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Measuring Devices: Minimize The Risk, Maximize The Reward

February 01, 2011
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A lot of the evaluation of cleaning processes has been built around the concept of huffing and puffing: If we work and we sweat, that must mean the surface is clean.

But the reality is that a lot of our processes are faulty; in fact, we are often doing more "dirtying" than we are cleaning.

Testing and measuring proves whether or not a surface is clean.

You can spend a lot of money and tell people about your great equipment, but if you really want to know how effective it is, you have to be able to prove, with science, that your process worked and produced the desired result.

We have standards about how to perform the work but, in most cases, we don''t have standards as to what clean actually is.

The accepted idea of clean is: If it doesn''t look dirty, it''s clean.

With the science we have available today — devices like adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meters, pH paper, microscopes and gloss meters — that''s not just inadequate, it''s potentially dangerous.

People often establish processes that don''t work or, more often, don''t work correctly.

For example, you don''t need a sterile bathroom floor when what is required is a clean bathroom floor.

Identifying and establishing appropriate levels of clean helps to determine what is required and what is needed to maintain different surfaces and environments.

Measuring devices enable us to set a quantitative measurement for clean, rather than just qualitative measurement.

The cleaning industry is very resistant to change.

Recently, though, we''ve started employing some different processes, products and equipment, and we need to make sure these things actually work.

Over time, I think the proven processes and measurement systems will be automatic and integrated into the equipment we use, automatically telling us whether or not something is clean.

Starting At The Beginning

You take a rag and wipe down two desktops and, before going any further, test them and find out that the bacteria and soils have not been removed, so you alter your process.

But, what if you didn''t test? In that case, whatever labor was spent was completely wasted because no real cleaning was done.

That''s what measuring devices are all about; they validate the work.

From the information gathered from measuring devices, you can establish a benchmark standard of clean, giving you an inexpensive way to prove the cleaning process obtained the desired result.

Otherwise, it''s all qualitative: You can look at it, touch it and smell it, but you don''t have anything else.

Most of the measuring devices being used today did not come from the cleaning industry: We borrowed them from other industries where measuring is required and standards are often better established.

Now, we''re starting to use these devices for the benefit of our customers, the industry and society as a whole, and people are becoming more willing to use measuring devices to show the results of their processes and methods.

Measurement devices and the training to use them are not for everybody and there unfortunately will always be those who fail to see the value of them.

If an organization doesn''t understand the value of training, they probably don''t understand the value of cleaning.

The two do go hand-in-hand: You can''t train someone on a device and not train them to perform the actual cleaning.

The move towards quantitative analysis is another step in bringing validity to the work we do, and training is part of the process.

Cleaning Correctly

We''ve been cleaning incorrectly for years and have been throwing away billions of dollars in the process.

The costs are not just tied to wasted labor; it''s the cost of the people who get sick on the job because we do it wrong, the kids who can''t come to school because they''re sick, the work that doesn''t get done by the people who occupy the buildings because they''re out sick, etc.

The real costs and the real savings are not in the cleaning; they''re in the enhanced production of the people using and occupying the facilities we clean.

The savings to be realized from training on processes and measurement is so great that the cost of the training and even the equipment becomes irrelevant.

Consistency and documentation are both critical to the measurement process.

If you don''t have consistency and the ability to perform tasks in the same manner time and again, it isn''t going to give you any useful information.

If you don''t document what you''ve done, you can''t set a baseline or modify your process; the collected data must be written down.

The other point to remember is that we are in the rudimentary phase of this process.

We need to apply it as best we can, learn from it, modify it and continue to use and implement it.

Testing and measurement brings more professionalism, more recognition and more profit to the industry.

It will become more and more critical as we learn more about how cleaning works, how the testing applies, what difference it makes and how it applies to the productivity and health of building occupants.

There will be distractions and some people will look and say, "Oh, why are you doing this? That''s a waste of time and energy."

Well, people said the same thing about airplanes, trains and automobiles.

We''re going to be learning as we go, but I''m convinced it''s the right path to follow.

We will see major benefits in cost savings, health and productivity as we go, getting more and more sophisticated in the process.

This article was made possible by educational support from Kaivac Inc.

Wm R. Griffin has over 30 years experience in the cleaning industry as a cleaner, consultant and educator. He is the author of the Comprehensive Custodial Training Manual, How to Sell and Price Contract Cleaning, How to Start and Operate a Successful Cleaning Business and other books and manuals, as well as hundreds of articles regarding cleaning, maintenance and self-employment. For more information or to contact Griffin, visit

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