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How to maximize your productivity and minimize your spend on cleaning

by Stephen Ashkin — April 2018

The following five (5) tips are designed to maximize a facility manager’s investment in cleaning, focusing on those that eliminate time wasters.  This is important because time/labor represents seventy to eighty percent (70% to 80%) of the cost of cleaning; while products represent less than ten percent (10%).

Furthermore, these tips only require facility managers to be “mindful” requiring no additional expertise, test equipment or outside expertise.  In other words, these tips are easy and free, requiring only a little time and thought.

The results should be better cleaning performance and ensuring the best value for the money paid.

  1. Is there a plan for the day?

The best cleaning organizations will have some type of written daily job assignments for each person as special requests and tasks done on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or other non-routine tasks are integrated into daily a daily job assignment.  Whether the building is large requiring dozens of cleaning personnel or small requiring only a single person, planning helps eliminate inefficiencies and other time wasters.  Be mindful of the daily assignments and make sure they truly reflect the work that needs to get done.

  1. Are cleaning people ready-to-go?

The best cleaning organizations are ready-to-go as soon as the work day begins.  There is no waiting around as planning, filling spray bottles, restocking supplies, reporting and other issues are completed prior to the start of the day so time is not wasted.  If a group of cleaning personnel are standing around waiting for instructions, tools, supplies, etc., or just gossiping; time and money is being wasted.  Be mindful of people getting off to an organized and efficient start.

  1. Are tools and supplies ready-to-go?

The best cleaning organizations will have all materials needed for the various tasks ready-to-go.  It’s not the cleaning persons fault if their supplies and equipment aren’t ready at the start of the day.  Rather this is an indication of less than efficient planning and is easy to identify and fix.  Be mindful of janitor carts, caddies, chemicals (properly diluted into spray bottles which are properly labeled), paper products and plastic can liners, and other tools and materials are ready-to-go.

  1. Are storage areas for cleaning products and equipment organized?

The best cleaning organizations will organize storage areas so time is not wasted finding what is needed, especially when problems arise or in an emergency.  In addition to general organization, be mindful of how materials are stored so that heavy items can be handled safely and easily.  And while in the main product storage area, periodically check for third-party seals of approval such as those from Green Seal and Safer Choice; as well as for the percentage of recycled content and other basic information for compliance with green purchasing requirements.   Be mindful of the storage area itself and the products in it.

  1. Are cleaning equipment, buckets and other tools clean?

The best cleaning organizations make sure all materials are clean to prevent wasting time cleaning them before the start of the day and to reduce the spread of contamination throughout the building.  Be mindful of mop buckets with dirty water in them, vacuum cleaners with filtration bags that need emptying or replacing (as a side note, ask the cleaning person or supervisor to actually open the vacuum and show you the filter bag), and other materials that are unclean.

While none of the above tips are “earth shaking”, they are designed to eliminate wasted time.  In many respects, addressing these issues is similar to addressing dripping faucets or running toilets.  It is easy to do, and each drop really does add up.  In the case of cleaning personnel, saving just fifteen (15) minutes per day per cleaning person over a year will add an additional 65 hours of cleaning per person.

Being mindful about these tips should help deliver what has been paid for, plus the building will be cleaner and healthier.

Stephen P. Ashkin is Executive Director of the Green Cleaning Network a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating building owners and suppliers about Green Cleaning, and president of The Ashkin Group a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry. He is considered the “father of Green Cleaning” and is coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies.

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