Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Steps To High Productivity

September 19, 2010

It has never been more important to maximize and document productivity through the use of intelligent systems.

Since the total is greater than the sum of the parts, it''s important to incorporate cleaning and maintenance elements in a unified system that, like a precision machine, has a well-defined purpose and no superfluous parts.

Systems thinking

Systems govern.

If you put a "good" person in a "bad" system, the outcome will likely be bad. If you put a "bad" person in a "good" system, the results can still be good.

The hardest work in deploying a functional cleaning system, such as a high-performance green, Team or Day Cleaning program, is that performed by management upfront.

It involves a rigorous process of examining the cleaning operation and culture in great detail, then setting the tone, determining best practices and individually and collectively scheduling and workloading the team.

It entails refinement and standardization of methods and tools, training employees to work in an orchestrated system and fostering worker involvement as system quality control agents.

It all starts with determining cleanable square feet and drilling down to best methods — labor, tools, schedules — that will optimize cleaning.

Get a handle on the actual cleanable footage, calculate production rates of the various types of equipment (e.g., using ISSA''s 447 Cleaning Times) and optimize labor and scheduling by modeling and benchmarking best practices with other facilities similar to yours.

During a shift analysis, make sure workers get started working right away and make them accountable.

Job cards outlining tasks and where each worker should be during each part of the shift are a big help.

Often, 15 minutes per worker is lost just getting started (finding tools, getting to work areas, etc.) at the beginning of the shift.

Eliminating small areas of work "procrastination" can save big dollars.

Be able to quantify and justify all system costs based on accurate data tracking and analysis.

If there is no waste, nothing can or should be cut when budgets come under scrutiny.

If you can''t adopt a standard system, incorporate the primary strengths and enjoy the advantages of the best cleaning approaches.

For example:

  • Team (division of labor, specialization of work, speed and quality improvements)

  • Day (stable workforce, high visibility of soils and workers, enhanced security, public relations)

  • Green (waste reduction, healthier chemical products, holistic gains involving integrating building systems under programs such as LEED, Green Seal''s Green Facilities Partnership, GS-42, etc.).

Training the right workers

Attract the right workers.

Build pride of workmanship.

In employment applications and classified ads soliciting workers emphasize that the company only hires professionals interested in learning and advancing.

Invest in workers to make them more professional, productive and efficient.

Give them pay incentives based on their level of learning and competence.

Treat your workers like first-class citizens; educate them to be such and they will perform that way.

Observe your best and worst workers together.

With their permission, videotape them and show the tapes to the team.

Show why they are productive or unproductive.

Identify shortcuts that work, wasted steps and motions, and/or correct and incorrect use of tools.

Let the staff view the "instant replay" and self-critique.

This becomes a fun self-coaching tool that will boost productivity and morale.

Identify best practices and make them part of your training.

People like watching TV — this is a way to make it productive!

Equipment selection

Since some equipment by its very nature helps define the system that incorporates it — think of backpack vacuums and Team Cleaning — a basic approach is to determine how equipment choices can foster the development of an integrated high-performance approach validated by an Integrated Cleaning and Measurement (ICM) model.

ICM integrates cleaning tools into a system based on the technology''s ability to demonstrate positive measurable outcomes.

Two important outcomes are productivity and performance.

Versatile multi-purpose equipment that performs several functions as well or better than separate pieces of equipment and involves a smaller overall capital outlay makes sense for any cleaning business.

One under-recognized piece of equipment as it relates to this approach is spray-and-vacuum technology.

This platform is multi-purpose; when properly deployed it will save time and money while yielding superior results.

Integrated equipment: One machine, many uses

Utilizing a simple cart-based system, one spray-and-vac operator can perform all of the following functions from a single platform:

  • Restroom cleaning
  • Trash removal
  • Dry vacuuming
  • Wet vacuuming
  • Hard floor care
  • Carpet care.

Buying one piece of equipment that does multiple tasks well can, by preempting other equipment purchases, save thousands of dollars in capital expense.

Avoiding false productivity "shortcuts"

These are common mistakes — the first three being somewhat of a reverse recap of the above information — managers make when trying to save money or boost productivity but end up costing more in the long run.

  1. Not doing your homework (see Systems thinking)
  2. Not investing in workers (see Training the right workers)
  3. Not investing in labor-saving equipment (see Equipment selection)
  4. Not setting an example (see the following information)
  5. Not caring (see the following information).

The people priority

Self-help author and religious speaker Zig Ziglar once said, "How high a building goes depends on how deep its foundation is."

In our drive to increase efficiency in a competitive marketplace, we may at times tend to forget the foundation of genuine efficiency: People.

In a quest to upgrade to better equipment, faster machines and formal management strategies, workloading and scheduling, we may sometimes forget that the greatest management truth — the bedrock of real efficiency — is simple consideration for people.

It''s not that having an efficiency agenda is wrong; in fact, it means economic survival for all parties — facility managers, product end users, manufacturers and distributors.

It is one''s reason for seeking efficiency that may cause the organization under your care to rock precariously.

For example, since proper management may be described as a pyramid and the proper base or foundation is filling the needs of people, then the manager who thinks about efficiency first and the needs of people second creates a top-heavy and unstable organization.

The smallest pressure or crisis can topple or severely damage that structure.

Managers who don''t care about their people end up with people who don''t care about the company.

Conversely, managers who express personal interest and take daily action to "do unto others" and seek first their workers'' and customers'' long-term welfare can expect to reap substantial rewards over time.

This may include rolling up one''s sleeves and working alongside the team on projects, setting the example and demonstrating a humble quest to keep learning.

Concern for people is a proactive, foundational approach.

On a corporate level, this involves two primary aspects of its mission: The welfare of customers and the welfare of company personnel.

How high our business edifice rises, then, depends largely on how substantial the productivity foundation is and how well we maintain, expand and reinforce this critical base, especially in these exciting, momentous times.


Allen P. Rathey is president of InstructionLink/JanTrain Inc., Boise, ID. He may be reached at (208) 938-3137.