Since labor is the number one investment we make in cleaning, we ought to know what we are accomplishing during that time.
After all, time is money, and labor is the real currency of cleaning.
Thus, it may be time to establish a simple metric, a cleaning performance indicator (CPI) that measures the true amount of unwanted matter removed from surfaces.
Basically, CPI is a measure of soil removal over time (SROT), a benchmarking concept that examines actual soil removal in a given period to realistically define meaningful productivity — or that which results in true cleaning.
It sounds simple and straightforward, right?
Consider This Common Occurrence
When mopping, microfiber or cotton flat mop or string mop notwithstanding, cleaners don’t change the water as often as they should because “it takes too much time.”
But, actual substantive cleaning is only being done for a fraction of the time — usually less than a quarter of any given period; the rest of the time is largely spent spreading dirt and germs around.
Conventional wisdom says that getting a job done quickly means high productivity.
In actuality, however, you’re wasting time; your “cleaning” activity costs more money because what you’ve largely achieved is an evenly soiled floor.
Now, someone else will have to go back and mop the same floor again to remove the soil you dispersed to truly get it clean.
If your water is really only clean for 30 minutes, but you clean with it for two hours, you’ve wasted one and one-half hours.
If custodial supervisors and facilities managers viewed productivity through the CPI lens, they would much rather you pause for a few moments to change the water and truly clean for 30 more minutes.
There are many examples of this: Mopping with dirty water, vacuuming with dirty filters and full bags, wiping with germ-laden cloths and more.
What Is Your CPI Number?
CPI would be designed to elaborate on the value and true meaning of productivity as it relates to the speed of operation versus the rate of soil removal.
CPI could potentially be very important in choosing cleaning products and processes.
Adopting this approach could help facilities save money and labor, while enhancing the health and wellbeing of staffs and building occupants alike.
Since CPI can refer to both product and process, it should only be used as a guide and for particular kinds of soil.
For example, a dust mop can remove gross debris and large clumps of dust very rapidly, as fast as the operator can walk in most cases, so it would have a high CPI for gross dust.
It fails, however, in the removal of fine particles, especially those that settle into cracks and grout lines; hence, it would have a lower CPI than a backpack vacuum with a hard floor tool.
It is beyond the scope of this article to suggest just what the ideal CPI number should be for each product and process, except to say that, the higher the CPI number is — as a reflection of more of a specific soil removed over a given time period — the better.
The Disinfection Performance Indicator
In addition, one of the ways in which germ-killing products are dishonestly sold is by making ridiculous claims such as, “This product kills 99.9 percent of germs,” while not providing the time required for this to occur.
Since time is money, and labor is the real currency of cleaning, it may make sense to establish a ratio of germ kill to allotted time resulting in a number: The disinfection performance indicator (DPI).
This DPI metric would help to separate products that are very effective from those that are not, and could help those products with a higher DPI stand out from the masses.
Reducing Allergens Through Better Cleaning
Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PC4HS) is currently involved in measuring allergen loads in carpets and other flooring surfaces at various schools across the country.
The intent of the efforts is to show the effect that regular vacuuming of floors has on reducing allergens in schools.
With chronic asthma as the number one cause of absenteeism in schools — by students, custodians and other auxiliary staffs — reducing allergenic particles indoors, notably in classrooms, through effective cleaning fits well with the important SROT concept as it relates to a process — in this case, vacuuming.
The sampling method we are using was developed by leading experts in allergen assaying and consists of a collection nozzle that fits over a standard vacuum hose to enable the allergens in a sample of carpet to be sucked up, capturing the dust in a small container that is sealed and sent to a laboratory for measurement.
The before-cleaning allergen levels are recorded; then, after a PC4HS vacuuming program is started, measurements are taken again and sent to the same laboratory.
The goal is to show an effective reduction in allergen loads on floors ultimately leading to an improvement of health and learning conditions in the school.
This would be a superb dataset to use and translate into a cleaning performance indicator (CPI) that measures the true amount of unwanted matter removed from surfaces— should this concept take hold.
Tiptoeing To Triumph
Given its potential magnitude, there is some hesitance in attempting to instill the soil removal over time (SROT) concept as a cleaning performance indicator (CPI) briefly outlined in this article without first developing some consensus amongst professionals from across the industry.
The aim of realistically defining productivity — read: SROT — through the CPI lens is not to cannibalize the efforts of other hardworking industry champions; in fact, the exact opposite is accurate.
Introducing such a model that would potentially derail the efforts of others working on important standards or concepts would be largely counterproductive to all parties involved.
Organizations such as ISSA, the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI), IEHA and others have dedicated tremendous resources for the betterment of the commercial cleaning and maintenance industry, and their efforts to standardize cleaning processes using a systems approach should not go unrecognized.
Since the concept of realistically defining productivity outlined in this article could be complementary to the exertions of various companies and organizations if introduced in a collaborative manner, it would be for the betterment of the entire industry to work collectively and share our individual ideas.