Services & Maintenance: Janitorial Service Providers

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By Dennis Jarrett
Published in the March 2004 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

The facility management industry is inundated with a variety of outsourced janitorial service issues, and yet as one of its core responsibilities, this department must keep its premises clean, hygienic, and safe. With the recent outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), influenza, and other mortally dangerous virus scares, airports, medical centers, and government offices have come into the line of fire. If facility professionals choose to outsource their janitorial duties, it is vitally important for them to hire competent janitorial firms that use the best tools and procedures to combat these and other more commonplace challenges.

Systems and procedures must be adhered to on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, depending on personnel and visitor usage. Every part of the facility must be touched and subsequently sanitized at least monthly. Examples of needed daily maintenance include rest rooms, lobbies, and other high traffic areas.

A thorough review of all details of the work schedule is required to avoid any issues after the service has commenced. Weekly or periodic inspections for quality are essential to insure the agreed upon frequency is being performed. Regular communication is critical for quality assurance and control.

Selection Gaffes

Thoroughly investigating the capabilities of the service provider is critical. While reference checks are paramount, they do not tell the whole story.

A commitment to initial and ongoing training is essential to success. What are employee turnover contingencies? Do they cross train all of their employees? Do they know how to implement team cleaning processes? Do they know how to organize the work load properly and execute the plan to service the facility efficiently?

By doing the reference checks and asking the right questions beforehand, facility professionals can avoid hiring the wrong provider. Listed below are common mistakes made in the janitorial service provider selection process:

  • The service provider can not deliver what was promised.
  • The service provider does not provide adequate initial or ongoing training.
  • The service doesn’t supply adequate crew to perform the services required.
  • The facility manager selects the service based on price, instead of a combination of price and quality service.
  • The facility manager does not check references of the service provider adequately.
  • Ongoing communication does not take place between the service provider and the facility manager.
  • The expectations are not clearly defined to all parties.
  • Special service schedules are not adequately planned or communicated to all parties involved.
  • Problem resolution is not executed either timely or effectively between tenants, service providers, and facility management staff members.
  • Security provisions are not adequately taken into consideration.

Mother’s Little Helper

As is the case in numerous fields, better technology is providing tremendous tools for cleaning companies. The use of micro fiber in maintenance products, for example, is allowing a never before realized opportunity to aid janitorial crews in working dryer, greener, and cleaner.

Microfibers are densely constructed polyester and polyamide (nylon) fibers that are approximately 1/16 the size of a human hair. The density of the material enables it to hold six times its weight in water making it more absorbent than a conventional cloth or mop.

Additionally, the positively charged microfibers attract dust-which has a negative charge-and tiny fibers are able to penetrate the microscopic surface pores of any material. These characteristics make microfiber an effective dusting or mopping material.

There are three main benefits to using microfiber in commercial facilities:

  • Reduces chemical usage and disposal. This allows for a more environmentally friendly approach as well as definitive cost savings.
  • Reduces cleaning times. Labor is the single largest cost component in most commercial cleaning bids. There are numerous case studies that have documented time savings when using microfiber.
  • Reduces workers’ compensation claims. This is primarily true of the microfiber mop system when compared to conventional mop bucket and wringer systems. The microfiber system typically utilizes a flat mop-without needing a bucket-that reduces the lifting and wringing motion that can lead to custodial staff injuries. Again, there is documented evidence to back up this contention.

Chemicals

There are three main considerations when dealing with chemicals: environmental impact, worker safety, and product performance. Several top chemical manufacturers have created specialty lines with current and future global environmental concerns in mind. The purpose is to offer an opportunity to become part of the environmental solution.

The main characteristics for a facility manager and his or her team to look for in responsible cleaning solutions are:

  • no persistent, bioaccumulative or toxic chemicals;
  • no ozone depleting compounds;
  • no or low volatile organic compound content;
  • no hazardous waste characteristics;
  • no phosphate or phosphonates;
  • no carcinogens, mutagens, or teratogen.

Facility managers need to speak with their contract cleaning management to insure they are using safe cleaning solutions.

Building Security

Given today’s heightened security climate, the outsourced cleaning service should not add to the end user’s security risk. When selecting a maintenance company, facility professionals should confirm the following characteristics are part of the contract cleaner’s business model:

  • background checks;
  • owner operator or experienced supervisor on site at all times;
  • fully insured with sufficient limits (standard $1-$2 million liability coverage);
  • workers’ compensation coverage for all;
  • janitorial bond coverage is in place for all;
  • identification badges are utilized at all times;
  • uniforms are worn by all cleaners at all times;
  • security access is limited; and
  • key and alarm code policy is consistent with the building management’s policy.

Any maintenance company that is selected should employ the above systems and processes. Thorough reference checks go a long way in preventing problematic situations.

By avoiding these conflicts and emphasizing training, planning, proper equipment, cleaning solutions and materials, supervision, and ongoing communication, facility managers will be on their way to a successful maintenance program.

Jarrett is executive vice president of Aurora, IL-based Jan-Pro International.

Do you hve any suggestions about hiring an outsourced maintenance crew? Send comments to [email protected].

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