Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

What's Disrupting Schools Today?

June 9, 2011

There''s a new kind of disruptive behavior going on in U.S. schools, and it''s not coming from the students this time; the disruption stems from school administration.

Facing no foreseeable end to significant budget shortfalls, administrators are calling a “timeout” to really examine their schools'' cleaning performance and costs — and they are ready to disrupt cleaning operations to make sweeping changes.

The potential savings associated with going from in-house to outsourced cleaning — or renegotiating current contracts — can be significant and administrators are seriously considering new outsourcing models, even if it means making some disruptive changes.

The onus is on cleaning managers to step up their game and ensure they can defend and/or improve the cleaning operation to save it from being outsourced or changed to negatively impact service levels.

The Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) is a great tool that helps managers ensure they have every area of their cleaning operation buttoned up and documented.

This documentation and knowledge will also help managers work with contractors and write a request for proposal (RFP) or contract document that details key data and service level requirements.

Cheat Sheet

CIMS is the school cleaning manager''s cheat sheet for having in place information in six areas that mirror generally accepted management policies: Quality systems; service delivery; human resources; health, safety and environmental stewardship; and management commitment.

Using CIMS as a checklist, managers go through the exercise of ensuring their organization meets specific criteria within each of the six areas.

This process is an automatic operational gap analysis, as it quickly highlights the things managers and their organizations are doing well and those that are missing or need improvement.

CIMS drives managers to workload their facilities and document all workloading data, including square footage, surface types, tasks, number of workers and so on.

Managers will document service levels and ensure they meet them.

This information is most important for schools dealing with administrative questioning and possible outsourcing.

The Standard ensures organizations include every detail of the cleaning operation and some information that does not even have anything to do with cleaning, such as community service.

It also requires organizations work toward continuous improvement.

Once managers have gathered all the data, they organize it.

Many managers do so using six three-ring binders — making extra sets as needed — that can be easily referenced and shared within the organization.

Information At-the-ready

Whether it is school administrators, finance personnel, industry consultants or contractors asking the challenging questions, managers armed with CIMS documentation will have the answers.

Administrators mostly focus on and question two aspects of the cleaning operation: Cost and end results.

With the Standard and accompanying documentation in their back pockets, managers can provide answers to such questions as: What is the cost of cleaning per square foot; what is the cost of cleaning per student; and what is the cost of cleaning per building?

For managers in charge of in-house cleaning operations, their CIMS binders can help show where their approach might be more cost effective for their schools.

They can pull out customer service surveys from faculty and staff, report on low worker turnover and safety information to demonstrate value.

For managers who outsource cleaning or are moving to a contract cleaning service, CIMS can help them write a detailed RFP or contract.

Managers who inadvertently omit important details from the RFP take a risk of finding out too late that the service level provided does not meet school staff and administration expectations.

Moreover, cost savings and service improvements cannot come from a contract service if the RFP is not written correctly.

The CIMS framework provides everything managers need to be looking for when prequalifying and hiring contractors.

Also, once contractors provide school managers with their proposals, managers can double-check the proposal against the CIMS checklist to make sure nothing is missing.

When disruption from school administration strikes the cleaning operation, managers can turn to CIMS as the center of the conversation.

Based on an industry approved standard, managers will be able to speak about the best cleaning model for their organization, including its cost and results.


Dave Frank is a 30-year industry veteran and the president of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences (AICS). AICS is the registrar for ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) certification program.