WEB EXCLUSIVE: Clean Green While Keeping Labor Costs In Check

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This Web Exclusive has been provided by Neal Duffy, senior manager of Staples Facility Solutions technical training at Staples, Inc. He is a 30 year veteran of the janitorial and sanitary maintenance industry.

When searching for the best products to accommodate the custodial needs of a facility, organizations often select low-cost solutions to meet budgetary constraints. While this seems like a logical step, facility managers (fms) generally set aside only a small percent of their total budget for maintenance products to lend greater freedom for spending on building operations.web exclusive

Deciding on a seemingly quick-fix solution of lower cost products might look better on the expense reports in the short-term, but these perceived price solutions can be undone by the inefficiencies they may create. In this age of needing to maximize productivity, it is essential for fms to adhere to both sides of the cost equation — product and labor.  For example, consider folded paper towels.  Although buying them in bulk might seem less expensive than alternative hand drying systems, these towels can be messy and deplete quickly, causing user complaints and requiring frequent replenishment by custodial staff.

Businesses have increasingly gravitated toward a sustainability conscious approach, and for good reason. Among numerous other benefits, environmentally preferable approaches create healthier surroundings, increase employee productivity, create a positive impact on the planet, and engender a positive impression of the company in the private and public spheres.

While each of the aforementioned benefits is noble and desirable, fms are also feeling the pressure to do more with less, understandably seeing value in cost-effective approaches for improving facility maintenance. However, sustainability and cost-effectiveness are not mutually exclusive; there are a number of steps and procedures to follow that can make a facility more sustainable while also incorporating labor savings.

Determining where to start
Before embarking on the process of a maintenance operations revamp, it is essential to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the building and the cleaning program that is in place in order to get a total appreciation of what work needs to be done. This examination and analysis should include the following:
Prioritize areas in the facility and categorize them accordingly. Some locations encounter more traffic and human contact than others and require more extensive cleaning. It is important to note which areas require the most cleaning and distribute labor hours appropriately.
Develop a scope of work.  Delineate what tasks need to be performed and be explicit and thorough in articulating the criteria for an acceptably clean, sustainable, and efficient workspace. Provide workers with a detailed, objective understanding of what cleaning tasks are expected to be accomplished. Be sure the cleaning process is reviewed and the proper products and tools are available for the most effective results.
Receive input from employees. The people who work in the office everyday inevitably have a strong knowledge of the work environment and can provide valuable information. Let employees know what cleaning is to be performed. Good communication is essential to reduce complaints and positive workplace relationships.

Handling the transition to new products and systems
Once the workspace has been thoroughly appraised and feedback collected from employees, fms will have a strong knowledge base to structure and implement the custodial agenda. Before going into detail on the specific products and procedures worth considering, it is necessary to cover some best practices during the transition process:
Properly dispose of formerly used maintenance systems. Determine how to safely remove old dispensers and recycle all applicable products.
Develop an effective system of reorganization. Work with the janitorial team to renovate and restructure supply closets by replacing old products with new products and make sure everything is labeled and stored correctly. Proper labeling limits acquisition time and product misuse.
Conduct on-site training for both the janitorial staff and office supervisors. Begin with an emphasis on how these products make a difference. Provide instructions on how to use each product and offer any necessary critique while watching staff implement products to help avoid misuse. In addition, consider offering training materials in multiple languages as necessary.

Whenever possible, aim to purchase cleaning supplies that have received Green Seal and /or EPA Design for the environment certification, which means that they have successfully met specific standards to denote proficient sustainability.  These logos should be easily located on the product label.

Whether they have received Green Seal certification or not, ensure that all chemicals used in cleaning are sustainable. People suffering from asthma or other respiratory ailments often react negatively to products that contain excessive perfumes or volatile organic compounds. Environmentally preferable chemicals also reduce employee absenteeism and long-term health effects to otherwise harsh chemicals.

A trend to note: research repeatedly reveals that a majority of workers eat lunch at their desks. To respond to this trend, be sure to designate time periods for work area sanitization.  Although many employees eat lunch while doing work due to busy schedules, make environmentally preferable cleaning products available to employees to help keep their office areas clean and germ-free.

Consider New Technologies
There are a variety of technologies in the industry that are both innovative and efficient for cleaning a facility. For example, consider installing touch-free systems for cleaning restrooms whereby the equipment washes the fixtures while protecting the custodial staff from coming in contact with pathogens and potentially hazardous substances. In addition to creating a healthier environment, this equipment also cuts down on labor costs.

Another example of increasingly common technology is automatic, foaming, sealed soap systems. Bulk dispensers require regular cleaning and sanitizing to prevent mold from forming, and valve systems become clogged easily and cause unsightly drips that require extra labor to clean. An automatic system cuts down on time spent tending to soap systems within the building.

Where the application is appropriate, switch waste receptacle liners to lower cost high density bags, which are also less raw material consuming. This move, along with a coreless toilet tissue program, is a great way to reduce consumption and greatly reduce waste.

Using these guidelines, fms will be well on the way to establishing a more sustainable, healthier facility while maximizing labor and product savings. To further ensure the commitment to sustainability, consider completing a scorecard every month to measure the percentage of sustainable products purchased in the department and set goals appropriate to the facility. Good luck, and go green!

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