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Seven tips from best managed cleaning operations

Best ways to save your cleaning staff time

by Stephen Ashkin — The following seven (7) tips are designed to maximize a facility manager’s investment in cleaning and 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%).

1.      Is there a plan for the day?

The best cleaning organizations have written daily job assignments for each custodian with special requests and tasks done on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual bases integrated into the daily job assignment.

2.      Have all emergencies and unexpected requirements been addressed?

While daily plans need to be executed, but the best cleaning organizations begin by identifying any necessary changes that may need to be addressed.  These can include special needs from the facility, weather related issues, absence of cleaning personnel, breakdown of equipment, lack of supplies, etc.  These needs should be incorporated into the daily plan.

3.      Are cleaning people ready-to-go?

The number one cause of injuries and missed worked days for cleaning personnel is NOT exposure to or burns from cleaning chemicals, but rather from musculoskeletal issues such as back, shoulder, knee and other injuries resulting from pushing a vacuum cleaner all day, lifting heavy objects, moving furniture to clean under and behind, etc.  Thus, the best cleaning organizations make sure their workers are ready to go just as a football team makes sure its players are warmed up before taking the field.

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

The best cleaning organizations 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.

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

The best cleaning organizations 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.

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

The best cleaning organizations make sure all materials are clean to reduce the spread of contamination throughout the building.  They address mop buckets with dirty water in them, vacuum cleaners with filtration bags that need emptying or replacing, and other materials that are unclean.

7.      Is there an end of day review and evaluation?

The best cleaning organizations focus on continual improvement and are literally addressing this on a daily basis.  At the end of the day, is there an evaluation about what went well, what went wrong, what could be done better and how all these issues can affect plans for the following day(s).

While none of the above tips are “earth shaking”, but rather are designed to eliminate wasted time and drive better execution.  In the case of custodians, saving just fifteen (15) minutes per day per custodian will add an additional 65 hours of cleaning per year per custodian.

Being mindful about these tips should help deliver a cleaner and healthier building, while further protecting the health of cleaning personnel and the environment.

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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