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Sunday, August 30, 2015


Our school district had to make some cuts last year. One custodian retired and was not replaced. Now, the cleanliness of the building is deteriorating. When, as facilities manager, I ask why we’re not keeping the building clean, the response is, “We’re down a man.” However, the retired custodian told me that he could clean his area in six hours. This tells me that the person now cleaning this area must be getting done in four hours, because it’s not clean. He has been with us for years.


Answer #1:
Parkinson's Law (C. Northcote Parkinson) states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Whenever there is an absence of cleaning standards or the lack of accountability, supervision, and/or enforcement, people tend to work at their own pace. Professional cleaning management strives to benchmark productivity and require adherence to quality standards. This should lead to productive workers, who do a good job and are happy with their assignments.
Improving productivity and quality does not come easily. It requires establishing best practices, implementing process improvement, and utilizing quality inspections. However, not all areas of a facility clean at the same rate. One person who cleans gymnasiums and open and lightly used classrooms will accomplish the job much faster than another worker who must clean the cafeteria and a substantial number of restrooms.
What this converts to is that some workers may be able to clean 28,000 sq/ft per shift and others only 21,000 sq/ft per shift. Unless you know the production rates in thousands of square feet cleaned per hour, you will be unable to assess and improve those rates. Unless a quality control inspection report is compiled at least monthly, you will have no way of quantifying whether each task is being performed as required.
On the other hand, whenever cleaning staff is reduced, that may require a reduction in services. Management must be aware that each cleaning task requires a set amount of labor to accomplish. If a full-time floor tech is eliminated, who is going to ensure the floors always have a nice shine?
Many cleaning managers choose to avoid confrontation with their workers and feel uncomfortable suggesting the employees are not working fast enough or completing their jobs with top quality. To turn this around, you are welcome to blame me. You can order and then jointly apply the principles from my free E-book 15 Steps to Improve Cleaning Productivity. Sit down with your staff and prepare, as a team, a plan to upgrade quality and improve productivity at the same time. You can request a copy from

Gary Clipperton
National Pro Clean Corp.
(719) 598-5112

Answer #2:
The cleaning industry has some old standbys to excuse poor workmanship and a failure to cover the assignment. You just ran across one, “We’re down a man.” This is a corollary of the notorious, “Our budget was reduced.”
For some illogical reason, a poorly mopped floor is due, not to custodian ineptitude or someone simply skipping stuff, but to a lack of funds for more custodians. Let’s explore this silly notion to reinforce Gary’s apt discussion above.
Pretend your car was just in the garage for an oil and filter change. If you were told that only 3 of the needed 5 quarts of oil were replaced due to time constraints, and the oil filter wasn’t changed, either, you would be concerned even if the work was done at a lower price than advertised. Why? Because, to do the job right, all 5 quarts need to be in the engine and a new filter needs to be in place. That is the oil and filter change STANDARD! Naturally, the filter must be the correct fit and the oil viscosity must be the recommended one for that auto, but to consider the job completed, the STANDARD must be met.
What if the garage told you that to make up for the lack of completion, they had vacuumed the truck and polished the head and tail lamps since these operation took less time and were within their budget?? How would that set with you?
Do we believe that a partially cleaned floor or almost fully dusted desktop meets the standard for a clean surface? No way! A clean surface is one that has had all unwanted foreign materials (dust, grit, spills, litter, etc.) removed completely. Why would there be any reason to do a partial job? Lack of manpower due to budget cuts may mean an extended time between cleanings (dust 3 times a week instead of 5), but when that surface is finally dusted, it should be done completely, leaving no visible dust on the surface, because that is the STANDARD.
Rather than assuming that the loss of a man will result in a building getting dirtier and dirtier, we need to become more efficient and never leave a soiled surface not fully cleaned. Will it accumulate soils or contamination again? Certainly, that is our job security, but a reduced frequency of a few days seldom results in a totally filthy environment.
Focus on what is seriously in need of attention, such as the oil change. Leave the lesser important items, such as the headlight polishing, until they can be fitted in. And get more efficient. We’ve all seen operations where the traditional time and manpower could be severely reduced by an alert and organized custodial force. Seek that response and don’t accept lame excuses for incomplete work and accumulating filth.

Lynn E. Krafft, ICAN/ATEX Editor