Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

The University of Michigan: True leaders

September 19, 2010
The University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor Plant Building and Grounds Services Department is busier than ever these days — and it has nothing to do with employee issues, customer complaints or anything else associated with keeping up with day-to-day operations.

Actually, this surge can be credited to the university’s CIMS, which is ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard, certification.

The department’s area manager, Darryl Betts, says calls are coming in a few times a month from organizations wanting to know more about CIMS from the customer perspective.

The university was the first organization to not only earn CIMS certification, but did so with honors.

This is just part of the course for a university that prides itself on living up to its motto: “The Leaders and The Best.”

Now Betts and his department colleagues, Janet Allen, who is the technical training coordinator, and Luke Gentles, who is the business manager, are answering questions and working with other organizations to help them get started.

I recently asked Betts, Allen, and Gentles to share the most common questions organizations have about CIMS and how they answer them.

Here is what they shared.

Q: How much time is involved in applying for CIMS certification?
Once an organization applies for certification, the next steps include a careful review of the standard, self-assessment, and documentation of compliance with CIMS criteria.

Allen, who adjusted her workload to focus on gathering and organizing information from other key departments within the university, admits this process is time-consuming.

“It took months — about two and a half months — to gather and organize everything,” notes Allen. “I started out with piles and piles of paper and put them into binders, including every detail.”

This information includes everything from purchasing policies to human resources practices, from licensing to proof of insurance.

Gentles added that much of the information was readily available somewhere, including the university’s website or in staff offices.

The most challenging task was putting every detail together in a useful, easy-to-access way.

Q: That is a lot of time and effort. Is it really worth it?
“Everyone always wants to know if it’s worth their time upfront and we always tell them that it is truly worth it in the end,” Gentles says. “This process forced some of the best minds in the university to come together as a team. And like us, you might find out that you have a lot of the right things in place already.”

The documentation process was a collaborative effort that revealed opportunities for improvement and resulted in a now readily available, comprehensive information resource.

It was also a tremendous learning experience for everyone involved.

“In the eight years I’ve worked (for the university), we’ve implemented various initiatives, such as workloading and staffing of buildings, training for cleaning in teams, among other things, but we’ve never had a way to validate whether or not what we were doing was effective,” Gentles says.

He adds that through the self-assessment process he learned that the department’s workloading process already met most of the CIMS requirements.

However, a need for improvement emerged in the category of product and equipment standardization.

Now the team has reformed its product evaluation group to focus on simplifying and streamlining products and equipment.

Q: What is the value behind CIMS certification?
“It’s easy to say that what we’re doing is right and the best for our organization, but it’s another thing to really prove it and show that we meet a specific standard,” Betts notes. “CIMS provides both internal and external ways to prove that we’re a viable and successful organization and that’s a tremendous value for us.”

CIMS also is allowing this leading university to continue to lead and strive to be the best.

“Today the industry is moving in the direction toward more standards and regulations,” concludes Gentles. “I know some organizations are starting to require CIMS certification and we’re already there."


David Frank is a 30-year industry veteran and president of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences, which is the registrar for the ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standard certification program.