Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Arming Yourself With The Standard

April 14, 2011

For the past 15 years, Orrin Israel has been tasked with handling the service providers who are responsible for cleaning and maintaining more than 800,000 square feet spread out over 115 facilities at Fort Rucker in Alabama.

During his work as Fort Rucker''s director of facilities, Israel has found that selecting a quality cleaning organization that can be entrusted with the health and cleanliness of the facilities can be quite a challenge.

Frustrated with the uncertainty associated with selecting a cleaning service provider, he set out to find a third-party management certification offering him a level of assurance that the company he hires is professionally and effectively managed and capable of efficiently delivering quality services.

Israel''s first step was to inquire with ISSA, the not-for-profit trade association that represents the commercial cleaning industry.

Israel was already using the association''s 540 Official Cleaning Times booklet to workload Fort Rucker''s facilities and determine appropriate staffing levels for janitorial services and hoped that ISSA would have a tool that he could implement into the contractor selection process.

Little did he know, the association''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) and certification program would be exactly what he was looking for — a Standard based on universally accepted management principles that are the hallmarks of successful cleaning organizations and a certification program that requires a comprehensive, third-party evaluation of a cleaning organization''s management framework.

Learning About The Standard

Upon taking time to learn more about the Standard and certification program, Israel became more impressed.

He relished the Standard''s comprehensive nature and specific criteria, discovering that the CIMS elements cover exactly the kind of things he often found lacking in his previous experience with cleaning providers.

For example, frustrated with dealing with “custodial contractors that utilized custodial staff that had no training in how to properly perform the many tasks required to keep the facility clean and healthy,” he was pleased that CIMS includes a strict requirement that both cleaning and management personnel receive procedural and safety training.

Israel was also impressed to learn that the third-party assessors confirm compliance with the CIMS criteria by actually visiting a cleaning organization''s headquarters and customer accounts to observe work as it is being performed in the field.

Israel''s past experience had taught him that “contractors can range from total failures to delivering an acceptable level of performance,” and he wanted to ensure that he avoided the “failures.”

Israel, therefore, elected to require CIMS certification to be eligible to be awarded a janitorial contract.

Faced with increased governmental and private focus on green initiatives, Israel recognized the importance of making sure that a cleaning contractor is capable of delivering quality green cleaning services.

Setting forth the key elements of a comprehensive green cleaning program, CIMS-Green Building (GB) assured him that the cleaning company he hires could collaborate with him in providing a clean and healthy indoor environment at Fort Rucker, while aligning its services with the Fort''s overall sustainability goals.

In addition, since CIMS-GB is based on the green cleaning requirements of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design: Existing Buildings Operations and Management (LEED: EBOM), a CIMS-GB-certified contractor is prepared to partner with a facility in the LEED: EBOM certification process.

Israel admits that traditionally, he had based his selection of a cleaning provider on whether they “offered the lowest cost of service and were technically acceptable.”

However, having had unsatisfactory experiences with the lowest bidders, he began to look at cleaning as an investment and took a deeper look at the company that would have great responsibility for safeguarding the health of Fort Rucker''s facilities.

Concluding that quite often “you get what you pay for” when selecting a cleaning service provider, he now focuses on competitive pricing and quality services.

His goal is now to partner with a quality, CIMS-GB-certified organization in order to be assured that he is working with an “experienced, trained staff that has the ability to maintain the facilities in accordance with the performance work standards in the contract.”


Plamena Todorova serves as the account executive of the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) and CIMS–Green Building (GB) certification programs. Plamena acts as an educational resource for organizations interested in CIMS or CIMS-GB certification and works closely with facility managers and building owners to ensure effective, customer-focused service.