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It's a whole different world out on the front lines

September 19, 2010
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In today’s fast-paced electronic world where information is a click of a mouse or the touch of a Blackberry away, it’s easy to be lulled into thinking that the news you get is simply collected and produced from little cubicles by nameless faces that have little, if any, personal contact with the outside world.

But here at CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management® magazine, we try to get out into the real world as much as possible to see what is happening on the front lines of the professional cleaning industry.

We use the term reader visits when we turn off our computers and vacate our cubicles.

This allows us to meet and interact with building service contractors (BSCs) and in-house facility managers and directors, as well as custodians and maintenance technicians.

It also allows us to a get a first-hand impression of what it is like out there in the real world.

We talk, but mostly listen and learn about what it is like to clean and maintain everything from elementary schools to skyscrapers.

We’ve found out that just about every BSC or in-house director is concerned with productivity and training and how to accomplish more with less.

At times, you sit back, shake your head and wonder how it all gets done.

Recently, I accompanied Associate Managing Editor Ashley Sterne on a reader visit to Albany International Airport, a relatively small regional facility that services much of upstate New York in big league fashion and links it to the rest of the world.

There we met Steve Bertone, president of American New York Cleaning & Restoration Ltd. Bertone is a burly, no-nonsense guy who comes across as if he is equally at home behind an autoscrubber as he is running the company that handles approximately 400,000 square feet of airport floor.

Bertone’s crew of nine employees is responsible for cleaning and maintaining all the hard surface, terrazzo and carpeted floors in a 24/7 facility where a clean, positive image is a prime concern.

It’s no small job, considering that Albany Airport has plenty of foot traffic, averaging about 10,900 passengers a day. And that number doesn’t include all the meeters and greeters who use the facility on any given day.

Those meeters, greeters and travelers track in dirt and snow that attacks floor finishes as well as carpet with equal vigor. Scuffmarks are a dime a dozen.

During this reader visit, we learned of Bertone’s determination to get the job done right, even in the wee hours of the night when in- and out-going flights are few and foot traffic falls off to only a handful patrons, airport staff and security personnel.

His cleaning crew makes the most of its time in what now seems like a desolate facility, cleaning and maintaining hundreds of thousands of square feet of floors and carpet.

The next day, early morning travelers start the cycle again bringing in more scuffmarks, dirt and grime.

Bertone’s day crew fights a never-ending battle, attacking spills and scuffmarks as soon as they become evident.

Sterne (See Facility Focus) asked Bertone how it all gets done. He shrugged his shoulders as if to say it doesn’t, but then outlined the procedures he has put in place including an innovative, low-cost way to get rid of scuffmarks.

Simply put, Bertone’s tennis-ball-on-a-stick gets the job done and is the epitome of where he is coming from as a member of the professional cleaning industry — simple, straightforward, no-nonsense, yet caring about his workers and his job.

It’s something you can’t get really understand by sitting in front of a computer screen in 6-foot-by-8-foot cubicle.

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