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Penn State Transitions to Standardized Cleaning

About 100,000 students pursue their higher education at Penn State. The main campus, University Park, spreads across 7,343 acres with 947 buildings containing 21 million square feet of facility space. Over five years ago, the university set in motion a campus-wide transition to a more efficient and effective cleaning program.

proteam“We call it a documented, standardized approach,” said Bill Markley, program supervisor of the custodial department. “This transition has been initiated and executed independently, without assistance of any outside contractor or system.”

When Markley joined the university’s staff, he took up the primary goal of shepherding the transition to standardized and more efficient cleaning. He spent a year researching new cleaning methods and equipment, ideal frequencies, and consulting with colleges and colleagues, as well as his internal team. The goal was to have a successful transition and to keep customers happy.

“For all of our cleaning tasks, we went through ISSA Cleaning Times to find the most efficient method,” said Markley. “For example, backpack vacuums have a 67 percent efficiency differential over upright vacuums.”

Prior to switching to backpack vacuums, Markley conducted a reeducation campaign with his staff about their benefits: efficiency, ergonomics, and the ability to capture more airborne and surface-based contaminants. Then he gave his team the opportunity to test ProTeam® backpack vacuums and provide feedback. In order to be adopted, all new equipment must achieve at least a 75 percent score from the staff.

“Cleaners are exposed to the most dirt and germs in a facility,” said Markley. “We showed them the ProTeam filter bags and explained that they will be breathing fewer contaminants as they’re cleaning.”

Now, the university primarily uses the six-quart Super Coach Pro® backpack vacuum and a handful of 10-quart Super Coach Pro units and Super HalfVac Pro units to accommodate the needs of specific users—about 150 units in all.

“The win is hearing back from someone who was previously anti-backpack vacuum who has now bought in,” said Markley.

In order to create the smoothest possible transition, Markley kept open lines of communication with every stakeholder: university administration and staff, his cleaning team, and their union. He encouraged his supervisors to be out in the field engaging the workforce with at least 50 percent of their time and provided ongoing trainings. The team also held vacancies for the positions they hoped to eliminate, to ensure everyone still remained on the team after the savings reduction.

“Based upon this efficiency and standardization project, a conservative estimate is that we will reduce our overall maintenance budget for labor and equipment by six to eight percent.”

The transition will be complete in July 2017.

“Our customers are saying that the university has never looked cleaner,” said Markley.

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Posted On May 1, 2017
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