When it comes to smaller commercial facilities such as offices, building service contractors (BSCs) and facility managers (FMs) typically can estimate their cleaning needs, the amount of time it should take, how many workers will be needed, and with this information, an idea of how much the work will cost.
However, when dealing with much larger locations, especially multi-tenant office buildings, an estimate will not suffice.
Since the needs and costs to clean and maintain the facility are so much greater, it must be determined by using a much more reliable and credible system.
This is where workloading enters the equation.
Today, workloading is about the most scientific and accurate way to determine the cleaning needs of a facility.
With this information, such things as how many workers will be needed to maintain the location, how long it should take to clean the facility, the supplies necessary, as well as costs not only can be accurately calculated, but this calculation can be used by a BSC to prepare a proposal and by an FM to determine an operating budget.
The Workloading Process
To start a basic workloading process, there are three key areas that must be addressed.
The first is to determine the cleaning tasks needed to maintain the facility, and these are broken down into the following three categories:
- Daily cleaning items, such as trash collection, restroom cleaning, vacuuming, etc.
- Detail cleaning items, which are often on a set schedule and can include high/low dusting, spot cleaning carpets/walls, detail vacuuming in corners and under desks, etc.
- Project work, which refers to such things as floor refinishing, carpet cleaning, etc.
Once all of the cleaning tasks have been determined, the amount of time needed to complete each must be determined.
While there are guides, such as The Official ISSA’s 540 Cleaning Times, that can help, remember these are just guides to determine average cleaning times.
In many cases, they will be very accurate; in other cases, some flexibility may be required.
The next step is to recognize that most facilities have two measurements when it comes to cleaning: the gross square feet and the cleanable square feet.
A facility may have 75,000 square feet, when measured by length, width and height, but only 60,000 square feet that actually needs to be cleaned and maintained.
A measuring device may be needed to determine the cleanable square feet, which is what should be used for accurate workloading.
With these three steps completed, you can begin the process of workloading a facility.
This involves putting together a frequencies chart listing of all the cleaning tasks — daily, detail, and project — that will be performed in the facility; how often they will be performed; and the amount of time to complete each task based on the cleanable square footage.
With this information, calculating the time for each task and multiplying it by the frequency each is performed begins to present a fairly clear idea of the time, labor, supplies and equipment, as well as costs, to maintain this facility.
While the process is scientific and can be very accurate, it can also be very involved and complicated.
Discussed here is just the basic workloading process; it does not consider other variables that can impact work times and costs such as:
- How many people work in/use the location
- The type and quality of the cleaning supplies and equipment used
- Traffic patterns specific to the facility
- Churn rate*
- Whether soil-containment strategies such as matting systems are installed
- Logistical issues such as how far custodial workers must walk to dispose of trash.
To address these additional issues that can make the entire workloading process much more complicated, many BSCs and FMs have turned to software or web-based workloading programs for solutions.
Computerized Workloading Solutions
In recent years, several manufacturers have introduced workloading software programs designed for use by BSCs and FMs.
Some programs put more emphasis on the needs of the cleaning professional, while others are designed more specifically for use by FMs.
Along with their complexity, the ease of use as well as the costs for these programs can vary considerably.
Another option available that seems to address the needs of both the BSC and FM fairly evenly is the use of web-based technologies, often referred to as analytical tools.
Because the systems are available by working with JanSan distributors that have access to these web-based tools, there is no software purchase needed and no cost involved.
The distributor is taught how to use the tool, eliminating the training that is often necessary to use some workloading software programs.
Along with providing an accurate picture of the cleaning needs and costs to maintain a facility, these software/web-based analytical tools often can answer real-life “what if” questions.
For instance, one of the issues many school districts and universities have been grappling with in recent years is significant cuts to custodial budgets, often resulting in staff reductions.
In one case, a director of custodial services for a major Western university had to re-evaluate how to address the demanding cleaning needs of the university after he was notified that 45 custodial positions would be eliminated.
By turning to a workloading system, he was able to determine where staff changes could be made, cleaning frequencies adjusted, cleaning priorities implemented and other changes made to make up for the staffing reduction.
While there are other benefits to workloading software/analytical tools, one that serves both the BSC and FM is that in most cases these systems can print out reports that can be used in a variety of ways.
For the BSC, they can be used to show how their bids were determined.
Often, when bidding on larger properties, this information will be requested in the bid proposal.
For FMs, they can help significantly when preparing budgets, determining operating costs and in explaining how money is being used for cleaning services in the facility.
As one university FM said referring to this type of reporting, “[They give me] measured, scientific information … it’s not a gut feeling or assumption … but credibility for what I am trying to communicate.”
*Churn rate is a measurement of the number of “employee moves” in a given year. The actual movement of people in a space can impact cleaning and maintenance needs, thus affecting the workloading process and cleaning and labor costs.
Leah Runge is Marketing Manager for AFFLINK’s eLev8® system. AFFLINK is a leading sales and marketing organization for the facility management, cleaning, healthcare, education, industrial, packaging and related industries. Runge can be contacted via her company’s website at afflink.com.