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Management And Training

Don't Let Budget Reductions Wipe Out Cleaning

September 19, 2010
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A friend of mine who works for a large K-12 school district came to me recently with a problem.

He said he was preparing to present to the school board a request for a $27 million maintenance and operations budget.

He also said that he knows he needs this number in order to maintain clean, safe and healthy facilities.

So I asked him how he was going to present his case.

He replied, "Well, I have gathered some data, but I really don''t know how to validate my budget plan."

Data is essential when presenting to the school board or to any administration or executive-level staff of an organization.

But that data is only the foundation of the presentation.

The key is to use the data in such a way that actually justifies or validates why the budget is what it is.

By following the principles of ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS), most of the work is already done.

Workloading, Backwards

Labor accounts for 70 to 80 percent of operations costs, so let''s begin with the topic of workloading.

Under CIMS Service Delivery principle, organizations are required to use an industry-accepted methodology for determining the number of labor hours needed to accomplish the work.

The use of an industry-accepted workloading tool will bring credibility to a presentation.

In the face of a shrinking budget, it might be best to workload backwards.

Normally, when charged with workloading a building, the cleaning manager collects times, tasks and frequencies for the entire facility, and then calculates the number of labor hours needed.

However, if your goal is to meet a specific number, whether it''s the number of labor hours or the cost of cleaning a facility, you''ll need to work in reverse.

In other words, based on that number, what is your workloading plan?

I suggest starting with the facility''s critical areas, such as restrooms, locker rooms and patient rooms.

These areas need to be cleaned daily to protect human health, so calculate the cost or number of labor hours required for these areas first.

For example, based on ISSA''s Cleaning Times, it takes about three minutes to clean each fixture in a restroom.

Let''s say the building has five restrooms.

That means it will take 120 minutes or ¼ of an FTE to just clean the restrooms once daily.

Multiply that number as needed to get your weekly, monthly or annual cost.

Subtract the annual cost from your allotted budget and continue on, calculating all critical areas then subtracting them from the budget.

CIMS suggests workloading software for quicker and more accurate results. This software can record data over the years and can come in handy during presentations.

As you continue to make calculations and chip away at the budget with each critical task, you might find that you''ll be left with only enough dollars or hours to perform less critical tasks less often.

This might mean that you''ll have to cut back on office cleaning and floor stripping and refinishing.

Some organizations have even reduced office cleaning to only once every two weeks.

Face The Facts, And Then Share Them

Based on workloading, or workloading backwards, you now know how much it would cost to clean your building or buildings.

You also know, based on a newer and reduced budget, what your cleaning staff can accomplish on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

The challenge really lies in explaining and communicating how a smaller budget is going to affect the cleaning of the building.

First, people who are not familiar with cleaning are not going to think about critical versus non-critical areas.

Your presentation should explain every step in your thought process for how you arrived at your budget number or your plan for cleaning the building.

Second, do not hesitate to be armed with all documentation needed should someone ask a specific question.

If necessary, charts and graphs provide a visual picture of how changes can affect outcomes.

If you''re trying to justify a budget at a specific number, be prepared for some push-back.

What would cleaning quality and service levels be under an even lower budget? What kinds of risks come into play?

Offer other suggestions such as a four-day workweek or collaborative cleaning.

Finally, do not hesitate to underscore the importance of following industry-accepted standards and guidelines.

The principles of CIMS were created by the industry and are backed by an independent, third-party organization.

Side-by-side graphs illustrating cleaning frequencies and their correlation with the frequency of customer complaints is definitely fodder for future presentations.


David Frank is a 30-year industry veteran and the president of the American Institute for Cleaning Science. AICS is the registrar for the ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standards certification program.

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