FM Frequency: Machines Don’t Clean Buildings…People Do: Part 2

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By Charles Carpenter
Published in the June 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

In the April 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager, this column focused on the most important aspect of your cleaning regiment: the worker. In the second installation of this examination, the focus will be more on the process of cleaning. While the process includes specifying cleaning requirements, selecting vendors (or employees), and supervising their performance, people are still the spindle that keeps the toilet paper in place.

But first, there are the basics: cleaning is of vital importance. Aside from the impact of a negative perception on clients, visitors, and employees, cleaning is your first line of defense against illnesses. A facility that allows germs to accumulate—either from poor or inadequate cleaning—could be a drain on productivity and influence business continuity, thus impacting the bottom line.

For starters, your facility has to have a definition of what is considered clean. An examination of cars in the parking lot or cubicles in the building will quickly show you that employees have different connotations of clean. To reach that definition, you need “specs” (also known as specifications).

An organization should commit to a detailed list of specifications. While this can be a tedious task, it is impossible to judge the effectiveness of your cleaning without specs. (And given the vast scope of public records available on the Internet, finding a template for your specs should be relatively painless.) While crafting these specs, it is valuable to get the input and involvement of major stakeholders, chronic complainers, different departments and shifts, and executives. The good news is that once you have these documented (spreadsheet highly recommended), the specs will be readily available.

However you come up with your facility’s specs, never ever use the term “as needed.” As Dan Wagner of ISSA (The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association) points out, every definition of “as needed” is probably different. And as stated in the previous column, your cleaning staff is probably better equipped to follow directions than make decisions.

Be specific on what needs to be cleaned as well as the frequency. It may not be enough to say “clean tables nightly.” A table has a top, edge, underside, and base; each section may need to be cleaned with a different frequency. A tabletop can be cleaned three times a day but grime, like newsprint, can build up, causing a need for a spec that says to “restore tabletop to a like new appearance and clean base monthly.”

This level of detail for specs might seem adversarial to companies wanting your business (even though the customer is always right). To prevent that perception, you need to explain why these specs are in place and how they were selected. Potential vendors need to understand them and price your specs appropriately—instead of theirs.

Whether you take bids or issue an RFP, you need a way to evaluate proposals consistently. Janitorial services can be seen as a get-what-you-pay-for business. The best action may be to set up a scorecard, with criteria judged from one to 10 points. Here is an example (and keep in mind that % can be adjusted based on case by case preferences):

Pricing (30%). Decide on a base price (or average of the bids), and assign that price a score of eight. Vendors above that price would get a proportionally lower score and vendors below that number would get more. A really low bidder might score above 10 points, so watch out.

References (10%). A reference can be useless. What vendor is going to give you the name of a bad reference? If you do contact references, make sure to prepare questions that require more than yes/no answers. When judging references, evaluate whether these references are of comparable size and/or facility use, located in the same area, and have name recognition. You could even ask potential vendors to provide the name of a past customer or to let you tour a site they currently clean.

Insurance (10%). Ask for a copy of current insurance certificates, giving higher scores to coverage above the bare minimum.

Supervision (20%). Evaluate how the vendor oversees employees and check out the tiers of management involved. If the supervisor is also a cleaner, s/he may not have time to supervise. Does an area manager cover 14 crews?

Quality or procedures (15%). How do the vendors check their own work? How do they train employees? When do they document that a spec is completed? Do they keep MSDS sheets?

Intangibles (15%). Recognition of HUBs or veterans, participation in professional organizations, or community/charitable involvement can all be considered bonuses when evaluating the scores of different vendors.

As important as cleaning is, facility managers (fms) are pressed for time when seeking qualified vendors and setting up time to meet with each of them. Here are two suggestions to streamline the time commitment:

  • Produce a pre-bid document that requests much of the recommended information outlined in this article.
  • Vendors who cannot produce this information probably should not be inside your facility anyway.

With or without a pre-bid, meet with all potential vendors at the same time. While a “cattle call” may seem impersonal, every potential vendor obtains the same information and sees your facility in the exact same condition; making it harder to misinterpret information when proposals are due.

If the cattle call is unfriendly, fms can still take time to discuss or document the results of the bid evaluation process. This will give the fm the opportunity to explain how each vendor’s proposal rated and compared to the average price.

Most fms do not have extra time to supervise the cleaners. Using the current fm salary from careerbuilder.com of $94K, an hour of an fm’s time is worth about $45. If you spend just an hour a week “supervising” a cleaning vendor, it is like spending another $2,340 a year on cleaning.

Machine don’t clean buildings, people do. Machines also do not supervise people either. People supervise people.

While price is important, there is real value in finding the right cleaning company. The right fit can have many repercussions, not just the thousands of dollars you lose getting your cleaning company to do what they said they would do in the first place.  

See part one of this column here.

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