Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Workloading Gains In Popularity

June 9, 2011

Long accustomed to wringing every last bit of productivity and efficiency out of their operations, for-profit companies and non-profit organizations alike are increasingly turning attention to the cleaning of their facilities with the same intent: Improve the bottom line.

One way that is gaining popularity is workloading — a process-improvement activity that involves applying task performance time standards to the activities of cleaning staff to drive maximum productivity, cost reduction and profitability for the organization.

The process produces detailed and practical assessments of how facilities are being maintained with the use of industry benchmarks and time standards for the various cleaning tasks commonly performed in a facility.

In the past, an efficiency expert viewed the daily work habits of employees for months and made final recommendations to management on staffing levels, reorganizations and the like.

Now, workloading incorporates new technology to quickly and efficiently improve the cleaning process.

Using workloading software tools, a consultant can quickly identify the most efficient way each task should be done to achieve the best outcome.

With these sophisticated computer tools at your disposal, you can quickly generate accurate solutions — and have the ability to make adjustments faster.

Modern workloading for cleaning tasks represents a higher level of time standard refinement.

From small businesses to large manufacturing organizations, managers share similar economic drivers: Increasing operating efficiency to get the most amount of work done in the least amount of time.

Regardless of company size, management must ensure that housekeeping or environmental services staffs work in accordance with time standards based on the type of task being done, just like it does in the manufacturing of products or delivering goods to market.

Successful managers in both realms also rely on procedures to measure and benchmark themselves and their performance to achieve an effective, quality outcome.

For professional cleaning teams, not operating in accordance with established, documented procedures ensures wasted time, effort and money in trying to reach a desired standard of cleanliness.

If cleaning teams don''t have standards to use as a reference or procedures to follow, cleaning quality will be inconsistent and the frequency of complaints and reworks will increase.

Upfront Research Is Key

A workloading process typically begins with an analysis of how your facility is being cleaned, the nature and type of equipment used, how many people are performing the jobs and how each person is applied to a task.

For example, is a single person cleaning the entire restroom or are multiple people working on specific areas such as floors, sinks and urinals?

In the beginning of the workloading process, the person performing the assessment will seek a thorough understanding of the cleaning process by observing cleaning tasks and interviewing key staff members.

Essential data regarding the tasks performed and supporting information, such as employee wage rates and benefit factors, will be loaded into a workloading software program.

The software will employ industry time standards to calculate estimated costs per task — ultimately producing an overall financial picture of maintaining the facility.

The assessment consultant and the organization''s management team can then adjust the task frequency, application technique and other changeable settings within the workloading program to derive an optimal balance of costs and cleaning outcomes.

It is important to work with a workloading service provider that uses software coded with known industry standards, such as ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS), for cleaning processes and procedures.

Leading distributors and manufacturers in the cleaning industry may be well-positioned to provide expert workloading service engagements with their customers.

Workloading doesn''t require pinpoint accuracy, since the processes being observed and assessed aren''t overly complex or sensitive.

What your workloading assessor does need is a generalized understanding of how you operate your business.

If you''re bringing in a workloading firm that has supported your organization before and has a general understanding of your operation, so much the better.

If not, once the vendor knows how many employees you have on the job and the processes and techniques you are using, the software will guide them to develop actionable recommendations for your business.

A Topic Of Currency

In most cases, from start to finish, the initial workloading process should be complete in a few weeks — longer for larger, more complicated operations with more staff involved.

Of course, the speed with which the project is completed also depends on the time it takes for the consultant to engage the customer and the customer''s responsiveness in providing the information that''s needed.

If you''re a housekeeping supervisor and you''re being tasked by management to reduce costs, workloading may be a solution to your challenge.

It will help you define and implement an effective strategy to reduce cleaning time.

And, if there''s any degradation in the cleaning outcome, workloading can help you identify options for improvement — such as automating the process with cleaning machinery or equipment or changing the frequency or method by which the process is done, all with an immediate understanding of the costs and benefits of making the change, as projected by the workloading software.

In the end, workloading is simply an approach to gain further understanding of the cleaning process so that actionable plans to cost effectively attain desired results can be established and executed.

Engaging with experienced service partners increases your ability to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your organization''s cleaning and facilities maintenance processes.

Chris Rowe is the director of sales for facility solutions for Cincinnati, Ohio-based xpedx, a business of International Paper and one of the largest and premier distribution companies in North America. Rowe has 23 years of sales and marketing experience in the facility solutions and health care distribution industries. He can be reached by e-mail at