For a cleaning contractor or an in-house operation that is providing basic janitorial services, managing floor care projects can be a new experience.
Floor care projects require advanced planning, adequate staffing, specialized training and the appropriate chemicals and equipment.
While working on a tight budget or with limited access to training can pose problems, training a floor care technician is really no more difficult than training a restroom specialist.
Once the size of the project and the amount of time needed to complete the task are determined, the appropriate steps to successfully manage floor care projects can be taken.
In the commercial cleaning industry, it is not enough to do the job correctly; it must also be completed on time and with minimal disruption to the client.
Just like planning for tax day, anniversaries and birthdays, time must be set aside on the annual calendar to address the work to be completed.
Use of a wall calendar or sophisticated computer program will serve the same purpose.
Reminders of when to perform certain tasks and an ability to track their completion are necessary.
A friendly reminder to the customer of the work that has been scheduled is not only professional but also much appreciated.
Layout the project plan based on the frequency with which various tasks will be performed.
For example, in maintaining hard floors, there will eventually be a time for stripping off the old finish and applying a base layer and several top coats of new finish.
Planning for this event will require the customer to remove personal items from the floor and may require a maintenance department to move equipment.
These are issues that the customer must be aware of well in advance of the day the work starts.
Specifications Determine Timeframes
Most cleaning contracts will include contract specifications that spell out the frequencies required for interim and restorative floor maintenance.
Perhaps these frequencies were once part of the original and now outdated contract.
Sometimes, in-house cleaning teams inherit performance requirements that were developed long ago.
The team may be working with information that is outdated or untested: If the tasks are performed too frequently, the maintenance cost will be too high; if they are not performed frequently enough, then quality will suffer.
How are the correct frequencies determined?
Several factors can influence the necessary frequency of regular cleaning, interim maintenance and restoration.
These can include environmental conditions, desired level of quality, population in the facility and the accumulated damage to the flooring — especially with carpet.
It is important to challenge the existing frequencies and adjust them according to the condition of the floors throughout a facility when necessary.
As a professional, the customer should be presented with the program that is the most appropriate for their facility given their willingness to invest in the condition of their floors.
Once there is a solid plan for floor care, there must be sufficiently trained personnel to carry out the plan.
While it is possible to purchase training from a number of places, it may not be necessary.
A professional cleaning company always has suppliers who are interested in seeing growth in the business.
It is advantageous to view these suppliers as partners in business endeavors.
Equipment manufacturers, chemical manufacturers and distributors are usually very willing to work with growing cleaning companies and successful in-house operations.
They have already developed the training materials, complete with safe practices and processes that help assure a high-quality job every time.
Oftentimes, the cost for this expert advice is simply continued business and an opportunity for growth.
One other advantage to relying on supply partners for training is that they often know the latest techniques, equipment and chemicals available.
Many of the advances in the cleaning industry are designed to save money.
Purchasing equipment for floor care can run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.
Unless restoring carpet or hard floor in a football-sized venue is in the plan, spending can be kept at a reasonable level.
Again, this is a great opportunity to rely on equipment manufacturers for advice.
Most reputable equipment sales people are concerned with determining what the right piece of equipment is.
Overselling customers on equipment that is not necessary will not assure them of any future income from the buyer.
Ask a lot of questions during the equipment selection process before selecting new equipment.
Also, remember that while equipment does require an upfront investment, consider the potential cost savings as well.
Suppose damp mopping a 10,000-square-foot room in two hours, five nights per week using the traditional method carries a labor cost of $14 per hour.
That would equate to a weekly labor cost of $140 and an annual cost of $7,280.
Now, suppose a 20-inch walk behind scrubber costs $3,640.
If the same cleaner performed the same job in one hour with the scrubber, the weekly labor cost would be $70 and the annual cost $3,640.
The total savings from this is investment is $3,640 in labor costs.
In 12 months, the scrubber will be paid for by the labor cost savings.
In addition to cosmopolitan equipment, which can easily improve productivity over traditional methods, there have been several advances in equipment technology that help reduce water usage, reduce chemical usage, make a smaller negative impact on the environment as well as improve productivity to rates beyond those thought imaginable 20 to 30 years ago.
The use of microfiber in many cleaning tools is an example of these advances.
Flat microfiber mops not only clean well and use less water, but they also are easier for most cleaners to use.
Microfiber flat mops with chemical dispensers built into the handle eliminate the need for mop buckets and wringers and the dangers associated with transporting and emptying.
There are also other ways the industry has been aggressive in helping cleaning teams save time and money while matching or improving the quality of the results.
In finishing hard floors, several chemical manufactures offer specially designed applicators for their floor finishes.
These applicators help to decrease setup and cleanup times before and after the application.
There are also applicators that aid in saving chemical costs by preserving unused finish for the next application.
Invest In Your Business
Once an investment in people, equipment, chemicals and special tools has been made, protecting the investments is of utmost importance.
Trained floor care technicians like to be challenged, but they do not like being left without the proper tools necessary to complete a high-quality job.
Always provide technicians with the resources they need and they will continue to make a return on the investment you have made in them.
Equipment lasts only as long as it is not being ignored; batteries, plugs, hoses and connectors need to be maintained regularly.
Diligent attention to equipment care will continue to contribute to the bottom line.
Small tools are often critical to the job; just because some tools are small does not mean they are disposable.
Above all, never operate an unsafe piece of equipment, as an unsafe risk taken with technicians or equipment will never be worth the price paid in the event of an accident.
It is great to show trust in well-trained technicians.
They should know what is expected and, if they have been trained well, they will be conscientious about doing a great job.
However, this does not excuse managers from personally verifying that the job was completed according to company standards and those of the customer.
Build quality into the project with proper training and execution, but then inspect the results.
Finally, be sure to praise great results.
Acknowledgement of a job well-done will mean a great deal on the next floor care project.
Bill Crouch is the vice president of compliance and training for Mitch Murch''s Maintenance Management Company (MMMM). Crouch came to MMMM in 2006 with experience in cleaning equipment sales and commercial cleaning. MMMM is a privately-held building services contractor with national capabilities. Crouch, who developed MMMM''s training, green cleaning and quality improvement programs, holds the following certifications: Certified Building Service Executive (CBSE); Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and LEAN Manager Certification for Administration and Service Professionals (LMAC-S). Contact MMMM at (800) 535-8285 or visit www.4-m.com.