include backpack vacuums for classrooms and spray-and-vacuum machines for restrooms.

Tools like these clean better and save time over older methods, so use them when and where appropriate.

7. Grow leaders from within

Grow managers who believe in the philosophy of your operation from amongst your staffs rather than hiring from the outside.

Develop leaders with broad experience across numerous specialties while having deep roots in cleaning at your facilities.

These managers should lead by example first and then teach with words in the spirit of "show and tell."

The best leaders understand much more than just cleaning; they also understand purchasing, safety, operations, maintenance, ventilation, human relations and so much more.

8. Establish a strong cleaning culture

The cleaning for health philosophy should be deeply instilled in everyone on your team.

Every decision should revolve around the question, "Does it lead to clean and healthy?"

If you clean for health, appearance will follow.

This should be part of your organizational deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

9. Respect your network of suppliers and partners

Suppliers often have the deepest expertise in useful products and are usually abreast to new developments; challenge them to grow with you.

They have an objective outside perspective to share with you, and you have knowledge to share with them too.

Look for suppliers and business partners who share your philosophy and help each other mutually.

10. Clean the building yourself

Never ask a worker to do a job you have not personally done yourself.

This is hypocritical and never works in helping anyone understand the problem, let alone find solutions to fix it.

Get your hands dirty and learn with your staffs from time to time.

You should preach only what you practice and that which you truly understand and believe in.

11. Decide slowly and implement quickly

Involve your entire team in decisions affecting them to ensure agreement.

Always ask "why" several times when important issues are on the table.

Achieve consensus slowly, then implement agreed-upon solutions quickly.

12. Become a teaching and learning organization

Each staff member should be teaching you something every day, and vice versa.

Do not be afraid to expose your own mistakes and limitations so you all can grow.

This makes all parties simultaneous and humble learners and teachers.

Teaching something is the best way to learn and grow in the process.

Since teachers must stay ahead of students in terms of understanding, everyone becomes challenged to constantly improve their knowledgebase.


Rex Morrison is president of the non-profit Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PCHS) Consortium. Morrison recently retired from his long-standing position as housekeeping training coordinator for the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada — one of the few districts in the nation to achieve ISO 9001 certification from the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) due to its focus on quality and standardized processes. Morrison is also an ISSA Certification Expert (ICE) ready to provide training and consulting services to cleaning organizations interested in complying with and preparing to be certified to the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS).

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