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Target Cleaning

19 February 2010

In the current economic climate, cleaning is one of the support services in the spotlight for cost cutting. As Jim Morris explains, rather than simply slashing budgets, taking an intelligent approach can yield lower costs overall without a loss of service quality

THE PRESSURE FROM CUSTOMERS to reduce costs is greater than ever due to the current economic climate. Many companies are now reviewing overheads across their business and looking to see where savings can be made. In terms of cleaning, reduced budgets will ultimately lead to a lower level of service, so it’s about taking a logical, common sense approach that balances savings opportunities against critical business needs.
Reducing the frequency of the cleaning operation offers immediate cost savings, withsome companies switching from a daily service to alternate days. However, some businesses have taken more extreme measures, which in my opinion is a mistake. For example, one company introduced a deep clean just one day a week and then relied on its staff to maintain the cleanliness of the building for the remainder of the week. This not only distracted employees from their day-today roles, but also resulted in much poorer working conditions by the end of each week.
Better planning offers a more effective alternative to simply reducing cleaning across a business. One of the simplest ways of reducing costs is taking a close look at the overall cleaning operation to focus resources to make the most of budgets. By classifying areas as either high or low profile it is possible to adapt the cleaning regime to concentrate on critical requirements. Typically, areas such as the reception, entrance, washroom, meeting rooms and boardroom are seen as high profile, whilst back office and administrative spaces are seen as ‘low profile’. However, there is still a fine balance, because cutting back too much on low profile areas can damage the working environment for employees and have an adverse impact on workforce motivation.
Organisations need to undertake a range of initiatives to effectively remove costs from a cleaning operation. Intelligent cleaning is a way of understanding the needs of an operation to reduce the required hours through better scheduling.
If a meeting room is often only used on certain days of the week does it need to be cleaned on a daily basis? Could it instead be cleaned every other day or only when it has been in use. With some clever thinking it is possible to streamline a cleaning operation without impacting on levels of cleanliness, which ultimately removes additional costs.
Switching to daytime cleaning offers a host of business and operational benefits including reduced costs, increased productivity and enhanced customer care. Additionally, reducing a building’s opening hours, for example from 5am- 9pm to 8am-7pm, will enable it to be locked down for longer periods, offering reductions in operational costs such as heating, air conditioning and security.
Also, there is often a change in customer and staff perception when adopting daytime cleaning. The increase in the visibility of cleaning staff raises the overall awareness of the process, highlighting its importance and demonstrating the commitment to high standards. Building occupants tend to show more respect towards cleaning workers when they see them working hard to keep the building clean, so greater care is often taken by staff and visitors as a result.
Having cleaning staff available during a building’s opening hours ensures a consistent level of cleanliness throughout the day. With a traditional service, a building is likely to be clean at the beginning of the day and then standards gradually deteriorate until cleaning staff return the following evening or morning.
Daytime cleaning offers new levels of flexibility and the opportunity to respond to any situation. Schedules can be adapted to better meet the needs of customers whether this is identifying operational peaks, or arranging job allocations based on the planned usage of meeting rooms. Moreover, it enables an immediate response in the case of unforeseen accidents and spillages, minimising the required clean up time and promoting a clean and hygienic working atmosphere.
The swine flu epidemic has brought hygiene to the forefront of people’s minds, with businesses and employees alike looking at ways of minimising the spread of the disease. What it has highlighted is the ongoing need for proper hygiene within the working environment to protect staff’s health from dirty and germ-ridden surfaces and equipment. Therefore, any changes to a cleaning schedule need to take into consideration employee welfare and the implications of any reduced levels of hygiene. The cost of absenteeism to UK businesses is considerable, with £11bn lost each year due to sickness, and this figure is likely to have been even greater over the past twelve months. A large percentage of that is due to bacteria and germs being picked up by people in the workplace.
Desks and office equipment are in fact a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. For example, a toilet seat has on average 47 microbes/sq in compared to a telephone that has around 25,000/ sq in and a keyboard with 3,300/ sq in. This is hardly surprising when you consider that toilets are cleaned regularly, but most people don’t think about their desk and the equipment on it. As a result, there can be up to 10 million bacteria on the typical desk, and this can include Ecoli, MRSA, Winter Vomiting bugs and now, of course, Swine Flu.
Regular sanitising of IT equipment and hard surfaces is a must to reduce the spread of bugs, viruses and diseases. Also, taking time to educate employees about the personal and business risks will encourage better personal hygiene and working practices.
Recycling is now an important consideration for all companies who are under legislative, corporate and social pressure to reduce the impact their operation has on the environment and wider community. Therefore, there is an opportunity to take an integrated approach with the cleaning operation to adopt effective waste management procedures to keep time and cost pressures to a minimum.
Over the past few years, the cost of dumping rubbish at landfill sites has been increasing 25 per cent annually, and this is unlikely to change moving forward. Therefore, there are wider cost savings available for those businesses that can achieve high levels of recycling. Companies can also receive money back for waste paper, so this represents an added ‘kick back’. By integrating waste management with an existing cleaning operation, companies can benefit from added value resulting from efficient waste segregation and better-managed processes to make significant time and cost savings. It is possible to tap into the expertise of cleaning contractors to increase levels of recycled office and operational waste including paper, confidential paper, ink cartridges and food waste.
Some companies may consider that they can reduce costs by taking a cleaning operation back in-house. However, organisations should not underestimate the knowledge and expertise possessed by a cleaning partner and the ability this provides to focus on core activity.
Most cleaning businesses will have access to specialist cleaning equipment that offers added efficiency benefits. Battery powered, low noise vacuum cleaners are essential for daytime cleaning operations, whilst microfiber cloths not only reduce cleaning time and improve results, but also minimise the use of polish and other cleaning agents.
Buying power
There are also many hidden costs associated with in-house cleaning operations. For example, companies will need to organise appropriate training for internal cleaning staff and also take into consideration holiday cover. Furthermore, companies will not have the same buying power as cleaning businesses, so equipment and cleaning product costs will also be higher as a result.
By choosing to work closely with a leading cleaning organisation there are often wider opportunities to benefit from a multi-service solution. Many cleaning companies are either part of a larger group or have partners in place to deliver an integrated service offering. Therefore, companies can access a wide range of complementary services including tropical plants, washrooms, window cleaning, water testing and pest control to achieve additional cost savings.
Simply slashing budgets is not necessarily the most effective means of lowering overheads, so it is worth taking a step back and considering all the options available and what issues need to be considered. What is important is that whatever steps are taken do not negatively impact on a business’ core activity.
● Jim Morris is Managing Director of Initial Cleaning Services

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