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More. Better. Faster.

September 19, 2010
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Whether you are a building service contractor (BSC) or managing an in-house housekeeping operation, more, better and faster are three words that bring excitement to your ears.

The greatest challenge you face is to provide consistent, quality cleaning results in the shortest amount of time possible.

To an outsider it may sound like an easy proposition, "Come on it''s not like its rocket science, right?"

On the contrary, you can rest assured that managing productivity in a cleaning operation is no easy matter.

BSCs and in-house mangers are flooded with advertising from marketing departments across the globe claiming their product, equipment or cleaning system is going to change the world.

If you assume any of the claims of the manufacturers and developers are true and invest in their magic carpet, then the real challenge of implementation begins with cleaning personnel who have done things a certain way forever.

Changing their behavior can be a little like ice-skating uphill.

Sorting Through Marketing Propaganda

What is true? This age-old question has plagued humanity since the dawn of time and confronts you with every advertisement you see.

With all the dollars invested in attracting consumers, marketing agencies around the globe go to great lengths to entice you into purchasing their goods or services.

Building services advertising is not unlike any other industry.

While you may be tempted to just ignore all the slick bells and whistles and just stick with your good old mop and bucket, you might want to think again.

Believe it or not, there has been significant advancement in cleaning technology, especially over the past 10 or so years.

If you have ignored all the available information out there you are probably not capitalizing on potential cost savings that your competitors are.

"Examine everything before you buy anything" should be your motto.

The best way to obtain reliable information is to read industry trade publications and attend industry trade shows.

Both forums provide huge amounts of information on new products and systems.

When you find something that interests you, ask for a free sample or the opportunity to test a piece of equipment for yourself.

Most BSCs or in-house operations do not have research and development departments so you have to do the research and testing work yourself.

Take the product or system out and test it in the real world.

Compare it with the systems or tools you are currently using and do it for a long enough period that you can collect enough data to make an informed decision on whether or not it provides the benefits it claims.

Have your employees use the product as well.

Discover what their feedback is; see if it is something they will take to readily or would require extensive changes in management to implement.

Cleaning In The 21st Century

What a savvy BSC or in-house manager knows today is that there are tools and systems available that really do amazing things in shorter times than the antiquated systems our industry has been using for the past 100 years.

Things are changing for the better.

For example, microfiber use is common.

The use of textiles and disposable paper products to clean and wipe surfaces has been a foundational element in our industry.

Unfortunately, it took us a long time to realize that many of our cloths and rags were not removing soil, but simply spreading it around.

In the late 20th century, a new textile fabric emerged onto the cleaning scene in the form of microfiber cloths and mop pads.

Microfiber is actually a very fine, round synthetic fiber that is chemically treated to split the individual round strands into open star shaped channels.

These split channels have been proven to remove more soil and matter even down to the microbial level.

They also require less chemical to capture and hold dirt and other material.

However, like any tool it is only as good as the person using it.

Microfiber, though it is much more effective and efficient, does have limited capacity, which means those split channels only hold so much dirt and matter.

When they are full, the removal capability is greatly reduced.

So, in order to be effective, cleaning workers must turn and change cloths often to ensure that they are getting the microfiber performance capability at its fullest.

Backpack vacuums are another example of innovation.

The placing of a canister vacuum onto a harness and onto the back of a cleaning worker has increased their productivity by nearly 70 percent.

According to ISSA, a backpack vacuum is listed at 70 percent faster than the same size upright vacuum.

Combined with Team Cleaning methods, the vacuum specialist can operate at efficiencies as high as 10,000 square feet per hour.

High-flow fluid extraction and its application through the use of spray and vac systems is another innovation breakthrough.

Other Advancements

The technology for floor mopping has been an extremely antiquated and ineffective system.

Change does not come easy to the commercial cleaning industry, but in the early 2000s, the University of California Davis Medical Center undertook a comprehensive study to show the tremendous effectiveness and efficiency gained by switching from a contaminated string mop to the use of flat mop pads.

ISSA currently lists flat mopping at 54 percent faster than traditional string mopping applications.

Cleaning crews have also made Team Cleaning popular.

Creating segmented cleaning specialists who focus on one single task throughout an entire facility allows gains in quality and productivity that those who have never trained in this cleaning method probably would not believe.

A 2003 study cited in Health Facilities Management demonstrated that medical facilities have realized savings of 10 to 20 percent due to productivity gains and reduced equipment and supply costs after implementing a Team Cleaning approach.

Encapsulation and low-moisture carpet cleaning have also gained traction in helping to advance our industry.

These cleaning systems result in high productivity and low cost with excellent appearance results.

By combining cleaning agents and polymer technology, soils are emulsified and captured into a brittle, invisible crystal that is recovered with the next vacuuming.

Moreover, quaternary ammonium salt compounds, which provide a field of microscopic spikes to pierce and kill bacterial cells on surfaces in between cleanings, can provide tremendous advantages in risk reduction cleaning strategies.

All of this innovation is occurring and we now, for the very first time in history, have a definitive and instant measuring capability.

While not perfect, nor organism-specific, the presence of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) on surfaces is a clear indicator of cleaning performance and hygiene.

While standards continue to be developed, the increased need for objective measurability is truly the catalyst that is changing our industry.

If you are a BSC or in-house manager and you have never heard of any of these breakthroughs, you had better start studying up and testing for yourself.

Those who are already embracing these technologies are enjoying a temporary advantage.

The connection between hygienic cleaning and disease reduction has been well established.

Growing microbial threats like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C. Diff) and various strains of influenza are causing the consumer of our services to become much more aware of the key link cleaning plays in protecting themselves, their families and coworkers.

Contractors and in-house cleaners will eventually either adapt to much of this new technology or risk obsolescence.


Peter Sheldon is vice president of operations for Coverall Cleaning Concepts. Sheldon played an integral role in developing many of the processes that make the company''s dedicated Healthcare Cleaning System unique to Coverall. In 2007, Sheldon was named a Certified Building Services Executive by the Building Services Contractors International (BSCAI). Sheldon is among an elite group of building service professionals to qualify for the CBSE designation.

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