What Does Your Cart Say About Your Business?By Lisa Ridgely, Deputy Editor of Contracting Profits
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Janitorial carts are the closest thing, other than the janitor’s closet, that janitors have to a workspace — and they’re the most visible piece of equipment that most building occupants will see. Not only do carts have to provide adequate storage for the supplies needed to stock restrooms and other areas, but they also have to hold chemical bottles, water buckets, cleaning tools such as mops and microfiber cloths, and waste and recycling.
“A housekeeping cart is both the workstation, the office and the assembly line and it has a huge impact on overall productivity of the housekeeper,” says Larry Garrone, senior brand manager of healthcare/environmental services for Sodexo, Inc., Gaithersburg, Md.
Carts should be big enough to hold everything necessary for a worker to do his or her job without having to make unneccessary trips to the janitor’s closet to restock items, yet maneuverable for workers of any size. And since they’re often in plain sight in hallways and doorways, carts can’t be an eyesore, either.
Perception is reality
Since carts are so visible to the public, janitors should be trained to keep them tidy. Without question, a messy cart is going to produce negative perception that extends to the janitor and the cleaning itself, then to the BSC and the industry as a whole, says Brad Klein, president of Building Professionals of Texas in Houston.
“Appearance is important,” Klein says. “What I tell my people is, perception is reality and if you have stuff that looks good and your people are in uniform and your equipment looks good, it matters. If (occupants) walk in and see a well-stocked maid cart that looks new, they assume that extrapolates itself out to other parts of your business. So that’s what we try to do — we want to promote professionalism for our organization in particular and the industry in general.”
At A-1 Building Services in Byron Center, Mich., President Jim Thompson places great emphasis on the appearance of janitorial carts, as most of the company’s accounts are in medical facilities such as hospitals.
“Appearance is a lot for us because carts are one of the most frequently seen tools that we have — especially when we’re cleaning patient rooms, they’re outside of each room we clean,” Thompson says. “Like we tell our employees, if we can’t keep our janitor’s closet or our cart clean, how can we clean a medical facility? So that impression is very important, because everybody’s looking at our stuff, sitting in the main hallway outside the patient rooms. People walk by, so you’ve got to keep it clean and orderly and neat.”
The company has recently invested in brand new janitorial carts for medical accounts, and they look so good that it has building occupants commenting on them, Thompson says.
For most building service contractors, carts are utilized as part of an overall cleaning program or process.
“If you’re following procedures and have some type of reference point, it is very difficult for the carts to start looking messy,” Garrone says. “So having standard carts set up along with a cart that is designed to hold all these things — those two in combination will give you that organized professional look.”
Carts have evolved to fit any job and any preference, with accessories that can be added to increase aesthetic appeal, storage capacity, organizational ability or security. Carts can be customized to the type of facilities in which they’re used, with different colors, laminates and materials.
In buildings that are day-cleaned or that have 24-hour traffic, such as airports or hospitals, it’s also important that carts are not disruptive.
“Because you’re probably going to have a couple hundred pounds of supplies on that cart, there’s a lot of opportunity for noise to happen,” Garrone says.
Newer carts are built with castors that minimize noise when moving down a hallway, Garrone adds.
Appearance is significant, but productivity and safety are at the heart of a cart’s purpose and role in a janitorial program.
BSCs want to increase efficiencies in any way possible, and carts play an integral part when it comes to the productivity of workers.
“Everything in our business is about time,” Klein says. “The less time it takes, the more money you make. So, if I can get something done in a short amount of time, then I make a little more money than if they have to walk back and get toilet paper or paper towel from a supply closet.”
Carts are built to be flexible and dense with all of the products a janitor needs to clean and disinfect, as well as stock. A company like Sodexo, which trains its workers on a very specific, multiple-step cleaning process, seeks out carts that give janitors the ability to efficiently stock a cart so that necessary tools and supplies are readily available and accessible for cleaning.
“A housekeeper has a job flow and in that job flow, they’re cleaning offices, restrooms — and patient care environments with patient rooms, nurses stations, different utility rooms, and so in those activities there’s certain tools and supplies that they need in a certain order,” Garrone says.
Ensuring that janitors have the proper tools on hand in a way that helps them present a safe and pleasant environment for occupants is critical, he adds.
A-1 has used bucketless mops for years, and a new cart the company is using now allows a two-gallon solution tank to be carried on the cart with a hose that connects to microfiber flat mops.
“So we can use a flat mop right there, instead of our folks having to refill their smaller bottles either by carrying around quart bottles and filling up the tanks on the bucketless mops or going back to janitors closet to refill it,” Thompson says.
The new carts also offer opportunity to stock more items on carts, Thompson says, including a biohazard kit with personal protective equipment for janitorial workers. Something like that could be critical in a long-term care facility, where diseases and infections such as c-diff and MRSA abound.
Worker safety is always a concern for BSCs, but when it comes to janitorial carts, the safety of other building occupants, such as children in schools, or the handicapped or mentally ill in medical facilities, is a primary concern as well.
“In health care, we are often faced with all types of populations — people with Alzheimer’s, small kids — who sometimes can grab things off a cart, and having to secure these tools in a manner that prevents passersby from hurting themselves either inadvertently or through some error on their part,” Garrone says. “We need to be able to secure our supplies when our cart is left unattended.”
Supplies can be secured in locking compartments. Some carts require chemicals to be moved into compartments in another location, while others allow janitors to lock them where they are on top of the cart.
Another aspect of occupant safety is the cleanliness of the carts themselves. As they are so mobile, they can carry microorganisms from one room to the next — and in a hospital or other medical facility, they have the potential to be the carriers of disease.
“One of the things we’re always concerned with is, our carts go from room to room and all over the hospital,” Thompson says. “We do not want to be the vehicle by which cross-contamination or disease is transferred from one place to another.”
Carts should be cleaned and disinfected daily, as well as spot cleaned when necessary.
BSCs seem to be impressed by the advancements in janitorial carts, and how they help janitors be more efficient while looking as professional as possible.
“If you’re looking for that one cart that fits your needs, there is a solution out there,” Garrone says. “I think the trend is to have more flexibility, more customization and it gives operators a lot more leeway as things change.”